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Etc.: Cabin fever
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In a quarter-century in the full-time work world and perilously close to five decades above ground, something happened that I believe has never happened to me before Sunday.

That was the message from the Grant County Sheriff’s Department, as your favorite weekly newspaper reported on our Facebook page Sunday, that “several main highways, ‘including those leading into Platteville, are being closed for safety.’”

Platteville thus became the Midwest’s version of the Hotel California, where you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. At least until the weather improves, which by this winter’s definition means above-zero wind chills.

Perhaps it’s happened before, but I also never heard a string of fire departments being called out to rescue whoever they might find off roads in the middle of a blizzard, followed by a Sheriff’s Department request that any fire department not already searching for those who made unplanned off-road trips to do so with available four-wheel-drive vehicles.

And so it goes in the winter of 2013–14, which I will officially call The Winter from Hell. (Which may already be frozen over.) I briefly thought about just having readers go back to the Jan. 8 Etc., “It was so cold …”, or from Dec. 11, “Why I hate winter,” but if you’re going to pay your hard-earned money to read this, I should make it worth your while with original observations of why and how I hate winter that are different from seven weeks ago.

The Platteville Fire Department had a week worth overtime, which is time-and-a-half at its usual rate. (Which is, as you know, $0.00.) The PFD got called to one crash Friday night, then had to send some of its members at that crash to another crash. That was a few hours before they got called out to assist at a crash at 3:25 a.m. Then on Sunday, the PFD, and every fire department south of U.S. 18, got called out by Grant County to find occupants of disabled vehicles and, in Platteville’s case, block off the roads leading out of town. Then came Monday morning, when the Fire Department got called to two crashes within five minutes of each other, for which Platteville EMS had both ambulances called out.

And, of course, we had yet another round of school closings necessitated by what the National Weather Service again called “life-threatening wind chill.” The Platteville School District was ahead of the game, however, because their 2013–14 schedule already had Monday off, for a professional day. I do wonder if anyone read the TV and radio stations’ listings of school district cancellations, didn’t see Platteville there, and wondered why Platteville was still having school.

I have to give credit to all the people who participated in the Platteville Driftbusters Radar Run, particularly the Bikini Run part, Saturday. Despite the fact that, by my measurement, the wind chill was 9 below zero, nine women raised money for the Grant County Cancer Coalition by tempting frostbite driven by (1) 10-degree temperatures, (2) 20-mph (or more) winds, (3) the additional wind speed generated by driving a snowmobile at up to 80 mph (4) wearing bikinis. (But they did have helmets, gloves and boots on. They’re not crazy.)

Someone I know claimed that one of the Farmer’s Almanacs (there are at least two) predicted this craptacular winter. I do not believe the National Weather Service predicted this, though whether it did or not is immaterial since predictions of weather three days from now are dicey around here. I guess I would be more convinced of whichever Farmer’s Almanac made the prediction if it would reveal how it came to this conclusion; since it won’t, there is no way of telling whether it’s based on some scientific method or a board game-liked spinning wheel — Weather-O-Matic or whatever.

If you haven’t had enough of this winter, you’re not normal. Normal is children arguing with each other over electronic device use because it’s too cold to go outside. Perhaps that also explains a brief rant of one of our Facebook readers over Gov. Scott Walker’s green energy policy in reaction to Walker’s designation of a state of emergency over the Midwestern propane shortage. What does one have to do with the other? Little given that “green” energy only generates electricity, and not many people get their heat from electricity. And I’d be more convinced about the value of wind energy were it not for the price and the fact that every time I drive past the Montfort wind farm on windy days, several of the wind turbines are not running.

Rant over. No wait, it’s not. There are two scary aspects to this Winter from Hell. The first is that, by my measurements, it’s not even half over, since winter runs from Thanksgiving weekend to Easter weekend. Second, we haven’t had a really large snowfall yet. By the official arbiter of the DQ Grill & Chill Great Blizzard Giveaway, the largest one-day snowfall we’ve had is just 5 inches. That’s a fraction of what we got one day in December 2012. The school closings have been because of bitter cold and ice, not snow. So we have that to look forward to, along with the possibility that this Winter from Hell could become the new normal, either because of (1) man-caused climate change or (2) decreasing solar storm activity.

This all brings to mind this joke from Facebook that I’ve adapted for this occasion:

A surveyor drops by Will’s farm in Southwest Wisconsin and announces that he has some bad news.
“I discovered that your farm isn’t in Wisconsin,” he says, “It’s actually in Illinois.”

Will lets out a sigh of relief and says, “That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time. I was just telling my wife this morning that I don’t think I can take another winter in Wisconsin.”