[imgcontainer] [img:DSC_0026+US+342.jpg ] [source]Photo by Timothy Collins[/source] Constant drifting and plowing means snow piles of 8 to 10 feet or more along stretches of U.S. 34, including this spot near Arlington, Illinois, in Bureau County. [/imgcontainer]

Seems like I’ve spent most of my adult life in an area of the country where the person delivering the weather on TV stands in front of where I live. True in West Virginia. True in central Pennsylvania. True in western Illinois, even though we aren’t that far from Chicago or St. Louis.

So, as a public service to Yonder readers on the East Coast (yes, everyone in the rural Midwest knows you’ve had a lot of snow this year because the news media keeps reminding us of it), here’s an opportunity to see a couple of images of what it looked like out in the Midwestern hinterlands, where we got many of those storms first.

We’ve had snow on the ground since mid December. We’ve had “Pineapple Expresses” that brought moisture from the Central Pacific, “Alberta Clippers” that our neighbors to the north shared with us, and wildly complex convergences of slightly warmer and moister Gulf and Pacific air that mixed with bitterly cold Arctic air. This winter has been wild and often unpredictable.

To put it simply, it has been snowy, often mixed with strong winds that brought us blizzards. I’ve lost track of how many.

How cold was it? As for the Polar Vortex, lots of people have taken a spin or two on our icy roads. From this vantage point, it takes a solid brass mule to do a political spin on an established weather concept.

It was 22 below one morning a few weeks ago with a prediction for the night of 1 or 2 below. Eight below and 16 below were commonplace for a few weeks. At these temperatures, wind chill matters, but who really notices? Numb’s the word.

A brief thaw came with President’s Day, 57 degrees in Macomb and a yellow Mustang convertible going down the street with the top down, an act of clear defiance. Or was it anticipation?

[imgcontainer] [img:DSC_0038+Late+winter+sunrise2.jpg ] [source]Photo by Timothy Collins[/source] A snow-filled corn field at sunrise. [/imgcontainer]

The sun is higher on the horizon. The days are growing longer, and the mornings have been punctuated with spring bird calls for a few weeks now, believe it or not.

Meteorologist Tom Skilling from WGN in Chicago says we might not be through with the cold weather until sometime in March. No real problem here.

This has been the winter of a lifetime, and with a couple of exceptions, I haven’t minded it all that much. The winter of ’14 has been one to remember.

As for spring, some predict it will be the best we ever thaw.

Timothy Collins is assistant director for research, policy, outreach, and sustainability at the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs at Western Illinois University in Macomb. Opinions expressed here are his and his alone.

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