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Christopher Gabriel, Published December 14 2009

Gabriel: Waiting for the worst of winter

When my wife and I met years ago in Los Angeles, we came to the conclusion that we missed having four seasons. Specifically, we wanted to see snow in the winter.

I’m not talking about going to a ski resort, immersing ourselves in powder for a week and then being done with it. And I’m not talking about paralyzing storms throwing a region into chaos. Just snow. A steady flow of snow.

Being native Midwesterners, we decided to try living in Chicago.

Career-wise it worked for us. And the weather – TV shots of snow blanketing the Chicago lakefront, Michigan Avenue looking like a white carpet – appeared to be perfect.

We lived in Chicago for five years, and in that time we received a total of about 8 inches of snow. And on the night of a “major” storm, 2 inches would come storming down on us. Two inches. In Chicago. Are you kidding me? Meanwhile up the road in Milwaukee, on the same night as one of our 2-inch storms, the Weather Channel guys smiled and told us how Milwaukee had turned into a winter wonderland, receiving

16 inches of snow in four hours – with more on the way.

We wondered, where were the blizzards? Where were the nights of double-digit snowfalls? They were 90 miles up the interstate in Milwaukee.

Our Chicago weather guys kept telling us how the snow line was just north of us. And like the Weather Channel folks, they did it with a smile. It was winter trash talk aided by their Doppler radars.

While in Chicago, we also watched endless reports of major snowfalls in New York, making the city look like scenes from “Miracle on 34th Street.” Times Square, Central Park, Fifth Avenue, they were magical.

Having had enough with Chicago’s snow output, we had a new plan: New York City.

Again, it worked professionally, so off we went.

Upon arrival in New York we were rewarded for our determination; our first winter there produced a 31-inch snowfall in one magnificent evening. The city was brought to its knees. A half-mile walk to the grocery store took us nearly 45 minutes. It was glorious.

Inside the store families were buying 15 dozen eggs, 10 gallons of milk and hundreds of rolls of toilet paper. The hard New York winter, rivaled only by winter in Siberia, had begun. We wouldn’t dig out until the spring.

Over the next four months we received only 3 inches of snow. The reason had something to do with low and high pressure fronts doing odd things when they got to the New York City area, changes in wind direction and warmer-than-normal temperatures.

But just north of us, about 50 miles up the road in Connecticut, there were snowstorms twice a week.

We kept hearing how the “worst” of winter was missing us. Smiling meteorologists standing knee-deep in fresh powder were saying Connecticut was the visual of picture-perfect winter with kids on sleds, people hugging for pictures in front of snowmen and sleigh rides in historic Dickensian towns.

Sick of missing the snow, we decided on what we believed was a foolproof plan.

Winter after winter we watched national weather forecasts and found Minnesota was covered in white, the forecast standard for snow. No matter the month, Minnesota always seemed to be white. There was no way we could go wrong with Minnesota. After all, nothing beats a stroll along Lake Minnetonka in August with a gentle snow falling.

The Minnesota Plan lasted 10 years. During that time Hot Springs, Ark., received more snow than we did. And Christmas snow globes sold in the Mall of America dried up.

Now, we’re in North Dakota. Since arriving, I’ve seen a lot of smiling meteorologists. Translation: Grand Forks is in trouble this winter.


Christopher Gabriel is host of “The Christopher Gabriel Program” from 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on AM 970 WDAY. Read his blog at cgabriel.com and preview his show at www.areavoices.com/cgabriel