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Published October 22 2010

Morast: Fargo's winters rated third worst

As our mornings get colder, my mind is hit with traumatic flashbacks of Fargo-Moorhead winters and the droning question of “Why the hell do we live here?”

It’s easy to focus on the negatives of a Red River Valley winter – temperatures that cause Eskimos to shiver, snow piled higher than the snowplows, brains chilled to the point they feel like bags of frozen peas.

In the midst of January’s sharp frostbite, it’s also easy to assume no place in America has it worse than us during the winter months.

Not true. There are two places with worse winters.

At least, that’s what a survey conducted by The Weather Channel tells us. And, just to be clear, The Weather Channel thinks “worst” winter equates to “best” winter. It must be easy to view the world that way when your network’s corporate offices are in the Deep South of Atlanta.

Regardless, according to their survey, the worst winter in America can be experienced at Mount Washington in New Hampshire.

Not impressed? Think there’s some East Coast bias in the study? I did, too. But check the stats on winter’s mountain, provided by The Weather Channel:

Yeah, so I don’t want to live there. Ever.

But the problem with this survey is that nobody else wants to live at Mount Washington, or, maybe more accurately, nobody can. The place is a mountain summit that has a few building for hikers, meteorologists or anyone who wants to pretend they’re in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. It’s not a city, village or shantytown.

So why is it compared to Fargo with its population of professional winter-dwellers? Beats me.

Oswego, N.Y., is No. 2 on The Weather Channel’s list. And, like Fargo, it is a city.

Built on the edge of Lake Ontario, Oswego and its nearly 20,000 people endure some brutal winters with storms that drop 6 inches of snow every hour. And during a February 2007 storm, Oswego was hit with 141 inches of snow in only 10 days.

When you read stats like that, the photos of Oswego residents walking onto the roofs of their homes via snowbanks make a lot more sense.

As for average winter stats, Oswego’s mean temperature for January is 23.6 degrees, while its average annual snowfall is 144.5 inches. (I had some trouble finding reliable stats on snowfall, so that number’s the average from 1961-99, according to the New York State Climate Office.)

In Fargo, the mean temperature for January is 6.8 degrees, and our annual snowfall is 40.8 inches.

It’s kind of like choose your winter torture device: tons of snow but warmer days or colder days with less snow.

If you discount Mount Washington as an uninhabited mountain top, these stats suggest Fargo probably should have been at the top of The Weather Channel’s “best” winter list.

Though, I don’t think that’s something to be too proud of.


Readers can reach Forum Features Editor Robert Morast at (701) 241-5518

or rmorast@forumcomm.com