40 below: what it feels like
Landing in Cleveland Monday after a nonstop USA3000 flight from the Dominican Republic was an abrupt reminder that Northeast Ohio is snow country. As we left, a small band serenaded us beneath the Punta Cana airport's palm trees. As the plane swung over downtown three hours later it was easy to tell some of my fellow passengers had never seen snow before. The landscape below was white, vast Lake Erie had already begun to freeze and winter was not yet even three weeks old.
For them winter was probably as much a shock as my wintertime visit to northern Minnesota a few years ago. I had hoped to go dogsledding and winter camping, but when I arrived in Duluth it was 40 below and the plans were canceled. We were told that it was just too cold to assure our safety. The condensation from breathing can result in wetness even inside an igloo.. and moisture can be a killer at 40 below.
"Temperatures like this sure cut down on the riff-raff," said one native. Cars not kept in good running order aren't shelter for very long if they break down, he explained. And those who go out without a hat, coat, gloves and scarf will very quickly have frostbite on any exposed skin.
Parking places have outlets to plug in the car battery to keep it from freezing, and entryways everywhere have vestibules with doors on each end to keep the cold from entering the interior space.
My nose tickled in even the quickest walk from the car.
At 40 below, my nose-hairs froze.
Until I learned to cover up my entire face with my scarf it kept happening. My scarf captured my warm breath and kept my face from feeling so cold, but billowed up from underneath.
And then my eyelashes froze, and my eyebrows became frosted.
Today's Cleveland temperatures are balmy by comparison. But I'm betting those folks from the Dominican Republic don't think so.