For some reason, this week my mind has been wandering back to my first December in the Mid-Ohio Valley. So far, this one has been nothing like it. In 1983, there was SNOW on Veterans Day! Okay, not much snow, but to someone who had only arrived from Florida in April, snow in what was still officially fall was enough to make me wonder what I'd gotten myself into. December was even colder.
Living in downtown Marietta at the time, I walked just about everywhere, partly because I was dubious about driving in snow on brick streets. By Christmas Eve, it seemed to me as if I were wearing everything in my closet in order to keep warm, with an enormous Doctor Zhivago-ish hooded wool cape as the top layer. Walking to a candlelight service through gently falling snow had a nostalgic appeal, but when the temperature on Christmas morning hit minus 10 (according to the Weather Underground's weather history--my memory is that it was colder than that, but I may be remembering the wind chill), staying home and eating scrambled eggs for Christmas dinner because my car had frozen had no appeal at all. But that was what I did, though I did bundle up and walk the mile or so to a friend's house a little later when the wind died down. I remember thinking at the time that I could do without another Christmas of that degree of whiteness--or cold.
And over the last twenty-nine years, we haven't had one. 1989 saw below-zero temperatures, but a glance at the weather history indicates that such cold has become an anomaly, even though our placement in USDA hardiness zone 6 indicates that most winters should see at least a few nights of 10 below. Actually, the most recent zone map, released just this year, indicates that our area is now borderline zone 7, a full ten degrees warmer than zone 6.
I'm grateful for the decreased cold, but this degree (no pun intended) of climate change in a single human generation does not bode well for the places that we in this country have always considered the South. If north-central West Virginia is soon to have the winter temperatures of the Carolinas, what will happen to Florida?