The ice isn’t so nice, but how people handle it is

Ice is seen on trees around the Lake City square. GRAPHIC-ADVOCATE PHOTO/TONI VENTEICHER

In mid-October, I attended a meeting after a few especially foggy mornings.

One of the meeting attendees, before the group got going, told me to mark my calendar for Jan. 16. There will be fog that day, she said.

Curious, I asked why.

A storm follows fog by 90 days, she explained. She thought it would be snow, but another meeting attendee disagreed and said it would actually be rain.

Regardless, I’m not one to just let such a conversation pass me by, not with easy tools like the calendar on my cell phone at my fingertips. I pulled out my phone and marked Jan. 16 with a note that there would be a storm. Then I forgot about it.

Imagine my delight last Monday, when I picked up my phone and saw that phone alert blinking, and connected that prediction with the rain that started falling at the beginning of last week. I mean, I wasn’t thrilled with the ice on the streets and sidewalks – my own stretch of sidewalk was impassable, with the thick layer of ice on top of snow on top of ice. But I had been so skeptical about the storm prediction and it was so cool to see it happen.

While I may have been unaware of the correlation between fog and rain, it appears to hold true in other parts of the Midwest, not just Iowa. I posted an observation about the prediction and the weather to Facebook, and my aunt in Indiana said farmers there often tell her the same thing.

The Farmer’s Almanac, that vaunted and valued mixture of science and folklore, backs up the concept, too. Almanac staffers addressed that in a 2010 blog post, which focused on summer fog, which apparently heralds pleasant weather, but also touched on winter fog with this old rhyme: Summer fog for fair,

A winter fog for rain.

A fact most everywhere,

In valley or on plain.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Iowa knows how to do winter weather. When the snow starts falling, people stay home. Now, maybe it was helped this time by the weather system arriving on Sunday night before a federal holiday, and the fact that there wasn’t going to be school here on Monday anyway, but I really have noticed how respectful Iowans are of bad weather. When I go to walk my dog in the mornings following a heavy snow, the only vehicles I typically see on the road are snowplows and other snow removal equipment.

I heard reports last week that stores as far away as Fort Dodge had completely sold out of ice melt by Saturday – it seems Iowans don’t worry so much about stocking up on eggs and milk, but focus on making sure they can get their sidewalks and driveways cleared as quickly as possible.

My husband was supposed to have a doctor’s appointment on Jan. 16; when he went to see if that office was open, he found eight pages of business closures.

I also love that I routinely see adults in heavy boots, snow pants or snowsuits. People here aren’t embarrassed to dress warm enough for the weather. When I was in college in western Michigan, well within the reach of Lake Michigan’s lake effect snow belt, most Michiganders I knew took the opposite approach – no amount of snow was going to stop them from going to work or cancelling school. They took pride in how tough they were in dealing with the snow.

Same story in western Ohio, where I worked my first job out of college. The county had a three-tier snow emergency system, with the highest level prohibiting all but emergency vehicles from using the roads. The sheriff in the county where I worked told me he would never declare that level of emergency – even during the storm that dumped 15 inches on us overnight – because he got too much flack from local business owners who didn’t want to close, for even a day.

I realize people still took risks during last week’s storm, just like they do during the other winter weather we get every year. But, on the whole, I really feel like people here take the weather more seriously. Having seen the opposite, it’s impressive.