by Doctor Science
-- a text from Sprog the Younger this afternoon. Snow day again tomorrow.
We haven't had such a hard winter since the Fimbulwinter of 1993-94. For those of you who weren't living in eastern North America at the time and may have forgotten it, that was the winter where e.g. New Jersey got *sixteen* winter storms -- and for us, *thirteen* of them were ice or "wintry mix" storms. Oddly, most of the storms seemed to hit on Wednesday, too, so there were so many school cancellations that the state legislature had to consider altering how many days counted as a full year of schooling. In the end, pretty much everybody got rid of spring break, and quite a few districts had school on Saturdays in late spring to make up the time.
It was generally a sucky experience for everybody. Children were bored and restless when they weren't in school, over-burdened when they were. All the adults were worn down because going from place to place took so much more time than usual, and driving was so stressful. Not just from snow and ice, but from huge numbers of potholes. I remember driving through the local small town in mid-February and realizing that almost every house still had its Christmas tree up, because no-one had the spare time or energy to take it down. And that's even for people who didn't have the roof problems we did, or a hurt knee from falling on the ice as I walked away from where the car had skidded into the driveway ditch.
It was my impression that the Fimbulwinter had two longer-term consequences. One was the phrase "wintry mix" or "winter mix". I can't find much information about when this term became officially part of the meteorologists' lexicon, but my memory is that it was over the course of the Fimbulwinter, as the weather people got sick of saying "a mixture of snow, sleet, and freezing rain." Reporter John Kelly says it first showed up in the Washington Post in January, 1997, while the ever-stodgy New York Times didn't start using it until 2007, as near as I can tell. My memory is of the phrase "winter mix", which always reminded me of something you'd nibble on at a cocktail party -- but I may have just misheard "wintry mix". Our family generally called it "oobleck", after the stuff that appeared when King Derwin of Didd wanted "something new to come down from the sky".
The other consequence, I believe, is that SUV sales really took off in the Northeast. My memory is that SUVs hadn't been very popular in this part of the country up to that point, they were more a Southern and Western thing. But even I found ads showing SUVs driving unhindered through snow and rough terrain pretty compelling by the end of the Fimbulwinter.