The winter made notorious by the media hype

Well, we have finally emerged from what everyone in the Northeast is calling the worst winter ever. That’s a subjective judgment, of course, but, since most of us live here and survived, I’ll pretty much agree 100 percent with that assessment.

But what made it so bad? Snow? Darkness? Cold? Overcast? Wind? Sure, they all contributed, but at the very heart of this darkness stands, (evil music swells), meteorologists.

According to a study I recently ran across, the top story across all media for the past year has been the weather. Seriously. Newspapers devoted more ink, TV more air, and the web more pixels to weather than any other subject, including Kim Kardashian’s backside (yeah, I was shocked, too). We, as a country, have simply become weather obsessed.

Look at the local TV stations and how they handle the weather. Each morning during the week, they start up around 5 a.m. and don’t end until nearly 10 a.m. Then they fire up again between 4 and 5 p.m. and blather on till around 7 p.m. before giving us a final dose in the 10 to 11 p.m. region.

During a standard news broadcast, they repeat the weather on the ones, tens, sixes, sevens, fours and on and on until, by the end of the 30-minute broadcast cycle (7 to 10 minutes of which are commercials), we have heard the forecast so many times we can repeat it in our sleep. But along the way, a funny thing happened. Our eyes glazed over.

I can’t count the number of times I have watched the weather repeat four or five times only to walk away and be unable to tell my wife what they said. I was so snowed under (pun intended) by fronts, low pressure, high pressure, Doppler radar, forecasting models, graphics, computers, and gleaming white teeth, that I was unable to actually understand whether it was going to do anything I should be worried about in the next 24 hours.

You know what they say, ”If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull****.” By the end of most weather broadcasts I needed hip waders.

As a writer and editor, what I did notice was word choice and tone. No matter the actual nature of the forecast, we were treated to doom, gloom, and portents that would have sent Nostradamus running for the Prozac.

Last year, it was polar vortexes that would leave us in a new ice age and this year it was Artic highs that had even politicians keeping their hands firmly stuffed in their own pockets. If there was a way to sensationalize, scare, freak out, worry, or cause a mad rush on milk, bread, and eggs, these folks found a way to push it over the top.

And let’s not get into the endless record-setting snowstorms that, even when they missed us, bumped up grocery store stocks a minimum of 10 points. I know that Eskimos are said to have many words to describe snow, but, after this year, most folks in the Northeast have just as many; though the majority can’t be repeated in a family newspaper.

When you get down to brass tacks, this was a long, cold, snowy, rough winter that just never seemed to want to end. Those of us who were born and raised in this region know that’s just par for the course, so why was it so much worse this year?

Like I said, it was because we were told, multiple times, on a daily basis, that it was. So was it really? Or did we all just succumb to what amounts to a mass media campaign obviously paid for by Florida to encourage mass migration south?

Objectively, I’ve survived colder winters, snowier ones, and every other combination. But this one just felt longer, darker, and colder, but then maybe that’s because, after slightly over half a century, I’m just plain tired of it.

My lovely, and very upbeat wife claims that the secret is to learn to embrace the winter just like I embrace summer. I do cross-country ski and I’m learning to snowshoe also.

I like walking outside all year and have even been known to bicycle in the snow too (with a mountain bike). But when it’s 12 degrees and 30 below with the wind chill and there’s enough ice on the sidewalks to play hockey, the only thing I’m going to embrace is my pellet stove.

Yes, I know that you can go out in any weather with the right clothing, but, frankly, I don’t see a NASA spacesuit with crampons as really feasible for standard daily wear.

So what to do? Well, we went to the gym on days when we just couldn’t get outdoors to work out. I read lots of books and watched lots of movies, too.

I spoke to the cats a great deal but tried to make sure it didn’t get to the point where it was a two-way conversation. I made sure to get as much sleep as possible, turn on my SAD [seasonal affective disorder] light each day and tried not to look at too many pictures of beaches because it would have just been too much of a tease.

We did go to Florida for a few days in February, but, of course, it was the week that Florida experienced record cold (30s to 50s). We wore our shorts and kind of quietly laughed at the Floridians in their down jackets but, truth was, we had one day of truly decent weather and the rest was just OK.

Still, a vast improvement over what we left, but more tease again. And, of course, the airwaves down there were awash in apocalyptic weather forecasts due to the unusual cold. The citrus crop was threatened, people were rushing to cover delicate plants, and, of course, there was a run on bread and milk.

Today the sky is gray and the snow and ice are pretty much gone. Trees are budding, grass is greening (is that a word?), and flowers are blooming. We made it through another one. Barely. And according to the forecast, we should be worried about flash floods, lower than normal temps and high winds. Better stock up on bread and milk.

Editor’s note: Michael Seinberg is a longtime weather watcher due to his participation in outdoor sports that he says work better when the world isn’t ending; he may start just taking his chances instead of watching any more weather.