Weird winter weather has a way of wreaking havoc on our lives, almost forcing us to slow down and chill out. Literally.
One day it could be blissfully sunny and the next a blizzardy storm that causes chaos for people across the land. Have you ever seen southerners drive in one-eighth of an inch of snow? Watch a YouTube video and you’ll see how extremely dangerous it can be for other drivers on the road. Meanwhile, tough midwesterners, westerners and northeasterners scoff at the notion that there are people driving cars without snow tires.
Other than careless driving and traffic clusters, here are five other ways winter is a wonder or a pain — depending on how you look it — for most people in the U.S.
You Buy Comfort Food
Who doesn’t use winter as an excuse to hunker down, wrap up in blankets, bake cookies and . . . eat pork? In 2014, Google trends ranked the top five most searched for comfort foods across the country. Here’s what the Washington Post surmised:
“It seems most of America was hungering for pork chops. However, Oregon searched for lasagna and Utah for chocolate chip cookies, while California and much of the East Coast were firmly meatball territory.”
A hankering for pork products could be why McDonald’s brings back the McRib for a limited time every winter. People can’t get enough of those meat and bone-shaped patties. If you consider a McRib a pork product, it makes sense that there’s an uptick in consumption.
While the cozy types are hunkering down and eating comfort foods, the snow-panicked shoppers tend to drive as fast as they can to the store to get bread, milk, water and eggs before settling into a long winter of never-ending captivity.
Closed for Business
Bad weather is bad for business and bad for the consumer, unless the business involves selling snow shovels, boots, or gas and groceries. When the snow storms of 2015 hit the east coast, retailers in the state of Massachusetts lost $10 million a day for each day they were closed or had barely any business. Meanwhile, restaurant owners in Rhode Island described that February was the worst in many years. Nobody wants to go get pedicures, shop for makeup, or grab some sushi while in the midst of snowpocalypse.
Energy Bills Skyrocket
As the arctic freeze blasts through much of the country, get ready for those dreaded electric and propane bills during the winter months. But instead of turning the heat down, wearing parkas and admitting winter has won, it’s time to look at hiccups in your heating system.
You wouldn’t delay an oil change or filter replacement in your car, so it’s just as wise not to slack on regular maintenance to your home’s heating system. If you notice a gradual increase in your heating bill, it may mean that your furnace is working harder to pass air through the filter. Furnace filters become blocked over time and need to be replaced. The sweet spot is 68 degrees because it’s the most cost saving. For every degree you lower your thermostat, you’ll save up to 5 percent in heating costs.
There’s nothing worse than coming home from your holiday vacation in the Galapagos Islands only to find a flooded house due to broken pipes. With some proactive action, though, you can protect your pipes from freezing weather. Construction pro Angela Hood says insulating pipes with spray foam is the easiest to apply and the easiest to remove, although if you want to “upcycle,” bubble wrap is perfectly acceptable.
“It won’t look great, but people would be awed at how much energy expenditure this would save them,” Hood says. “It’s worth being a bit unattractive.”
On the exterior of the house, faucets can be wrapped in old towels or with foam insulation. You can buy the tubing from the hardware store for cheap and slide them onto the pipe secured with duct tape. The classic ways of protecting pipes include running a stream of water, making sure the temp inside is in the 60s and opening the sink cabinets.
Shoveling and Scraping
Before making the treacherous trek to work in the morning, I bet you can’t wait to get up and shovel the driveway and scrape the car off. Not everyone has the luxury of a garage, carport or a special metal storage structure to keep snow off their vehicles. But everyone has one of those fancy ice scrapers! Just don’t use hot water to melt the ice on your windows as it can crack your windshield. That’s bad.
Hang in there winter survivalists, the days are getting longer and it’s less than three months until spring brings a whole new onslaught of problems.