Here in Rhode Island’s apple orchard country of Greenville, the honey crisp and macoun trees are bare, but daffodils and tiger lilies are sprouting at our place, thanks to this kindly winter.
As recalled recently on this site by news editor Frank Prosnitz, the Blizzard of ’78 is but a distant memory, leaving as it did 56 inches of snow piled up outside the Providence Journal’s now-closed Greenville office, which he managed at the time.
His reminiscence is further proof that for those of us who don’t get our cold-weather entertainment on skis, mild winters are among life’s blessings.
You can take that from one who spent his childhood where on many days, zero was considered a warming trend.
In fact, bucolic Watertown, N.Y., hard by Lake Ontario and the Canadian border, now and then earns the distinction of being the coldest place in the continental United States.
That happened as recently as Valentine’s Day of 2016, when romance needed to burn exceedingly hot to offset Watertown’s overnight temperature: 37 below.
That’s not even the worst Watertown has to offer. One winter’s night in 1994, the temperature fell to a record minus 43.
When I lived there in the 1950s, we expected the first snow around Halloween and the last, which we called “sugar snow,” in April. The name reflected a local spring tradition of scooping snow into a cup and topping it with hot maple syrup – as satisfying a treat as is Del’s Lemonade on a hot July day in Rhode Island.
North Country snow is persistent. It rarely melts, which means much of the annual accumulation of 112 inches – nine feet compared to a bit more than two feet in Providence – hangs around.
During my time there, snowbanks grew so high that they blocked visibility at intersections. To avert traffic disasters, drivers kept bandannas tied to the top of their car antennas to signal their approach at blind spots. Now that antennas are obsolete, one cringes to imagine what happens.
From all indications, winters up there still don’t pull punches. A few years back, in the nearby village of Copenhagen, more than 21 feet of snow fell over the winter, and in 2008-09, the village (Pop. 801) was buried under a seasonal 358 inches – nearly 30 feet.
Some years, the snow just won’t give up. In 2013, one of the National Weather Service volunteers in the area reported a trace amount a bit late in the season – on Memorial Day.
Just recently, a lake-effect blizzard— not unusual in the North Country – put Watertown on the national news. The storm howled in with whiteout force that had snow falling at 3 1/2 inches an hour, dumping between 30 and 40 inches on the region, which has been called “the Antarctica of New York State.”
That’s an apt description of a place that on average gets more snow in December (31 inches) than Providence gets all season.
Meanwhile, here in northern Rhode Island, which generally takes the brunt of our state’s version of winter, we welcome March as a sign that a bit down the road, spring will again keep its promises.
And speaking of promises, this is one resident who vows that with what he knows, Greenville is as far north as he ever intends to live.
Gerry Goldstein (firstname.lastname@example.org), an occasional contributor to What’s Up Newp and What’s Up Rhode Island, is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist who has been writing for Rhode Island newspapers and magazines for 60 years.