In The Gathering Cold

Monday, 4 January 2010, 21:45 | Category : Gardening, Mississippi, Weather
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A typical January day in central Mississippi would have a high temperature somewhere around 55F. The low would be 38F or so. It might be sunny, in which case it would be pleasant, and we might even wear short sleeves. I would work in the garden, maybe. If it were cloudy and windy, the day wouldn’t be pleasant, and we would mostly stay indoors. But, you know, it would just be sort of cold. Not frigid. What we’re dealing with now is frigid. And we don’t know what we should be doing about it.

The high today was 32F. It does occasionally happen that we’ll have a day when the temperature doesn’t get above freezing. But these are rare days, and generally within a day or so we’re bumping 60. That isn’t what’s going on this week. Tonight it will get down to around 20. Accuweather tells me that tomorrow the high will be 38, then tomorrow night we’re back down to 20. After a brief respite Wednesday, when the high will be around 45, it gets cold. Mid-teens Friday morning, maybe even colder Saturday morning. The high Friday might not even break 30. We’re in the midst of a cold snap like we haven’t seen in 25 years. And unless you’ve lived in the Deep South, you can’t understand how totally unprepared we are for this type of thing. Layering to us means wearing a tshirt under your regular shirt. Maybe we’ll even wear coordinating colors. Most of us only really have one coat, and it’s probably little more than a glorified windbreaker. Our blood is thin. We freeze easily. The next week won’t be fun. Unless it snows. We can put up with the cold for a few days if we get some snow in the deal. But since our weather guys are lousy at calling snow, we really don’t know until it starts falling.

But the real story of this cold snap won’t be finished until spring. We’ve had mild winter after mild winter here, and we’ve gotten used to thinking of some plants, like lantanas, as perennials. I think those and others, which are really at best tender perennials, will suffer. It’s not unusual for begonias to over-winter, tiny little crowns huddled under a layer of fallen leaves, and sprout back in April. I don’t think that will happen this time. We’re going to lose some things. On the other hand, some bugs that have made it through previous winters may not make it this year, so maybe the spring will be a little more pleasant.

It’s cold. Don’t laugh, I know the upper Midwest would look at this as a pleasant interlude in the midst of winter. I’ve been to Chicago when the temperature was -20. I have no idea how I survived.