SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

February 26, 2014

New index confirms it: It's a miserable winter

DETROIT — A new winter misery index confirms what many Americans in the Midwest and East know in their all-too-chilled bones: This has been one of the harshest winters of our lifetimes.

And nowhere has been hit harder, relatively, than Detroit.

Sure Chicago, Indianapolis and Philadelphia and Moline, Ill., are in the midst of their third most extreme winters in more than 60 years. But Detroit, a city that is trying to crawl out of bankruptcy, is also slogging through what so far is the most extreme winter it has had since Harry Truman was president, at least, according to a winter extremity index created by a National Weather Service meteorologist Barbara Mayes Boustead.

The index is based on cold temperatures and snowfall. And so far Detroit has had more than 61/2 feet of snow and 100 days when the thermometer plunged below the freezing mark. Of two dozen cities studied, Detroit alone is in the middle of its harshest winter since 1950.

In better weather, downtown Detroit’s riverfront walk bustles with bicyclists, runners, walkers and people watchers. Lunchtime yesterday wasn’t better weather. With temperatures in the low 20s and a biting wind, Paul Welch was practically alone on his 2-mile trek. He was mostly dressed for the weather, with a fleece pullover, ski jacket and gloves — but no hat. Consequently, his face was pink.

“My ears are freezing,” said Welch, 52, who works nearby at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s headquarters. “I didn’t think it was going to be quite this windy when I got out here but ... I found out, yeah, it’s pretty bad.”

Boustead, a former Detroit-area resident who now works in Omaha, Neb., created the index a couple years ago to judge the severity of winters. Omaha, by the way, is the only city in two dozen metro areas that Boustead examined that is not having an “extreme” or “severe” winter. It’s merely average.

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