Chicago's snowiest winter in about three decades is laying siege -- and slush. On the other side of the world, China suffered its worst winter weather in half a century, stranding hundreds of thousands just before their New Year holiday. Here are a few flaky facts:
1. In the 124 years that snowfall records have been kept in Chicago, more than 4,500 inches of snow have fallen on the city. That would pile up to about the 29th floor of the Sears Tower -- slightly more than a quarter of the way up.
2. A Vermont farmer named Wilson Alwyn Bentley began a decades-long hobby in the 1880s of taking thousands of photographs of snowflakes on black velvet. "Snowfl ake" Bentley believed that no two snowflakes are alike. Today, scientists say that no two complex snowflakes are alike but that more simple combinations of snow crystals may be alike. Bentley died in 1933 of pneumonia -- contracted after he walked home in a blizzard.
3. The 1967 blizzard was one of Chicago's most bizarre weather events. On Jan. 24, the high temperature was 65, and there was a tornado watch. Two days later, a storm dropped 23.1 inches of snow in 29 hours. Chicagoans could feel picked on: Milwaukee got 2 inches, and Champaign got only rain. But the Windy City is not easily intimidated. Seven hours after the storm began, with snow falling at a rate of about an inch an hour, 193 people showed up at WGN-TV's studios for the "Bozo Show."
4. Chicago's 1979 snow crisis left the city crippled and opened the way for mayoral challenger Jane Byrne to go after Mayor Michael Bilandic's recovery efforts. Campaign manager Don Rose, a political consultant who occasionally writes for Perspective, later recalled shooting a TV ad with Byrne. "Snow was coming down, fortunately," he said. Otherwise, he confided, he would have had to fetch some cornflakes he had stashed in his car and throw them at Byrne, to mimic snow.
5. During World War I, when Italians and Austrians fought each other in the mountainous Southern Tyrol region, one of their chief weapons was snow. They purposely set off avalanches, leaving an estimated 60,000 soldiers on both sides dead, including thousands on a single day.
6. When the Montreal Canadiens won the 1924 hockey title, some of them put the Stanley Cup trophy in the trunk of their car and drove off to the victory party. But the car got a flat, and they took the trophy out and perched it on a snowbank so they could get to the spare tire. After changing the tire, they went to the party, only to realize they had forgotten the trophy. They found it where they had left it: on the snowbank.
7. The term "panked snow" is popular in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and other northern fringes of the country. It refers to snow that has settled or has been pressed down so that people can walk on it.
8. Snow comes in many colors beyond the familiar white and the unappetizing yellow. Glacier snow can appear blue. Algae growing on fallen snow can create hues of green or red, such as what hikers call "watermelon snow." When orange snow fell in Siberia last February, pollution was suspected, but officials said the likely cause was a heavy sandstorm in neighboring Kazakhstan.
9. Snow can occur even when the temperature is 50, according to climatologist Nolan Doesken of Colorado State University. Such a snow happens during a shower or thunderstorm, when the sun has warmed the ground but the air is still quite cold. In the Midwest, about the highest temperature for snow is around 40 degrees, Doesken said.
10. Some people say Philadelphia has the nation's worst sports fans. Exhibit A: At a 1968 Eagles game at Franklin Field, fans threw snowballs at Santa Claus.
Sources: "Snow" by Ruth Kirk, Dictionary of American Regional English, The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, "Fighting Jane," by Bill Granger and Lori Granger, legendsofhockey.com, Science News, USA Today, Tom Skilling's Tribune weather page, Tribune staff and news services.
firstname.lastname@example.orgCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun