"Wintertime Past and Present"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, January 12, 2018

If you live in Huron County, no doubt you have a friend, relative or neighbor that headed south by now.

Perhaps you wished you had tagged along. Well, the first day of 2018 was pleasant in the southland, but Mother Nature quickly decided to change things up.

The storm actually came out of the Gulf and began on the south coast of Florida and moved north delivering snow to Tallahassee. It built strength quickly and by the third day of the New Year, winter storm and blizzard watches were posted along the east coast from Florida to Maine. Meteorologist declared a polar vortex had formed which created a Bombogenesis described as a Bomb Cyclone. They named the storm Grayson, which did not sound very threatening at all.

It was soon learned why the storm was described as a Cyclone. Snow, ice and wind gusts to 70 and even 100 miles per hour were registered. Temperatures plunged to -35 degrees below zero in many areas. Boston Harbor experienced historic coastal flooding and rescue personnel had to use boats to reach people stranded in the city’s streets. The whole eastern seaboard was shut down with no public transportation able to operate. Sadly, the storm was so severe, many lives were lost.

The cold was so extreme, at one point it was announced every state in the continental U.S. registered below freezing temperatures. Central Florida, where I have been living, has had several nights of freezing temperatures. As I write this column, it's 39 degrees and we will see 31 degrees tonight. We are lucky to have a fireplace at my daughter Lynn’s house, so we gathered wood and had a fire for several evenings. Disney had to shut down all of its water parks because the water was freezing. I’m certain attendance was heavily impacted at the parks because no one wanted to be walking outside in temperatures that struggled to reach 50 degrees.

I took a ride further south to escape the cold — but it was only in the 50s even that far south. Damage left from Hurricane Irma, that struck the Florida Keys last September, is still visible. Piles of debris line A-1A along the route to my home in Key Largo. Many neighborhoods have homes damaged, and residents are still searching for items the storm blew away.

Contractors and materials have become scarce with so much demand. I have been fortunate to locate a contractor who agreed to work on my badly damaged home. His uncle lives near me and after the storm, he came down from his home in Ohio to help out. Well one job led to another, and he is still working his way through them. I’m hoping my job is next.

I read in the Tribune that winter weather in Huron County has brought the return of snowmobile racing in Caro at the Tuscola County Fairgrounds Jan. 20-21. Memories of years gone by returned as I read of the activity. My family and many others used to enjoy snowmobile racing at Caseville on an oval track and on a straight away in Port Austin. Oddly enough, the Port Austin Yacht Club sponsored drag racing on snowmobiles on a designated road outside of town. The races drew many bundled up spectators and drivers and trophies were awarded in several classes.

Many communities in the Thumb enjoyed winter events in past years and they hosted big parades, broom ball tournaments and car races on the lake front. Port Austin’s Winter Carnivals drew thousands of outdoor enthusiast from all over the state. Numerous games took place on ice arenas throughout the area and some well-known professional athletes showed up to participate.

As I see it, families have stopped appreciating winter activities. Trails once groomed and used for cross country skiing are no longer popular. Snowmobiles are rarely seen and is anyone ice skating, sledding or tobogganing? I’m aware ice fishing is still enjoyed by many, but it is not often a family outing.

I would guess the main reason outside events are not undertaken is the fear of phones freezing up or missing a text message.

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