Preparing for Midwestern Weather

This article will help students who have relocated to the Midwest prep for the obstacles midwestern weather can present.

By Xavier Royer — November 30, 2023


Preparing for Midwestern Weather

I take great joy every year when fall turns to winter and my students from southern states get to meet the harsh realities of a Midwestern winter. I have grown up, and now teach in the Great Plain's region of the midwestern United States, a region that gets both disgustingly hot summers with 600% humidity and bone chilling winters featuring driveways covered in approximately six tons of heavy, wet snow. Many of my students come from the southern states, and don't experience their first properly tough winter until they come for college. I've come to appreciate winter, but it takes many of my student's time to acclimate to the cold. While the only thing that makes the winter easier to get used to is time and toughness, there are many things students should know about midwestern weather, particularly on the plains where the wind howls all winter long. This article will help students who have relocated to the Midwest prep for the obstacles midwestern weather can present.

Cold, Wind, and Snow

While the summers can be unreasonable in their own way, students will only have to deal with the heat of summer's last gasps. Spring can present its own challenges (see below: tornados), but most of the school year will be in the winter, so that is what I will mostly discuss. First, the cold can be harsh on its own, but get accustomed to looking at metrics like "real feel" and the wind. My current university is in Iowa, the windiest state in the country. A listed temp of 30 degrees may seem harsh enough already, but adding 15 mile-per-hour winds can reduce that number even further. When buying winter weather clothing, windproof gear can be a huge benefit. Waterproof footwear can also be a big benefit. Snow amounts can very from year to year, but typically once the first big snowstorm hits, there is now just going to be snow on the ground until spring. Stepping into a pile of slush and having wet socks is an instant day ruiner — don't let this be you. Speaking of snow, the Midwest is usually good for at least a few big snow or ice storms a year, so be sure to have a good shovel handy if need be.

Winterize the Car

Once it gets cold enough, most students will naturally locate a hat and pair of gloves they like. Some, however, will forgo the extra accessories and deal with the cold with the tradeoff of not having to carry around or be responsible for as much stuff when they're indoors. I happen to fall into this category, but always at least keep gloves and a hat in the car. An extra sweatshirt and pair of socks wouldn't be a bad idea either. It's one thing to gut out a brisk walk to and from class, but in the event of a car breakdown or accident, or even being locked out of somewhere for an unknown amount of time, having some extra clothes and accessories can be a life saver. Imagine changing a flat tire in the middle of winter — a good set of gloves preventing you from having to handle the cold metal can be all the difference. Also, do not let your gas tank dip below halfway if possible. This prevents freezing and engine damage. Getting winterized tires is always a good call if it is affordable. I also recommend keeping some gravel or kitty litter in the trunk. Not only will the extra weight help with traction, but you can spread it under your tires to create friction if your car is stuck in snow. There is also an art to sliding in a car if that should happen. I've done it a handful of times. Try to avoid driving in hazardous conditions, but if you find you may have to risk it, I recommend watching some videos on how to handle a sliding car before going home.

Tornados

I briefly want to mention the Midwest's springtime specialty, tornados. Tornados are misunderstood by my students from outside tornado alley. While Mid Westerners assume the whole ocean is shark infested, coastersm often believe a twister will come and blow them away. Tornados can be scary, but rarely is it the twister itself that is problematic. The images of leveled communities are tragic, but also the exception. If a tornado is expected, do not panic. Get everything inside that you can, and wait out the storm in a sturdy room with no glass, ideally located centrally in the building - basements are popular choices. Prepare for power outages - have a few portable chargers and keep everything up to full battery if possible. Keep vehicles away from trees and older buildings if possible - the winds from the storm might take a branch off a tree and right through your windshield. Parking garages are ideal, as they can also protect from any potential hail, not uncommon with a tornado. Tornados can be scary, but most Midwesterners find them interesting. The truth is, once you have a plan for the weather, tornados can be almost entertaining displays of nature.

Xavier Royer

Xavier Royer

I am currently a full time instructor at a William Penn University, a small private university in Iowa. I am the lone political science faculty member there. In my time teaching, I have already connected with an incredible cohort of students in ways I could never have expected. Partnering with SAGE will allow me the opportunity to help even more students across the globe navigate those tricky questions.
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