school delays and closings - before Thanksgiving. It's been a number of years since that last time that happened. The city hadn't yet swept the gutters of leaves, many of them only fallen in the last week, so now there are frozen clumps of them at the ends of driveways, pushed up by the plow. Be careful backing out! Here's hoping we get a spate of warmer temperatures so that last clean up can get done before snow is here to stay.
The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a "biting cold & snowy" winter for the Great Lakes. Bill Steffen also thinks we're in for some real winter weather, and early. None of that is written in stone, of course, but if you haven't hired your snow removal contractor or checked your snow blower to make sure it still runs and you have both gas and oil for it, now is the time. Small engine repair shops in Grand Rapids usually have a couple of weeks' wait time for service, so procrastinating until that first big blizzard and then pulling the cord and praying - it's not such a great plan. It's also worth picking up a sack of salt or kitty litter to cover those icy spots on your driveway and sidewalks. Round up the snow shovels, too, and put them where they are close to hand, and make sure your car is ready to drive in snow.
Walking on icy sidewalks can be a challenge. Owners on the northeast side of the city, at least, are pretty good at shoveling, particularly early on in the winter. But after that first major storm, the number of icy encrusted sidewalks build. That's when you want to start wearing Yaktrax, or at least boots with thicker tread, and stepping carefully, choosing grass or snow over icy surfaces.
If you're new to the area, the bad news is Grand Rapids is cloudy in winter. We do not get the bitter cold temperatures that sweep over the Dakotas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, but the trade off is overcast days and lake effect snow. If you have Seasonal Affective Disorder or get the "winter blues," investing in a sun light might not be a bad idea. Also, even though you might want to stay inside and burrow under your covers, exercise is great for shaking off a gloomy mood.
Fortunately, there are a lot of fun things to do in Grand Rapids in the winter. There's local skiing and snowboarding, ice skating in or outdoors, and plenty of sledding hills. Horse drawn carriages tour the downtown. The Civic Theater does a family production every year at this time. This year is The Sound of Music. Then there are the holiday traditions: the Grand Rapids Symphony is doing Holiday Pops, the Grand Rapids Ballet will perform The Nutcracker, and the Calvin Oratorio Society will perform Handel's Messiah. Before and after the holidays, there are a number of cultural opportunities for music, drama, and art enthusiasts.
In short, winter is coming: prepare, but do not despair!