Effect Affection or Affectation?

Last night, while I watched television, the local news meteorologist broke in between programs with a glimpse of the news that would be showing later. He assured us that the heavy snow we were experiencing was not a part of the surrounding area's snowstorm warnings, but rather "lake-effect snow" and invited us back at 10pm to learn more. Admittedly, I did not tune back in to learn more. Why?

Before moving to Duluth, I lived 3 hours south in the gently rolling hills and rivers area of Wisconsin. When it snowed there, it was just snow. No Eau Claire meteorologist ever felt the need to keep us abreast of why our snow was different, just that it fell and we might want to take care when driving. On occasion, I would talk to my brother, who has lived in the Twin Ports area of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI for over 20 years now. Through him, I was familiar with the term "lake-effect" and knew that the weather was different due to his living in close proximity to Lake Superior. What I didn't know, was that there is a large population of people affected by lake-effect. People who's affection for lake-effect has become an affectation.

Talk to a native Duluthian about some weather oddity and you get a blas√©, "It's the lake-effect." Ask a non-native but long-time inhabitant and you get a rather pretentious, "Of course, it's the lake-effect." It doesn't matter who you talk to or how you try to dodge the weather banter, the comment is inevitable.

Having lived here now for almost 2 years and experienced the lake-effect weather myself, I would like to point out that it is, indeed, just regular weather. All the emphasis put on where it comes from, how it got here and how unique it might be, is just so much extraneous information. Whether or not the snow falls from a storm front or because of some kind of meteorological phenomenon involving induction, synoptic large-scale forcing and fetch - it IS snow. Last night we received some accumulation of lake-effect snow, which Duluthians didn't want to be confused with the accumulated regular snow that fell in other areas. We have stars on our snow, and they have none upon thars.

I have also come to realize that you cannot be facetious with Duluthians about the lake-effect weather. They don't like it. When shooting the breeze with a neighbor about our impending date with the shovels and snow-blowers, he mentioned the those words (yes, "lake-effect" in case you are unclear) and I responded with a twinkle in my eye "Do I need to buy a special shovel for it then?" Apparently my twinkle froze somewhere between my eye and his comprehension, because the conversation was abruptly over. He has lived in Duluth for around 60 years, and has most assuredly his humor concerning lake-effect has atrophied beyond repair. Or, it wasn't that funny, but I'm going with the former as I had quite a chuckle over it.

In the numerous times I've tried some light humor or straight-up sarcasm about lake-effect weather, I have been shut down. Either they chuckle dismissively and proceed to tell me just how Real and Important this phenomenon is to all concerned or they just dismiss me.

My dog is a neurotic pooper. He'll spend 10 minutes, frantically making sprints from one section of yard to another, only to then ricochet between 2 or 3 points only feet apart looking for Just The Right Spot on which to unburden himself. I asked my brother if he thought this was strange behavior. Happily, 20 years is not enough to completely make my central-Wisconsin born and raised brother go native. He responded that it is lake-effect defecation, and common to Duluth dogs.


  1. HA HA HA! Lake-effect defecation... didn't see that one coming!
    CJ, I do not think you have fully grasped the special importance of lake effect snow. In fact, there are several bloggers in my neighbourhood who deem it of such importance that they put it in the top of their post, each and every day: MUSKOKA: LAND OF LAKE EFFECT SNOW.
    And you know what? We are nowhere NEAR a lake big enough to cause lake effect snow.
    We got a dumping of it once, at the beginning of the winter, and now that's all everybody is talking about.
    Get a grip, people.
    I really like your shovel line. What a maroon the guy is for not 'getting it.'
    So you didn't say... how much snow did you get?
    You must know that lake effect snow depth is like fishing-size... so you can tell me the lake effect depth, or just how damn much snow is sitting on top of your durango.
    P.S. I really am trying to get out of here. I have my boots on and everything. Just waiting for the pot roast to come to a boil so I can blow this popsicle stand.

  2. *wipes tear from eye* I remember the lake effect snow with fondness with my 20 years in SW Ontario. I found it's not so much quantity as the blowing that causes the near zero visibility for those of us driving the highway to work.

    I liked the pooping story. We keep the snow cleared in paths in the backyard for our greyhound. We wanders around, poops, and then runs like mad for 4 or 5 "victory" laps.

  3. chicagoland of course has the "lake-effect" disease. what's odd is i don't recall ever hearing about snow on the news that isn't referred to as lake-effect. maybe we have accepted that being built off the side of a great lake means the lake has it's hand in all this madness... or maybe our weather guys just use it as a blanket term cause it applies so often. maybe we should just call all of it precipitation effect snow and put an end to it. heh. what chicago should truly be bitter and obsessive about isn't related to the white stuff... it's the fricking wind. i don't think they'll adopt the term lake-effect wind, because i'm pretty sure the populus would make an immediate push to have that sucker paved over. heh. you should shovel your driveway into two piles, and put a sign on one that says ordinary old snow and one on the other that says lake-effect snow with the blanket statement "plow appropriately" :). hey, I'D laugh. maybe the pup can point out which one is which hehe.

  4. Cathy - Ha! I do grasp the special significance of the lake effect has on people.. that's why I'm poking fun at it. heh Oh, and I think we only got around 8in.

    Alan - Glad to take you down windswept memory lane. Now that you mention it, the wind IS a big deal here, too. But we got nothing on North Dakota, which is victim to plain-effect winds (in my opinion, much harsher).
    With a greyhound, running like mad doesn't seem too neurotic heh, although the victory laps make me chuckle.

    Brooke - LOL - "it's the fricking wind. i don't think they'll adopt the term lake-effect wind, because i'm pretty sure the populus would make an immediate push to have that sucker paved over" ha! Silly Windy Cityfolk.
    I've actually started wondering if Kiko knows the difference between regular old snow and lake-effect snow - he seems much more playful and diggy in lake-effect snow.... or perhaps I'm just becoming affected.