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 blasé, "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.