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La Niña takes role in North Dakota winter

Jacob Notermann, Staff Writer

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It’s that wonderful time of year again. That time of year when we all throw our laundry into our cars and return to Grand Forks with mixed emotions.

After yelling at each other over politics while preparing for another stressful round of finals, a few weeks off were well-deserved. But, we all had to face reality at some point: vacation can’t last forever.

For some, returning to campus is a joyous time. A time to get back together with friends and finally get around to cleaning your dorm. For others, coming back to Grand Forks is just a reminder that they haven’t graduated. It seems almost proper for those tired students to be re-welcomed to class with a cold hug given by nature.

This winter has been a special one so far, because it has been affected by a climate pattern called La Niña.

“The La Niña basically means that the pacific oceans temperatures have become cooler than average,” UND atmospheric science student Kaela Lucke said. “So a La Niña winter in North Dakota generally means that overall we will have a wetter winter, meaning above average snowfall and we also will experience cooler than average temperatures.”

A La Niña winter normally follows an El Niño winter, which happened last year. This arctic embrace is just enough for some to contemplate major life decisions.

“Why did I decide to go to school here?” UND junior Michael Kelsch said. “Some days the commute to Gamble is horrible. I wish I got a car starter for Christmas.”

Having to walk around in the frigid winter could be one of the most dangerous aspects of UND student life. A note worthy of mention is that Grand Forks isn’t known for having a calm cold. Dealing with the cold is one thing, but the constant wind will bite skin off anywhere unprotected. When it isn’t snowing, the wind is still blowing it in everyone’s faces.

The first week of spring semester classes was a harsh way to break students back into the routine, with Wednesday and Thursday both having highs in the negatives and winds roaring from 15 to 20 miles per hour.

Friday is no exception, with the temperature resting in the negatives until the early evening. For students who have morning classes, the temperature will be in the negative twenties with the wind being in the low-teens.

For off-campus walkers, these conditions could lead to frostbite of unprotected skin in almost ten minutes according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The icy conditions make the sidewalks a slippery hazard, but winds at such high speeds only make things more treacherous.

Political science student Reid Kemp recalls a time when the wind caught a student and their wiener dog off guard.

“A really huge breeze came by and blew the dog sideways,” Kemp said.

The bitter winter can be downright brutal for students trying to get to their classes. However, some students ultimately succumb to Jack Frost. “It’s understandable [for students to skip class] if we get extremely high winds,” Kelsch said. “Nobody wants to go outside those days.”

Kelsch also said he has never skipped a class due to weather.

The Grand Forks winter also wreaks havoc for drivers. University Avenue and on-campus parking is consistently filled with moving vehicles as is, and winter only brings slippery roads, snow mounds distorting vision around corners and maintenance problems. Kemp’s car battery gave out on him on Monday, threatening his plans to be present for the first day of classes.

On the flip side, many students find the winter to be a beautiful time for North Dakota.

“Personally, I love winter as long as there is a lot of snow,” Lucke saud. “So this winter has been perfect for me because there is enough snow for me to enjoy the activities I love like skiing, snowmobiling and ice skating.”

While some students find snow as their key to partaking in activities, there are students like Kelsch who prefer snow to keep them from said activities.

“It’s cool to see actual snow storms again,” Kelsch said. “Especially when they cancel school. I hope we get more of those.”

Jacob Notermann is a staff writer for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]

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