It might be the end of May, but at one St. Paul tanning parlor, wintry blues are knocking on the door.
“The ones that tan normally in the winter, they’re coming back,” said Chris Frank, owner of Perfect Tan in the Merriam Park neighborhood, where the gray May has helped boost business by 20 percent over last year. “They want that vitamin D. They’re saying they thought the longer days would help, but they’re really dragging.’’
The gloom is not just their imagination. This May is likely to finish as the second- or third-cloudiest in 50 years, said assistant state climatologist Pete Boulay. It also is likely to wind up as the fourth cooler-than-normal month in a row, which would be the first such streak in nine years.
It has colored conversations at the water coolers and on social media, in which the Twin Cities has come to be described as “like Seattle, but without the mountains or ocean,” or looking like a World War II newsreel.
The conditions aren’t quite enough to trigger seasonal affective disorder, a chronic condition tied to the short days and long nights of winter, said Dr. Katherine M. Moore, a psychiatrist in the Mayo Clinic’s Department of Psychiatry and Psychology. But the disappointments and the altered routines that have come with the cool and wet May have certainly been enough to make people feel, well, gloomy.
“I think it’s possible, with all the poor weather we’ve had, [and] less sunlight exposure, to have mood symptoms related to this,” Moore said. “There’s just been so much disruption of so many usual spring routines — sporting events, outdoor events canceled due to poor weather. I think after being housebound for so many months as we are in Minnesota, it might be more than some people can bear. We look forward to spring so much, and this has been a particularly difficult one.”
Linda Fereira of Circle Pines would agree.
“I live for my son’s Little League season, and there we were for the first couple of games, sitting in parkas. And last week it was pouring down rain,” she said. “It’s actually the first season in long time where I’ve said, ‘Oh, great, we have a game tonight,’ rather than actually looking forward to it.
“Barbecuing has gone out the window as well. The kids are grumpier. We’re all inside more,” Fereira said, noting that the family has also been watching many more movies than they normally would in May.
In the Twin Cities, rain (and some snow) has fallen on 22 of 30 May days, including Thursday. Last May was the second-rainiest on record in the Twin Cities, although it rained on fewer days and the daily average cloud cover was less than it has been this May.
The bright side
But as with most extremes, there’s a balancing view. No one’s gotten sunburned. And mushroom hunters are gleeful over one of the best crops of prized morel mushrooms in years, which have been turning up on menus in local restaurants.
“We need the continuous damp, cool weather, but not too cold,” said Tammy Kimbler, editor of The Toadstool Review, the newsletter of the Minnesota Mycological Society. “There are a lot of mushrooms out there.”
The lack of sun also hasn’t deterred trees, shrubs and bulbs from producing a profusion of blooms in recent days, even if they came several weeks later than normal.
“We have 36,000 tulips in bloom. The lilacs, the crabapples, they’re in bloom, and the grass is green,” said Judy Hohman, marketing and public relations manager for the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The gray surroundings seem to make the color even more vivid, she said, adding that photographers seem to prefer a little gloom for contrast.
Some relief is on the way. The word “sunny” appears in the National Weather Service forecast for the Twin Cities for Friday, Sunday and Monday. But the 6-to-10-day outlook from the national Climate Prediction shows tendencies for cooler- and wetter-than-normal conditions across much of Minnesota.
Moore said people can fend off a sky-related gray mood swing by adhering to healthful routines, “trying to be as regular with activities as possible, and sticking with exercise. That can improve mood,” she said.
Similarly, Hohman advised acceptance, even of less-than-rosy weather.
“You have to enjoy spring while it’s here,” she added. “If you waited for perfect weather conditions, you wouldn’t be a Minnesotan.”