Extended winter is clouding Minnesotans' mood

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 19, 2013 - 11:07 AM

Frigid weather, gray skies and heaps of snow are clouding Minnesotans’ March mood.

Sara Pudlick of Andover is feeling miserable. She and her husband, Jake, went on a delayed honeymoon to Hawaii in late February and returned to a snowstorm, which has since been followed with more snow and more cold weather.

“It’s like we never went to Hawaii — I am sad and upset,” said Pudlick, 27, a lifelong Minnesotan who works as an administrative assistant for a financial services firm. “I have always hated the winter and this one is the worst I can remember.”

With temperatures over the next few days running 25 degrees below normal (it’s not going to get higher than the teens), and 12 inches of snow already having fallen in March (7 inches above normal so far), Pudlick is not the only Minnesotan feeling the angst.

Dr. Chuck Schulz, head of psychiatry at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, says he has detected a darkening mood among his outpatient clients, which he attributes to the lousy weather and lack of bright sunlight.

“I am not sure I am seeing major depression,” he said. “I think they are just not feeling that enthusiasm.”

No wonder, given that lack of sunlight can lead to seasonal affective disorder.

“We’ve had more cloud cover because of the stormy systems that have moved through, and we’ve had a lot of periods of mostly cloudy conditions since the beginning of February,” says Tony Zaleski, a meteorologist with the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service.

“People might be feeling angry and despondent,” he said, “because last year we had a much warmer March than normal with little to no snow, and this year, the polar opposite, with people getting blindsided with much colder temperatures and much more snowfall in the Twin Cities.”

At the Hennepin County Medical Center, the 103 psychiatric beds have been on average 94 to 95 percent full, and sometimes people must wait up to five days in the emergency units because all beds are occupied.

Dr. Eduardo Colon, vice chief of the psychiatric unit, blames the crush of people on the long winter, combined with a rotten economy, loss of jobs and financial insecurity.

“It seems we are seeing a lot more people coming in with mental health-related problems as well as chemical use,” he said. People are staying inside, not getting sunlight, feeling isolated; that can lead to depression, chemical use and more impulsivity, including suicidal thoughts and attempts, he said.

The weather bureau recorded about 2 inches of snow in the Twin Cities on Monday and more than 8 inches fell near Park Rapids.

Spinouts littered the roads in the metro area on Monday. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport experienced a good number of delays, most of them arrivals, said spokeswoman Melissa Scovronski.

Below-normal temperatures will continue through the end of March, said Lisa Schmit, a meteorologist at the Weather Service.

The mercury was expected to fall to near zero Monday and Tuesday night in the Twin Cities. In Alexandria, temperatures will plummet to 5 to 10 below.

Metro temps will moderate later this week, with highs in the 20s on Thursday and Friday and the lower 30s on the weekend. That’s still 15 degrees below normal.

“These high temperatures we are forecasting are more typically our lows,” Schmit said.

More bad news: If you are thinking of planning a quick escape to warmer climes like the Caribbean or Florida, you can pretty much forget it, says Phil Oleisky, travel adviser with World Class Travel Leaders in Bloomington.

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