Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The X factor

Wind chill often receives a cool reception, but it has also inspired films, novels and even action figures

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"Everyone knows it's windy..."

-- The Association

 

A couple of weeks ago, while most of North America was suffering through some of the bitterest conditions in decades, weather gurus from sea to shivering sea were calling for the abolishment of the wind chill factor -- a meteorological measurement many felt skewed how frigid temps really were.

"This whole romance with the wind chill factor is just a bunch of hype so the TV weatherman can scare you," said the director of an Oklahoma-based storm bureau.

A professor from Texas concurred, stating, "The wind chill index is like asking me how tall I am and my answer is 150 pounds. It doesn't accurately measure anything."

Even the Free Press's Bartley Kives weighed in, referring to wind chill as "a mythical creature" that only affects people if they venture outside during a January cold snap wearing nothing but yoga pants.

 

Curious, we asked a Winnipeg weather personality what would happen if she ceased including wind chill numbers in her daily prognostications.

"I think viewers would react negatively; many people feel wind chill is an integral part of understanding what they're up against when they step outside," says Breakfast Television's Jenna Khan. "For those who are walking to work or waiting for a bus, wind chill is an important thing to take note of. And let's face it; it gives us something to brag/complain/talk about at the water cooler."

Still, Khan agrees with folks who gnash their chattering teeth every time they hear a reporter spout, "It's -25 but with the wind chill, it feels more like -125."

"That sort of thing is highly subjective. So what I try to say instead is something like, "It's -20 C with a wind chill value of -35."

Not everybody is giving the term the cold shoulder, mind you. Take for example a restaurant in Chicago that, every January, offers diners a complimentary bowl of "wind chill chaser chili," which they make using scorching-hot, Red Savina habanero chiles. Or a jazz composer who named one of his numbers for the wintry weather he endured as a kid.

"I was definitely influenced by the cold, South Dakota winters to compose Wind Chill Factor," says Rich Woolworth, who now makes his home in Monticello, Wis. "The way the wind would sweep relentlessly across the prairie, bringing with it blowing snow and frosty temperatures, inspired me to write an up-tempo tune indicating excitement with a hint of danger."

Here, then, is a list of other people, places and things that have warmed up to the wind chill index, in one form or another

 

Windchill

 

Ten-hut! Windchill is a GI Joe action figure that first hit store shelves in 1989 Accessories included a rifle, a pair of skis and an "Arctic Blast" tundra assault sled. According to Windchill's official biography, the character could have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team as a biathlete but decided "fighting Cobra (GI Joe's nemesis) was more important than winning medals."

David Lane, a GI Joe collector from south of the border, says Hasbro released two versions of Windchill. The original is worth around $25, Lane says, while the second, which came out six years later, commands in the neighbourhood of $15.

 

Wind Chill

 

Wind Chill is a 2007 horror flick starring Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes. Shot in Vancouver, the movie centres around a pair of college students identified only as Girl (Blunt) and Guy (Holmes). The two are headed home for Christmas break but unfortunately their car breaks down on a stretch of road populated by ghosts, none of whom worked for CAA in a previous life. While one reviewer called the film "a well-done exercise in psychological terror," another said it was "chillingly bad."

 

Windchill

 

Here's a plush toy you can warm up to: Windchill is a Ty Beanie Baby modelled after a snowman. Dressed in a blue tuque and scarf, Windchill was marketed -- surprise, surprise -- to young children, according to an administrator from tycollector.com.

"Windchill is from the Ty "Pluffies" product line," says Sondra Schlossberg, when reached at home in North Carolina. "There never was a large collector base for this line so most of them never increased in value."

Windchill was retired in 2004 and is worth from $4 to $10, depending on condition, Schlossberg says.

 

Wind-Chill Factory

 

If you're ever in Ticonderoga, N.Y., pop by the Wind-Chill Factory -- a seasonal ice cream stand and burger bar. Founder Bob Porter came up with the punny name during a brainstorming session in 1996. According to the restaurant's website, Porter typed the word "arctic" into an online thesaurus, "wind chill factor" popped up and the rest is history. A few years ago, the National Restaurant News included the Wind-Chill Factory in its annual run-down of America's Great Restaurant Names. (Hey, it's OK, but it's no Nin Cum Soup or Lord of the Fries.)

 

Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero)

 

Somebody get Bob Geldof a blanket. Wind Chill Factor (Minus Zero) is a track from the Boomtown Rats' third album, The Fine Art of Surfacing. In the tune, Geldof sings of taking a "tube train" around London and "gasping for air" when he steps off because the temp is "minus zero" -- a mark Winnipeggers generally refer to as tanning weather.

 

Minnesota Wind Chill

 

2014 marks the second season for the Minnesota Wind Chill, a professional Ultimate Frisbee team based in the Twin Cities. The squad competes in the American Ultimate Disc League, a 17-team circuit that includes three Canadian franchises -- the Montreal Royals, the Toronto Rush and the Vancouver Riptide.

Wind Chill team spokesman Santiago Escobar says the owners "wanted the name to be something that has not been used before, yet still representative of something for what (Minnesota) is known for."

"Due to its impact, weather is always a big topic of conversation (here)," Escobar says, when reached at his office in Minneapolis.

 

Wind Chill Factor

 

Wind Chill Factor is a "blistering novel of suspense" written by the late Thomas Gifford, who hailed from blustery Iowa. The spy thriller, first published in 1975, is about a group of Second World War Nazi sympathizers who have since infiltrated governments around the world, waiting for the day when they will rise again. "The fate of billions will hang in the balance!" reads a blurb on the book's back cover.

 

LeBron Windchill

 

The LeBron X Wind Chill is a style of Nike hightops sponsored by Miami Heat star LeBron James. Available in "tide-pool blue," the shoes come in adult and toddler's sizes and promise "a perfect combination of impact protection and quick-cut responsiveness." Customer reviews at sneakernews.com have been mixed: One person wrote "outsole is dope yo" while another summed things up by stating, "Its (sic) nice shoe but I anit (sic) paying no damn $290 for these b --s."

 

david.sanderson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 D11

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