Was this a slap in the face or what?

Here it is, barely two weeks into autumn and instead of taking a leisurely fall stroll to take in the majestic colors of the season, diving into a pile of leaves and getting into the full swing of sugar beet harvest, northern Minnesotans are literally being left in the cold. After awakening to a well-predicted but still shocking wintry wonderland scene on Thursday, we found ourselves clearing wet, heavy snow off of anything outdoors. The perennial thought "and I live here why?" has made its way into many a mind over the past day.

This is certainly not the kind of weather you'd expect on Oct. 4, but of course the hardy folk from these parts know that nothing is unusual when it comes to our climate. It's not uncommon to have the air conditioning running one afternoon and jump-starting the furnace the following morning. Complaints of being the weather being too hot, cold, windy, wet, dry, muggy, stormy – you name it – are exchanged much more frequently than praises about the pleasant day out there.

Few people aren't grumbling today about this very early taste of winter, but even they know it's a blessing in disguise, a valuable tool in fighting the drought that's plagued us and the fire hazard accompanying it. The general thinking is that this, too, shall pass, as October snowfalls often do. It is assumed that this blanket of white will be gone within the next 10 days, at which time we can resume enjoying the colors of fall, even if only for a brief moment before another thicker white blanket covers the outdoors.

Stores barely had time to stock an ample supply of cold weather items – gloves, boots, hats, coats, scarves, ice melt, snow brushes, shovels – before the merchandise was flying off the shelves. Families were caught off guard, with many a child being disappointed that he/she couldn't play in the snow due to lack of appropriate outerwear. Absolutely no one was adequately prepared for this.

Come to think of it, is anyone ever prepared for that first snowfall? Even last season, when winter didn't make its full swoop into the Valley until around the New Year's holiday, people whined about not being ready for it. Fully stocked aisles of scrapers and outerwear quickly disappeared in every store that sold them. People scurried to get their snowblowing equipment running and dig out their snow clearing tools. Fender benders occurred as drivers tried to adjust to nerve-wracking winter driving.

It just goes to show that no matter when that first snowfall of the year hits, it's sure to catch everyone, even seasoned winter wanderers, off guard, if not by surprise. At least we'll be totally prepared when winter rears its ugly head again and stays for the remainder of the 2012-13 season, right?