published Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Dreary days of February


by Matt Wilson
Audio clip

Nancy Badger

Feeling low this February, which seems sapped of sunshine?

Chattanooga resident Margy Oehmig knows how you feel.

"I think it's depressing," said Ms. Oehmig, 55. "You just have to figure out a way to get up and get through it."

The last day that the sun peeked out from behind the clouds in Chattanooga for at least a few hours was Feb. 1, according to the National Weather Service's Craig Carpenter.

  • photo
    Staff Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Water begins to fill low-lying areas along Hurst Street in Chattanooga on Tuesday.

And a lack of sunlight that prolonged can make people feel down in the dumps, said Nancy Badger, director of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's Counseling and Career Planning Center. There's even a name for it, she said: seasonal affective disorder.

"What that means, basically, is that someone can experience a definite depression," Dr. Badger said. "They can have sleepless nights or sleep too much. Things that would normally create some pleasure for them, they don't get any pleasure out of. They have trouble concentrating, and their general mood is just down."

Still, some people said they didn't think the weather hasn't really affected how they felt.

"It's all part of nature," said Kevin Shaw, 42.

Mr. Shaw said cloudy winter weather just makes him anticipate spring that much more, but it does change his day-to-day activities.

"What it mainly makes me do is stay inside," he said. "You just find something else to occupy your time."

Harsha Sathyanarayana, 35, said the weather hasn't changed his activities much "because I work all the time." He said he has had to skip playing outside with his kids on the weekend, though.

Grace Lynch, 37, of Rossville, Ga., said the recent gloomy weather hasn't put a damper on her day-to-day activities.

"It hasn't really affected me, not at this time, at least," she said. "Maybe it has in the past, but I'm OK right now."

Counselors often have ultraviolet lamps in their offices to simulate sunlight for folks affected by seasonal affective disorder, Dr. Badger said. People can also exercise or eat fresh fruits and vegetables to feel better, she said.

RAINFALL TOTALS

Dec. 1, 2009 to Feb. 8, 2010: 16.01 inches

Dec. 1, 2008 to Feb. 8, 2009: 15.55 inches

Dec. 1, 2007 to Feb. 8, 2008: 8.63 inches

Source: National Weather Service

WHAT'S NEXT

The National Weather Service forecasts some chance of sunshine later this week:

Wednesday: Slight chance of rain/snow, mostly cloudy

Thursday: Mostly sunny

Friday: Slight chance of rain/snow, mostly cloudy

Saturday: Partly sunny

While the rain's impact on people is debatable, there's no doubt that it's affecting the land.

Walker County, Ga., farmer Kim Milikin said he hopes things dry out soon so he can have time to get ready to plant his vegetables -- corn and soybeans -- come late March or early April.

"It pushes everything to a shorter timeline," he said.

Mr. Milikin said he's still trying to repair things from last September's flood, which hit Northwest Georgia especially hard.

In Chattanooga, the steps at Ross's Landing have been underwater for several days -- the year-to-date rain total is 1.81 inches above average -- and Lee Norris, the city's deputy administrator of Public Works, said he won't know how much damage the water has done until it recedes.

"I always have concerns about it when the water gets up down there," he said.

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