What a wonderful essay. I was totally right there with you feeling the howling monstrosity of the winter and it's danger.
When I was in 5th grade we each drew a state name out of a hat. We were assigned a topic every week or two that we wrote about for that state -- such as Major Industries, Famous People from the State, Places to Visit.
I drew North Dakota. My friend drew South Dakota - home of the Badlands, associated with Native American leaders and history, Mt Rushmore and more. North Dakota had almost nothing - a couple paltry paragraphs in the encyclopedia about which crops they grew. This was long ago, before you could research online.
I spent weeks learning about North Dakota (or trying to) but I think I learned more today in 5 minutes of reading your story.
Kudos! Fargo should be proud.