Monday, January 12, 2015

My column this morning for Calkins Media...

LaVO: Here's hoping there's no repeat of the mother of all blizzards

Posted: Monday, January 12, 2015 1:00 am | Updated: 9:58 am, Mon Jan 12, 2015.
It’s that time of year for Mother Nature’s winter furies — blizzards. Generator in working order? Check. Snow blower starts? Check. Gasoline stored for both machines? Check. Stabilizer fluid added to the gasoline? Check. Snow shovel found? Check. Electric lantern? Check. Portable radio? Check. Supply of fresh batteries? Check. Power pod for the cellphone? Check. I’ve learned from my knucklehead past to be prepared when cold and snow are in the forecast. Mysterious things can happen. It was a few years ago that Mary Anne suggested I get a generator in case the power went out. I stalled and stalled. And then that freak storm hit with a vengeance. Hundreds of thousands were left without electricity. In our neighborhood, a transformer blew up, disabling power to just six homes. Ours was one of them. “So, where’s that generator?” frowned my dear wife, who proceeded to uncork a not-so-playful swat.
Bucks County struggled to return to normal. We dialed PECO. But since only six homes were affected by our outage, we’d have to wait. For days. Getting a generator became mission impossible for me. The stores were sold out. Fortunately, a neighbor with a recreational vehicle was able to string an electrical line that brought in enough power for the fridge and the oil burner. I learned my lesson well. Today, we’re ready for whatever the heavens can throw at us.
The forecast is for lots of snow. Both the Farmer’s Almanac and the Weather Channel agree we’re in for a doozy. Paul Pastelok,’s forecaster for long-range weather, goes a step further: Snow totals will be “bigger and heavier” than the 67 inches we received last year. “I think, primarily, we’ll see that happening in mid-January into February,” he said.
Chances are the elements will produce a classic blizzard along the way, perhaps akin to the 2010 “snowmagedden,” which layered 35 inches of snow on Pennsylvania over 48 hours in early February. Or maybe it’ll rival “the storm of the century” of March 12, 1993. That blizzard-cyclone combo wreaked havoc from Cuba to Canada, causing $6.6 billion in damage and taking 310 lives. Thoughts also drift back to “the blizzard of 1996” that plopped nearly 2 feet of snow from Jan. 6 to 8, followed by tropical warmth that melted it all and resulted in a record flood on the Delaware River.
Hopefully, we’ll avoid a repeat of the worst blizzard to ever strike the Northeast. That was well before super Doppler radar, before Al Roker took his first breath, before radio — and even before the Wright Brothers took flight from a coastal dune in North Carolina. Historians still look back at the blizzard of 1888 as a storm for the ages. It lingered over the region for two days in early March. High winds and 50 inches of snow paralyzed the region, burying homes and cities and claiming more than 400 lives — the worst toll ever from a winter storm. Off the coast, towering waves sank 200 ships. And trains trying to make their way between cities were blown off the tracks.
We tend to forget those lessons of the past, tend to let down our guard in the day-to-day humdrum of life. Then, Mother Nature taps us on the shoulder to remind us who’s in charge. This year, my powerful generator and snow blower give me an air of confidence. Oops! Do we have de-icer salt on hand? And what about the car batteries? Got to go.

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