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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Respect for the Lion

We’ve had a real winter here in the Northeast—temperatures appropriate for the time of year and a reasonable amount of snow. Now don’t go all “see, there is no such thing as global warming” on me. We used to get A LOT more snow. I remember the winter of 1993-94 (I had an infant and a toddler and it snowed every Wednesday and the daycare center was closed and it was a real pain since I had to find child care so I could go to work).

And that same year, a huge Noreaster ushered in the winter season on December 10 with one of the worst coastal flooding events in my memory. My childhood home in the Northeast Bronx took a direct hit. The flooding was legendary and the property damage monumental. My parents moved two years later, not willing to take that risk again. If I'm not mistaken, that was also the year we had a major snowfall at Easter, sometime in early April.

Over the weekend, the tristate area was hit with a storm that reached hurricane status, but not one weather forecaster I heard predicted more than heavy rains and gusts. Four inches of wind driven rain and winds as high as 75 mph left trees and tangled umbrellas scattered in the streets like skeletons. Seven people died. Houses are underwater. Thousands have no power. And no one was prepared.

It was much worse that the two most recent super-hyped snowstorms. Even if they had gotten the forecast correct, I am so inured to predictions of disaster and doom I still would have gone to my ballet class. (The studio canceled classes for the almost two feet of snow a couple weeks back but was running full schedule Saturday).

The subways were flooded, rain poured down in buckets onto the platforms and tracks making things uncomfortable, slippery, dangerous, and vulnerable to loss of power. I have never seen such miserable, soaking wet passengers wrapped in garbage bags and slickers, dripping all over the floors, seats and each other. Good thing I could change clothes and leave them hanging to dry out while in class, but I was just as wet by the time I got home. At one point my umbrella wrapped around my head as I struggled against a gust that pushed me backwards. RIP to that one.

The drive home over the Throggs Neck Bridge was simultaneously frightening and gorgeous. Winds pushed cars out of their lanes, rain blew sideways like fine snowflakes, a dense fog swirled around the towers and decorative lacing. Whitecaps frothed near the tops of seawalls along the shore, battering the homes and the ramparts at Fort Schuyler and the Maritime College. I wonder if it was even high tide.
No doubt, if it was a weekday school would have been in session, even though the risk to kids from falling trees and power lines was much greater than during the eight inch snowstorm a month ago for which they canceled flights and schools a day in advance. That storm never reached its full potential, and the next day was even more dangerous due to icing, falling trees and slippery roads but schools were open.

Schools weren’t closed until the last minute on the day of our two foot snowfall on February 25-26, even though the winds were howling all night and drifts piled up against everyone’s doorways. King Bloomberg felt the kids needed to be in school and could take vacations when they got older. (Read: the kids need to be in school because the City of New York only gets money from the State for days when school is in session, even if no one, including the teachers, show up).

Only reason convinced him otherwise. Any sane person just had to look out the window and know not to send kids on school buses. I peeked out at the 5 a.m. alarm and decided no matter what, it was a snow day for us. And I should have stayed home yesterday, for both my own comfort and safety. I'm still chilled and achy after being drenched and marinated twice in ice cold water.

Family obligations compelled us to drive to Ithaca as the monster storm wound down on February 26, so we braved it. The roads were clear and the worst was over by afternoon, but it snowed all weekend in upstate New York. Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills got five feet.

As you can see from his picture, the summit lodge is covered. Outdoor picnic tables are invisible on the back deck overlooking Cathedral Brook Glades. But was the skiing awesome when we got there on March 7? Hell yeah, the most glorious snow I've skied in a long time complete with 40 degree temperatures and outdoor barbecues.

Unfortunately I can only describe the picture around town right now as streets filled with huge puddles, killer potholes, scattered tree limbs and soggy garbage, all dressed by a light drizzle.

I love the outdoors, but I have both reverence and respect for Mother Nature. We would all do well to set our priorities and respect the power and danger of weather, while at the same time not exploiting or becoming enslaved by it. And the media should stop making storms into news items with roving reporters and hyperbole, and give people the information they need to stay out of harm's way.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Carole. Great blog post. I'm sure there's a book in there just waiting to be written. Lots of wonderful weather description.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog last week and leaving a comment.