Thursday, February 4, 2010


Having grown up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, I've lived through my share of storms. The Blizzard of '77 was certainly impressive--I will never forget that my dad was stuck at work (a bakery: at least it was a warm place with food)and my mom and I were nailing blankets to the doors to keep the wind out. The layout of the house and garage was such that gusts would swirl on the front steps, creating a snow pyramid in front of the door, of course; the one in '77 reached the rooftop.

I remember an early dismissal from High School one January, as a storm quickly moved in. The schoolbus wasn't even attempting to drive into our unplowed neighborhood, but dropped us at the corner right at the major road. A man from the next street gave a few of us a ride to our streets in his big boat of a Chevy, the car fishtailing in the six inches of fresh fall.

I wonder how the White Christmas of '02 managed to miss my parents' house in the snow belt but drop 7 feet of snow on the city of Buffalo. It was meant to be, I guess; that day I realized my oldest son was seriously ill--my intuition told me he had leukemia--and had the roads been passable, he would have been admitted to Children's of Buffalo...and maybe stuck there for the whole of his treatment.

I follow the weather daily: studying the front maps and watching the cloud cover scud across the USA, puzzle over mixed fronts, and wonder if and where hurricanes will make landfall. It's long interested me, but I also think it's a function of being married to a pilot, and a glider pilot at that; his head is always craned skyward to guess at the clouds and judge if the day is or will be flyable. We joked at one time about returning to school to become his-and-hers meteorologists.

So in the midst of this weather obsession (OK, it also helps me plan what to wear to work. Tomorrow I need to wear something black, because I'm going to head out in boots and my work shoes are black. Plus a sweater; it will be cold. There is deep logic at work here.) I of course tease apart the weather reports, especially the "Public Information Statement", which is typically a watch or a warning of something that will befall--literally!--us, and what the websites have taken to call "Local Storm Report"...which satisfies my curiosity about what my friends, acquaintances, and colleagues are facing in their driveways, or occasionally, their basements. But it seemed almost anticlimactic this week when we received a trace of snow. In all seriousness, you can call that a "storm"?? Any precip that requires a yardstick to measure, yes, we'll call a "storm", but when the grass to snow ratio is more green than white, call it something else. How about "weather" for pete's sake. (A few years ago my parents--the Buffalonians, remember!--were visiting in January when we received about 6 inches of snow. My parents were particularly tickled to hear newscasters refer to the event as "Snowstorm Ernie." No idea who Ernie is, and since when did snowfall get its own name?)

Since I became a weather junkie, though, I have learned the truth in the proverb. There truly is a lull before a storm; the world becomes unusually quiet, muted somehow. And then all that snow serves as wonderful sound insulation as well. The world becomes a more peaceful place in the snow.

In fact, I can sense the lull now. There is a storm forecast to hit tomorrow starting at 6 pm, leaving us with 8 to 12 inches of snow. For Philly, that's a generous amount. Part of me is apprehensive about coordinating the kids to clear the driveway come Saturday (You try making a teen do something he/she would rather avoid!). And part of me is thinking about making chocolate chip cookies, watching movies, drinking hot tea (or mulled wine; hey, there's an idea!), cooking stews, and just simply hibernating, watching the flakes swirl and accumulate. Battening down the hatches, staying warm.

Let's hope Mother Nature doesn't disappoint.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Paula:
    Have a look at the video on my website about the emergency radio broadcasts during The Blizzard of '77. You'll love the pics as well. You can even add it to your blog.
    Erno Rossi