Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

It’s Just A Snow Storm

I am sitting here watching some news, and for my friends and family up north, it looks like you are in for Armageddon according to the weather fearmongers.

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Although I now live in a climate where I should never expect to see snow, nor want to, I do recall happier times enjoying snow, when a snow storm was just a snow storm.  There was never a need to name a snow storm.  But as weather fearmongers realized that they could make their job much more important and a part of news history on the level of wars, scandals, and tragedies, capitalizing on Summer storms a.k.a “hurricanes” which are named storms, Winter weather storms could instill the same fear and panic of the threat of a severe tropical storm.

I do not want to minimize the potential for issues with large amounts of snow.  But much more is made of winter storms than needs to be, but hey, it is good for the economy, right?

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At the first threat of a snowflake, everyone flocks to the grocery stores, and empty the shelves for fear of being without food for weeks.  The sensible person knows, that following the end of a snowstorm, it will only be one or two days at the most (in most areas of the country) that you might be “trapped” in your home.  And chances are, on a normal no “bad weather” week, at most a person might go grocery shopping once or twice for the week, having more than enough food to get by.

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I am not going to get into the clusterfluck that happens with the transportation industry when a major snow storm hits.  Let us just say, if you had a flight, and it gets cancelled, you can pretty much expect that your flight either back or to somewhere will occur probably two or three days later, unless you are willing to sit at a customer service desk overnight, waiting for the terminal to open, or hope you might get a seat as a standby, courtesy of passengers who were unable to get back to the airport from the hotels they were shuttled to following their flight cancellations.

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And schools…?  I have mixed feeling about this.  One was as a child, the other as a parent.  Of course, as children, we loved hearing the news of school being closed.  It meant delaying a test that we could have studied better for.  It meant perhaps an extra long weekend.  It meant a lot of fun.

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But as a parent, I know it is nerve-racking to be worried about what might happen on a school bus driving in bad conditions.  And it was not necessarily about how the bus driver performed in the frozen conditions, my children have always had very safe bus drivers.  But as my father, who drove school bus in his retired years told me, there is enormous pressure knowing that you are responsible for 60-80 of other people’s children, and all it takes is poor driving by another driver to turn something so wonderful and fun, into a nightmare, a tragedy.  And it makes no difference whether a parent is driving their own children, if the student themselves are old enough to drive.  But what also needs to be considered in these days with more drivers on the roads than ever, even walking home from school, in blinding snow, is not necessarily safe for a child if the driver cannot see the walking student.

This is a huge contradiction for how I experiences snow and school.  I attended high school in Allentown, Pennsylvania.  In our school district, we had no school buses.  You either walked, had your parents drive you, you drove, or took a city bus.  There was never any need for snow days.  The funny thing is, the Catholic high school did use school buses (they were not part of the school district), and they had lots of snow days.  In fact, the joke to those of us in the public schools, were that the Catholic kids had their school cancelled at the first sighting of a snow flake.

And in 1983, approximately 3 weeks from this time of year, the northeastern United States would be hit with a “historic” blizzard.

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This snow storm actually resulted in an actual snow day for us, my senior year in high school.  It would be a short lived snow day, because it took us all day pretty much to shovel out our sidewalks, cars, driveways.  But the next day we would be expected to in school.  And we were.  For me, I had a four mile walk each way, uphill and downhill, across a huge bridge through enormous amounts of snow that had not yet been shoveled.  Yes, I know, it sounds like a story that we would hear from our grandparents.  But at least in my story, I was wearing shoes.

As an adult, I was still able to enjoy snow.

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It was easy to still enjoy snow.  I had an awesome golden retriever that loved deep snow especially.  While he often had difficulty for some reason smelling for his treats, but had no issue being able to “smell” snow soon to arrive.  He would constantly go to the patio door to be let out to do his business, take a good whiff of air, stick his nose up to the sky, and he would be “gone.”  He would eventually do his thing, and I would call him back into the house which he came reluctantly.  But within seconds, he would be back at the door, whimpering to go back outside.  He knew snow would be coming, and once it finally arrived, he would develop what I call “snow deafness” – in other words, he would hear nothing, especially my commands.  But who could blame him?  He did not care about how “bad” a storm was going to be.

I learned to ski as an adult, and had only one wish for my daughters, that they too would learn to ski.  But heart surgery in 2008 would mean my prior ski season was the last time that I would have had stepping into my skis.  The weird side effect from the surgery was that my cold temperature tolerance had dropped quite a bit.  I had also been concerned  for my fragile breast bone, and then there was also the higher altitudes with my lungs, and over all physical conditioning.  But I got all the satisfaction I needed watching my daughters enjoy tubing and skiing.

In 49 years, I have seen my share of snow storms.  And yes, some have resulted in enormous measurements,  and some have shut down cities, counties, and even states.  But a Winter storm typically does not cause the catastrophic losses that warnings should be given with such weather events as tornadoes and hurricanes.  I say that, with two recent exceptions, two late Fall/early Winter storms, actually tropical storms, Irene and Sandy.  These were two storms that had major impacts as far as destruction, beyond shoveling out.  Irene’s destruction in my area was severe flooding, and Sandy, was rain with high winds resulting in power losses due to an extraordinary amount of down power lines, which meant homes with basements like mine, had no power to operate sump pumps, and furnaces would not operate, resulting in pipes freezing.

Make no mistake, snow is beautiful.

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These are pictures from a blizzard in 2010.  The sound of the snow, more like deafening silence creates a serene environment.  And it is beautiful.  At times, you could not see past your front yard.  But as you can see from the picture on the right, it created quite a challenge for Pollo to do his business.  The snow amounts were so high, I would actually not only shovel our sidewalks and driveway, but a pathway and “patch” for him.  Which would end up covered in no time.

It was after this blizzard that my body finally got it through to me, that I could no longer deal with the physical stress of shoveling snow.  Shoveling snow is not good for anyone from a cardiac standpoint.  In fact, many heart attacks happen during snow shoveling.  And though with my cardiac history, I clearly should not have been shoveling snow, but I did.  Until then.  I finally broke down and got a snow blower to handle amounts of snow like this.  One of the final things I enjoyed, yes, I enjoyed snow shoveling, was now no longer something I could do.

I no longer miss the snow, the cold temperatures, or the panic generated by the fear mongering weathermen and women.

I do think about everyone back home up north.  Please everyone be safe.  Kids, have fun with what will probably be a snow day tomorrow.  Build your snowmen, your snow forts, and get some sledding in (at least if you can, if it has not been banned yet there – what the hell is up with something that has been a tradition for centuries?).  And when you are ready, we can build sandcastles down here.

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