Snow and Panic

NY TV weather people are doing a pretty good job this month of explaining why it’’s hard to determine how much snow we’re going to get.  New York City and Long Island are frequently places where snow storms change course.  Of course, how much they change course influences how much snow we get.  So, Northeast New Jersey got clobbered today and Long Island got rained upon.

In case you’re wondering, here’’s why the New York Metropolitan area goes into panic mode when we get a particularly large snowfall for this area,, but a snowfall that wouldn’’t be considered large someplace else, like Syracuse, for instance.

Incidentally, there is no snowfall on record anyplace in the world that would be considered unusually large in Syracuse.  If you don’’t know it, Buffalo NY has a well-deserved reputation for getting a lot of snow, but Syracuse gets more. Buffalo has Lake Ontario to generate what’’s known as lake-effect snow.  Syracuse has two lakes and needs a better PR person so that snow in Syracuse can achieve the fame it deserves.

Long Island doesn’t usually get a lot of snow.  Typically there are a few snowfalls a year and the most we get here is something like 3-6 inches.  If you left it alone, it would go away by itself in two or three days.  Every municipality in the area has the equipment necessary to deal with 3-6 inches of snow.   The trains and busses have no trouble running through 3-6 inches of snow either.

Rarely, we get what we would consider a lot of snow.  Say a foot or two.  Is that a lot of snow for Syracuse NY, or for Truckee, CA?  In a word, no.  A few years ago, the emergency preparedness people on the California side of Lake Tahoe warned the locals not to go cross-country skiing because of too much snow.  How much did they consider too much?  They were worried about skiers tripping on the overhead power lines that were buried in the snow!

In the days when a Buick was really a Buick, I owned a Buick Road Monster station wagon.  It was called a station wagon because it was big enough to tote around a train station or a radio station (exaggeration).  It weighed 5,300 pounds.  It ran on ambulance tires.  If you only made really short trips in the winter, say a mile or less, it got roughly two miles per gallon (no exaggeration).  Even with its 24-gallon gas tank, cruising range wasn’’t its strong point.  We bought it when our first child was born so we could carry around everything we had for the kid instead of just everything we needed.

Once, here on Long Island, we had a snow storm after which I had only a vague idea where this monument of a car was.  When I started digging for it, I wasn’’t sure if I’’d find the Buick, or someone else’’s car.  Eventually I did locate it.

For a storm like that, no government on Long Island has the proper equipment to get rid of the snow.  Why?  It’’s a two or three times in a lifetime event.  If the government bought the big stuff, the next time they needed it, said equipment would be rusted, rotted or both, definitely inoperable and uneconomical if not impossible to repair.   On I-80 west of Laramie WY, they have devices that look like railroad gates to close off the Interstate when they expect a lot of snow.  Here, we don’’t.  Does it snow a lot in Laramie?  Well Laramie is at seven thousand feet and the mountains that surround it are the Snowy Range.  That’’s a hint.

Additionally, a lot of Long Islanders are parochial people.  They’’ve always lived on Long Island and don’’t go someplace else very often.  Many of them don’’t know how to drive in a lot of snow.  Even if we do know how, a lot of us don’’t get much practice.  I could have gone anyplace in the snow this month if I was able to convince everyone else to stay home.  But since I couldn’’t, I was afraid for my life and I stayed home through the worst of it.  In Fayetteville, NC, they get even less snow than we do.  I don’’t know if they still do this, but I saw them load up a street sweeper with hot water and use that to get rid of the snow.  Only it stayed cold enough for the hot water to turn to ice.  If you didn’’t get too near the road, watching those people drive in those unfamiliar circumstances was hilarious, as long as they weren’’t crashing into something you owned.

So snow that wouldn’’t scare someone in Syracuse, NY or Truckee, CA causes panic here on Long Island.  Panic over something other people consider normal isn’’t that unusual.  Have you ever watched TV news in Los Angeles on a day when they get a couple of hours of rain?

Instead of relying on people who know how to drive in a lot of snow and equipment that can handle it, we rely on one important fact of life: snow melts.

Author: Tom

I know my ABC's, I can write my name and I can count to a hundred.