Ed Driscoll

Snowfalls Are Now Just a Thing of the Past

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

The storm that hit New York City on Thursday was over by late Friday morning, moving on to New England. It played havoc with the rhythms and routines in a dozen states from Delaware to Maine. People commuted to work on cross-country skis in Manhattan, and parents pulled children on snow runners through Midtown streets on the way to Central Park.

The Associated Press attributed at least 13 deaths to the storm. Among them were a worker near Philadelphia who was crushed by a pile of road salt that cascaded on him, and a 79-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease who wandered out of her home in western New York.

It was a deep-freeze day across the Northeast. The thermometer read 5 degrees in Boston at midmorning, 4 degrees colder than in Fairbanks, Alaska. It was 11 degrees in Central Park at the same time and never really warmed up. The temperature struggled past 11, then 12, then 13 degrees. The 6 p.m. reading was a bitter 15 degrees.

“What made this storm unique was the extremely cold air” that followed it, said Joe Pollina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton, N.Y., on Long Island. Usually, he said, warmer air circling off the coast follows such a storm, but the Weather Service called for temperatures to fall again overnight, with a low of 5 degrees predicted for Central Park. With the wind chill, temperatures were expected at times to feel below zero.

“Storm Slams East Coast, Leaving a Trail of Havoc,” New York Times, yesterday.

Dr. Oppenheimer, among other ecologists, points to global warming as perhaps the most significant long-term factor.

Nearly everybody has an occasional craving for an icy, snowy day. What use are beautiful wool sweaters, high leather boots, thick stews and hot toddies when it’s warm? At Cashmere, Cashmere on the Upper East Side, sales of sweaters and sweatsuits have been slow, though they picked up during yesterday’s cold, said Jan Mehalick, the owner. At Judson Grill in Midtown, customers are ordering fish at lunch instead of the hearty winter cassoulet, Bill Telepan, the chef, said.

And snowstorms make the city beautiful, at least for a day or two. From an aesthetic point of view, drab light and rain cannot compare with the glistening white and pristine silence of snow. Snow makes events vivid. Who could forget the familiar Currier & Ives images and E. B. White’s rendition of stoic Maine farmers and their camaraderie during deep snowfalls.

Who could forget the sight of people cross-country skiing down Broadway during the blizzards of 1996? During the Great Blizzard in 1947, jazz fans created an urban legend when they turned out in force to hear Duke Ellington and his musicians play the ”Liberian Suite” in Carnegie Hall.

“Winter in New York: Something’s Missing; Absence of Snow Upsets Rhythms Of Urban Life and Natural World,”
New York Times, January 15, 2000.

Meanwhile, a blog titled Ice And a Slice — an antarctic misadventure — whose subject is exactly what you think it is — adds a half dozen “busted predictions that the so called ‘experts’ and politicos have made about exactly which year the ice will have all melted away.” Al Gore, who’s on the list, may regret inventing the Internet yet.

(Headline via an unintentionally classic 2000 headline from the London Independent.)