Friday, February 8, 2013

Finding Nemo: An Historic Blizzard Hits Tonight

Purpose of a headline: to quickly grab one's attention

I awoke this morning to a cold rain splashing the windows.
I hadn't followed the news yesterday, so I was a little surprised.
But only a little--it is February in Tidewater after all,
which is to my mind the coldest and messiest weather month of the year.

photo courtesy of

What surprised me more were the headlines about "Winter Storm Nemo."
One headline on the web warned "An Historic Blizzard Hits Tonight."
Other headlines trumpeted closed schools, businesses, 
and warnings to get off the street.
Naturally, I assumed we were facing the potential for making real history here.
How much snow would the country get? 18 inches? 24 inches? 30?
I looked at several news articles, expecting to be amazed.

photo courtesy of

The greatest amount I saw forecast was close to 12 inches 
in the northernmost parts of the country. 
Having lived in Wisconsin one winter, 
I can say 12 inches of snow is hardly historic for a northern state.
Boston got 27 inches of snow one day in 1978. That's historic.
In 1980, the Tidewater area and Elizabeth City, North Carolina
got 14 - 25 inches of snow dumped on us in one evening. 
No one was expecting it, so school buses and commuters
tangled together in the blizzard for hours.
That was really historic.

One of my aunts, now 93, told me that weather used to be regarded 
more matter-of-factly, meaning everyone knew in winter it snowed.
And when a lot of snow fell, 
people talked about the "big snow," dug out, and kept going.
They didn't run around like Chicken Little warning of impending doom.

photo courtesy of

I found an old black and white photo once that was captioned "Spring 1961."
The image showed an old 1957 Chevy parked in a lane, 
a solid pack of snow up to its windows.
I grew up hearing stories about the "Flood of '51" 
when the Missouri River inundated the land.
That big snow in 1961? Never one mention.

I'm not sure when we started to believe 
that the daily rises and falls of nature were always dangerous.
Or when we started naming every winter snowfall 
as if it were a hurricane for the history books.
But I wish they would stop.

I guess our way of life is more and more separated 
from the rhythms of nature. So maybe this fear of weather is real and necessary.
But if it is, we really need to get outside more.

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