Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Memories Of Winter
I'm illustrating today's musings with winter paintings by Willard Metcalf and Aldro Hibbard, two of the finest painters of winter scenes.
We had a blizzard roll through here yesterday. Forty mile per hour sustained winds drifted fifteen new inches of powdery snow into six foot snow banks. Visibility was less than three hundred yards all day, and the wind chill was somewhere around zero degrees. I cleared a walkway out to the garage three times, and every time I went out it looked like it had never been shoveled. Just another winter day in Maine... As I sat by the wood stove, listening to the wind howl, I got to thinking of storms gone by. Here's what I remember about a few of them.
Back in the sixties, local television news didn't have meteorologists, they had "weathermen". These were guys who basically read forecasts provided by the National Weather Service, and scribbled the forecasted high and low temperatures with a marker on poster board. In black and white, no less. The late sixties was a mini ice-age around here, and during one severe winter storm, one weatherman kept reporting the heavy snow would soon taper to flurries. Day after day, he read the same Weather Service prediction as the snow piled up. On the fifth day he was right. In our current times of "question everything", it's nice that back then, people said what they were told no matter how wrong they were. After all, if the Government said it was so...
Back in my school days, we rarely had "Snow Days". Unlike today, where school is called off if the clouds aren't happy looking enough. No, back in my day I walked through waist deep snow, three miles each way to school, and both ways uphill! Maybe I exaggerate. Anyway, we got hit with an unexpected ten-inch snow storm one day, but school was not called off. Buses went off the road, teachers were stranded. It was a mess. The very next week, the forecasters called for a major Nor' Easter to hit us with twelve inches of snow. The probability of precipitation was over ninety percent. Having learned their lesson from the week before, administrators called off school the night before the big storm was to hit.
It never even clouded up. The next day dawned a bright, sunny, perfect winter day. And a free day off from school to enjoy it!
My last fond memory involves a local meteorologist named "Altitude Lou". Lou saw a snow storm approaching, but predicted it would blow out to sea before getting to Maine, leaving us with just some light snow and flurries in the air. He should beware those flurries! That storm is still remembered around here as the "Blizzard of '78". The next night, Lou was outside in a live shot measuring the record setting twenty-four inches of snow that had fallen in twenty-four hours.
Times have sure changed since then. Forecasting the weather has gotten much better, but the thrill of uncertainty is missing. I do know this, however: Shoveling snow is the same as always!