We Don’t Love The Winter Weather
The person in the song “Let It Snow” is a selfish creep. When the weather outside is frightful, it doesn’t matter how delightful your own fire is. Other people exist in the world and are greatly inconvenienced, if not in mortal peril. Dozens of people so far have died during the massive winter storm that battered the US on Friday, and millions were left without power.
There were more than 2,600 flight cancellations nationwide as of Christmas Eve, and more than 6,000 flights were delayed, which is the “It’s Complicated” relationship status setting just before cancellation. Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is among the most impacted airports, presumably because of the weather, but from personal experience, the Atlanta airport is a mess under the clearest skies.
Two people died Friday in New York’s Erie County because emergency medical personnel simply couldn’t reach their homes in time. Buffalo, where four feet of snow accumulated by Christmas, had recorded 25 weather-related deaths by Monday morning, and the blizzard conditions had left the state resembling a “war zone.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul declared, "This is a war with mother nature and she has been hitting us with everything she has" since Thursday.
Hochul is a Buffalo native not a Miami transplant, but the storm’s magnitude and impact still shocked her, especially the number of stranded card on the side of the road.
One family with young children — aged 2 to 6 — had to wait for 11 hours before being rescued in the early hours of Christmas Day.
"I was basically just hopeless," the father, Zila Santiago, told CBS News. He said he had managed to stay warm by keeping the engine running and kept distress at bay by playing games with the children.
More victims are expected to be discovered once melting snowdrifts reveal trapped vehicles and allow access to remote homes.
This is horrifying, but unfortunately, snowstorms aren’t the only way that extreme weather conditions can endanger lives. Although the snowfall in Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee, and even Birmingham, Alabama, was measured in inches not feet, the frigid temperatures froze water pipes in many areas. Even Floridians were worried about exposed pipes icing over as temperatures dropped below freezing for the first time in five years. (It’s been 12 years since Tampa Bay experienced temperatures this cold for an extended period.)
City officials in Jackson, Mississippi, announced on Christmas Day that residents should boil their water now due to burst water lines.
“Please check your businesses and churches for leaks and broken pipes, as these add up tremendously and only worsen the problem,” the city said in a statement, adding: “We understand the timing is terrible.”
Here in Portland, Oregon, we worried the powerful winds would down trees and take out power lines. We personally lucked out and remained warm, but my friends down south were less fortunate. Tennessee residents endured rolling blackouts with 10-minute outages imposed every few hours. Thousands lacked power before the Christmas weekend when temperatures in Nashville were below zero — colder than Portland! — after sunrise.
Memphis, Tennessee, initiated rolling blackouts on Christmas Eve (ho! ho! ho!) that somewhat overlapped with a somewhat contradictory boil water advisory. Memphis Light, Gas and Water had equipment failures that resulted in outages lasting longer than expected. Kayla Watson from Memphis was without power for two excruciating days, and ice started to build up in her tub.
"The whole bottom of the tub is glazed over with ice,” she said. “The pipes, even though I had the water dripping, the pipes are frozen, there is no getting water in or out,” she said.”
This shitshow storm (not an official meteorological term) is a “once-in-a-generation” event, according to the National Weather Service. The extreme cold was fueled by a “bomb cyclone,” which occurs when atmospheric pressure drops suddenly during a powerful storm. The bomb cyclone developed near the Great Lakes, unleashing the blizzard conditions, including heavy winds and snow.
However, these “once-in-a-generation” events are occurring with increasing regularity, and it’s a good thing that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats passed a major infrastructure bill that will help states adjust and cope as weather grows more severe.
Let’s hope power is soon restored everywhere, and there’s no further loss of life.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."