Saturday, March 03, 2012

Severe Weather Day

One of the local TV stations here in the Panama City area declared today a "severe weather day". Parts of the south and mid west have suffered heart breaking weather that has taken life and destroyed property these past two days. The local weather guy mustered up all the drama possible last night regarding the possibility of severe storms here today. I am sure that this was designed to have viewers tune in today and listen to the periodic weather updates.

This triggered memories of the northeast blizzard of February, 1978. The forecast was for a moderate amount of accumulation for the Rhode Island area where I lived at the time. I paid no heed as I readied to go fly to Toronto for my week long visit to a sister company. After all I was from New England. My flight left on time from Providence to LaGuardia in New York where I would change planes. I was on the last plane to land at 9AM and the airport closed. Hotels filled rapidly and I was about to be stranded at the airport. I called my wife and told her to get the kids out of school. She protested that it was not snowing. I said first snow flake go get them. There was already over 20 inches of snow at the NY airport. I also got the phone number of her aunt who lived nearby. I did get to the aunt's house and was there for 3 days until the airport reopened. I also called the CFO where I worked and told him to get the people out early. The storm stalled over the Providence and the Southeastern Massachusetts area and dropped anywhere from 4 feet to almost 5 feet of snow. I had a 4 foot fence around the yard and it would be over 3 weeks before the fence started to poke through the melting snow. My wife did go get the kids early and bought bread and milk.

The schools waited too long, some children were stranded in local churches, fire stations and police stations. Some children did not get home for three days. Factories including where I worked also closed too late. The snow was coming down faster than it could be cleared. The late influx of cars on the expressway soon ground to a halt. Many left their cars and walked to a shelter. Many commuters also did not get home for several days. The day after the storm, police walked among the stranded cars to see if anyone was inside. The mess of stranded cars created such a challenge that the Georgia National Guard was sent in with heavy equipment and began towing cars before they could plow the highways.
I finally got to my destination about 4 am Thursday. I finished the week and could not get home as the Providence airport was still closed. My wife was confined to the house with three active kids. Our garage was part of the house. She would open the garage door and shovel for 20 to 30 minutes alone. Then she would go in bundle them up, open the garage door and let then out to play. She then closed the garage door and had a quiet cup of tea. The snow was so high they could not go anywhere. After 30 minutes she would open the door and they could come in when they were ready.

The airport opened the following Sunday and I was on the second plane to land that afternoon. I managed to get my car out of the parking spot and normally it would be a 20 minute ride home. Route 95 through Providence was still closed. It took well over an hour as I went looped around the Providence area. As I went up a local main road to get to my street I noticed a cop following me. He followed me right to my driveway. I had to show my plane ticket to avoid a summons for driving during a restricted period. For several years after this storm every hint of snow would cause panic, bread and milk shelves would be empty. TV stations would announce weather updates through out the day. They has cutesy names for their coverage. My favorite was "OPERATION SNOWFLAKE".

I will pay attention to the weather listening to the wind, stepping outside to feel the temperature, and taking precautions if I hear thunder. So far it is just windy and muggy warm. We have had a couple of brief showers. I have not turned the TV on yet.

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