Monday, January 26, 2015

The Snow Between the Storms

I am in the lull between the two storms, but snow is still falling. If my local forecast for the week is a touch lighter than yesterday, the broader weather picture is worse, with half a meter of snow and blizzard conditions likely tonight and tomorrow in a band from central New Jersey to central Maine. The storm will affect a quarter of the population of the country. As one quick measure of the extent of the weather trouble, already 2,500 U.S. flights are canceled today according to FlightAware. That number can only increase, and a larger number of cancellations tomorrow is assured. Where I am, there is only an inch of new snow so far, but my meetings for the morning were held by phone with other workers also staying home for the day. Some workers are leaving for home shortly after lunch. It is a sensible precaution. If everyone tried to get home at 4 p.m. just as the brunt of the storm was setting in, it would be a setup for a disaster film.

There is already noteworthy damage from Friday’s storm. A parking garage collapsed under the weight of snow in New Jersey. That storm brought extraordinarily wet, heavy snow. The high winds of Tuesday’s storm will surely prevent the same amount of snow from building up on rooftops.

I have special concern for New York City in the coming storm, and not just because it has so many people in a small area. It is a city not particularly known for its respect for forces of nature. In a city that had hurricane parties and swine flu parties, I worry that many people there may not understand what “blizzard warning” implies, and may suffer harm trying to arrive fashionably late for a blizzard party. I can’t remember the last blizzard warning for New York City, and people there who have no reason to think about the weather on a normal day may have trouble imagining snow blowing with such intensity that you cannot see across the street. To put the seriousness of the storm in city terms, most of the subway could shut down. The mayor says to go home early, and how often does that happen?

The strategy for a blizzard is simple enough: go somewhere safe and stay there until conditions improve. But I can’t say this without imagining one of my New York friends responding with, “You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Well, don’t take my word for it, but listen to someone. More NYC details from New York Times: New York Today: ‘Crippling and Potentially Historic Blizzard’.