The Nation's Pulse

Let It Snow

Another winter of permanent discontent.

By 2.28.08

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In these parts, when we get the first snow forecast of the year, it comes like this. Three or four days in advance, the weather reporter says, "Friday evening a chance of snow, also a chance of some snow Saturday morning."

Then, over the next couple of days, it gets nasty. "Friday evening snow will start, beginning as freezing rain on the Cape, but as all snow in the city. Accumulations may be three to six inches in the city, with more north and west of 495."

That's us, the "north and west of 495" bit.

Then, by late Wednesday, we hear, "Snow beginning Friday night, with accumulations expected of five to eight inches in the city, up to twelve inches north and west of 495."

Early in the season, a panic grips the populace. Everyone rushes to grocery stores to buy up bread and milk and meat. Lines pile up at the cash registers. Shelves run bare. Firewood stocks -- all grocery stores stock firewood in pricey bundles in their vestibules -- fall to nothing.

THIS BEHAVIOR REPLICATES itself at every blizzard forecast through, oh, January. Winters with frequent blizzards, like this one, sooner or later break through the boredom level.

We got the usual forecast once again this past week. The day before the snow was due to hit, I shopped our local market. No one was there. Of course, it was President's Day week, a seven-day school vacation. Our next door neighbors have left, and, it appears, so have half the local families.

At this point, nobody panics. Screw the snow, seems to be the feeling. We'll just hunker down and wait for March.

IN ABOUT 1989, just before we moved to New England, a good friend of ours moved from Los Angeles to Chicago. We talked to him on the phone.

"You put up with a little bad weather," he said, "but it's a much superior lifestyle."

I'll leave the lifestyle conclusions for another column. But I'll call him on his weather comments. Throughout the Northeast, you put up with not a little bad weather, but with a lot of bad weather. It goes on for a long, long time. At its worst, it can be downright dangerous.

In 1997, we had arranged to meet in New York City with some old college friends of mine. It was March 31. We made out plans in temperate sunshine and balmy skies, in shirtsleeves. The next day, it snowed a foot, the now-famous April Fool's Day Blizzard.

In the winter of 1998, I woke at four in the morning of the day we were supposed to fly to Florida for our vacation, to find my wife sitting at her computer, crying. A major snowstorm had blown in. Every flight out of Boston was canceled. We ended up renting a car and driving.

In the city, people shovel out their curbside parking spaces and mark them with old ironing boards, chairs, chests of drawers, and such, and they will defend those spaces, sometimes violently, against encroachment.

Our seven-year-old, Joe, has his share of faults, but weather judgment does not figure among them.

"How'd you like to live in Los Angeles?" I asked him the other day.

"Is it warm?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Fine," said Joe.

That's how I feel, too.

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About the Author

Lawrence Henry writes every week from North Andover, Massachusetts.