Governor Cuomo announcing the transit shutdown on Monday
Governor Cuomo announcing  the transit shutdown on Monday
Governor Cuomo announcing
the transit shutdown on Monday

By Larry Gordon

January 25.It’s Sunday and there is some annoying ice on the ground here in New York, with meteorologists promising much more to come. We know the drill:  We love snow, its beauty and majesty–and we also despise it because of the way it intrudes into our lives and delays things, when it is not turning those things completely upside down.

Right now, we are hunkering down, waiting for a snowstorm. But snowstorms are not what they used to be; even the forecasts are different.

Friday night’s snow was pretty here in New York. It was about 1—2 inches high, pristine and attractive. It was a pity to have to walk outside to go to shul and watch those footprints mark up the smooth, vanilla-like landscape. But that is how snow works–we walk all over it and ruin it, and then overnight it all freezes up and ruins things for us, as if some type of reciprocal process is in play.

Now that snow is mostly gone, although there was some ice caked under our windshield wipers earlier this morning. The sun is out, it’s not that cold–about 40 degrees–and we are waiting for the other boot to drop.

The weather forecasters cannot commit yet. They are not sure if we will have one foot or two feet of snow sometime Tuesday. So we sit, wait, and wonder. The children are wide-eyed and wild with anticipation. There will definitely be at least one unanticipated day off from school this week. That’s good for everyone under age 17 and usually problematic for those over.

The Night Before.We never would have suspected that a little snowstorm in the big city would result in this kind of food-shopping frenzy. People on Sunday night were saying it feels like a Thursday night, and some were thinking about putting up a cholent or making potato kugel on Monday.

Like a national holiday, a snowfall of some significance has a way of bringing almost everything to a halt as we hunker down, stock up on food, pray there are no power outages, and hope for the best.

Monday, January 26.The snow started to fall earlier than was forecast. Then it sort of stopped and then it started again. Local government and all relevant agencies are calling this a “megastorm,” perhaps not to be confused with the “superstorm” that was Sandy a bit over two years ago.

“Mega” is supposed to mean there is just going to be an accumulation of a lot of snow. Will it be more snow than we’ve ever seen in New York City or on Long Island before? Right now that is kind of difficult to fathom. People in Buffalo and Minneapolis live with large amounts of snow eight months of the year. Do they have megastorms? Don’t they usually recover from those monstrous meteorological events without so much hype and fanfare?

Both the mayor of New York City and the governor of the state have declared a weather emergency for a few days this week. They are urging us not go outdoors and basically remain confined for at least 48 hours in the middle of a non-holiday week.

I never understood these official stay-at-home declarations. It’s one thing if places of business are closed down, but how can our elected official practically command us to stay within the confines of our homes or apartments? What really troubles me about this approach are the people on the radio and TV telling us that it is essential that we not go to work. These people are at their jobs, doing what they are paid to be doing, telling us not to go to work. And we listen. Now that is baffling.

Shoveling Snow.It’s just too much and I gave it up a long time ago. And besides that, who has a chance to shovel their own snow these days anymore? Cleaning up the snow in your walkway or around your home has become a cottage industry. No sooner do a few snowflakes fall than the doorbell rings. I gaze at the security camera and I am instantly struck with an air of disbelief. Why do these men who want to be paid to shovel snow want to shovel it when there is just 5 inches of what is forecast to be a 25-inch snowstorm? Do they want to pre-shovel? Perhaps if they shovel 5 inches of fresh snow today, then they will only have to do another 20 inches tomorrow.

Yet perhaps the shovelers were prescient, because those last 20 inches of snow never showed up; it seems they made a detour to Boston instead.

No School.Closing schools and yeshivos when there is a two-foot snowfall is an easy decision to make. Whether to stay closed when only a few inches of snow falls puts those decision-makers in an uncomfortable position. And that is the case this week. A school is like a little city. You cannot close it and open it as if all you need do is flick a switch to turn the lights on. Maybe that is the way it used to be, but it is not like that anymore.

As this week rapidly becomes known as the week of the megastorm that wasn’t, there will be a lot of second-guessing going on from a multiplicity of directions. The schools just came back from a three-day to ten-day winter recess, and then this.

Where Did the Storm Go?Much less snow fell in the Philadelphia area. As of 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 1—2 inches had fallen on the city. So, what caused the storm to drop less snow along the I-95 corridor in the mid-Atlantic from Philadelphia to New York City?

According to chief meteorologist Elliot Abrams, “The storm was more compact than we thought it would get. As a result, the back edge of the heavy snow and strong winds were farther to the east.”

Once the storm hit the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, it began to strengthen tremendously and move steadily northeastward, rather than stall. The storm also began to track a few dozen miles farther east than speculated on Sunday.

Had the storm swelled larger by 50 miles farther west, blizzard conditions would have reached New York City, and a heavy snow accumulation would have edged into the Philadelphia area. Because of the storm’s compact size, relatively speaking, the heavy snow was limited to extreme southeastern New England.

“Dry, powdery snow and moderate wind has spared the New York City area to central New England [from] massive power outages,” Abrams said. “However, the snow has been wet and clinging, combined with high winds, in southeastern Massachusetts and has caused numerous power outages.”

Additional snow will fall in the corridor from Philadelphia to New York City into Tuesday afternoon with a heavy burst or two of snow in some cases.

So, let’s see, this megastorm ran a Super Bowl-sized zigzag pattern and faked everyone out except for those in New England. What is it with these storms? When you do not expect them, they wreak havoc, and when you finally have the sense to prepare properly for them, they lose interest and go elsewhere. I thought these were weather patterns, not people.

A Big Dud.Well, it’s Wednesday morning and that big storm, as you know, turned out to be nothing but a little snow and a giant nuisance. Stores and offices were closed. Roads were closed. Trains and buses did not run for most of Tuesday, and the airports were closed.

So who is in charge here? Who is making decisions that affect 20 million people (10 million that we know about and live here legally)? Mayor de Blasio said on Tuesday that he was not consulted about shutting down mass transit. That decision was made by Governor Cuomo. Can’t we all get along here?

It was a quiet day. The phones did not ring that much and the usual overhead plane traffic was absent. They will probably be flying right over our homes here in the Five Towns all night long for the next few days. We will complain about the noise next week. For now, it’s good to have them back. v

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