Snow outside my windowI‘ve often wondered about the link between television weather guys and grocery supermarkets.

The thought came to me one evening when I lived in Maine and went to visit a friend about 45 miles from our home. The visit was to be a birthday celebration, after which we would stay overnight – the latter plan, in part, because the television weather guy had proclaimed a wicked storm would occur whilst we slept.

Enroute to Roger and Judy’s home, we stopped at the Shop’n’Save to pick up ingredients for the cake to be made for the occasion. The store parking lot was full. Inside, customers competed for supplies: water, milk, beer and other staples to tide them over for the impending snowy onslaught.

The weather guy – let’s call him Mike – was a recent import from Texas, and fresh from being officially certified as a meteorologist. In that time, snow was not a word that came immediately to mind when one thought of the Lone Star State.

The newly minted forecaster would look at his computer indicating a three-inch snowfall, and become all a-lather. His viewers picked up on the excitement and headed for the grocery store.
That night, the approaching storm became stalled against the mountains west of us, and next morning the roofs and roads were clear. On the car radio as we went home that evening, the same weather-caster explained about the stalled front, and promised it would show up only one day late.

At the aforementioned Shop’n’Save, the parking lot was full. Inside, customers competed for supplies: water, milk, beer and other staples to tide them over for the impending snowy onslaught.

But wait! What did they do, we wondered, with the provisions they had gathered only the night before?

A friend sent me a picture recently, of a Jeep far above the tree line in the Colorado Rockies. I am standing beside the four-wheeler, looking at the top of a snowdrift through which the road had been cut. We would have had to stack another Jeep on the first one, then stand on that to see over the drift.

That was the end of April.

On the other hand, we awoke one morning in Norfolk, Va., to discover three inches of the white stuff had been deposited across the land. A telephone call from work informed me the office was closed for at least the day.

“Ah!” my adventuresome partner and I thought collectively. “A little snow cannot keep us housebound.”

Alas, the mall, and everything else, was closed for the next three days.

And there was The Blizzard of 1980, when people went to the circus in Norfolk. Snow began to fall while patrons laughed at the clowns and ooohed at the tigers, and when the show was over, snow was a foot deep and still falling; it would double by morning. Everyone stayed the night at the circus.

I had gone to Tennessee for the weekend, and returned to find a Greyhound bus turned sideways across a median, an ambulance buried in a drift on someone’s lawn, and the National Guard clearing roads with very large bulldozers.

In March 2003, my home county in south central Pennsylvania, where the expectation for snow is more like Norfolk than Maine, three days of successive storms left the area digging out for more than a week.

The definition of winter storm, it seems, depends on whether one is from Texas, Maine or, as the evening news lately reports, Minnesota.

As for me and my snowthrower, we’re not from Texas. Bring it on, Winter. Let’s see what you’ve got.