Monday, January 31, 2011

Snow Big Deal, Is It?

It begins Tuesday afternoon, the second snowstorm of the century – this year.

Snowpocalypse 2011! News at ten.

The Chicago local media is always a good source of entertainment but nothing beats watching them when there is a big snowstorm. When the best weatherman on television, Tom Skilling, reports that this will be up there with the big ones I tend to take note. Well, on today’s noon news he was peeing down both legs of his pants! Chicago WILL get 19-24” of snow, he insisted.

Living 55 miles east of Chicago we have gotten at least two snowstorms for each of the past two years that have dumped anywhere from 16-24”, thanks to isolated lake effect snow. Getting up to 24” in the next two days means nothing, just the slop to deal with for another week. Just another January. Take a pill.

When a storm such as this is predicted the Chicago media trips all over themselves to make a comparison with the 1967 Chicago blizzard. They already are.

I remember that ’67 Chicago blizzard very well. It wasn’t too difficult finding photos of it on the internets.

In 1967 I was in the eighth grade, my final year at a Catholic grade school. It was a big year for me. I had the prettiest girlfriend in school (my first), the grades were good and I scored more than six points in a league basketball game (half were free throws).

The severity of that blizzard was not predicted by most but I remember my dad telling me only one weatherman on television got it correct.

Snow began to fall as we boarded the school bus but I do not remember what day of the week it was. Think it was a Friday. By noon there was about eight inches and it was not letting up. The school janitor asked my nun if he could borrow a few boys to help shovel. There was a mad dash to the door. While shoveling, busses pulled up into the parking lot. School was being closed for the day. This is what we lived for, a snow day.

It turned out to be a two-week vacation from school.

Once home I began plowing the driveway with our small tractor and made a few bucks off some neighbors too.

Waking up the next day it was still snowing. Hard. And then it began to blow. Back out with the tractor it became obvious that it was no match for the drifts. So we began to shovel. There were no automobiles on the road. One guy with a 4WD truck was giving folks rides to the grocery store two blocks away. By the time we had a path clear to the street my mom gave us a few bucks to go to the store and buy bread, milk and eggs. The store was nearly sold out of these items when we got there. In fact, most shelves were next to bare. When we got home and told her she freaked.

We never lost power so the film reports on the Chicago news showed just how bad it was. The interstates were closed meaning food and fuel was going to be in short supply for up to a week. This really freaked her out.

It is this notion that drives people out to horde food, fuel, salt and adult beverages and the news report at noon jumped on the opportunity to drive the feeble minded into rash behavior. TV news fans the flame by airing live reports from stores under siege days before the storm.

No school and no passage did not bother the bro or me at all. We went out in the backyard and tunneled a cave into a drift that went from the neighbor’s garage roof to our house roof. That drift was ten feet high at the peaks and twenty feet long.

What made the ‘67 blizzard so bad is that nobody was prepared for it because so few predicted it. Inadequate snow removal equipment could not handle the rapid snowfall and high winds. Combine that with traffic that could not move through the drifts and it crippled the area for weeks. The interstates were clogged with trucks and cars. It was unforgettable.

This recent blizzard prediction came as early as seven days ago by Tom Skilling, but I am always skeptical of predictions that far out. Modern snow removal capacity is formidable, especially in Chicago. And with so many driving SUV’s with 4WD not many will be getting stuck or even bothering to go out at all.

Here in the Indiana snow belt I have not seen a snow total of 24 inches overnight stop anybody for more than a half day.

This one could be different. Heavy snow with east winds up to 45 mph (as predicted) may be too much to handle especially with the lake effect to follow late Wed. The east winds will add a lot of misery.

Since I have an assignment this week that is being done here in the home office all I will do is check the snow blower fuel supply and load up the front porch wood rack today.

We’ll just sit back and watch it come down. Again.


Dan from Madison said...

Boy they are talking about the snowpocalypse up here too.

I don't take it too seriously either, just take it as it comes. Last year we had 16" in one day, it was the very first time I had to close my business early in 16 years up here. The city just couldn't keep up.

But the next day all was OK, we were out and about. Same deal with this storm I think. I do believe that Chicago and NW Indiana will get this one worse than us.

Overload in Colorado said...

Being a little bit younger than you, I remember the Chicago blizzard of '79. I remember shoveling snow above my head (10 at the time). I assume it wasn't nearly as bad as '67?

Anonymous said...

Gerry...were you in Valpo then? Are you talking about St Paul's? I was in 7th grade. Who are you??

Terry from Crown Point said...

Hey, I like that. Someone who goes by "Anonymous" asks, "Who are you??".

Terry from Crown Point said...

BTW. GREAT post. I remember that event like it was yesterday. Nowadays my local school district calls off school if there's hoarfrost on the ground.

Andy in Indy said...

Down here in the south, Indianapolis. We are getting pelted with freezing rain and ice. I think that is worse than 2 feet of snow. At least you can move the snow. Man do I wish it was snowing here.

Gerry from Valpo said...

Yes, here in NWI we will get hit hardest. They can never predict the amount of lake effect we get or precisely where it will fall.

67 was worse than 79 by far but 79 did cost a Chicago mayor his job : )

I lived in Munster in 67. I am Gerry From Valpo for now.

Andy, stay home. Ice is by far the very worst weather condition right after hurricanes and tornadoes. Make sure you have fresh flashlight batteries.

Dan from Madison said...

I remember '79, I was a kid growing up in Rockford. iirc my dad had to get up on the roof and clear snow off of it, and I do remember the driveway being totally blocked with snow from the drifting.

In college I had the miracle from above, as I called it - I am guessing it was around 1988. We had a test and I was not prepared for it and there was an ice storm the previous night and the whole city of Champaign pretty much lost power. I got a reprieve and the test was delayed for a few days. I crammed home a b if memory serves.

Peggasus said...

I was in 7th grade in '67. My mom was able to pick me, my brothers and the neighbor kids up from St. Joe's in the car, because ours had CHAINS on the tires! Remember those? Damn, we all had a ton of fun that weekend. And my Dad walked 2.5 miles to Mass a few days later.

Dan from Madison said...

My dad had tires with the studs in them, they were sweet!

Sk8 said...

Sounds like you guys are going to have to call the Gore-acle to dig you out of all that AGW.

Dan from Madison said...

If he would just open the door on his twenty something thousand square foot mansion it would melt all the snow from here to Waterloo. Iowa, that is.

Sk8 said...

Should we short Carbon Credits? The possibilities are unlimited!

Anonymous said...

I did the "anonymous" thing because I don't have any of those other accounts in the choice list. I'm Patrice from Valpo, born and raised here.
Gerry, thx for the response. I thought maybe it was St Paul's School you were referencing, but must have been a Catholic school near Munster.
Lots of neat memories from the '67 blizzard. What's not to like about it when you're in Jr High??

Gerry from Valpo said...

Hi Patrice, thanks for stopping by.

St. Tom's in Munster is where I did the most damage.