I don’t know whether it’s global warming, climate change, or as my spouse chooses to believe, the snow thrower we bought last year, when we thought more snowy winters to be in the offing.
I pulled the machine out of the shed in October, when we had a pretty serious snow – for south-central Pennsylvania. About eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the ground. I cleared the driveway and the extra parking space – and have not used the machine since.
I suggested maybe we spent the money unnecessarily. Wife suggested it was money well spent.
On the other hand, people who live in the mountains a few miles west of my home have experienced a few more prolific flake producers, including one that left them powerless for three days.
Which is not as bad as the Winter of 1998, when a tremendous ice storm blanketed a large portion of New England, and power companies from as far as North Carolina made the trek to get the electrons flowing again. My mom ran her home on a four-kilowatt gasoline generator for two weeks.
January was like that in northern New England, although 1998 was an example more severe than most. The region’s reputation for severity is mostly undeserved of late, but well remembered. When I was a youngster, heavy snow would start in late October or early November. Each storm could lay down up to 24 inches of the stuff, which we would plow from our half-mile driveway with a Jeep until Dad was too tired to find either the Jeep or the driveway. Then Dad, my brother, mother and I would sleep a couple hours and get up early to do it again. Before school.
In those days, if they’d closed school every time there was rumor of a winter storm, there would be no discussion needed in the state capital about whether classes should run year-round.
Several weeks ago, but still well into what should have been winter, I visited the area near where I was raised. There was snow in high mountains, but lower down, nothing.
This week, a friend and I went to Washington, D.C. I’d watched the television weather map and thought it would be cold and rainy. I was half right. Fortunately, from where we parked my vehicle to where we spent several hours gave us only brief exposures to precipitation, and plenty of time to dry. We got home to watch news reports of tornadoes tearing a swath through the Midwest. Twisters in that region are not strange – in summer.
Nationwide, winter has, indeed, been weird.
I remember the winter of 1976-77. I had ordered a new vehicle, to be picked up in Detroit. My son and I took a Greyhound bus from Lewiston, Maine to Buffalo, N.Y. – where we stayed about six hours in the bus terminal because, although the storm was well past, the Interstate highways were closed.
Finally, we took a cab to the airport and flew over Lake Erie, picked up my new van, and drove to Cincinnati, passing the tops of 18-wheelers poking out of snow banks.
Fortunately, down here where it’s not Alaska, we all have winters that stand out in our memories. But mostly the annual cycles have been regular – warm in summer, cold in winter.
But tornados in January? Very newsworthy.
I cannot say whether it’s Global Warming – or Climate Change, the politically acceptable alias for Global Warming – but I know I have worn my winter coat only one day so far this year. I know also scientists a few decades ago were concerned about the problems we would have if the average global temperature increasing as much as two degrees Centigrade. We’re almost there.
Which is why riding the Metro into Washington was a good idea, though we had to drive more than an hour to get to it. We parked the Jeep – and let someone else drive past all the close-in traffic jams. At very nearly $4 a gallon, the $11 round trip by train was not only less planet-warming than sitting in traffic, but also less expensive.
Obviously, we cannot build a complete high speed rail service overnight. On the other hand, we appear to be started. There is a line in planning stages that will create a 110 mph train system in the Chicago area.
Ironically, the rail lines put out of freight service by the Interstate highway system are rebuilding their roads, and advertising how much freight they can haul – CSX claims it can haul a ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of fuel. Each railroad freight car takes 3.5 long haul trucks off the road
A decision is planned for summer that could provide $10 million in federal money to enlarge tunnels along freight lines in the southern Oregon – northern California region.
Transportation, like hemlines, appears at least partially cyclic. There was a time when trains were a primary means of transportation for people and freight. They may never regain that stature, but they certainly are becoming a major cog in our transportation machine.
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