BETWEEN THE LINES: New Yorkers warmly embraced a balmy weekend that likely thawed their chilled bodies and spirits. However, the forecast isn’t pleasant and looks like we’re in for Frigid Winter, Part Two. [Ed. – It was snowing all morning. We need this like we need holes in our heads.]
No sooner did Mother Nature tease us with a brief respite, with temperatures topping 50 degrees for three consecutive days, than we were alerted to a cold air mass heading south that will return temperatures below-freezing by mid-week.
Temperatures reached a high over the weekend not seen since it was a 55 on January 5, 2014 the day before the mercury nose-dived to a record low five degrees and frequently remained below freezing for the next six weeks.
Though our thoughts fleetingly turned to spring, it’d be premature to get too giddy as snow has fallen on St. Patrick’s Day, or even later, in the past.
By winter’s halfway point, most of us were already acutely weary, uttering such mantras as “no more snow,” “enough is enough” and “give us a brrr-eak!”
New Yorkers, as a rule, tend to adapt, but this winter’s deep freeze has chilled that mindset. We’re fed up and wouldn’t mind throwing in, or storing, our shovels, but, it wouldn’t be practical considering groundhog meteorologist Punxatawney Phil’s shadow forecast.
It is winter, but who anticipated — or wanted — eight snowstorms and a polar vortex? For a while, snowfall mimicked the Energizer bunny — it just kept coming and coming and coming.
After all, we didn’t need a weatherman’s (long-range) forecast to know which way the wind would blow (apologies to Bob Dylan for paraphrasing his 1965 lyrics that referred to political climate) or to expect cold and snow in January and February. That’s guaranteed around here, as much as heat and humidity are in July and August.
This has been a winter of discontent (another apology, to William Shakespeare) — and an awfully cold one to boot (and gloves and scarves and layers of clothing). A snowfall may look pretty and picturesque, but when that gust of wind smacks you in the face, that spectacle quickly chills.
There’s really nothin’ we can do, except grrr-in and brrr-it, and dress in layers when heading outdoors.
According to media reports, after the latest snowfall, the 57-inch accumulation puts us at the seventh snowiest winter ever. So far, New York has had almost twice the average for an entire season. We broke a 14-year-old record for the snowiest January and February, with the shortest month averaging more than an inch a day, making it the second snowiest February on the books. However, it’s unlikely we’ll top the record 75 inches that fell in 1995-96.
The only ones relishing — or profiting — this winter have been avid skiers and road salt merchants, who can’t keep up with the demand for the ice-melting granules from governments up and down the East Coast that recently have had severe shortages.
Yet, it ain’t the snow that unnerves us the most — it’s the bitter, bone-chilling cold that sinks our stubborn spirits as low as outdoor thermometers. On the morning of February 5, the average national temperature reported by the National Weather Service was 11 degrees. Daily high temperatures in many cities across the country that day were below freezing. Some parts of the Midwest barely broke zero, yet it was tough being grateful for marginally warmer, though still bitter, weather in New York.
While government experts last week announced the Eastern United States was one of the coldest areas on the planet in January, contrasting temperatures nationwide resulted in severe droughts out west. Moreover, as we shivered to record cold and were deluged by frequent snow, western states had one of the driest months ever and the rest of the planet experienced one of the warmest Januarys in history.
Global weather has been capricious, too. Last month, at the London Zoo, The Guardian reported that Humboldt penguins were so miserable, following a month of snow, rain and wind, that they were administered antidepressants to raise their spirits. Though the species is native to the weather extremes of South America’s southwestern coast, one zoo curator said the spate of unusual London weather altered the birds’ routines, leaving them “fed up, like the rest of us.”
One wonders, if the despair persists, would unhappy penguin pairs — who, by all accounts, mate for life — be offered couples counseling?
Meanwhile, half a world away, Mother Nature caused problems of (pardon the pun) Olympic proportions. The Sochi Winter Games experienced uncommonly warm weather. In the dead of winter, that Russian region is typically much colder, but the mercury has been above normal, while we continue to shiver as we zig and zag around mounds of snow and puddles of slush while trying to avoid slipping or sliding on the ice. Olympic operators would surely have swapped for the weather with which we’ve been coping.
Nevertheless, as we impatiently ache for spring, sure signs are on the horizon. Days are getting longer and will grow by an hour when Daylight Savings kicks in after we turn clocks ahead on March 9. Baseball’s pre-season is in full swing, with warmer temperatures anticipated by Opening Day.
For those weary and worn out, there is warmth at the end of the winter tunnel. Pretty soon frustrating cabin fever will transform into delightful spring fever.
Yet, as I close this column, I think back a few weeks, between storms, and all that comes to mind is that damn prognosticating groundhog!
Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.
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