Cold Enough For You?

Potomac iced over and covered by snow

The Potomac River, iced over and covered with snow/photo courtesy Pamela Stroh

Cold Enough For You?
| published March 3, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff

In parts of the American Northeast, Midwest and the Middle Atlantic states, they just want this winter to end. Like last year’s chill—a winter in which Polar Vortex and jet stream shifts sent arctic air across most of the country, leading to record cold and snow for 35 states—this year’s frigid season has wrought more snow in some areas than those residents have seen in generations.

Almost everyone agrees that the snow and ice is beautiful, but after a few days the postcard imagery and the artistic qualities shift into logistical and economic nightmares.

This year, the Great Lakes’ surface area has reached slightly more than 88.5 percent ice. Last year it reached a staggering 92 percent, the first time since 1979 the ice has covered more than 90 percent of the combined lakes. According to meteorologists, the past two winters are the first time two consecutive seasons have seen ice levels above 80% in the history of record-keeping.

Portland, Maine, home to thousands of hardy, sturdy citizens accustomed to harsh winters and severe North Atlantic conditions, have now shattered their all-time National Weather Service record (those figures go back to 1940). Even in wind-blown, weather-beaten Portland, folks have had enough.

“It’s as if the last 20 years of bad weather has slammed together into one horrible season,” says Andrew Rankin, Thursday Review’s contact in the Vacationland State, a nickname he says “seems inappropriate at the moment.”

Boston residents work their way around snow piled so high it consumes SUVs and trucks.

According to WBZ, Boston’s CBS affiliate, by later this week, if current projections prove accurate, Boston may reach its all-time record for snowfall, besting its previous record set in 1996. Boston is just a scant three inches away from toppling all previous records dating back more than a century, and that three inches could likely come this week. That means that more snow—later in March—would set the bar even higher.

In Massachusetts, they have dubbed it Snowmaggedon.

Boston city workers have run out of ways to store or stash the snow, which in some images can be seen towering like mountains, barely melting in the frigid temperatures. Drivers in Boston and other crowded urban areas have started the practice of putting “place-savers” in their hard-won parking spots, which are more often than not rectangular cubicles carved out of the five and six foot heaps of snow along sidewalks and streets. Place-savers can be anything—traffic cones, chairs, barstools, patio furniture (an ironic use of warm-weather items), plant stands. On orders from the city, crews are now required to collect those place-savers.

Making things more complex for the people in and around Boston: cold rain, part of an early spring rain and snow system which could make a mess of the already logistically-challenging roads and highways. Massachusetts officials are warning motorists—and pedestrians—to expect dangerous levels of ice.

In New York City, a slight rise in temperatures may make things immediately worse. Snow is expected to melt in a few areas, but more subfreezing temperatures will arrive any day, turning all that slush and melting snow into black ice. Like Massachusetts, officials in New York worry about the rolling calamities along highways and roads. New Yorkers saw between three and five inches of snow over the last few days, with Central Park measuring 4.8 inches by Monday morning. Only a few days into March, New York is already well above its average snowfall for the month. And like other northeastern states, it may see all previous records fall under the weight or more snow and ice this year.

Washington, D.C. is also expecting more snow this week, and, depending on which forecast you read, this could bring between two and five inches for those who live inside the Beltway, and between four and six inches for those to the north and the west of the metro area. D.C. has also already seen close to record levels of snow this winter; January-February temperatures have already broken all records back to 1979. According to the Washington Post, February was the coldest since 1950.

Records have been set using the official weather-recording gadgetry of the nation’s capital. Sunday, February 15 was the coldest day at Dulles Airport since the same day in 1965, when it was seven degrees. Thursday, February 19 was the lowest temperature since the same date in 1972. And Friday, February 20 saw the coldest day ever, breaking the record for the same day in 1896 (that’s not a typo) with five degrees.

Related Thursday Review articles:

Big Apple & New England Will Get More Chill; Thursday Review; February 23, 2015.