A few wintry statistics for you:
Average annual snowfall in the Philadelphia region: 22.4 inches. Average annual Snowmaggedon alerts on local TV: 654.5. Average annual civic nervous breakdowns over snow: 13.3.
Last week was a weird one on the snow beat around Philadelphia.
For days, newscasts hyperventilated about the icy fist that a storm called Juno had cocked at our region. (And, by the way, when the heck did we start naming snowstorms?)
Based on the apocalyptic forecasts, businesses and schools closed. Bread, milk and eggs flew off shelves in the curious ritual of the French Toast Frenzy.
Then Juno crept through on little cat feet, leaving a light dusting, plus a lot of red faces on meteorologists.
Having overreacted to the weather folks’ warnings, we then overreacted to their mistake. Some people got really, really mad at them over this unnecessary snow day.
As my NewsWorks colleague Amy Quinn says, we Philadelphians can be drama queens; the only thing we like better than having something to overreact to is having someone to be theatrically angry at.
But the fault is not in the forecasters; it’s in ourselves. We suffer from Snow Derangement Syndrome.
Here’s where I going to go all grumpy old man on you. I’ve lived in Penn’s Woods all my adult life, but my formative years were spent in the land of lake effect snow. My native city of Cleveland averages nearly three times as much snow as Philly, about 63 inches a year.
Around the Great Lakes, snowfall isn’t regarded as some shocking cataclysm. It’s just part of life. You grow up amid snowdrifts. You learn to drive on the stuff. And you don’t form an expectation that school will close and life will stop every time a few flakes fall. I’m wracking my brain, and I can only recall one occasion in my youth when we got off school for snow.
Here, people go to Def-Con 4 at the first mention of a dusting, and completely lose their minds at a forecast like Juno. It becomes a self-reinforcing cycle, fed by and fed upon by TV stations hungry for ratings.
Yes, blizzards that dump 20 inches are events that surely justify work and school shutdowns. But they’ve happened, oh, maybe a dozen times across my four decades of living around here.
The rest of the time, when flakes fall, we should just suck it up, wear an extra layer, learn how to drive, and carry on with life as usual.