NOR’EASTER [nawr-EE-ster]: a storm coming in from the northeast

When a storm in the northeastern part of the United States comes in from the ocean, particularly from a point northeast of the land site, it is called a nor’easter.  There are language purists who insist that the proper word is a northeaster, but we who live in this part of the country know that the Maine lobsterman pronunciation is correct. If a weather forecaster in this part of the world were to say “northeaster” she would be laughed off the screen.

Granted, it is a colloquial pronunciation, and it takes some getting used to if you are a transplant from another part of the country.   But it’s a real term, and nor’easters deserve the credit they get.  They are nothing to be casual about.

For decades, Edgar Comee, of Brunswick, Maine, waged a determined battle against use of the term “nor’easter” by the press, which usage he considered a pretentious and altogether lamentable affectation and the odious, even loathsome, practice of landlubbers who would be seen as salty as the sea itself. His efforts, which included mailing hundreds of postcards, were profiled, just before his death at the age of 88, in The New Yorker.*

Most recently, my blogging colleague John McIntyre, author of “You Don’t Say,” posted just this morning with a commentary on the word, eventually coming to the point that it’s a legitimate expression based upon its common usage.

The current nor’easter is particularly significant as it comes just a week after the hurricane (“Sandy”) that pummeled the East Coast and left tens of thousands of people homeless, millions without power for some period of time, and interrupts the recovery process in places like New Jersey and New York City.  People without power are now experiencing snow, wind, and severe cold.  It is nothing to joke about.

Meteorologists tell us that a nor’easter is actually a type of hurricane or post-tropical storm, in that it is characterized by its swirling wind patterns which can achieve gusts in excess of those commonly understood to be hurricane force.   It is a counter-clockwise swirl which brings cold, wet winds in from the ocean and dumps them in the form of heavy rain or snow on the land.

Today I woke up to approximately three inches of snow on the ground, something we don’t usually see this early in November.   The winds were strong until about 7:30 this morning, and it is bitterly cold.  The forecast is for our high today to achieve 39 degrees Fahrenheit.   Thankfully, there are several days of warmer, more temperate weather on the way, beginning tomorrow.   It will be up in the 60′s by the weekend.   But for right now it is unpleasant out there and the roads are a little slick.

This is just the latest meteorological anomaly, reinforcing common understanding that the weather patterns on this globe are changing dramatically.   Need I say the words “global warming?”


Photo Credit: Norfolk


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