BLIZZARD: a storm with dry, driving snow, strong winds, and intense cold.

This morning Rhode Island and most of New England woke up to unbelievable scenes.   The snow is 28″ on our deck.   The wind is blowing.  It’s still snowing, having begun at noon yesterday.  It is cold.

187,000 people in Rhode Island alone are without power, with residents reporting inside temperatures of 40-45 degrees…that’s inside!

This is the Blizzard of 2013.

It provided for some clarification about the meaning of the word blizzard.  While it is usually depicted as a huge snow storm, the snow is only one of the factors required to classify a storm as a blizzard.  It has more to do with the strength of the wind.

A blizzard is a severe snowstorm characterized by strong sustained winds of at least 56 km/h (35 mph) and low temperatures lasting for a prolonged period of time — typically three hours or more. (Wikipedia definition)

The Blizzard of 2013 qualifies.  The winds have exceeded 60 miles and hour in some places, and the temps have been in the teens and low 20′s.  Yes, the snowfall is huge, but the meteorologists on TV have reminded us over and over again that we could have had a blizzard with as little as 4 inches of snow.

My imagery of a blizzard is from movies which are usually shot in Texas or the Midwest.   The snow is horizontal and someone has to get to the barn to care for the horses.  They tie a rope to the barn and to the back door of the farmhouse so they can find their way in the blinding snowstorm.   It’s the snow that seems to be the bad guy in the movie, but actually it’s the wind.  Makes sense to me now that I know that.

It will be days or weeks before New England fully recovers from this blizzard.  There may actually be more storms between now and then.  But the emergency planning groups did a good job in preparation, so there has been a minimum of tragedy … so far.

We keep watching limbs of trees surrounding our house which are loaded with piles of snow on them.   I keep waiting for the CRACK! announcing the downing of a huge limb or the tree itself.   I live in an arboretum, so there are lots of trees.  I have argued for us to put our utility wires underground, but it seems too expensive for most people.  Who knows?

There have been many blizzards in New England’s past.  In fact, this one is shaping up to be the seventh most serious, so there are six that were worse.   The region survived.   We will this time, also.

And then there will be Spring!


Photo Credit:  Bethany Putnam

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