Weather Review – Winter Storm Jonas

            In the wintertime

            When all the leaves are brown

            And the wind blows…

Oh, it blows alright; to velocities in excess of 30 MPH this afternoon. While the snow poured into every orifice in my body, these lyrics from the Steve Miller Band’s “In the Wintertime” echoed through my ears in union with the howling winds that rustled the barren branches. “Hear me calling”: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 75 DEGREE WEATHER WE HAD OVER CHRISTMAS!?

While I vented my usual complaints about cold weather, Winter Storm Jonas failed to exceed them. I found it fitting that this storm shared the same name as former Angolan Freedom Fighter General Jonas Savimbi. Like the general, this storm generated a lot of hype, caused a great expense and in the end, led to a disappointing outcome.

As with any prospective winter storm, the barrage of media hype was legion. For days I’d been reading winter storm warnings, seguing into blizzard warnings and, inevitably, the blizzard watches. Upon first hearing of “Winter Storm Jonas” on Wednesday, I opted to go grocery shopping that evening.

To be fair to the local news anchors, at this early stage they were still in the advent of inspiring terror in the general populace. While the upcoming “white apocalypse” was still three days away, I found the store crowded. I’d arrived before 5:00 PM and encountered more people than I’d expected, but not so many that it made me claustrophobic. I found some patrons hoarding the necessities such as bread, milk and wine; make that lots, and lots of wine. I still purchased all the products I normally do during the course of my usual weekly grocery shopping.

In the lead-up to the storm I witnessed paltry panic among the populace. With little notice the grocery store prepared well for the pending weather event. If the purpose of local media is to terrorize people with the weather, does this sound like they did their jobs?

In addition, I managed to procure a few additional loaves of bread and containers of milk. During the apex of the storm on Saturday I placed an advertisement on the internet. I wrote that I understood some people may have lacked such things. I offered to sell my surplus for the generous sum of nineteen ninety-five. That’s $1,995.00. As the storm intensified I realized I’d placed the decimal in the wrong place. I corrected my posting to correctly read $19,950.00. During the height of the so called “storm of the century”, not one person replied to my offer.

Perhaps the biggest adversity accompanying a snow storm is the shoveling. I’d read various news reports stating that the snow would begin as the light and fluffy variety and then combine with layers of ice. The latter would cause it to become, and I quote, “very heavy”. Perhaps all those protein shakes I’ve been drinking are really paying off, because I didn’t have any trouble shoveling. I managed to move about 90 square feet of snow in one hour.

In addition, even with a State of Emergency in effect during a snow storm, one always sees several people taking their chances on the slick roads. This afternoon, I witnessed a steady flow of vehicles on the street in front of my home. To be fair to Winter Storm Jonas, they were pick-up trucks and SUVs, but still: this had to be the safest “State of Emergency” in New Jersey’s history.

I’d also been led to anticipate “zero visibility”. I expected that I’d see so much of the color white that I’d feel like an audience member at a GOP rally. Not so. I can’t write that the lack of it disappointed me. The people living behind me travelled during the Holiday Season. They turned on their winter lights this evening. I’m enjoying the effect they have reflecting off the newly fallen snow.

I’ve lived in the Philadelphia area my entire life and experienced several natural disasters. Hurricanes, snowstorms and even minor earthquakes have affected the region. Winter Storm Jonas will not rank among them. In the lead-up to today, I’d anticipated a catastrophe of historical proportions. Let me politely write that Winter Storm Jonas didn’t make me any more enthusiastic about global warming.

The Detritus of Christmas Passed

I’ve always found it ironic that the best time of year is followed by the worst time of year. My drive to work reinforced my belief. On the way I passed numerous Christmas Trees thrown out at various curbs. Several inflatable Santa Clauses lay in flat heaps on people’s front lawns. Instead of the radio greeting me with cherry, upbeat Holiday tunes, I listened to the same banal songs that saturated the airways prior to Thanksgiving.

My drive home wasn’t much better. A cold, blustery wind made me crank my heater for the first time this season. Instead of an array of Christmas lights, a somber twilight illuminated my way home. Yes, Christmas 2015 is formally over.

Ever since my childhood, I always loathed the end of the Holiday Season. In my youth, I figured that came from having to return to school. The carefree days of sleeping late and playing with the toys Santa brought me had come to an end. The time to get back to work had come. Now I wonder if that was the real reason.

As I got older I realized that Christmas is the most heavily advertised event on the planet. I remember back in the 1990s while shopping for my parents’ anniversary, I noticed Christmas displays in the mall. Since my Mom and Dad were married on October 10th, I couldn’t believe it. How could a store be getting ready for the Holidays prior to Thanksgiving?

Flash forward twenty some years. Now stores get ready for the Holidays around Labor Day. I watched television commercials targeting Christmas shoppers before Football season began this year.

While growing up in the 1970s I remember one radio station would play nothing but Christmas music from December 24th through January 1st. Now, several play nothing but Holiday music from the Monday before Thanksgiving until Christmas Day! That’s a solid month!

And then on December 26th, it’s all over. All the Christmas music disappears from the airways. Stores begin removing their displays. I remember a few years ago while at a café on New Year’s Day, I watched as the staff took down the Holiday decorations and put away the Christmas Tree. I felt like a soldier watching Old Glory descend the flagpole.

It’s not that I’m depressed Christmas is over; it’s that I feel like I’ve entered another world. For several months, everything one sees reminds one that Christmas is coming. In the span of a few days, all of that disappears. I remember a March visit to the café I mentioned earlier. Some of the baristas started singing:

           Oh, by gosh, by golly

            It’s time for mistletoe and holly.

            They laughed saying how weird it was not to hear that song every few minutes.

I also miss all the fun stuff leading up to the Christmas Season. For those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere, the heat and humidity leading up to Labor Day gives way to cool autumn days. After that a lot of fun Halloween activities take place. They’re followed by Thanksgiving. All this time, signs of Christmas become apparent, leading up to the big day itself.

Right now, we’re looking at three months of lousy weather. I’ve heard some refer to this period in the Northeastern U. S. as “the Dark Ages.” We’ve got bitter, frigid cold with the ever present possibility of snow and ice. It’s ironic that seasonal tunes like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and “It’s a Marshmallow World in the Winter” no longer come over the airwaves.

It may not seem like it now, but the detritus of Christmas 2015 will give way to spring’s blooming flowers. Then again, every year the Season seems to start earlier and earlier. Who knows? The way things are going, 2016’s Black Friday deals may be in full swing before Easter.


The Dog Days of Christmas

There’s nothing quite like the Yuletide season. It features great food, family and fun. Since the first often accompanies the other two, I do my best to keep in shape during the Holiday Season. When you think about it, what better time to go jogging in the evening? Aside from burning off those (many) excess calories, it gives a person the opportunity to take in the Holiday atmosphere. Since it gets dark early this time of year, one can experience the full effect of the Christmas lights.

That’s what I did this past weekend. While frost bite becomes a major concern for joggers in the waning days of autumn, this time I faced a more familiar adversary from the summer: dehydration. You read that right: dehydration. Keep in mind I live in the Philadelphia area: not in Australia. A balmy haze settled over town last week. The dew point reached August-like proportions. Upon returning home, the profuse sweat made me look like I’d just gotten out of the shower. Santa wouldn’t need his thick red and white suit this year…or would he?

Several days later the temperature dipped into the upper fifties. It rained. And rained. And then it rained some more. By the weekend, the temperature plummeted into the more seasonal upper-thirties. A lot of people would get sick in this weather. I’m sure lucky I run and keep in shape so I don’t come down with anything for the Holidays, right? Not so.

They call New Jersey “the Garden State” for a reason. I’ve battled allergies my entire life. That’s another reason I like to run. It helps to break-up my congestion. It also acclimatizes me to the weather. Wild temperature swings aggravate my allergies more than anything else. When precipitation is involved, they get even worse. Most times, I handle these fluctuations without any problems. The fifty degree changes in the course of a day or two, I can’t. Not for the first time this season, I found myself visiting my neighborhood urgent care center for sinusitis.

Sudden bursts of unseasonal warm weather confuse my sinuses. They think it’s the height of August ragweed season. The back of my throat feels like a handful of newly mown grass clumped there. My voice has been so raspy from coughing that it sounds like a cross between Bruce Springsteen’s and Tom Waits’. I’ve had several sneezing fits that lasted for minutes. This can be troublesome especially while eating. (I guess that explains why I’ve been dining alone these past few days.)

I know I shouldn’t complain. There are far worse sinus related issues one could have. My great-grandmother passed away from carcinoma of the sinuses. (Even with this family history and my own allergy issues, I still smoked like an idiot in my youth.) Besides, thanks to the immediate access to medical attention the urgent care center provides, I’ve been able to do most of my regular routine. Without their assistance, I would’ve been confined to bed for days.

As I’m writing this, it’s 39 degrees Fahrenheit outside. I checked the latest weather forecast. We’re getting more rain next week. On Christmas Eve the temperature will rise into the mid-seventies. Christmas Day it’s going to “cool off” to a more modest 60 degrees. This tells me two things. 1) I’ll probably be having Christmas Dinner with the folks at the urgent care center. 2) For those wondering what to get me: tissues and decongestants would be good choices.

While I prefer warmer weather, I’m actually looking forward to winter. I’m not excited about another muggy warm spell. I’ve had enough of the Dog Days of Christmas.