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Posts Tagged ‘weather’

It was pretty bitter this past weekend in Pennsylvania. Not depths-of-January bitter, but colder than one would have hoped for.

It’s been a mild and uneventful winter. Indeed, the biggest storms we’ve had (just a weekend or two ago) were summer-style wind and lightning storms, even a tornado an hour or so north of here.

Still, you wonder just about until April whether winter has one last blast to deliver. Maybe this weekend was it, as far as cold goes. Or, maybe that whopper snowstorm we never did get earlier in the winter is just starting to assemble itself, high above Saskatchewan or someplace.

This week we stop in on my grandpa as he deals, gracefully, with winter as it stomps and kicks its way out the door:

031873

March 18, 1973. It’s a Sunday.

When I first saw this entry I read “waxes” as a noun, and wondered what he was talking about. Was there some sort of wax you put on your car in the winter for extra protection against road salt? (I knew he wasn’t a skier, so that sort of winter wax wouldn’t have mattered to him.)

But then my mind adjusted and I realized “waxes” was a verb. Things wax and wane; and on this particular Sunday, winter was waxing one more time, in advance of the inevitable wane.

(There is no corresponding “winter wanes” notation on this page of the calendar … but you’ll notice that the temperature reached a sunny 60 degrees exactly a week later. So we know it happened.)

I am looking forward to watching local college baseball games, and running without a hat and gloves, and any number of other signs of spring. So I’m looking forward to the final waning of winter here.

Just wondering how much waxing there’ll have to be first.

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On Hope Street, the turbulent year of 1967 came in with fire and went out with ice.

(Granted, there were some pleasant moments in between.)

My earlier post about the Connecticut ice storm of December 1973 is one of the most-read installments in the history of this blog.

So when I learned from my grandpa’s calendar that there was another ice storm in Stamford six years earlier, I figured I’d write about that one too.

dec1967

December 11, 1967. Later in the week, just two towns over from Stamford, a child is born who will grow up to be a titanic figure of my college and early-twenties years in New England.

 

If you’ve never heard of the Ice Storm of 1967 … well, there’s a good reason; it turns out that it wasn’t that big a deal.

The New York Times dispensed with it in a 10-paragraph article on page 41 of the Dec. 12 issue, summarizing: “Icy rains pelted the suburbs, snapping power lines.” (The city proper was plagued by blowing, heavy mist and rain, but temperatures stayed above freezing.)

The article singled out classic Tri-State sprawl-spots like Mamaroneck, West Nyack, Ramsey and Nanuet for mention, but didn’t say anything about Connecticut. Presumably that meant there was no news fit to print there.

By the following day, ice had been replaced by what the Good Gray Lady called “muddy fog,” in a story noting that New York had received two-and-a-quarter inches of unseasonable rain in two days’ time. (The author of this shoe-leather mood piece? Future two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner J. Anthony Lukas.)

The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, ran a one-paragraph brief on page 3 noting that “a sleet storm tore down power lines” in the New York suburbs. This item appeared beneath a similar one-graf news brief noting that the Maui Nukupuu — “a small bird with a large down-curving bill and a tubular tongue for extracting nectar from flowers” — had been spotted in Hawaii for the first time in 71 years.

The relative silence of my grandpa’s calendar suggests that the power stayed on and life went on more or less as usual. The calendar also makes no mention of a day off work, which my grandpa would usually note when heavy weather occasioned it. (Dec. 11 was a Monday.)

I guess, then, that the December 1967 ice storm was nothing epochal. It was just a bump in the road … something to be tolerated amidst the ongoing grind of holiday errands, like retrieving college-age kids, buying Christmas trees and putting up home decorations.

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December 16, 1967.

One hopes the people of Fairfield County tolerated it without too much grumbling. Just a few years later, they would see much worse.

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Seems like I’ve written a lot about hot weather on this blog — the blisterbitchers, and the lack of air conditioning, and the end-of-summer bursts of heat, and slow sizzling afternoons at the beach.

Not sure why that is. Maybe it reflects some deep-seated personal preference for summer over winter.

Or maybe southern Connecticut just tends to get hotter than colder, so I’ve had more calendar entries to choose from on the warm end of the scale.

Now that it’s winter enough for everyone, it seems like we’re due for an entry with some really savage cold, lest my readers get to thinking Fairfield County is some sort of tropical paradise.

Set the controls to … well, not the heart of the sun, exactly. Set ’em for January 1968.

Lyndon Johnson is president. The Beatles, Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, and Jay and the Techniques (of Allentown, Pennsylvania) are on the radio.

And most of the United States is as cold as a whore’s goodbye.

January 8-11, 1968.

January 8-11, 1968.

We’ll choose the morning of January 9, and let the Associated Press tell the story (as reproduced on Page One of the Plattsburgh, N.Y., Press-Republican):

– Temperatures below freezing are clocked in 47 of the 48 contiguous states.

– Freezing rain, drizzle and sleet tie up roads from New Mexico to Oklahoma. Some parts of New Mexico — New Mexico! — receive six fresh inches of snow atop five already on the ground.

– A record low of 13 degrees is reported in Dallas.

– “Numerous deaths” are attributed to the weather; one assumes they were still being counted. (By Thursday afternoon, authorities would quantify the cold-related deaths at 82, with at least another 18 to 20 still under investigation.)

– Up to 10 inches of fresh snow fall in parts of the Northeast.

– A hotel fire in Philadelphia forces 350 elderly men and women, some naked, into the streets in 10-degree weather. Remarkably, none are killed in the fire, though 39 people are hospitalized.

(That’s just Page One. On Page Two we read about firefighters in Schenectady, N.Y., fighting two major downtown blazes in seven-below-zero cold, and a nationwide outbreak of Asian flu that’s killed 192 people in the Northeast alone.)

And that wasn’t the end of the cold. It kept going and going, all week long.

On Friday, Jan. 12, the New York Times reported that New Yorkers had endured seven straight days of below-freezing temperatures, with three of the days setting record lows.

The Automobile Club of New York reported receiving 23,000 phone calls since Monday the 8th from drivers unable to start their cars. Con Ed reported record demand for electricity, steam and natural gas. Commuter railways suffered major weather-related delays. And a ship just in from the North Atlantic turned around and left New York for Baltimore, hoping its winches and other equipment would thaw out enough there to allow for the unloading of cargo.

Speaking of Lyndon Johnson, as we were a while ago, the cold of January 1968 forced itself into his routine as well.

Cut to about 4:05 into the monthly film of Johnson’s activities produced by the U.S. government, and you’ll see footage of kids in fake fur-trimmed winter jackets, bopping up and down in the cold. You’ll also see adults wearing that sure-is-cold rictus grin that grown-ups get when they have to stand outside at official events in the wintertime.

The scene could pass for Albany, or at least Philadelphia.

And then you hear the voiceover: “On the 7th of January, some very chilly citizens of San Antonio gathered at Randolph Air Force Base.”

LBJ missed the very worst of the weather because he spent the first half of the month at his “Texas White House,” hosting Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and working on his State of the Union speech.

My grandparents, stuck in Connecticut not far outside New York City, didn’t have that good fortune.

I would like to say they kept moving and muddled through. But I see the canceled doctor’s appointment on the calendar, and I conclude that this cold snap was bad enough to force even the most stoic to the sidelines.

(I’m not sure I can blame cold-related befuddlement for my grandpa recording his doctor’s appointment at 12:30 a.m., rather than 12:30 p.m. He did that on other calendar entries. It seems to have been a repeated quirk of his, like buying lottery tickets.)

I also notice that my grandfather didn’t embellish extreme cold like he did extreme heat. There are no creative expressions for cold days — no “blisterbitchers” or “dingdongers.” Just extra-thick, extra-emphatic numbers with what look like long, trailing fingers of ice.

Maybe, for all his protestations about uncomfortably hot weather, he preferred that extreme to the other.

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There are a million stories in the naked city … like the time the Empire State Building “caught fire” in the middle of the Christmas season.

It was December 10, 1966, an unseasonably warm evening in New York City, with Saturday-night travelers and holiday shoppers thick on the streets.

One of them, in the area of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, pulled a fire alarm.

Shortly after 6 p.m., three fire engines, two hook-and-ladder trucks and a rescue squad came roaring into the area, ready to fight something all of the men aboard must have secretly dreaded — a fire on the upper stories of one of New York’s tallest landmarks.

The firemen dashed into the building, hauling equipment, as thousands of passers-by gathered, gawked and took pictures.

(This according to the New York Times, to whom this entire account is deeply indebted. Presumably the alert had not yet gone out to clear the sidewalks surrounding the building.)

A few minutes later, the all-clear sounded. There was no fire, just the illusion of smoke, created by a dense, swirling cloud of smog and the lights of the building’s upper stories.

And the city sighed with relief, for a moment, then moved on to the next of its million stories and momentary distractions.

My grandfather was not there, as far as I know.

He sure enough saw the smog, though:

December 9, 1966.

December 9, 1966.

I’ve written about environmental alerts showing up on my grandpa’s calendar. Those were a few years later, though. I don’t remember every one of his entries, but this is the earliest entry I can remember to make special notice of pollution or harmful environmental conditions.

Apparently this bout of smog and fog hung around for a few days — and got pretty serious before it finally cleared out.

The New York Times of Dec. 11 reported that Connecticut state health officials declared an air pollution alert due to “lingering stagnant air” over much of the state. Officials called a halt to open burning, and asked residents to stop other activities that could contribute to the smog.

(Unfortunately, it looks like my grandpa had a couple errands to attend to on the 10th that required him to burn some gasoline. A gentleman needs his trousers and a clean set of teeth, after all. Alas, I must blame my grandma — that looks like her writing — for transposing his dental appointment 12 hours ahead.)

The paper also reported that New York’s airports, as well as highways in northern New Jersey, were forced by fog to close for the morning of Dec. 10.

Temperatures were warm up and down the Eastern Seaboard, with cities from Hatteras, N.C., to Syracuse, N.Y., reporting record highs.

And the lead of the Times’ Page One weather story deserves reproduction here:

A perspiring Santa Claus outside Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue growled “Merry Christmas” to a staring youngster, and at the Weather Bureau office in Hangar 11 at Kennedy International Airport, the meteorologists “kept the door open to catch a breeze.” It was Dec. 10.

I wonder what the reporter would have written had he (or she) been assigned to follow Bill Blumenau around for the day.

A perspiring middle-aged man grumbled to himself in the dentist’s chair: He’d dressed for winter, and the office was unexpectedly stuffy. He shifted his position to keep from sticking to the seat. It was Dec. 10.

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A couple of notes catching up from last week’s post, which featured some original music based on 70-year-old home recordings of my grandpa playing piano:

– Thanks to those of you who took the chance and went to check out the sounds. (If you meant to do so, and it slipped your mind, the Hope’s Treat EP can still be heard here.)

– Thanks to your support, Hope’s Treat actually showed up on some of Bandcamp’s popularity rankings, based on the tags I used to label the EP.

I wrote about Bill Blumenau’s unlikely ascension to chart semi-stardom on my other blog; those posts are here and here, if you’d like to read them.

– Finally, some suggested that the good readers of Hope Street might be more interested in my grandpa’s original piano solos than my alterations of same.

For those who fit that description, here’s a short YouTube movie featuring my grandfather playing a medley of two songs.

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It seems like just yesterday I was writing about the promises of summer, both kept and unkept.

Well, damned if summertime hasn’t come and gone, my oh my.

It hasn’t technically vanished yet, of course. If I do the math correctly, the equinox won’t happen until roughly 9:30 p.m. Eastern time on September 22.

And, we might still get a shot or two of summery weather. Indeed, this has been such a tame summer where I am that our September and early-October heat waves might end up being the warmest points of the year.

But, if you’re between 5 and 17, the summer has most definitely ended. Either it has in the past two weeks, or it will this week, when the bell rings. (My own kids have two more days of tadpole-wrangling and seed-spitting left. And by the standards of other kids we know in other places across the country, they’re getting off lucky.)

And, really, when the kids go back to school, the summer’s over. The opening of school casts enough of a cultural shadow over the rest of life that those last few calendar weeks of “summer” just aren’t the same.

When the free are no longer free, neither are the rest of us.

This week, we’ll go back to the calendar entries for one last blast of summer sunshine — a little something to carry us into the season of wither.

July 13, 1966.

July 13, 1966. No baseball today (All-Star break) but the Mets and Yankees are both mired in ninth. RIP, Vowinkel.

Southwestern Connecticut can be a foully humid place in the summer. I can remember wanting to spend my birthday there as a kid and my mom declining, in part because the weather was usually so uncomfortable.

For all that, there aren’t that many times on my grandpa’s calendars when the weather reached or topped the 100-degree threshold.

According to news reports, July 13, 1966, found much of the country caught up in a nasty heat wave and drought.

The Associated Press reported 28 deaths in St. Louis alone — where temperatures had topped 100 for four straight days — as well as 100 people treated for heat-related illnesses at Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game.

Power shortages were forcing utility companies to put rolling blackouts in place in some areas. The weather offered little relief: Severe thunderstorms and high winds were reported in Ohio, the Detroit area and parts of Georgia, while hailstorms were seen on the New York-Vermont line. In Oklahoma, no measurable rainfall had been reported in more than three weeks.

In Chicago, black youth looted stores and broke windows after police turned off a fire hydrant serving as inner-city heat relief. And in Columbus, Ohio, a religious tent meeting came to an early end when high winds stove in the tent — with 600 people inside.

Nothing quite so dramatic happened in Stamford, just an uncommonly stinking summer day. You can see the sun in my grandpa’s drawing dripping heat — or maybe it’s sweating, like everybody else.

I suppose that kind of weather is a littleĀ too hot for pleasure, and we should be thankful not to have had any of it this year.

Still, when summer’s over, a 100-degree day can’t help but seem endless and idyllic and lemonade-chilled and open to every possibility.

In the not-too-distant future, the temperature will sink to one-half that … and then to one-quarter that. It will not be entirely unpleasant, this decline, but it will make us miss green grass and sunshine. So, we can take a few minutes and bask in it one last time.

Three weeks ’til the equinox.

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