Joho the Blog » Why we were better prepared

Why we were better prepared

The Boy Scouts are right: Be straight prepared. I’m looking out the window at what’s less like a blanket of snow and more like 5 stacked futons of snow. As quaint as a herniated disc.

Yet New England seems to be suffering the minimum amount of damage conceivable. What did we get right, especially compared with the freeze-in-your-car 1978 blizzard?

1. Weather forecasting has gotten much better. We were not taken by surprise.

2. We had appropriate plans in place. I heard, for example, that some local hospitals had arranged a pick-up service for medical personnel who otherwise couldn’t have gotten in to work. And a big hug and cup of warm cocoa to everyone working out in the cold to keep us safe. The nine most comforting words in the English language: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

3. Our leaders are newly motivated not only by wisdom but also by fear. The price of being unprepared has gone up. I’m not saying our expectations are reasonable. We Americans generally don’t have a theory to explain why bad random things happen. ff afflicted by a natural disaster, we call a lawyer to sue the weather, the asteroid, someone. Still, it keeps our leaders on their toes.

4. It’s just snow. A lot of snow. You shovel it. You put on cleats once the sidewalks are walkable. For once in your life you don’t drive like a dick. It gets gray, black, and it melts. It’s just frozen water. got spring on our side. So, suck it, snow!

15 Responses to “Why we were better prepared”

  1. David,
    As a Norwegian currently in Oslo (but with nine winters in Boston (Arlington and Brookline)): I agree completely with your number 4, but the failure is at a systemic level.

    It is just snow. Not a lot. It shows up fast, and leaves again equally fast. It doesn’t stay the whole winter, from November until Marsh, as it does here in the south of Norway.

    The fact that New England panics every time there is a flurry is due to lack of preparedness at the infrastructure level. In most of Norway power and telephone lines are underground, it is illegal not to have snow tires on your car after December 1st or thereabouts (if you go in the ditch, you are fined) and during my own and my children’s school days we have never had a snow day or any other interruption due to the weather (and we have plenty of weather). I have never been to the store to stock up on batteries and water. (I have been to the gas station to by gas for the snow blower ahead of a storm, though.) Our airport does not close down for snow, though there can be delays.

    I just can’t get used to the New England oh-my-God-here-it-comes-again-flip-to-channel-5 attitude. I attribute this to lack of far-sightedness in planning – rather than take the cost of modernizing the power grid and change the telephone lines to fiber all around, incrementalism wins. Instead of driving responsibly (and forcing people to do it), you salt the roads until they are white and dogs can’t go out.

    I drove from Florida to MA during the blizzard of 96, which closed down NY and NJ (much to my chagrin, I was stopped at the NJ border and stupidly tried to argue with the cop that I was Norwegian, had 4WD, and was a former instructor in 4WD, that driving in the snow was easy if you when slowly and gently. He was unmoved, of course.) Saw people pass me doing 70 on the highway, only to see them buried in a drift two miles later.

    Why not harden the grid and communications systems, put winter tires on school buses, mandate winter tires in snowy conditions, and just get rid of this stupid idea of snow days? It is winter, it happens almost every year. It is just something to get used to, minimize the consequences and get on with a productive life.

    On the other hand, most Americans work way too much, so perhaps it is just nature’s way of giving you a break…

    Espen

  2. Brilliant, Espen. Thanks! (I tweeted a link to your comment.)

  3. [...] posted as a comment to Dave Weinberger’s blog, but expanded/edited into a bona fide rant [...]

  4. I agree with you all. I live in south Texas and we have similar issues, not with snow but with tropical storms and hurricanes. We evacuate massive areas during large storms mostly because power outages. We have made a fair amount of progress in improving construction codes and techniques but most of our power systems are above ground and always suffer heavy damage. Many areas actually would not have to be evacuated if the power sysytems were more reliable. Floodprone areas must be evacuated of course but areas such as ours fear tree damage (falling trees take down most of the power lines that are damaged) and long term electrical outage most of all. Yet we continue to build large above ground powerlines and do not keep up tree trimming around those lines.

  5. [...]  First, Dr. Weinberger’s writing style is right up my alley (here is a look at a recent blog post by him on Nemo, the man is hilarious). But more importantly, as we are learning about unique IDs [...]

  6. Love your response, Espen!

    As a descendant of strong Norwegian ancestry, I grew up in Minnesota and lived in Rochester, NY – and I experienced a lot of blizzards these day to wonder what other people were really thinking. I rarely have snow days in Minnesota and upper state of New York.

    The story is much different in Washington, D.C. with offices and schools closing over 3-4 inches of snow. People wear winter coats in 20′s/30′s weather around here while I still wear a t-shirt. Different life, different place—I suppose.

  7. Can’t agree entirely.
    My town cancelled school Friday- debatable, could at least have had a shortened day.
    and worse, has cancelled school Monday, despite having done yeoman work clearing local roads.
    Why, you ask?
    None of the sidewalks are clear and “too many kids walk to school.”

    WTF?

    that is some weak sauce.

  8. [...] might want to listen to Espen Andersen, a Norwegian in Oslo who lived in Boston for nine years. I blogged on Saturday about how well-prepared the Northeast was, and Espen jumped in with a "Yeah, but …" [...]

  9. [...] might want to listen to Espen Andersen, a Norwegian in Oslo who lived in Boston for nine years. I blogged on Saturday about how well-prepared the Northeast was, and Espen jumped in with a “Yeah, but [...]

  10. [...] might want to listen to Espen Andersen, a Norwegian in Oslo who lived in Boston for nine years. I blogged on Saturday about how well-prepared the Northeast was, and Espen jumped in with a “Yeah, but [...]

  11. [...] might want to listen to Espen Andersen, a Norwegian in Oslo who lived in Boston for nine years. I blogged on Saturday about how well-prepared the Northeast was, and Espen jumped in with a “Yeah, but [...]

  12. [...] might want to listen to Espen Andersen, a Norwegian in Oslo who lived in Boston for nine years. I blogged on Saturday about how well-prepared the Northeast was, and Espen jumped in with a “Yeah, but [...]

  13. [...] we mite want to lissen to Espe Anderse, a Nerwegiun n' Oslo who livd n' Bawstun fer nine yeers. I bloggd on Saturdee about hoe well-prepard t'Nerthees wuz, and Espe jumpd n' wit a “Yeah, but [...]

  14. [...] might want to listen to Espen Andersen, a Norwegian in Oslo who lived in Boston for nine years. I blogged on Saturday about how well-prepared the Northeast was, and Espen jumped in with a "Yeah, but …" [...]

  15. [...] might want to listen to Espen Andersen, a Norwegian in Oslo who lived in Boston for nine years. I blogged on Saturday about how well-prepared the Northeast was, and Espen jumped in with a “Yeah, but [...]

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