Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

February 19, 2014

As the snow finally melts, light can be seen at the end of the arctic tunnel

— — What a difference a week can make. Just seven days ago we were bracing for a monster storm that had targeting millions across the East Coast with snow, sleet and freezing rain. We ended up with about a foot or more of snow. Bluefield — often the region’s measuring stick when it comes to things like the temperature and free lemonade — ended up with 14 inches of snow.

You always hope that such predicted storms will miss our area. The television meteorologist isn’t always correct, after all. And storms can change their track or direction often at the last minute, even leaving the official team at the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Va., scratching their heads over why the predicted snow didn’t materialize.

But the big storm hit us last week just as predicted by all of the meteorologists. The only change or variance in the prediction was the fact that the snow was lighter — and not of the wet and heavy nature — as the forecasters had warned. That made it a lot easier to shovel and also resulted in far fewer power outages. But the big storm still made things pretty miserable for most folks last week.

It was the first time since 2009 that our region had seen a single storm dump more than a foot of snow on the area during a 24-hour period. And the timing of the storm was lousy. It occurred in the middle of the work week — making the commute home difficult and the ride into work the following morning next to impossible. I myself didn’t make it into the newsroom until about 11:30 a.m., and that was only after a snow plow had cleared a path for us along our mountainous secondary route.

We put out a newspaper with a skeleton staff. Thankfully Publisher Randy Mooney came to the rescue with several orders of pizza for those of us who were able to dig out and make it to work.

For the first time in many years, one of my vehicles parked at the top of the hill — a Jeep Cherokee at that — was almost entirely covered by snow. Suddenly, all of the talk about climate change — at least for a day or two at that — was muted.

Instead, the national media had seemingly non-stop coverage of the massive winter storm. And there was a lot of talk about just how rough of  a winter it has been to date. And that’s a statement we can all probably agree on. But I’ll admit the challenge is particularly great for the good folks on the Weather Channel, who face the unenviable task of talking about the weather non-stop 24 hours a day. That job must be difficult.

But that was all a week ago. Today, things are certainly looking a lot better. The snow is finally starting to melt, and the mercury is climbing close to 56 degrees today. It should reach about 60 degrees on Thursday. There is finally light at the end of the arctic tunnel. And spring is a lot closer today than it was just a week ago. But as we were reminded a good 21 years ago, March can bring unpredictable weather here in the mountains. The anniversary of the Great Blizzard of 1993 is approaching.

That monster of all winter storms buried the region under more than two feet of snow on the morning of March 13, 1993. I still remember that day pretty well. My little vehicle at the time was completely buried under snow. And you couldn’t even open the door at the house to go outside without facing a large pile of snow. It was — and remains — a storm for the local history books.

There have been a few blizzard warnings issued by the National Weather Service for our region since that 1993 monster. But nothing has compared in intensity or snowfall totals to it, unless you count the total seasonal snowfall for the so-called snowmageddon storms of 2010 and 2011. When all was done and said back then, the Bluefield area had recorded a record 80 inches of snowfall for the season.

Today, we can all simply bask in the welcomed warmth of the sun. Slowly but surely signs of spring can already be seen. It won’t be long before area stores begin pushing spring and summer clothing. Many of the big box stores have already depleted their winter supplies, and are now displaying fans, air-conditioners and other items one would not normally expect to buy in late February. Finding things likes wood for wood stoves and wood pellets for pellet stoves is becoming increasingly harder to locate.

Yet these are all sure signs of spring, and that’s a pleasant thought. Let’s hope spring will be unseasonably warm this year.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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