In perhaps the most frequently quoted line from The Hartford Courant, this newspaper commented in August 1897: "A well known American writer said once that, while everybody talked about the weather, nobody seemed to do anything about it."
The quip, originating either with the editor at the time, Charles Dudley Warner, or with his friend and neighbor, Mark Twain, is wryly amusing. These days, it's also inaccurate.
We do lots more than talk. When it comes to the weather, we do plenty.
Depending on the season, we buy snow blowers, snow shovels and ice melt; stock up on bread, milk, batteries and candles; install generators; cancel school; install central air conditioning; board up the windows; take in the lawn furniture and ready the sump pumps.
We park ourselves in front of the television or the Internet, mesmerized by the dance of Doppler across the screen and astonished by frightening amateur videos of hurricanes or tornadoes. We make meteorologists our local folk heroes.
Weather is the January theme of The Courant's 250th anniversary year, because it's winter, because The Courant has always reported it, and because — even with Doppler, climate control and other technologies undreamed of in the 18th century — Courant readers are as curious about it in 2014 as they were in 1764.
It's the bad news — "severe weather events," they are often termed — that usually catches the headlines. But good weather still charms us, and the fact that we have four distinct seasons to enjoy is one reason many say they like to live in Connecticut.
What can compare with a perfect spring day, ablaze with azalea and rhododendron? Or a starry, mild summer night at the ballpark? Or the glory of the Litchfield hills in late October? Or, once the storm has passed and the roads have cleared, the sparkle of freshly fallen snow on field and tree?
It's all in a year's weather in southern New England. It can make us dream as well as curse, celebrate as well as mourn.
And it is now, as it always has been, news — of a kind that has sometimes changed the very nature of our communities.
Among the events of just the past 100 years: Devastating floods in the 1930s, abetted by the great Hurricane of 1938, led to construction of dikes along the Connecticut River in Hartford and East Hartford, greatly limiting riverside development. In the 1950s, cities such as Winsted were forever altered by flooding. Accumulating ice and snow caused the roof of the Hartford Civic Center to collapse in 1978.
Readers do care about the weather. And this is despite the fact that these days, we are more independent of it than ever.
Awaking in our climate-controlled homes, we go to work in climate-controlled cars or public transport; work in climate-controlled spaces; and at day's end, reverse the whole process, all the while insulated against almost everything that Mother Nature can fling at us. Our ancestors would be jealous.
But despite the best efforts of science and technology, we are still largely at the mercy of the elements. As a storm approaches, we don't sit back, smugly assuming that it has no power over us; ironically, our very self-sufficiency is based on having the electric power needed to learn about bad weather and defend against it.
We are, to be sure, better equipped and prepared than our ancestors were to deal with blizzards, tropical storms, floods and other such phenomena. But in the end, nature still has the upper hand, and that is perhaps at the core of our enduring fascination with what it's going to be like outside.
"We're seldom at ease about the weather," that same 1897 Courant editorial noted.
In that, the newspaper was absolutely right.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun