Snow, salt-covered cars and school closings in February. What's up with that?
The Mid-Atlantic region and perhaps much of the country became so accustomed to unseasonably balmy weather since autumn formally departed that winter's sudden arrival comes as a shock. Hasn't been this cold since 2004!
Fahrenheit readings in the single digits doubtless inspire all the more shivers because residents of this region have not been conditioned by steadily declining temperatures. The mercury hit 70 degrees just last month. There's been no chance to train for the cold weather before it appeared.
With unpredictability expected to become more, well, predictable as global climate change makes itself felt, weather extremes might be easier to weather if steps were taken to be better prepared.
Cold, of course, is a relative thing. Hallock, Minn., registered a temperature of 27 below zero yesterday about a month after humorist Garrison Keillor lamented that the state was so warm and snow-free that Minnesotans might have to move to Canada to feel at home. But whether the temperature is single or double digits above or below zero, the response seems largely a matter of practice.
In Oswego, N.Y., where shoulder-high lake-effect snows are no big deal, a 5-foot accumulation over two days didn't even close all the schools yesterday. Yet an inch or so dusting of snow so dry and fluffy it could be brushed away with a broom shut Baltimore classrooms as tightly as a blizzard for the first time this year.
Global warming admittedly can be quite pleasant when it takes the bitter chill out of winter. But nothing can be taken for granted. The frequently puckish forces of nature aren't about to give up their capacity for surprise.