Saturday, October 12, 2002

A Cord of Wood

My sister Leslie, who lives in southern West Virginia, sent me this response on the topic of changing seasons here in California.

> > We've ordered a cord of wood to get us through the winter
> Pathetic. Really!

And it's true that wintering on one cord of wood shows what a soft life we have here in the Golden State. Nine or ten cords of wood might see you through an upstate PA winter.

Bad weather is relative. Back in January, the hot-tub repairman was complaining bitterly to me about what a dreadful winter we were having. He had actually had to start wearing long pants instead of shorts. I couldn't work up a lot of sympathy for his plight.

I still vividly remember the terrible winters of the mid-1970s, when the temperature without wind chill got as low as 37 below zero (Fahrenheit — God knows what it would be in Celsius) and at one point, stayed well below zero for a month. In the late 1980s, there were plenty of winter days in the 20-below range. Later, there was the dreadful Philadelphia ice-storm winter: from January to April one year, we had 17 major ice storms. I can deal with snow, I can deal with cold, but ice storms are bloody dangerous, and I was terrified for Billy every day. I've dug out of blizzards, hid in the cellar from a tornado and raced another down the northeast extension of the PA Turnpike, watched trees come down in windstorms, taped the windows against hurricanes, counted the seconds between the thunder and the lightning. No question, the northeast can kill. Every bad storm has its casualty.

Here we have fires, droughts, the Santa Ana wind, and earthquakes. When people die from the weather, they die in batches. I could never understand why Michele didn't get the Weather Channel on her cable service when she lived in the LA area. Then I discovered that prediction wasn't a big issue there. Most days the weather didn't vary, and when it did the destruction was likely to make national television.

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