Big snow part deux

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"The reality is that motorists who must travel Tuesday night and during the day on Wednesday will face conditions possibly worse than those seen over the weekend due to the strong, gusty winds currently forecast," Scott Christie, deputy secretary for highway administration, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDot)

For those of you living in snow country (Vermont, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, etc.), I am sure your sides are hurting from laughing at us silly easterners so much. Yes three feet is a lot of snow and yes we’ve got another foot or so on the way today, but to see it referred to as “Snowmageddon” by CNN and other big-time news organizations must be pretty funny.

[My brother, Michael, ventured forth into the post-storm Washington landscape and came back toting many of the photos you'll see in this post today, except the very last one. You can click here to a view the entire gallery.]

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I mean, I’ve been to Minnesota in the winter before and stuff like what we’re going though now doesn’t draw comparisons with the end of the world up thataway (though it sure makes daily life difficult for a stretch).

But of course, big blizzards like these, back to back, are abnormal for us Mid-Atlantic denizens – and so grammatical mutilations of “Apocalypse” and “Armageddon” abound.

[Below is a shot of the Korean War Memorial in downtown Washington, D.C. -- an especially eerie photo, as many of the crucial battles in that terrible conflict was fought in the bitter cold.]

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But let me tell you this – I am sure many of the survivors in Haiti would trade places with us snow-bound here on the eastern U.S. coast in a New York minute. Some of us have lost power for a few days – mine went out for six hours – but many Haitians won’t have nominal electricity for YEARS to come.

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Our grocery store got resupplied yesterday and things seemed fairly normal when I went to pick up a few more supplies, with bread, milk and toilet paper the only items in short supply. [Why a shortage of TOILET paper for goodness sakes? Do we go to the bathroom that much more when it snows???]

Still, for our region, snow of this magnitude is a rarity – and thus when it occurs, it fouls things up. My street is plowed nice and clean, but get out of my neighborhood and you’ll find the roads clogged with snow ruts and stalled vehicles.

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The highways offer a slushy, slippery surface at best – made worse by drivers zipping around in rear-wheel drive sports sedans with poor traction. Many folks piloting 4-wheel drive vehicles aren’t much better, as they seem to think 4-wheel drive makes you invulnerable to the snowy conditions (it doesn’t and I drive one; trust me on this.)

But we soldier on. For example, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation (PennDOT) crews are preparing to deal with a major snow storm for the second time less than a week – a strain for any fleet operation – with 2,200 plow trucks prepped and ready, with 600,000 tons of salt stocked up around the state.

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Scott Christie, PennDot’s deputy secretary for highway administration, noted that the agency’s primary goal is to keep roads passable but not completely free of ice and snow, treating roadways throughout the storm until after precipitation stops and roads are clear.

Through the end of January, he said PennDOT has spent $131.9 million out of its projected winter budget of $245 million to plow and maintain the 96,000 snow lane miles for which the department is responsible.

So, to borrow a phrase from John Wayne, it’s time to “saddle up” and get back to shoveling.

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