Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Say Ye Now, Groundhog?

Here in Chicago, outlandish weather forecasts are not at all uncommon among the local news stations. In fact, a rush-hour flurry or a sudden downpour is usually all it takes for meteorologists to cut in to the evening's top stories with "breaking news" of the (usually obvious) precipitation affecting portions of the viewing area, and to dispatch rookie reporters to the lake front and expressway overpasses to confirm that-- "live, from outside"-- the white stuff that's hitting my window is, in fact, snow.

So when forecasters began making their catastrophic storm predictions last week, I tuned in to Chicago's Very Own, WGN, to see what my buddy Tom Skilling had to say. He is by far the most level-headed, non-alarmist meteorologist in the tri-state area, so as soon as I heard him calmly describe the impending blizzard as a "storm of historic proportions", I took notice. And as it turns out, he was right on the money.

In this (delightfully snarky for NPR) article posted yesterday, an Atlanta meteorologist said (in response to the "monstrous monikers" that have been attached to the megastorms of recent winters):"Just in passing, I've overheard conversations about the intensity and danger of impending storms. People refer to the storm systems by their TV names, which lets me know that being creative gets people's attention."

But since terms such as "Snowmageddon" and "Snowpocalypse" are so East Coast 2010, I'd like to present to you a medley of the Chicago versions, coined specifically for the Blizzard of 2011. Here goes!

Snowly cow! Snowtorious B.I.G. himself has descended upon the Windy City. We've learned that Mother Nature's first name is, in fact, Snowprah, and that no one was excluded from her first "Favorite Things" episode of February. In a shrieking voice, loud enough to be heard over the howling winds, she has declared that, "you get a blizzard... and "you get a blizzard... everyone gets a BLIZZZZARRRRD!" Only this time, it's not just a room full of hysterical middle-aged women in brightly colored tops who are squealing "SNOW-M-G!"; school children everywhere are overcome with joy to learn that, what started as a snowrnado last night has closed even the Chicago Public schools today. And since this blizzaster has all but crippled transportation in the city, tomorrow's not looking good, either.

It warms my heart (but not my hands) to know that residents are banding together in the wake of this snowtastrophy; in this magical time-- after the snowfall has ended but before the lawn chairs appear (to claim "dibs" on their owners' dug-out parking spaces)-- neighbors are helping neighbors clear drifts from their front doors, shovel narrow pathways for brave commuters and dog walkers, and they're also responding to all-too-literal questions of, "Dude! Where's my car?!?"

On my quiet little side street (that probably won't see a snow plow or a back hoe until sometime this weekend), the only modes of transportation I saw in the two hours I was out unearthing my car were el trains, skis, and snowshoes. Plenty of people ventured out of their homes to marvel at the mess, though, snapping pictures like tourists while trying not to lose their dogs or kids in the waist-high drifts.

I know that 48 hours from now, we'll likely be back to business as usual, cursing the city's never-fast-enough response to snow removal, screaming "oh SNOW you didn't!" at drivers who cut us off or park in a way that is considered stupid-- even for blizzard standards-- but for today, I'm going to do my best to enjoy Blizzardpalooza 2011.

And as for the groundhog... I saw Punxsutawney Phil on the news, smugly predicting an early spring for those out east. Closer to home, our resident rodent in Woodstock, Illinois, wouldn't even come out. Groundhog's day was cancelled. What's that supposed to mean? My guess is that it doesn't bode well for any of us Chicagoans... well, except for maybe the meteorologists.

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