Panic is bothersome. Preparation is smart. Whenever the slightest possibility of some weather event has been sensed, the commercial, mainstream media goes overboard, sensationalizing stories. The audience, instead of feeling empowered to make informed choices, often moves toward being overwhelmed with anxiety. We can not stop natural forces, but we can choose how we respond.
Those who are new to Southern New England, or who just forget how to live here every year, here are some of the things you can expect in the next few months while living in Hartford, and how you might deal with them:
Do not heave your leaves into the gutter! This clogs the drains, causing flooding in the roadway. Later, when nobody has unclogged those storm drains, the roadway flooding may become icy patches. Additionally, piling leaves in the street creates a hazard for cyclists, who must either swerve or ride through. The latter option sounds fun, except that we do not know what lies beneath the leaves. Broken glass? Metal shards? Tubes and tires do not grow on trees!
Hartford has three ways that residents can recycle leaves through December 9, 2011. The City of Hartford provides this information:
When driving or cycling, avoid braking on wet leaves. If you can help it, avoid walking on wet leaves if you have footwear with no treads.
August and September are usually the months when we hear the most about hurricanes, but the season does not technically end until the last day of November. If you’re in Hartford, then usually, you are not going to experience total devastation of property with a hurricane. It’ll pass through, your basement might be more damp than usual, and a few leaves will be knocked off the trees. You’re not going to worry about boarding up windows. When we see people doing that on the panic-inducing news programs, we’re looking at people along the shoreline, who are the ones to bear the brunt of such storms.
What to do? As any responsible adult, you should make sure you have the ability to eat and drink for a few days. Food gathering is not a special task that we should only think about when there is some hyped-up (and on rare occasions, real) threat that may bar us from obtaining it. As for water, unless you have a well — which is most likely not the case if you live in the city — you do not need to fill your tub. You also do not need to buy bottled water. Water comes out of the faucet. If you are still worried about some catastrophic thing happening to the urban water supply, find containers, like reusable bottles, fill with water, and place in the fridge.
This might be the time to check on your sump pump if your basement is prone to flooding, and for many people, this is the real concern if they lose electricity for awhile. If you keep valuables in the basement, perhaps move them so they don’t get water damage. Most people, I think, keep only sturdier items and materials we care less about in the basement. Why would I put a nice sofa or pair of shoes in the area of my house that is kind of dusty anyway? As far as the outdoors goes, bring in anything from your yard that might blow around, or, if you can not handle that, find a way to bungee it to something sturdier. You may already have these things secured in an effort to thwart potential thieves. Keep an eye on trees that might need to come down. If they have a shot at hitting your house, and they are large enough, it might be worth getting a professional to remove them.
So far, all this sounds like common sense.
Also, don’t play in flood waters or around down power lines.
Bring your plants inside or cover them if you do not want them to die. Some plants laugh in the face of frost. When the big red warnings flash across the tv screen that there is a chance of frost, what you don’t want to do is go into a panic. Gardens sense fear.
As an undergrad, I remember an older, international student complaining about how she was always getting sick in the United States. She blamed it on the obsession we have with climate control. The dorms were always extremely hot and many of the classrooms were kept too chilly. My own theory is that this has less to do with temperature and more to do with how vigilant society is about sealing up all sources of fresh air. Crack a window.
Cold weather can kill you, but people whine about the temperature before it is even remotely close to dangerous.
Come to terms with the fact that unless you want illness and really huge heating bills, the time has ended for walking around your house in a tube top and pair of cut-offs. Your time for walking around dressed like that probably ended in 1997 anyway.
Dress in layers. Unless you are wearing slinky dresses every single day, you can wear long underwear beneath your costume and nobody will notice. And if you are wearing those dresses, I’m sure that Spanx — if you’re into self-torture — can serve as an extra layer. Those scarves that everyone seems to wear year-round? They are actually functional now. Dig out your hat and glittens before you absolutely need them. Put on some socks. None of this is difficult, and you can prolong your coat-free season for a few weeks if you dress appropriately otherwise.
And remember — those folks who get out of the clubs and fancy events late at night, wearing sleeveless shirts, and then nearly fall over shivering? They are to be mocked for their vanity.
Except for extreme circumstances — like last year’s endless winter — New Englanders are supposed to be hardy. How are you helping to keep this stereotype alive?
If you hate snow, why do you live here? Meditate on that.
It seems that most snow-related problems are actually caused by human error and mismanagement, and not by the snow itself.
The beauty of living in a city is that those panic-inducing reports about stocking up on such-and-such can typically be ignored. We all need food and water to survive. But, for those of us who actually live near stores, we do not need to consume ourselves with worry. Leave that for the folks who need to drive miles and miles to get anywhere, who might have paths blocked by fallen trees and wires, or who might not have their extremely rural dirt road plowed, ever. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, we saw some people being stranded like this, completely cut off. The inability to retrieve food from the stores was a problem for them. But, with the exception of one local grocery that seemed to be struggling for reasons unconnected to the storm, it did not appear that any grocery stores in Hartford missed a beat. Many were even open during the worst of the weather. All of this is to say that it’s smart to have enough food in your pantry to last you for a few days, but chances are, we’re not going to be wholly stranded. An individual might not want to go out, but that’s what grocery delivery and nice friends are about.
We’ve all seen the “wild weather reports” that show news crews driving to remote parts of the state so that one of the reporters can tell the public how bad the roads are and how the suckers watching tv should not be driving around. There is a simple solution in this: give up the driving. But for those who refuse to give up their lifestyle of pseudo-convenience, they should at least learn how to drive when road conditions change.
If you can not see where you are going because the windshield is covered in a layer of ice, then you need to pull over and remove it. The police do ticket drivers for having obstructed views and for generally being jerks who allow small ice bergs to rocket off their cars, endangering pedestrians and other motorists. When you whine about that ticket over the water cooler, don’t expect your colleagues to be sympathetic. It is not necessary to buy a new scraper every year. What ever happened to rounding up seasonal tools and keeping them in a box in the basement or trunk of vehicle? Such a curious culture.
Driving in snow means laying off the brakes and paying attention to the damn road! It also means putting space between your vehicle and those on all sides of it. You need more time to stop, but you can also spin and slide. Some people learn how to cope with this by going into abandoned/empty parking lots to intentionally spin and slide so they can learn how to recover from these problems safely. Whenever it’s overcast, drive with lights on. It’s about being seen by others more than about lighting your path. Don’t drive around with bald tires, snow or no snow. This should be common sense.
It should also be common sense that when the City declares a parking ban, you take your vehicle off the street out of courtesy to your neighbors. Or, you do not whine about the ticket and/or towing experience. The City is not wielding fascist power when they initiate such bans. They do this so that more of the street can be plowed. This can not happen with vehicles on it. In the same vein, if there is snow on the sidewalk in front of your house, you remove it (or throw money at the problem) because that is what a functioning member of society does. And if your condo association or apartment building manager does a lousy job of removing the snow, alert the City about this is deadbeat landlord type of issue. Helping to remove the snow is not a bad idea either, but if it’s a slumlord situation, do before/after photos and forward those to the City. Many Hartford residents do not drive. Sometimes this is a lifestyle choice. Other times, physical ability or economic constraints drive this. Regardless of the reasons, pedestrians need to get to work, school, and do errands just like motorists. All of this — the parking bans, the clearing of sidewalks and driveways — matters early in the season. If we learned anything last year, it was that halfassing things early on causes misery for weeks as the snow piles up on snow that had not been cleared well to begin with.
Watch for the actual Winter Edition when we enter that season.
Disclaimer: I am not a meteorologist, but I have lived in New England for my entire life. Determine for yourself if that makes me more or less qualified. This article is intended for entertainment purposes only, just as the dramatic weather reports on television should be.