Stairs in Winter/photo/Jan. 2009

January 25, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III

The news clip said that New York City and its suburbs were “paralyzed” by the snowstorm, which dumped two inches per hour and which totaled more than in the famous Blizzard of 1888. OK, but the date was not Jan. 23, 2016, but Dec. 26, 1947. Life, it seems, is deja vu.

Yet there are differences between the two snow events, and I use that phrase because it is part of the contrast. In 1947, the few media outlets delivering live news would never have reported on a  “snow event,” just a snowstorm. Language often gets inflated when you hype something. And weather is a most-hyped event in this age of instant news via smartphone, tablet, computer and ever-repeated TV segments.

Yes, the snowstorm that hit my area in lower New York State was big enough, though on my mailbox indicator, it was slightly more involved than average. I have lived at my Blauvelt address since 1973, and we have had a few storms that almost buried the mailbox, which is about 3.5 feet off the ground. This system came up about 1/3 the way. And while some had high winds, we did not. A big storm, but not the biggest.

From all the hype the four days before, you would have thought the earth was heading out of orbit. There were Facebook pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets. Governors were warning they would close roads, which they did (states south of New York, never ready for a big snowstorm since they are rare, ran into trouble. Even the president’s motorcade was held up in the D.C. snow.)

The 1947 newsreel indicated that millions of dollars were spent or never realized in cleanup costs and lost business. And, of course, there were associated injuries, even deaths in the storm. Truly sad. But in 1947, there was little hype about the coming snow. It came quickly, the day after Christmas, and common sense got everyone as prepared as they cared to be. Kids enjoyed the extra holiday present (including my brother and I, then living in Sloatsburg, N.Y.).

But I don’t think bread flew off the store shelves or gas stations had lines with motorists fueling up as if rationing would soon begin.

It’s now a faster-paced world, and “news” has the shelf life of a few seconds. Hype seems the only way to get people’s attention.

It’s paternal pride, but I think my son Arthur IV had the best take on the 2016 “snow event.” Interviewed by FIOS One (Verizon) TV News while he was running in the storm on Broadway in Nyack, he was quoted: “This is New York. It is supposed to snow.”

Yes, and no one had to hype that.

 The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via

4 thoughts on “SNOW: LIFE IS DEJA VU

  1. Tucker J. Madawick

    Art, I remember snows that were equal or more. You’re correct in the hype of the storm is silly now. I Remember the snow that closed the Tappan Zee bridge in the 60’s, now that was a storm. MY wife and I have studless snow tires on our vehicles and have had for many years, my motto “If you get stuck, you deserve it.” Hoosiers have no idea how to drive on slick roads, they’ll stop at the bottom of a hill, look and think, can we make it? I drive around them. Don’t hurt yourself undoing the snow.

    1. thecolumnrule Post author

      Boy, have you got that right, Tucker.
      I do recall, too, the beauty of the snow in the Pomona Country Club complex, and how McNamara Road, with its twists and turns, was challenging but fun.

  2. Jim Leiner

    And “Pity” the residents of Queens…Snowed-in with no place put the record 2 ft. Seems to me we’ve heard this before. Narrow streets, cars parked on both sides, and house so close together you can almost hear your neighbor snore…What to do? Seems like there isn’t a Republican or Democratic way of picking up or plowing the snow. Nyack has some of the same problems, but the village is able to pick up the snow and pile it down in Memorial Park where when it melts it returns to the river and the “debris” is left to clean up in the parking lot….I know you’re right Art about “It’s supposed to snow in New York!” I have lived here for 71 years and I do recall it snowing in the past.

  3. Sharon Hittman

    Art, I thought there was also a bad storm when John Lindsay was the NYC Mayor. We lived through a lot of storms. In the days I was driving back & forth from my home in Pomona to my job on Rt 17 in Mahwah, NJ I had a car with rear wheel and some cars had front wheel drive. But there weren’t 4 wheel drive cars. Those roads were hilly & were shared by trucks & cars. I drove in lots of snowstorms down Rt 202. My motto was slow & steady but the drivers that didn’t like that would pass me by & get stuck in the middle of the road. Most of the time dangerously blocking traffic. I always made it up the hills by keeping my car’s momentum going up the hill at a slow & steady pace. My philosophy is if you are not comfortable driving in the snow don’t. Ask someone to pick you up or wait until the roads are clear. Don’t endanger your life or the life of others.

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