Snow machine remains in full force

Welcome to February.

The arrival of this month should mean the harshest part of winter is behind us.

But did you think the lake-effect snow machine would be off by now?

Look out the window.

You might want to think again.

Do you remember those unseasonably warm days in December?

Shortly before Christmas, you may still have been outside raking leaves.

Those were among the days when – if it had been cold enough – Lake Erie would have made significant progress toward freezing.

But it wasn’t cold enough.

And the ice formation on the eastern end of Lake Erie hasn’t been significant.

Which means much of it has remained open this winter.

Which means that when cold air moves across Lake Erie, the cold air – even this late in the winter – can still pick up water from the lake and turn it into lake-effect snow.

And you know where the lake-effect snow falls.

Again, look out the window.

This will probably happen again this winter. Probably in February. Maybe in March.

That’s the consequence of unseasonably warm December days.

So don’t put away your snow shovel or your snow blower yet.

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Don’t put away your winter-driving skills either, including:

¯ Clearing the snow from your windows, headlights, and taillights.

¯ Slowing down.

¯ Leaving plenty of room between you and the vehicle ahead of you.

¯ Leaving extra time and distance to stop, and

¯ Looking out for other drivers. The one who makes a mistake can be more dangerous than slick roads.

And no, having four- or all-wheel drive doesn’t make anyone invincible. It gets drivers out of some tight situations that they might not otherwise avoid.

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After all, this isn’t a part of the country where a mere threat of snow shuts down everything and allows everyone to stay home for days.

A North Carolina native who eventually settled in Jamestown once told of the first snowfall after she enrolled as an undergraduate at a Central New York university.

It had snowed overnight. She assumed the university was closed at least for the day. So she stayed in her dorm room in her pajamas.

Only when her roommate returned late in the morning and asked why she had missed her class did she learn that in this part of the country, it takes a lot of snow – or maybe less snow and a lot of wind – to shut things down.

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By contrast, when this columnist attended his first spring-semester college class in North Carolina, the professor announced he was from Michigan, so class would take place even if it snowed.

This Western New York native didn’t understand that.

At least not right away.

But he understood that when, shortly thereafter, it snowed.

Not significantly by the assessment of anyone from Western New York.

But it was significant in this part of North Carolina.

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A decade later, life took this columnist further south to the Gulf Coast.

It was hard – and still is hard – for folks from here to appreciate that 40 degrees Fahrenheit in Mobile, Ala., can feel colder than 0 degrees Fahrenheit in Chautauqua County.

Why? Because the latter is a dry cold, while the former is a damp cold, and a damp, cold winter wind off of Mobile Bay can go right through you.

Once around Christmas, the temperature fell significantly below 40, and snow was in the forecast.

The boss jokingly said, “We never had this until you came.”

And a local newspaper ran a story on winter-driving tips.

Are you ready for this?

Get ready, because for anyone from Western New York, this can be hilarious.

One of the tips was: “Don’t drive alone.”


If you’re on the road today, you might amusingly notice how many people are driving alone.

Randy Elf drives alone when it snows.



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