February 8th, 2010



On Thursday March 11, 1993, I was listening to the weather forecasts and was really excited about the 4-8 inches they were forecasting for Philly. On Friday, they upped the forecast to 8-12", and then on Saturday, exactly a foot of snow fell. It was called the Storm of the Century primarily because of what it did over a large area of the country, though a foot of snow in March is highly unusual for Philly. I was 12 years old and it was the best time of my life. I played in the front yard, I took multiple measurements with a yardstick, I played with the dog across the streets, I saved newspapers, I photographed everything (including the newspapers), and I couldn't imagine being happier. I also couldn't imagine any more than a foot of snow. Schools were closed through Tuesday; some through Wednesday.

Now I think, "Just a foot?"

About 3 years later, January 1996, Philly got 30 inches of snow. I'd since moved to a neighborhood where I had more friends, and we played a lot. 30 inches, still a record for the city, was an unbelievable amount. My school was closed through Wednesday after the Monday snow. We opened on Thursday, but then closed on Friday for another storm.

Before this winter, Philly's largest "#2 storm" (as in, the biggest storm that wasn't the biggest of the season) was about 13 inches. We'd only hit double-digit inches on multiple storms in a winter three times, and only did it 3 times in a winter once.

In December, we had the second-biggest snow in Philly history: 23 inches. That place in the record books lasted a couple hours shy of 7 weeks; this Saturday we had another storm that broke 28 inches. So we broke the "#2 storm" record by about 9 inches. There's another storm coming tomorrow. The forecasts are for a foot. Only a foot! I can't believe I feel that way. It might be the first time we get a 3rd 12-inch storm in a season, though, and if it does we'll break 1996's record for snowiest winter.

Schools were closed today, but will be open tomorrow. The same thing happened in December. And really, it would be absurd for schools to be closed tomorrow, day #4, and it was almost a little silly for them to be closed today. Philly's gotten so much better in 17 years. I had work today, but am optimistic I might finally get my first snow day in years tomorrow.

Rittenhouse Square on Saturday was amazing. It felt like a summer day, except for all of the heavy coats and the snow on the ground. The park was packed with people. There was music on boomboxes. There were Frisbees. There was volleyball. There were tons of kids running around. The fountain was (technically) filled with water. It was amazingly cheerful, and I had a blast just walking through it. And walking around everywhere. A few hours earlier, when there was only (!) a foot or snow on the ground and it was snowing about 2 inches an hour, no one was driving on the streets at all. Walnut Street, the major thoroughfare I live on, had a car go by maybe every 2-3 minutes. This was quite convenient for me and all the other pedestrians who weren't going to bother trudging down the unshoveled sidewalks; the street was much more convenient. My friend compared it to a Yom Kippur walk down a major street in Jerusalem, when traffic is disallowed and everyone is walking in the streets. It was incredibly surreal.

Meteorologically the two storms were quite similar. All of the forecasts before each started with about 6 inches (what I would've considered a significant Philly snowfall before this winter), and kept climbing, and climbing, and climbing. My coworker predicted 14 inches from this storm when everyone was staying under a foot; I joked and said double his guess; 28. I was right on the money. As was Phillyweather.net, eventually. Following the weather is so much fun when I can follow an amateur forecaster who lives nearby, loves snow, knows his stuff, and loves to communicate about it. I read Tom's blog posts when they come out, and chat with him on Twitter. It makes the Snow experience (or the #snowmageddon or #snowpocalypse or #snOMG, if you will) that much more fun.

I can't wait for this next storm: Finally a substantial daytime non-Shabbat storm. I'll try to get some good pictures! And I'll cheer when it breaks 9" and we set a new record!

I won't forget this winter for a long, long time.