By Alan Burke
---- — It might be a winter wonderland out there, but what most people are wondering is when will it end?
Winter on the North Shore has put 2014 in the running for the gold medal in snow accumulation, at least based on recent history. Meanwhile, roads have become forbidding, and snow removal budget deficits are mounting. Schools face lost days that will have to be made up. Parents are tearing their hair out.
But even an ill wind blows snow good to someone. Sleds are selling fast.
Salem State University weather expert Arthur Francis charts the snow year by year, going back over a decade to remind us that it could be worse.
As of yesterday, the total snow in Salem for this winter was 64.7 inches. You don’t have to go back very far to get to a year that almost doubled that total: 2005, when the measurement was 118.1, he said.
“2005 is the highest we’ve had since I’ve been keeping records,” Francis said.
Of course, that 2005 total includes March, and we haven’t seen March yet. It’s a month that can pack a wallop. For that matter, we’ve even gotten snowstorms in April.
Less important than mere inches is the impact. And Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski pointed out that this season the snow has been making each flake count against us.
“This year, we’ve had more snow at the wrong time,” during rush hours, in the morning and late afternoon, he said. While his standard advice in storms is simple — stay home — these conditions have been ideal for luring drivers to go about their business and then snowing on their parade.
“The accident rate has gone up, especially the last few snowstorms. Last week, we had five accidents in an hour’s time,” Prosniewski said. One of those, at the Beverly-Salem Bridge, contributed to a huge backup.
Bob Lee, director of operations for Danvers Public Works, noted that he’s exceeded the snow removal budget by more than 30 percent so far. Crews have been enjoying lots of overtime and contractors lots of work clearing 125 miles of roadway. That’s not to mention the sidewalks.
“We plow the sidewalks on a regular basis,” Lee said, to make sure that not a single child is forced to walk to school on the road because of a snow-clogged sidewalk.
Even so, he admitted that it’s been a trying season and that plans to remove snow piles sometimes have to wait.
“Each storm is a followed by another, so we don’t get into the cleanup,” he said.
The season bears down on people in a variety of ways, according to Marblehead psychologist Ronnie Zuessman. The winter blanket comes during the winter darkness, long nights and short days.
“Many people are affected. ... Long periods of the winter darkness and confinement — that affects their mood,” he said. It’s a particular problem this week as families find themselves staring at the walls and trying to keep vacationing kids occupied when they can’t go outdoors.
Zuessman recommends using your imagination and finding interesting things to do. “Bake a lasagna together. ... Build a castle out of ice cream sticks.”
There are still more ways to profit from the winter cold, and sporting goods stores like Modell’s in Beverly have been busy providing items like hand warmers, foot warmers and body warmers, according to manager Melissa Howard. Sleds are selling, too.
“It helps being near the Beverly and Wenham golf courses,” she said, naming two popular sledding sites.
Howard noticed a boost in sales directly related to the weather. But that doesn’t mean she’s resigned to the cold.
“We’re just getting the Red Sox merchandise in,” she said. “Enough with the cold. I’m ready for spring.”
Alan Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|SNOWFALL BY THE INCH|
|Recent yearly snowfalls compiled by Salem State weather expert Arthur Francis.|
|*Not including yesterday's storm|