No matter where you were standing this weekend, if it was on the Eastern Seaboard, from Atlanta to Maine, you got a first-hand look at a pretty good blizzard. Winds reaching 60 mph and more made it nearly impossible to see more than 100 feet in front of your face. That’s assuming you could even feel your face.
In Chestnut Hill, we will be just about finished digging out our cars and sidewalks as temperatures reach the 40s and the cold and snow of Sunday night melt away and fade into memory. On Wednesday morning, the sun was shining, temperatures were in the upper 30s and, by comparison, it felt an awful lot like spring.
Still, everywhere I went, people were talking about the snow and the cold.
“I hope we don’t get another winter like last year’s”
“I don’t think I can take another snow like this.”
I can understand the pain. After spending weeks digging out of multiple feet of snow back in February, the prospect of a repeat performance by old man winter is tiring to even contemplate. Nothing is worse, really, than having to remove a foot of snow from your car just because you need to get to work.
But do we really have it that bad? I’m no so sure.
It made me think of something that came up in a conversation I had last week with Chestnut Hill College professor and local author David Contosta. Contosta, author of the most complete history of Chestnut Hill, “Suburb in the City,” just released a comprehensive, four-volume history of the Wissahickon Valley, co-authored with landscape architect Carol Franklin called “Metropolitan Paradise: The Struggle for Nature in the City.” “Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Valley (1620-2020)”
Looking through photos of the Wissahickon 100 years ago, he came across pictures of people ice skating on the Wissahickon. So, it was cold enough in the early 20th century to freeze the creek enough so that people could ice skate on it.
I’m no scientist, but I think it’s safe to say that it took longer periods of sustained cold to freeze a creek to the point that it was safe to skate on. Since I’ve lived here (going on 15 years) I have never seen the Wissahickon frozen. I probably never will.
My grim sense of humor makes me want to call it a fringe benefit of global warming / climate change. Regardless of your scientific inclination on temperature, we’re living in a warmer Wissahickon Valley now than those who lived here 100 years ago and more. And those who lived here 100 years ago didn’t have flip-on, forced-air heat or all- wheel drive.
So, yeah, we might be in for some more snow and cold – and a lot more shoveling. But we’re probably not going to ever have to deal with the kind of winter that was routine for Hillers a century ago.
Of course, that will be cold comfort the next time you’re out shoveling a foot of snow off of your car to get to work.
Next Week: An interview with David Contosta about his new book, “Meropolitan Paradise: The Struggle for Nature in the City”