The ice still crunches on your way out the door as brutal arctic cold hits your face. A hard reminder of the fact that we still are, truly, in the heart of a historic winter. The audible sounds of spring so far, while increasingly present, have been muted by the noise of one of the harshest winters in recent memory. The cold wind still blows, ice scrapers are still heard on car windshields, and the distant intermittent beeping of a snow-plow in reverse still serves as a background to each morning. But, if one were to listen closely, there are sounds of change in the air. Beyond the sounds of the winter are the increasingly audible chirping of seasonal birds, the dripping of melting snow, and the sounds of water on the area roads from melted thick ice.
The change continues to build, and it is not limited to sensible meteorology effects. Playoff hockey is only months away, pitchers and catchers are pitching and catching in Tampa, radio shows are discussing whether the Mets will finish last or second to last in the National League East this season. Our seemingly weekly “Winter Storm Possible” post hasn’t gone up this week, because there is no need for it yet. The sun angle is changing, and sunsets are later — almost to 5:45 now. In just one month, the sun won’t go below the horizon until 7:20pm.
It has been a long ride. We began with the lovely charm of the holiday season. There was an early season interior snowstorm, and then for 30 days it was quiet. Winter was slow to start, this time around; the atmospheric pattern wouldn’t buckle. It was cold, no doubt. But precipitation fell mostly as rain, with shots of arctic cold behind it. By mid January, many were wondering: “Where is the cold and snow that was forecast?” Late January gave us our answer. Brutally cold polar air. Massive, strong Nor’Easters. Widespread snowfall and ice. Cities and towns from New York City to New England started to look more like Antarctica than the urban corridor of the Northeast United States. The questions being asked quickly shifted from “Where is the cold” to “When will this ever end?”
Today, we roll our car windows down as the mercury soars into the upper 30’s. The sounds we hear are of music from passing cars, not snow plows and harsh winds. In the distance you may even hear the exhales of tired, worn, exhausted meteorologists and weather emergency management officers. With today’s sunset, minutes later than yesterdays, we will track another low pressure system which will pass carefully south of our area tonight. We will enter one last seven to ten day period of winter weather potential as we move toward March.
Winter is not over. We may still see snow, perhaps substantial amounts of it in parts of the area, before winter sings its swan song. Yet, winters proverbial knees are buckling, as the always present effects of seasonal climatology begin to have their effect. New York City is not Antarctica; the Hudson River doesn’t stay frozen for very long and the thermometer so very rarely touches or even nears zero degrees in Midtown like it did multiple times this year.
Things will return to normal.
But for a few minutes today, our meteorologists will take the time to appreciate the magnitude, intensity and duration of the cold and snowy pattern which we experienced over the past 60 days. This statement may ring even more true in New England, where snowfall amounts for the season exceeded 100 inches in Boston, second most only to the Winter of 1995-1996.
While it sometimes is hard to stop and appreciate moments, occurrences, and events in the fast paced lifestyle we have all become accustomed to, we encourage you to do so this week. Take a moment to walk to the Hudson River and watch the massive buildup of ice shift slowly downstream. Take a picture. Bundle up with extra layers; and for once, enjoy it. Realize that this is the coldest 4th coldest February in New York City ever and the coldest month here since 2004.
But if you choose not to, because you despise the cold, worry not. Very soon, New York City will have its climate back.
Thank you to our good friend Ray, for his contributions to this post. Winter would not be the same without your beautifully written descriptions and stories.