Untimely delusion lulls winter weather skeptic

WILEY A. HALL

March 16, 1993|By WILEY A. HALL

Friday was one of those bright, blazing blue days that make the heart sing.

Yet the TV weatherman insisted a killer blizzard was on the way.

"I know!" I said. "Let's go on a picnic tomorrow!"

She gave me a look.

"I'm sure you must be joking," she said dryly. "Didn't you just hear the weatherman? There's a blizzard coming."

"Oh, please!" I said and gave a contemptuous laugh -- ha, ha. "The weatherman couldn't get the weather right if he looked out the window."

On screen, the weatherman solemnly warned people to stock up on food and water, in case of being trapped by the storm. Snows could reach anywhere from 18 to 36 inches -- the worst accumulation in over a century, he said. Power lines could go down. Heat could fail. Citizens were advised to keep buckets of water on hand in case water mains failed and toilets needed flushing.

The weatherman asked people not to panic.

I rummaged around for my shorts.

"We could go up to Druid Hill Park and get a little tennis in, too," I said. "Any idea where I put the suntan lotion?"

"I'm going to pretend you aren't here," she said.

"Give me a break," I said. "The weatherman couldn't track a storm if it flew up his nose."

There could be tremendous claps of thunder, and flashes of lightning streaking like demons across the wintry sky, said the weatherman with a furrowed brow.

There could be sleet and hail as big as golf balls, and rain that would turn into treacherous ice as soon as it hit the ground. But the worst thing would be the wind, he said. Hurricane-force. Gale-force. Wind so fierce that harmless objects such as lawn chairs could suddenly become deadly projectiles. The weatherman advised us all to get plenty of rope and lash down our lawn chairs while there was still time.

I quoted, as best I could, from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: "A book of verses underneath the bough, a jug of wine, a loaf of bread-- and thou, beside me, singing in the wilderness."

"I am not going to sit out in the snow, reading poetry with you," she said firmly and turned her back.

"Don't worry about the snow," I said. "The weatherman couldn't find snow if he was sitting on the Arctic Circle."

A map of the Eastern Seaboard appeared on the television screen. The storm, depicted in angry kaleidoscopic colors, crept slowly up the coast like doom on the loose. The weatherman took off his sport coat, loosened his tie, and rolled up his sleeves. He perched on a desk in the newsroom and assured us his station would stay with us through every step of this coming crisis.

I yawned. "Isn't there some kind of movie on?"

"Shhh!" she replied, punching me in the stomach.

We were shown state officials huddled over maps in their underground bunker in Pikesville. We saw the heavy snow plows rumbling into position. Down by the ocean, work crews were erecting a barricade against the 25-foot waves that were expected to come crashing on shore. We saw a hospital emergency room team stocking up on supplies.

"The weatherman is just trying to pump up his station's rating," I said. "He couldn't accurately predict a storm if he asked the groundhog for help."

The weatherman reported massive closings throughout the metropolitan area in anticipation of the advancing storm. An officer with the Maryland National Guard advised citizens to stay at home unless they were forced out by a life-or-death situation. An officer with the state police suggested that trapped motorists should stay with their cars until help arrived. A hospital official told us what to do in case of frostbite.

I tried a little sarcasm: "Next, they'll be telling us how to fight off ravening wolf packs."

"Please be quiet," she said.

I woke Saturday with a song in my heart. I put on a tank top and Bermuda shorts. I hopped into my sneakers. I got out the picnic basket and my tennis racket.

Then I looked outside where snow was piled up to the window sill.

"Well, I'll be darned," I said to her. "The weatherman finally got it right. I hope you bought extra bread and milk."

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