Better than a big snow emergency: the ice capades!

February 15, 2007|By Kevin Cowherd | Kevin Cowherd,Sun Columnist

If you watch local TV news, you know these people have come up with a new way to terrorize us with their weather coverage.

The new way is this: If the snow doesn't come, play up the ice.

Ice was the new Armageddon yesterday.

So instead of showing footage of panicked shoppers descending on supermarkets for milk, bread and toilet paper after snow forecasts, the TV news showed us footage of traffic creeping along the interstates or cars skidding through stop signs.

Instead of interviewing the usual breathless adults shoveling snow off their driveways and giggling kids sledding down snowy hills while enjoying a day off from school, the TV stations trotted out somber-looking highway crew supervisors and state troopers to testify as to the awesome killing power of ice.

"There's nothing worse than ice," one highway official told a local newscast.

Nothing?

Famine?

World war?

An outbreak of Ebola virus?

Apparently not.

Ice, the TV news made clear, was Mother Nature's nuclear option.

"You can have the best four-wheel-drive vehicle in the world and it won't help on ice," another highway official said on another station.

Oh, yes, this was a new kind of "weather event" happening in the Baltimore region, something to be feared and respected.

A different form of white death was falling from the skies.

In upstate New York, they were dealing with so much snow, 12 feet of the stuff, that roads were closed and roofs were collapsing and livestock were getting buried. In New Orleans, a killer tornado had touched down causing widespread damage. In the Midwest, blizzard conditions were being reported throughout the Ohio Valley, with downed trees and power lines.

But I could see that here in Crab Town, we were faced with a far more serious threat than any of those.

We were fighting ice.

And from all reports, the ice was winning.

Watching the coverage on TV, I vowed not to go outside again until spring, when all this terrible ice would be gone and the God-fearing citizens of this great state could again get behind the wheels of their gas-guzzlers and travel down the highways without skidding off into a ditch.

I was also hoping the TV news people didn't decide at the last minute that, oops, we just remembered, there is actually something even worse than ice after all.

And that something is: black ice.

Because TV news people love talking about black ice.

Why, you can't even see it!

How can you prepare for something, how can you fight something, when you can't even see it?!

You're driving along, singing a song, when all of a sudden your car hits a patch of the stuff and you start spinning around and -- Whamo! -- you're done.

But this stuff coating the streets and sidewalks yesterday wasn't black ice.

This was ice you could see.

And the TV newscasts made sure we saw it.

Every five minutes, there was another shot of a TV reporter bundled up in a snappy station-issued parka, knit cap and thermal boots and gloves, bending down and scraping a handful of ice off the road and holding it up so we could see it.

"Look at this stuff!" the TV reporters exclaimed over and over again. "This is what we have out here now."

Yep, it sure looked like ice.

And it looked slippery, too, the way ice usually looks.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any dumber, one of the stations showed a live report from the station's parking lot -- hey, way to get out there and face the elements!

The report featured a parka-clad reporter demonstrating how to shovel the slush on the sidewalk, as if we lived in Barbados and no one had ever seen slush before.

Just push the shovel, she kept saying. Don't pick it up, you might hurt yourself.

I tried taking notes as fast as I could, but my handwriting isn't what it used to be.

Stay off the roads, stay off the roads, the TV people kept saying all day long. Don't go out if you don't have to.

Go out?! Hell, I was afraid to leave the living room.

Besides, I wasn't going anywhere without another shoveling lesson or two.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

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