Putting all this bad weather in perspective

  • Residents at Westminster House on Charles and Centre Streets watch the snow from the warmth of the lobby. Charles Sigafoose, 70, points to the direction in which the wind is blowing.
Residents at Westminster House on Charles and Centre Streets… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
February 11, 2010|By Brent Jones | brent.jones@baltsun.com

Off the top of his head, Herscheld Cooper can recall only one other storm - which he believes was in 1958 - that could rival what the state has seen the past five days.

Back then, work crews didn't have the equipment to move the snow as they do now, and the 69-year-old Baltimore native remembers the event less for its intensity and more for how it crippled the city.

"It wasn't real coordinated," Cooper reminisced as he smoked a cigar outside his senior apartment building. "The snow was just there. And things were just dead all over the place then."

A minute later, though, Cooper passed judgment on this storm, conceding that it was about as bad as it could get - an opinion that several of his fellow residents at the Westminster House Senior Apartments in Mount Vernon shared as they searched their memories of storms past.

Some, like Cooper, were here when the area was hit by 15.5 inches of snow in the 1950s, the 22.8-inch blast in 1983 and the 28.2-inch dumping seven years ago.

This one, as it approaches 4 feet in the past week, beats all.

"They've broken two records already," said Charles Singafoose, 70. "What made this one bad was the back-to-back. You're prepared for it, but you're not."

Singafoose looked out from a window in the apartment complex lobby, amused by the few people who challenged the conditions by strolling down Charles Street.

Myrna Attaway was one. She spent a good portion of her life in New York before moving to Baltimore and, at age 68, has seen her share of nasty winters.

She needed to make a trip to a 7-Eleven, one block from the apartment complex, to pick up toiletries and soda. After having her pink umbrella blow back into her face, Attaway gave in and said this was her worst storm. "I think you guys have got us beat now," she said.

For at least one winter, the numbers will bear that out.

The more than 77 inches that have fallen in the Baltimore region this winter is a record, and it has surpassed totals in Boston, New York City, Milwaukee, Detroit and even parts of Maine.

It's a winter of historic proportions. But Singafoose, who spent nine years in the Army before working as a truck driver delivering tires across the country, has seen worse.

Singafoose said January in North Dakota, where some of his trucking routes would take him, was something to behold. Or Korea during the war in the 1950s.

"I've been where it's 20 below zero," Singafoose said. "Granted, it was 51 years ago. But snowstorms like this, compared to that, is nothing. In the wintertime there, it could be 14 below in the afternoon."

Singafoose did not leave out Baltimore as he reflected on memorable weather. Conditions decades ago might not have been as snowy, Singafoose said, but the cold cut closer to the bone.

"When I was younger - that was before you had all this global warming - when it got cold, it got cold. And you went to school then. You went to school no matter what, even in this," he said.

Myra Highgate said she did.

Growing up in Flint, Mich., Highgate, 67, said she's accustomed to snow-filled winters.

"Well, when you come from the Midwest, this is a normal winter," Highgate said. "So it doesn't excite me. I love the snow, love the scene. But people here don't know how to walk in it, how to stay home. They just don't know how to handle it."

She gave an example:

"Everybody panics. Yesterday, I went to SuperFresh, and they were running around acting up. I said, 'Let me get out of here.' "

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