Winter or spring, snow worries are a Maryland tradition

Climate change likely means we'll never get used to this stuff

  • A driver did minimal snow removal on the front windshield before heading west on East Lake Avenue at Clearspring Road in North Baltimore Monday morning.
A driver did minimal snow removal on the front windshield before… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
March 25, 2013|Dan Rodricks

Here's a question for a snowy day in spring: Will Marylanders, and Baltimoreans in particular, ever grow so accustomed to snow that they stop worrying so much about it?

Could climate change do enough crazy things to the atmosphere to bring us more snow on a regular basis — and even in late March or April — therefore making Marylanders less snowanoid?

Will we soon see the day when kids and their parents trudge on to school and work when just 2 or 3 inches of snow fall on the area?

Here are the short answers: Nah. Nah. Nah.

In fact, snow panic could get worse in the years ahead.

This is the way it's going to be around Central Maryland, folks: Winters with limited snowfall followed by a blockbuster, panic-sparking, OMG storm every few years. A warming climate will mean less snow on average, punctuated every few years by a blizzard or something approaching one.

That's what the statistics show has happened over the last four winters, and you'd be foolish to bet on any significant changes to the pattern in the future.

Sure, we had Snowmageddon — 44 inches of snow in five days — but that was four winters ago, followed by three winters of little bitty snowstorms. Before Monday's snowfall, only about 5 inches had fallen at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, compared with 18 to 20 inches in a typical winter.

I don't know what got into me, but I woke up Monday thinking that Marylanders, and Baltimoreans in particular, were moving into a new phase — acceptance of snow without extreme emotion. I've been getting the sense that we're less panic-stricken at the mere rumor of snow, and that's how it felt as I made my way through the streets of the city Monday morning.

But am I right about that?


What's happening is this: We've been in a relative snow drought and, during said drought, we've lulled ourselves into thinking that we can take winter in stride. I compared notes on this with Frank Roylance, the Baltimore Sun's weather wizard emeritus, and he's adamant that nothing has changed. This is still Maryland and still Baltimore, a southern northeastern metropolis that doesn't get enough snow on a regular basis to effect a massive shift in attitude about it. We are going to remain snow-sensitive for generations to come.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Truth is, part of me doesn't want to see the snowanoia end. I like when Marylanders, and particularly Baltimoreans, go bonkers as soon as Bob Turk says the "s" word. It can be highly entertaining to see a run on toilet paper and bread at the Safeway. It's a characteristic of life here — like a thick Bawlmer accent or gravy on fries — that I wouldn't want to see go away.

Of course, the downside is traffic, which includes many stressed people with no regular experience driving in snow, and the loss of school and work time.

But forget about any of that changing: This is not Minnesota and it never will be. We are going to continue to experience alarms and shutdowns when there's snow. We are always going to be snow challenged.

I'll say one thing, though.

At least Marylanders are becoming more cognizant of the new normal. If there's anything we're getting accustomed to, it's the potential for more big weather in concentrated periods of time. Look at our recent experience:

Snowmageddon in February 2010, followed by the rains and floods of 2011 from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, followed by last summer's derecho — whoever heard of a derecho? — and the warmest year since records were kept. You can add Monday's silly March Madness snow to the list of unusual events we've experienced in just the past few years.

So, by force of nature, I guess we're getting acclimated to what the change in climate brings — the possibility that goofy stuff is going to continue to happen.

In a sense that should mean we're prepared for anything.

Except snow. There's something special about snow in Central Maryland. Worry and overreaction have been passed down from generation to generation, and I think it has been in the blood for a century by now. It's a kind of tradition, in fact. Baltimoreans being among the most nostalgic of people, they just don't want to let their snowanoia go.

I think it's good that we cling to the things that make us unique, Hon. Don't you?

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