What If Chicken Little Is Right?
It is hard to know how to reasonably react to impending danger. It is clear that a lot of people overreact, but at the same time it is obvious that people are capable of ignoring real danger when convenient. For instance, suburbanites freak out about being in the city, because the city is full of dangers including the chance of getting mugged, run over, or looked at funny by people who know you are from the ‘burbs. But the single largest cause of non-disease-related injury or death is driving, and most of that driving happens in and because of the suburbs. Those mass killings that happen in schools and office buildings…those are usually in suburbs, aren’t they? Suburbs are dangerous. But suburban people are fearful of the city and think the suburbs are the safest place to be.
But at the same time, people will excuse what may be dumb decisions for what are clearly dumb reasons. Here in Minnesota, as I write this, we are expecting a significant snowstorm. This is the sort of storm that, I think, reasonably makes one question whether or not to change one’s plans. Does one really want to go across town for a few hours then back during the storm of the century? But a snowstorm maybe an inconvenience, and for some, it is better to be in denial of inconveniences.
So a couple of days ago I said to someone who I know has plans for Christmas day, “You may have to skip your plans, with this snowstorm coming. I hear there may be a foot or so of snow.”
The response: “There shouldn’t be a problem. They had 20 inches in D.C. We’ll be fine.”
Huh. So does this mean that if they had 40 inches in D.C. that we would be okay with, say, 34 inches? Interesting.
Then, the next day, as the storm we are about to have was getting closer and started to look like it might be even more severe than earlier thought, I said to a different person, who has Christmas Eve and Christmas plans, “So, you may have to cancel your plans. There’s a big storm coming.”
“Yeah, but there shouldn’t be a problem. I hear some of it is going to be sleet. The more sleet, the less snow.”
Huh. So, instead of fluffy snow, we could get ice. And the sleet is going to fall, but in Iowa. So we could have two feet of snow with 25-foot drifts, and as long as its sleeting in Iowa, we’re okay?
Now, something you must understand is that here in Minnesota, we don’t get much snow. Minnesotans THINK they get lots of snow, because Minnesota is thought of as a wintry state. But the snowfall here is moderate, not great, in a typical year. What we do get here is wind and cold. But not so much snow.
In fact, if Minnesota were snowy, and Minnesotans could handle that, it would be hard to explain the 400 or so accidents that happen on the Twin Cities highways every time it snows (more for the first snow of the season).
But there was this one storm that everyone remembers. The day the sky fell on Minnesota. It was Halloween of 1991, and between one and three feet of snow fell in the impacted areas. The storm killed 22 people. Whenever the issue of snow comes up, the Minnesotans in the room wait patiently for the opportunity to mention the Halloween storm. It is as much part of the Minnesota Mythology as the Virgin Birth is of Christian Mythology. The Halloween storm.
So today, some people were talking about the storm.
“We could get quite a wallop from this storm that’s coming,” said one person.
“Yeah, might have to cancel Christmas!” added another.
“Right, like that’s going to happen,” noted a third.
“Nothing like the Halloween storm, that’s for sure,” said the first.
“Oh, yeah, I remember that one…” said the second.
“Hey, we’re Minnesotans! We can handle a little snow!” said the first.
“You betcha,” said the third.
“Oh, listen, the weather report is on the radio.”
” …the 46 to 60 hour long snow storm may turn out to be similar to the Halloween storm of 1991…”
“Oh…” said they all.
Pale faces became paler. You could hear the ticking in the heads. People thinking about their plans.
So, I’m going to go to the grocery store and stock up on supplies. Then we’re going to spend the next couple of days watching the baby burp and stuff.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 at 2:40 pm and is filed under Greg Laden, Seasons. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.