Story 20. Storm of the Century
“What do you make of it, Thermo?” asked Dr. Key via the two-way radio he had installed in his creation years ago. The communication system allowed the little jet-propelled thermometer to talk with his maker back in Mauna Loa while he explored the world, gathering data for Dr. Key’s research.
“It’s just as you said, sir,” answered Thermo. Temperatures here in Canada are very cold for early March. And there are signs that the cold is moving southward toward the United States.”
It was now 1993, and Dr. Key was one of many scientists watching the potential for a powerful blizzard in the coming days. By now, Thermo had learned that he could not stop weather from occurring, but his work was valuable in not only forecasting what was to come, but also in bringing life-saving information to the humans in its path.
As Thermo turned to make another pass over Canada, he stopped dead in his tracks. Up ahead, a white sleigh, driven by eight lively cumulus clouds, was sailing across the sky.
“Snowy!” cried Thermo with joyful recognition, “I can’t believe it’s you!” He and his cloud friends Puffy and Fluffy had rescued Snowy from melting so many years ago. “What on earth are you doing here? The last I heard, you were headed to Alaska to live.”
“It’s absolutely marvelous to see you, Thermo,” Snowy intoned. “I lived in Alaska for a season, but even that state gets warm in the summer. So I relocated to a more prosperous life farther north. I had to keep myself together, so to speak.”
“Well you certainly look different from the last time I saw you,” observed Thermo.
It’s true, when the human children Nicky and Sydney had created him, Snowy had worn a pot on his head, a scarf around his neck and he had a carrot for a nose. Now he sported a black beard and red top hat. Even his sleigh was different. This one was made of clouds. And was it Thermo’s imagination, or did this cross-between-Frosty-the-Snowman-and-Santa-Claus now act differently too? Even so, it was great to see his old friend again after all these years.
“Where are you going, Snowy?” asked Thermo.
“Ho, Ho, Ho, I’m going to help create a late-season blizzard for the U.S. humans. I’m feeling rather spirited these days after that Philippine volcano cooled things down a bit. And I’ve brought along a trillion or so my flake friends to help me out.”
Snowy had changed, no doubt about it, and Thermo was confused. “How did you get the ability to create a blizzard, Snowy?” Thermo inquired apprehensively.
“Oh that! Well, do you remember our friend Skates?”
Skates was not a friend, but Thermo let it pass. “Yes, I remember him.”
“Well over the years he became sort of a mentor to me. He taught me everything he knows. I just gave it my own little twist.”
Thermo didn’t like the sound of that. After all, Skates was an ice monster that took pleasure in hurting humans. Surely Snowy hadn’t become like that! Thermo wanted to know more, but Snowy’s sleigh had already turned south and the eight cumulus clouds guiding it were obviously anxious to get going.
“Goodbye Thermo! See you around!” called Snowy.
“Snowy, wait!” cried Thermo, but then stopped. Dr. Key wouldn’t want him to interfere. Even so, the little thermometer was worried.
Days later, back in Hawaii, Dr. Key and Thermo hunched over a television, watching weather coverage of what newscasters were calling “The Storm of the Century.” There was no arguing that it was a devastating event. Snowy had been a very bad snowman.
“I can’t believe he would do something like this,” lamented Thermo. “He was so nice before. That’s why we saved him.”
“Things change, Thermo,” consoled Dr. Key, “some for better, some for worse.”
This was definitely a change for the worse. The blizzard killed and stranded humans in much of the eastern half of the country, from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic through the Ohio Valley and the Deep South. Snowy had teamed up with the Clan of Storms to produce tornadoes in Florida as well as winds and even a storm surge that would have made Phoon proud.
“Well,” Thermo softly said to Dr. Key, “that’s the last time I rescue a snowman.”
Dr. Key was more philosophical. “Remember, Thermo, circumstances can be both good and bad, human actions can be both good and bad, but nature is neutral. As I’ve told you before, everything in nature has a purpose, but sometimes that purpose runs counter to human desires. Indeed, sometimes it runs counter to life itself. Snowy is part of nature. His kind has always been with us producing storms across the Earth. To him it’s a game.”
Dr. Key paused, and then said, “But I do agree that his heart has grown cold.”
Thermo looked up at Dr. Key. “Did you just mean to make a pun?”
“Can’t an old scientist have a little fun?” Dr. Key smiled innocently.
Thermo and the doctor sat in silence for a full minute. Then Thermo sighed. “You know, Snowy was made by humans in the first place. Perhaps he inherited some of their bad traits.”
“Interesting point, Thermo,” mused Dr. Key. “You’ve learned a lot about nature, and about human nature too.”
In the real world, the Storm of the Century (in this case the twentieth century) was also known as the 1993 Superstorm or the Great Blizzard of 1993. It formed over the Gulf of Mexico on March 12 and dissipated in the North Atlantic Ocean on March 15. The storm was unique for its intensity, massive size and wide-reaching effects. At its height, the storm stretched from Canada southward towards Central America, but its main impact was on the Eastern United States. Areas as far south as central Alabama and Georgia received six to eight inches of snow, and Birmingham received up to a foot, with isolated reports of sixteen inches. Even the Florida Panhandle reported up to four inches of snow with hurricane-force wind gusts and record low barometric pressure readings. Between Louisiana and Cuba, hurricane-force winds produced high storm surges across northwestern Florida, which, along with scattered tornadoes, killed dozens of people. Record cold temperatures were felt across portions of the South and East in the wake of this storm. In the United States, the storm was responsible for the loss of power to over 10 million customers. In all, nearly 320 people perished.
This author was impressed with the storm while living in downtown Atlanta. It was the first time that I had ever experienced a true blizzard with winds of over 40 mph and snow piling as high as a foot. Storm totals across the city ranged from four inches at Atlanta’s airport south of the city, to as much as 16 inches on the north side in Marietta. For the first time in my life I saw thunder snow when heavy rain changed over to heavy snow on the morning of the 12th. For the first time, I saw frozen daffodil blooms in the middle of March as temperatures dropped to between ten and fifteen degrees Fahrenheit.
At the time, some scientists wondered if there was a connection between the unusual weather pattern that led to the Storm of the Century and the two-to-three-year global cooling due to the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Such a connection has never been established.
The Climate Guy
The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.
To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click: http://www.guyonclimate.com/category/worldofthermo/