Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Snow panic, big time, in CT"

When I was invited to appear on Connecticut Public Radio, my big fear was that the radio host would think that I was Dr. Snowpanic because I had a doctorate in something related to snow panicking. After appearing on the show, I got an e-mail from someone in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale commenting on snow panic.

Dear Jon,

Heard you on NPR today and your comments reminded me of my reaction to Connecticut winters.

I grew up in Colorado and moved to Connecticut about 18 months ago. As a kid, I don't remember my schools EVER closing for a snowstorm. Some of my elementary school classmates skied to school. That was a place where several times, each winter, blizzards deposited two, three, four feet of snow on densely populated urban/suburban areas (with wind-blown snowdrifts piling to easily 20 feet. I have lots of photographs of me, my brother and my sister skiing off the roof of our three-story house). I have been by turns puzzled, amused, annoyed and enraged by the way people here deal with snow (or don't, as the case may be).

Last winter, a December snowstorm deposited maybe 5 or 7 inches in the New Haven area. Schools were closed, traffic snarled forever and the entire city pretty much ground to a stop. As it happens, the day of the big snow, I drove with my family to Montreal, Quebec, where, overnight, it snowed nearly three feet. Then, it rained on top of that, turning everything to solid ice. By dawn the next morning crews and machines had cleaned every street in town, life went on as usual and everyone enjoyed the winter weather. A few days later, on returning to New Haven, I was astounded to find that the streets still had not been cleared and the poor town was still pretty much paralyzed. What is wrong with this picture?

This is New England, right? It snows a bit, pretty much every year, right? You can pretty much count on the necessity to plow the roads and otherwise keep civilization moving, each and every year, right? Now, next year, the year after that and until global warming turns the place into Miami. Right?

What's the big effing deal? Most places where it snows, folks enjoy it a lot and cope.

P.S. Please don't talk to me about how expensive is efficient snow removal. Connecticut is one of the wealthiest states in the country, maybe THE wealthiest, far richer than highly tax-averse places, like say Montana, where they get vastly more snow and deal with it infinitely better. WTF!??

P.P.S. Socio-historical question: Isn't the problem that for hundreds of years, going back to colonial times, people who moved to Connecticut were utterly unprepared for North American winters and suffered greatly, along with their neighbors, their livestock and their crops? People in Connecticut react to their winters as though it was still the eighteenth century.

Christian R. Miner, Ph.D.
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department of Psychiatry
Yale University School of Medicine
New Haven, CT 06511


I have to say that I didn't expect Snow Panic to extend that far north.