A Stormy Finale to a Winter of Quirky Weather

Article excerpt

With the arrival of the monster snowstorm that has closed countless shops and schools along the entire Eastern Seaboard, this most peculiar of American winters took another unusual turn.

After years of mild winters - among the warmest in a century - the current season has hit America like an anvil. November and December were the coldest ever recorded nationwide, and an uncommon weather pattern has contributed to quirky forecasts from Miami to Mesa, Ariz.

Florida has experienced its worst drought in 200 years, endangering citrus crops and leading to wildfires. The Southwest has been so wet that wildflowers are blooming early in Arizona. And Des Moines, Iowa, had snow on the ground for 77 straight days - the second-longest streak there.

Now, the Northeast blizzard could herald a violent finale, meteorologists say, as data indicate March could be a stormy month.

"Some information suggests that there might be more storms on the way," says Paul Kocin of the Weather Channel. "It could make for a very memorable winter."

Before a flake fell, this week's storm had already scrambled nearly all of the East Coast. More than 10,000 plows and spreaders were mobilized regionwide. All public schools in major cities including New York and Boston were closed. New Jersey even went so far as to declare a preemptive state of emergency - 12 hours before the storm hit.

The scene inside local stores was equally frenetic. On Sunday morning, there was a line outside the door to get into Citarella, a market on the West Side of Manhattan.

It was just as bad in suburbia. In Westchester, Pa., Judy Simmons couldn't find any parking outside her neighborhood grocery store. Once she found a space, it took her 45 minutes to check out. "I found some friends and we just talked while we waited," she says. "It became a social hour."

Still, some people were undaunted by the dire forecasts. On Monday, a few hearty travelers in New York boarded a bus for LaGuardia Airport after they were told their flights were still scheduled.

"With the hotel rates what they are in New York, I can't afford to stay any longer," says John Richards, on his way to Omaha, Neb., via Pittsburgh. "I might not get out till Friday if I don't get out today."

Many schoolchildren were slightly more sanguine about the idea of being snowbound. …

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