NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 23, 2013

Mother Nature fools our high-tech world


Newburyport Daily News

---- — We humans think we have a lot of things pretty well figured out when it comes to the mechanisms of how our planet operates.

Well, we had yet another humbling session yesterday that reminded us that we’re not quite there yet.

The weather forecasters and their high-tech computer models and diagrams had us all stirred up for the biggest dumping of snow of this mostly snowless winter. Greater Newburyport and the nearby coast were targeted for up to 6 inches... then a few hours later it was up to 8 inches... then 9 inches, or more than 9 inches... breathless forecasters explained the complicated ins and outs, including something about some kind of unique coastal phenomenon that we’d have the unique opportunity to be hammered by.

And, so, then our usual pattern of frantic activity occurred. The supermarkets were overrun with people buying way more food than they needed.

Gallons of milk and many loaves of bread? Well, according to one attentive cashier at Newburyport’s Market Basket, those aren’t actually the items that everyone is hoarding.

It’s ice cream. Makes sense. If snowmageddon is coming and you’re going to be trapped indoors, who really wants to gorge on cold milk and bread?

Armed with our ice cream and ample supply of important storm-survival supplies like Oreos and chips and dips, we hunkered down and listened to the frequent updates and studied the online radar and hour-by-hour predictions. We nodded and grimly planned for all the contingencies — what to do with the kids, how to get the driveway cleared, what to do if the power went out, and everything else that goes with modern storm preparation. Lots of us looked outside in the late evening and saw the impressive swirls of snow. The weathermen and women must be right — sure looked like we were in for it.

By the time dawn came — the time that forecasters had promised us we’d be buried in a coastal-effect, white swirling nightmare — the sky was clear. That dusting that swirled down the night before was all we got. The storm decided it didn’t want to do what our computers said it would do.

All that preparation was for naught. We headed into work or off to school or appointments as usual. And we all had something to complain about, something to make the sting of the Patriots’ uninspired defeat feel a little more distant.

We are so far ahead of where our ancestors were a century ago. They had no idea of all the complications that this planet is capable of. But we also have a sense that perhaps, at times like this, they were better off. They’d never know what didn’t hit them.