A detour of no inconvenience

snowonthemountainsbybrucestambaugh
Snow on the Appalachian Mountains.

By Bruce Stambaugh

This winter’s wicked weather altered many well-laid plans, especially for travelers. My wife and I were no exception.

We delayed our trip south by a day due to a winter storm in the Appalachian Mountains. The extreme cold air followed us all the way to northern Florida.

As we readied to return home at vacation’s end, yet another major winter storm was chugging up the Ohio Valley. We weighed our options about our return trip. It would have been delightful to remain in place. But we needed to return home. It was time.

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Game night.
South Carolina and North Carolina were still recovering from one-two punches of unusually extreme wintry weather that downed thousands of trees and caused massive power outages. We didn’t want to risk being stranded there either.

Fortunately, we had an attractive option that would take us well out of the way home. We decided to visit our grandchildren in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, a year-round scenic place. It was a big sacrifice, I know.

We hadn’t seen our grandkids since Christmas. It was only logical that we should avoid the storm by detouring to Harrisonburg. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

Oh, we had a lovely two-day drive to their hillside home near the university where their daddy, our son-in-law, works. But the storm detoured, too. The morning after we arrived we awakened to three inches of snow overtop a quarter inch of ice.

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The heavy snow even cancelled class at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, VA.
It snowed all day, doubling the snowy accumulation. Of course, schools were closed, giving us bonus time with our three grandchildren, Evan, Davis and Maren. It was a vacation within a vacation, like finding a diamond ring in a box of Cracker Jacks.

The backyard where our daughter and her family live is perfect for sled riding. The day we left Ohio a month earlier, it was 15 degrees below zero. So I had plenty of warm clothes to wear, including the pair of waterproof shoes I wore while walking on the beach.

We bundled up, grabbed the day glow orange toboggans, and went out into it. We had a riot. Little Maren, the daring four year-old, really isn’t so little anymore. She laid supine in one of the sleds and zipped down the gentle slope and slid right into the neighbor’s backyard.

The boys whooped, and Maren immediately recognized her amazing accomplishment. She jumped up and screeched with glee, “That was just like a rocket booster.”

That’s pretty much how our two and a half days with them went. We would play outside until the cold drove us inside. As soon as his jacket was off, Evan was setting up the game boards, or dealing the playing cards. He loves table games, not only because he is competitive, but mostly because he usually wins.

Davis was content to unwind and warm up on his own, playing his creative, imaginary games with his Lego people and assembled utilitarian pieces. I hope I’m alive when he is awarded the Noble prize in the sciences.

If she’s not playing with Davis, Maren knows all the buttons to touch on the screens of the iPad or laptop whichever is available to her. When I get over my pride, I’ll have to have her show me how to operate them.

My wife and I may have arrived home a week later than we expected. But in this case, the delay was no inconvenience at all.

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Deer at sunset.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

The good, bad and ugly of Super Storm Sandy

Sandy clouds by Bruce Stambaugh
The last clouds of the remnants of Super Storm Sandy left Holmes County, Ohio late afternoon on Nov. 1.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’m both a news and weather junky. When the weather is the news, I’m fixated. So it was with Hurricane Sandy.

From the time the hurricane entered the Caribbean until it finally dissipated in Canada many days later, I focused on news of what came to be known as Super Storm Sandy. Between her alpha and omega, Sandy stormed up the east coast. Once she turned inland, the destruction intensified.

Initially the media focused on a breaking story of a severely damaged construction crane in New York City. I watched in awe as video showed hurricane force winds bending the towering, monster crane like it were a twig. The damaged section dangled precariously several stories above a busy street while police and firefighters evacuated the area. News cameras zoomed in on the scene for the entire world to see. Much more serious incidents were occurring unknowingly far out of the cameras’ lens.

Sandy was one massive storm, just as predicted by the professional severe storm forecasters. Perhaps that is one positive to take away from this major weather event. Knowing that weather scientists were able to project accurately the intensity and path of the storm may convince people to take better precautions when future storm warnings are issued.

A huge geographic swath impacting millions of people got hammered. Sandy merged with an interior cold front, creating a hybrid storm with fierce winds, torrential rains, flooding, storm surges and even heavy snow in the Appalachian Mountains.

Sandy’s aftermath told an ugly, unfortunate story. Major metropolitan areas, including New York City, were particularly hit hard. As Sandy moved inland, the consequential events unfolded, and the media coverage began to expand.

Beach by Bruce Stambaugh

Sandy’s winds, rains and high tide storm surges had obliterated once pristine places and popular vacation spots. Those who failed to heed the warnings either were stranded or rescued. Unfortunately others paid with their lives. Beaches where sun worshippers once lounged and children romped were simply gone. Beachfront homes and businesses disappeared.

Millions of people were without electricity, potable water, food, transportation and heat. Schools were closed. Businesses shut. Ruptured gas lines burst into flames, destroying entire blocks of homes. It was a mess to say the least.

The high winds and heavy rains we experienced here were minor compared to most affected communities. In fact, we were happy for the quenching rains.

Emotions and responses to the super storm became paradoxical. While snow resorts in West Virginia opened earlier than ever, several storm-related deaths occurred from auto crashes on slippery roads.

Birds seldom seen in Ohio were blown into the Buckeye State ahead of the intense storm. Birders here were ecstatic. All the while thousands upon thousands of people in northern Ohio were without power.

As the reality of the breadth and depth of the storm became known, the media ranged far and wide to cover the catastrophe. Both heart-warming and heart-wrenching stories of people helping people developed. The damaged crane seemed inconsequential compared to other ongoing calamities and heroic acts of goodwill.

Jessica by Bruce Stambaugh
Jessica Stambaugh
As massive and destructive as Sandy was, it seemed to affect each of us personally. That was certainly true for my family and me. A niece, Jessica, lives in Manhattan, and was among the throngs without power and heat for days.

I never did hear what happened to that dangling crane. I just know that Jessica was safe. Unfortunately, scores of others couldn’t say that about their loved ones.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012