Sunday, March 6, 2011

Prompt Blog 5

Around Pittsburgh, PA, we get strong winters. The average rainfall from January through March is anywhere between 6.48 cm and 9.5 cm., with a yearly rainfall around 8.75 cm. Ironically, the rainy season seems to occur between May and September. The average low between January through March is 22 to 31 degrees Fahrenheit, with the average highs between 37 to 50 degrees. The rainfall, of course, doesn’t take into account the snowfall, which can range anywhere between a couple inches to nearly a foot. Some winters we get hardly anything—they’re mild with little snowfall or ice, just blistering cold. Other winters have massive snowstorms. There is something sublime when you look up and realize that the cloud cover you’re seeing stretches undisturbed from Maine to Texas. But this wide variation of weather patterns causes people to forget the trials of winter, and so they don’t prepare for it as well as they should.
But economy has a lot to do with how we interact with winter. If the city or county doesn’t have enough money to invest in salt, or enough workers to man the salt trucks, then back roads are typically left for last with the main thoroughfares, routes, and highways being plowed or salted first. This is what happened in New Castle this year. Often, accidents don’t occur on the major highways, but on the side streets when trying to get to or from the highways. Many times, people come in late to work because they’ve offered to help plow roads with their own pickup trucks that have plows attached to them.
This year in particular was horrible because of the lack of salt and manpower for the salt trucks and snow plows. I have great respect for the drivers now, because they’re out all night in every weather condition that we hate. They have to go slowly in order to not get into accidents themselves, and they have to maneuver those huge trucks around cars parked along side streets or abandoned on roads and highways. New York had a problem with this when that monstrous snow storm hit, because people abandoned their cars and the snow trucks couldn’t get through without colliding with the cars, so they weren’t sent through and the streets went unplowed for hours, or even days. Luckily, New Castle and Butler County didn’t have that problem. But many of the side roads went untouched for a long time, and I learned the meaning of the word “treacherous.”
People cannot predict what the weather will do a fiscal year in advance, but I’m amazed that state and local officials don’t better prepare themselves for inclement weather if they’re located in northern states. It seems to me that hiring seasonal drivers for salt trucks and snowplows would help people find jobs, especially if those people are allowed to use their own pickup trucks. I’ve seen a number of pickups with a strange contraption in their beds that hangs over the end of the truck. The first time I saw it, it took a few minutes for me to realize that the contraption was a salt dispenser. There are many people in an area who are willing to step up and help for the good of the community, and I have no idea if they’re financially compensated, especially if their work interferes with getting to their everyday job on time. It’s a shame that officials can’t receive a higher budget for inclement weather, or that more people don’t step up to help communities when the back roads aren’t yet plowed, or won’t be because of lack of salt, trucks, and/or manpower.

1 comment:

  1. That's an often-overlooked aspect of winter. I'm glad you looked into it!