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Fri., Oct. 9
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Seasonal obligation


It is said that the Russians look forward to winter and eagerly embrace the cold season when it comes.

Opinions on that subject vary in Northern New York. Snowmobilers and skiers anticipate generous snowfall. Schoolchildren rejoice at the announcement of a snow day.

Yet many people living in this part of the world sometimes called the Snow Belt do not welcome the chilly, dark months that characterize even a moderate winter. Complaints abound: winter is more work; routines are complicated by the elements; and life is made less certain when the blinding snow flies and the mercury plummets.

But coping with winter’s moods is what we do here. When a major storm strikes such as the one we are weathering, north country people pull together, looking out for one another and helping stranded travelers. Municipalities strive to keep vital services going. We saw it during the Blizzard of 1977, and we see it today.

Not to boast, but Northern New York can handle wintry conditions that would shut down communities in many other places. Snow rarely stops people from heading to work here or children from going to school. Last week was one of those exceptions.

But the plows are still running when they can, moving massive shovelfuls of snow. Motels are open for those who need shelter from the storm. Fire halls are doing their best to accommodate travelers halted by the unrelenting snowfall and bitter winds. Law enforcement and emergency personnel are on duty, offering their services at a time of need.

For now, we do what we can — feed the wood stove, shovel the entryway to the front door, check on neighbors and keep vital systems running. Slowly, surely, we are digging out of this white world and will keep going. Some people suffer more than others during these snow events: the elderly, the homeless, the disabled. The harsh days remind us to do what we can to help those in need.

In a way, snow defines our region to the outside world. How many times have we heard friends or relatives from other parts of America refer to our weather, saying, “Watertown made the news again”?

Our location at the eastern end of the Great Lakes makes us vulnerable to weather conditions that often seem whimsical and unpredictable. Syracuse and Watertown can be clear, but points between the two cities can experience blizzard-like conditions.

We must have a plan for snow: a trusty shovel, snowblower, a pickup truck with a plow or know someone who will clear the driveway for us. Snow tires are essential, a reliable vehicle, preferably with four-wheel drive.

We learn to drive in snow, to adjust to the conditions. We learn when to drive and when to stay home. A few flakes in the air bother no one. But a few more and wind can be challenging.

The Blizzard of ‘77 proved the worst snowstorm in modern times. Constant snow, swirling winds, days of cold.

But it also showed the community at its best. People helped each other, checked on one other and tried to keep all systems running as smoothly as possible. So it goes today.

So far, we are experiencing what some north country natives call an old-fashioned winter. The cold, the gusty winds, the persistent snow, even the ice storm that preceded it are all part of the north country experience this time of year

Snow can be our recreation. It is beautiful. It reminds us of the awesome power of nature.

If you have no pressing engagements on a winter’s day, there is nothing better than sitting by a fire with a cup of tea and a good book. Or once the winds subside, strap on the snowshoes and take a walk into the woods.

We all meet these wild wintry days in our own way, with joy or dread, exhilaration or exhaustion. But we cannot be indifferent.

Stay safe. Help others. Be encouraged. We’ll all have good stories to tell about the winter of 2014.

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