Furious Gusts: Chicago Grapples With Feelings of Snow Inadequacy

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Feb. 3 2011 5:00 PM

Furious Gusts: Chicago Grapples With Feelings of Snow Inadequacy

"I told you they would bring up

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," wrote a friend who grew up in Schenectady, on Twitter, after angry Chicagoans started frothing about the news that their 20.2 inches of snow was only medium-large potatoes,

. And so they did.



The main objections to yesterday's item seem to be as follows:



* It was really windy! It was blowing 50/60/70 miles per hour!



* People abandoned their cars because it's impossible to drive in conditions like that.



* You are a pathetic snow wimp who has no idea what winter is.



OK, working backwards: calling a Maryland native a snow wimp is not an insult. It's like calling a New Yorker neurotic—a cherished character flaw. We laugh at our empty supermarket shelves. SNOW PANIC! It reminds us who we are.



That said: we do get bigger snowstorms than you. Sorry! But we do.



This was a surprise to me. I know people always lie about their motivations in disputes on the Internet, but this is the truth. The whole reason I was looking at snowfall numbers for Chicago was that after going through the past winter and a half of major East Coast storms—last winter in Silver Spring, this winter in New York—I wanted a little perspective on these foot-and-a-half or two-foot snowfalls we'd been getting. I turned to the Tribune for vicarious thrills, to see what a real, ferocious, history-making blizzard in snow country was all about.



Answer: it was all about half a foot less snow than a big storm in Baltimore.



Now about the cars. What you are saying, Chicago, is that your cars got stuck in the snow because the driving conditions were so horrific. Because you were trying to drive in a blizzard. Because you didn't shut things down early and get off the roads. Because—this is what it comes down to—you

didn't know how to react to getting that much snow

.



And the wind. So windy! Right by the lake, where the winds are strongest, it was maybe (maybe) gusting to 70 mph. So everybody in Chicago suffered 70 mph winds. And Michael Bloomberg and I are worth $9 billion apiece.



The actual relevant wind gusts seem to have been in the

. That is violent and impressive. It's almost as strong as the

we got in New York, right after Christmas. There were snow clouds 30 stories high blowing from west to east, right outside my apartment window, even after the sun came out. You should have seen it.



Fine, Chicago winters are the stuff of legend. It gets very, very cold there. And the wind, by all accounts, is really something.



But wind isn't snow. And your snow is kind of middling. In a lifetime on the East Coast, up and down the megalopolis, I've been through at least four storms that were unquestionably snowier than the 1967 blizzard that's the biggest storm Chicago has ever experienced. I walked blocks and blocks to get to work in Boston on

, while 25.4 inches of snow was falling, pushed by 70 mph gusts. Chicago has never come close to that.



And I am an Eastern snow wimp! A snow wimp who literally can't even keep track of how many storms I've experienced that had more snow in them than the 20.2 inches Chicago got this week. Eight? Ten?



The only thing more surprising than learning that was discovering how freakishly thin-skinned Chicago people are about their snow. Look, you got a perfectly nice snowstorm, OK? For Chicago.



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