April 19, 2019
BANGOR DAILY NEWS (BANGOR, MAINE

Change of plans.

By Friday afternoon, when the sun was dangerously bright and every dance, bean supper and basketball game scheduled for Saturday night was being called off, I canceled my column about the Irish priest.

What “they” were saying was scaring everyone to death.

I was convinced, while cleaning my sunglasses, that if we managed to survive this year’s “Storm of the Century” and live until Wednesday, St. Patrick’s Day would be canceled anyway.

Besides, the Irish priest had not called back from his new home in Lewiston, and there was no telling when, or if, we might hear from that town again. “They” were saying some pretty alarming things.

You know that something serious is up when everybody starts saying “they say.”

I used to think that was a country expression until I moved into the city and started working with people who had grown up in Bangor and who had come to Bangor from away. They say “they say,” too.

“They” is the universal authority. The experts. The people with the final word. The “they” in this case was the national weather people who started getting excited about this “Storm of the Century” early Friday morning while it was forming in the Gulf of Mexico and scaring the bejesus out of everyone who knows how to forecast the weather with a computer. This one, “they” said, was going to be a corker.

By Saturday afternoon, when the flakes began falling on River City, “they” had done their job remarkably well.

Bangor was a ghost town. The public library battened down its hatches at 2 p.m. Nobody was browsing at Mr. Paperback. There were 67 percent fewer cars and pickup trucks at Marden’s than on most Saturday afternoons.

The Red Cross set up emergency shelters in Old Town and Orono and at Bangor High School and the Bangor Auditorium. It was a darn good thing “they” had called off those state championship basketball games, wasn’t it?

Then what happened? It turned out that “they” were not quite right. Oh, “they” were right about the savagery of the storm that nailed the South, and “they” were right about the overall impact along the East Coast. One hundred seven dead victims is certainly tragic.

But in Maine, along the coast, somewhere around Bath, the bomb became a fizzle. We got the snow, but we didn’t get the wind or the flooding or the suffering that we had been promised. The “Storm of the Century” became the storm of the month.

So, were we conned again? Was this a deja vu of Hurricane Bob? Did the forecasters who cry wolf so often get the last laugh one more time?

Hardly.

A foot of snow is the hallmark of a serious snowstorm, and most of us got that much at least. A foot of snow in 12 hours makes for dangerous driving, especially if we don’t know it’s coming. A foot of snow can kill people if we don’t use some common sense and stay out of harm’s way.

I remember New Year’s 1963, before the weather satellites, when forecasters were armed with chalkboards and sketchy information from slow teletype machines. They did not have one clue about the bomb that did bury Bangor and a lot of cars on the highways until it exploded without warning.

I remember the Thanksgiving week storm of 1989 when the experts with their computers and the rest of us were ambushed by about a foot of snow punctuated with thunder and lightning.

I remember the Al Pacino line from the great movie “Scent of a Woman” that summed up the sensible attitude that saved a lot of people from the wrath of this storm because we paid attention to what “they” were saying.

“Cover is better.”

Bob Haskell is the Midweek editor.


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