Here’s good

I saw this blog entry today, which has some nice things to say about life in Central New York, and it reminded me I was going to post a link to this blog entry, which is (mostly) an all out ode to life in Central New York. I really like what it had to say; admittedly I am biased with regard to the writer.

I remember moving back here in 1999 after three years in Newport News, VA — three years in which we repeatedly recited to each other lists of reasons we were looking forward to returning to Syracuse. Admittedly a lot of those reasons had to do with drawbacks of Newport News rather than good points of Syracuse, but there are many of both.

But isn’t the weather horrible?

Well, not if you ask me. Syracuse does get more inches of snow per year than any other American city, but… well, let me interrupt myself.

Inches of snow?
Syracuse averages something like 120 inches of snow a year. And?

The problem with that statement is, depth is really the wrong metric for snow. Actually there isn’t really a right metric.

The Inuit, they say, have many words for “snow”; well, so do we, referring to different kinds of snowfall, different kinds of snow on the ground, and so on: flurry, blizzard, dusting, powder, slush, crust, and so on. An inch of one sort of snow isn’t the same as an inch of another sort. I’ve walked through foot-deep snow that was so light and powdery my feet could barely tell it was there. I’ve shoveled slush an inch or two deep that was misery to deal with.

What do you get if you add an inch of snow to an inch of snow? Probably not two inches. The second inch compresses the first. So after a 2-foot snowfall you can end up with one foot of snow on the ground.

Is two inches (of a given sort of snow) twice as bad as one (of the same sort)? Not necessarily. Depending on circumstances, it may be easier to shovel one inch twice than two inches once, or harder. Anyway, we pay a guy a flat rate to plow our driveway for the winter, regardless of how much snow falls and how often. We still have to do some shoveling, but other than that, an inch and a foot are about the same thing.

An inch of snow that falls in one hour is a much bigger deal than two inches that fall in twelve hours. We don’t miss the winter weather in Parish, not because they get more snow than Syracuse (though they do) but because once in a while they get a lot more snow per hour, for several days running, than Syracuse ever does. Ten feet in a week: that’s a big deal. (Also because if you live in Parish and work in Syracuse, you have to do a lot of driving though snowstorms. Not so much if you live in Onondaga Hill.)

So, inches of snow? Doesn’t really mean much.

… but inches of snow per year doesn’t really mean much. A heavy snowfall can be an inconvenience; rarely worse than that, unless you have to do a lot of driving through it. You shovel it, the town plows it (and Central New York municipalities tend to be very good at plowing roads efficiently — not like, say, College Park, MD, where a foot and a half of snow shuts everything down for a week), you move on. You can even play with snow. Make a snowman. Throw snowballs. Go snowshoeing. Give me a choice between snow, earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes, and I’ll take snow every time. Some winters I don’t even think we get enough snow.

Cold? Colder in Syracuse than lots of places, but not like, say, the Chicago suburbs where I once experienced a few days of daytime temperatures below –25°F. Anyway, if you’re cold, you can always put on another layer of clothing. If you’re hot there’s a limit to how much you can take off. The scorching heat and humidity of Newport News in July is something I was far more glad to leave behind than Central New York’s winter cold ever would be.

No, the real drawback to Syracuse weather is: Sun. Or lack of it. In winter we can go for weeks without seeing the sun, and the perpetual grey is a real problem to those who are sensitive to it. No question: if you’ve got SAD, you don’t want to live here. I don’t, though, and I rarely get emotionally involved in the level of cloud cover.

So Syracuse winters I can enjoy or tolerate, depending. Spring tends to be wildly variable — hot and cold running weather, my wife calls it. Summer weather is a crap shoot, but most years most of the time, summers here are beautiful: warm, sunny, and pleasant — not stifling — with the occasional thunderstorm for entertainment (but hardly any tornadoes). Fall weather can be flat out glorious, and even if it isn’t, the foliage will take your mind off it. And the variation in the weather, day to day and month to month, makes life interesting. I’ve seen California weather, and it bores me.

Yeah, I like it here.

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2 thoughts on “Here’s good

  1. I probably should add that yesterday, when I wrote that, we got 4.21 inches of rain. Second rainiest day in Syracuse history; first was only a bit more, 4.29 inches about four years ago.

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