HAMBURG — This week was treacherously, bitterly cold. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz both declared states of emergency, as the first official blizzard in more than 20 years swept across Western New York. The thruway and Route 219 closed, as did most school districts and many businesses. Many municipalities instituted driving bans and gusts of wind drove temperatures well below zero.
A weather phenomenon called a polar vortex was to blame, a circulation of strong, upper-level winds that normally surround the northern pole in a counterclockwise direction – a polar low-pressure system. On occasion, this vortex can become distorted and dip much farther south, bringing frigid temperatures with it.
We’re no stranger to winter, around these parts, but this cold was something else. Frostbite could begin within a matter of minutes, making walking home from school downright dangerous for children, forcing the closure of schools even in areas where the snow had not hit as hard.
But there are those who did not escape the blizzard’s grasp: electricity linemen, postal workers, plow workers, police and fire personnel and a host of others who kept our electricity and heat on, our phones working and our area safe, during a time when all of us preferred to stay inside.
And to those people, I’d like to extend a heartfelt thank you.
In my family, we have a tradition of breaking our sewage system on or around major holidays. Almost every year, the sink backs up, the basement floods, the toilet plugs or some other unspeakable water-related disaster happens, right when it’s least convenient. One Christmas Eve, we even glanced out our front window to discover a small fountain had appeared, where none had been before. A backhoe operator and crew spent the wee hours digging up a burst pipe, while visions of sugarplums danced in our heads. Other years, we’ve had plumbers and other professionals knocking on our doors, shortly before our dinner guests. They’ve always set things right, and we’re always grateful for their services.
Most of us don’t give these services much thought until we have to use them, but I couldn’t help remembering all of those people who have helped my family out of a bind, when they would probably have rather been at home with their own families.
This week, I cuddled up with a blanket and a cup of hot tea as the wind buffeted our house and I thought about those men and women working to keep us warm and safe, in the most inhospitable of conditions.
Those people are the reason this most recent winter storm did not claim more lives, this past week, and the reason we don’t give more thought to the utilities we depend on or the services we enjoy.
Thank you, to all of you who worked through the cold and the snow, so the rest of us didn’t have to. Your service is appreciated and should not go unmentioned.