Timely storm reminds us of wintry marvels


By Ruth Luse
   Call it Lincoln’s Revenge. Or the pre-St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 2006. Or the You’re In Turin Reality Show.
   Whatever it was, the storm that dumped more than a foot of snow across Central Jersey over the weekend certainly shook up a region that had become all too accustomed, after the warmest January on record, to an especially unseasonable winter. Although the Nor’easter came barreling through with plenty of advance warning (the forecasters got it right this time), finding the mittens, the boots, the earmuffs — and, most important, the shovel — that got stashed away last spring in some long-forgotten hideaway was still a challenge when Sunday morning rolled around.
   Groundhog Day aficionados will credit Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow nine days earlier, for providing this not-so-gentle reminder that winter still has several more weeks to go. Admirers of our nation’s 16th president, along with some conspiracy theorists, will no doubt blame the blizzard conditions that marked the early morning hours of Feb. 12 on the fact that we no longer celebrate old Honest Abe’s birthday. (It should be noted, however, that this conspiracy does not extend to New Jersey — where, for some inexplicable reason, state workers still have the day off.)
   If nothing else, the scene Sunday morning, with at least a foot of snow already on the ground and more still falling (Hopewell Township police Capt. George Meyer estimates the total was about 16 inches) enhanced our appreciation of the Winter Olympics. Watching the parade of bundled-up athletes marching into the stadium in the shadow of the Italian Alps on Friday night may have seemed like an almost other-worldly experience on this side of the Atlantic. But two days later, the speed skaters, ski jumpers, snowboarders and lugers competing in and around Turin might just as well have been sprinting, soaring, halfpiping and sledding right outside our very doors.
   Public works crews in Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township and Pennington responded effectively to the storm. We’ve heard no complaints about local snow-removal efforts. Even in huge Hopewell Township, Public Works got just two calls — reproaches about the length of time it was taking to dig some road areas out. From what we saw, the locals and the State of New Jersey did better jobs of clearing roadways than Mercer County. Most state roads we encountered on our way to work Monday were quite passable, while some Mercer roads definitely were not.
   It helped that crews had plenty of salt and sand on hand — having used practically none of their stockpiles earlier in the season. It helped, too, that the bulk of the cleanup took place on Sunday, when there were few cars on the road; that all area schools closed on Monday, allowing time for the crews to clear most secondary roads; and that the sun came out, melting much of the snow, ice and slush that remained on roadways and sidewalks by late Monday afternoon.
   The emergence of the sun, in all its glory, also enhanced the picture-postcard beauty of the storm’s aftermath — a scene we have not often enjoyed of late. There’s still something about a fresh, white blanket of snow clinging to the branches of the evergreens — or stretching across an open field with only the occasional hoof prints of a fawn interrupting its placid sheen — that brings out the wide-eyed child in all of us.
   For those who don’t share this view — the "if-you-like-snow-move-to-Canada" crowd — don’t fret. Today (Thursday) is expected to be 50 degrees. And the forecasters have been doing a pretty good job so far.
Rick Sinding of The Princeton Packet contributed to this account.