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A polarizing question for Philadelphians: Snow, good or bad? | Pro/Con

As the region digs out from the first major snowstorm in 1,000 days, two weather enthusiasts debate the pros and cons of the white stuff.

Snow is removed from around St. Katherine of Siena  Church on Lancaster Ave. in Wayne, PA on Dec. 16, 2020.
Snow is removed from around St. Katherine of Siena Church on Lancaster Ave. in Wayne, PA on Dec. 16, 2020.Read moreCHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

After 1,000 days, this week, the Philadelphia region saw its first major snowfall in recent memory. According to Inquirer weather reporter Anthony Wood, the resulting six or so inches — depending on where you’re located — resulted in 22 times more snow than fell all of last winter in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, snow is always a polarizing topic — pun definitely intended — and amid a year that has already been unusual, the pre-Christmas winter wonderland provoked both cheers and groans across the region. The Inquirer tapped two experienced local weather enthusiasts to debate the pros and cons while the region digs out from what was 2020′s first, but potentially not the last, snowstorm.

» READ MORE: Much has changed in 2020. The magic and mystery of snow persist. | Book excerpt

Con: After 40 years of frigid weather broadcasts, I’m over it

Frosty, I apologize.

I adore your corncob pipe and your button nose as much as anyone.

But this goes deeper, sometimes 6 to 12 inches deeper.

It’s about what you’re made of.


Call me flaky, but, as one of our children might say, “I’m so over it!”

When TV meteorologists exude, “Hey, all you snow lovers out there” as a storm approaches, they aren’t talking to me.

90% chance of snow.

10% (or way less) I want to see it.

» READ MORE: Philly region experiences its first major snowstorm in 1,000 days

Before you start winging those snowballs at me, please understand this anti-snow attitude has been accumulating for some time.

You might call it a slippery slope.

I started out, like many of us, peeking through the blinds at dawn, hoping that forecasters were accurate, the world had turned white, and that I’d made the right call skipping my math homework, counting on a “snow day.”

Yes, it was snow that lured me onto the slopes for decades as a skier. But soon my love for those pretty white flakes began heading downhill as well.

What if almost every time it snowed, for more than 40 years, you had to head into the storm and stay out there, for hours, not knowing when or how you would get back inside?

“What do you call a high-powered, big-name, four-wheel-drive machine on black ice? A sled.”

Walt Hunter

What if you were, like me, a radio and TV reporter?

That’s not the color adjustment on your screen. Yes, we might actually look as if we’re turning blue out there. Certainly felt that way.

Can I get an “amen” from the dedicated, unstoppable police officers, firefighters, plow operators, and medical workers who no doubt have words describing snow that we can’t print in this publication?

As they, and I, too often witnessed, snow seems to melt whole sections of people’s brains — specifically those controlling common sense and self-preservation.

How else to explain, with a slippery sheen on the ground, a driver behind the wheel of an SUV worth more than my house, careening along the expressway at 60 miles an hour with near-zero visibility?

What do you call a high-powered, big-name, four-wheel-drive machine on black ice?

A sled.

True confession: That beautiful white curtain of flakes fluttering from the skies scares me now. I lost a beloved family member, early in my life, dying from a heart attack as he shoveled.

There will be others. Ask any ER staffer or paramedic: It’s not exercise. It’s dangerous. Repetitive, backbreaking, cardio-racing strain in the coldest weather, when your heart is most vulnerable.

I’m not calling out anyone for being hypocritical, but how many of you “snow lovers,” now “oohing and aahing” from your warm dens, will be moaning and groaning in a couple of days, when ugly piles of darkened slush block your driveway or fill your parking space?

No, I wouldn’t dare take that precious spot you’re protecting with chairs, tables, and, for all I know, land mines.

Finally, as I await the flakes, a full meltdown and confession: I’m the biggest snow hypocrite of all. I dream of seeing wonder in the eyes of my grandchildren, as I did with my own children, pulling them on sleds and, apologies again, Frosty, building the first and no doubt best snowman.

In case you don’t get my drift.

Love it, if you must. I don’t.

But above all be safe, and always remember, whatever your opinion, one thing is certain.

Like Frosty, however much we get, it won’t be around long.

Former CBS 3 reporter Walt Hunter, retired after 45 years in news, now spends most snowy days in front of the fireplace, rather than the camera.

Pro: We all need things to look forward to right now.

When I saw my weather app teasing “snow showers” the morning the Philadelphia area got its first flakes of the winter, I bolted out of bed for my run. While that effort turned into a letdown — I ultimately didn’t encounter any myself — it marked the start of a time of year I look forward to: snow season.

I wasn’t always like this. I grew up in Erie, the northwestern Pennsylvania city that got nearly five feet of snow a few Christmases ago, where 100 inches falls in an average winter. I never thought of snow as notable, just a constant, sometimes-annoying presence from November to April.

But Philadelphia is not Erie. Here, the average seasonal snowfall is just 22 inches, making flakes a rare treat. And we should treat them as such — something special.

I’ve never gotten used to how Philadelphia responds to snow: With panic, a generous definition of “storm,” complete shutdowns, and unending complaints.

There’s a better way.

Psychologists point to snow-laden Scandinavia, consistently ranked among the world’s happiest places, as evidence snow doesn’t have to make you miserable. It can be an avenue for excitement and invigoration instead. Winter became a lot easier and more fun once I accepted and embraced that snow is part of it. The snow is going to come (well, except last year), and shifting my focus away from negative aspects makes me appreciate the plus sides.

“A snowfall can be a shot of adrenaline that brightens a short winter day.”

Emily Babay

A snowfall can be a shot of adrenaline that brightens a short winter day. I love the big-news-event energy of preparing to cover an impending storm. When flakes are falling, the wind is blowing, and the ground is covered in snow, every step outside is an adventure, turning dull errands into scenic (albeit perhaps challenging) walks and ordinary runs into memorable excursions.

I run outside year-round, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time trekking through the snow, and won’t pretend it isn’t tough. But rather than become frustrated by the poor footing or low visibility, I’ve learned to look for the positives. A snowy Thursday recovery run was a forced slowdown, probably to the benefit of a nagging ankle injury, a chance to relax and practice letting go of things I can’t control (the weather) and appreciating what I still have (a great hip and calf workout despite my penguin-like shuffle). Plus, less-than-ideal conditions mean I’ve experienced the magical calm of deserted sidewalks, trails, and parks, along with their storybook-scenic views. Getting outdoors in the snow is now something I eagerly await, not seek to avoid.

Snow can force both a singular focus and togetherness. Going outside in a storm forces me to stay in the moment, paying attention to the conditions and my surroundings, not worrying about the next task on my to-do list. But a good snowfall also brings a community together: No one can avoid the storm. I appreciate the we’re-all-in-this-together mentality that develops among my colleagues over a long working snow day, with other crazy runners and walkers as we exchange those can-you-believe-we’re-out-here looks, and over social media as a community commiserates virtually.

Snow unquestionably makes life harder for many — especially out-and-about essential workers like mail carriers, food delivery drivers, and trash collectors. They have every reason to dislike it. But if you can, it’s worth trying to embrace the snow this winter. It doesn’t arrive in Philly all that often, and we all need things to look forward to right now. Let snow be something that brings you joy rather than dread during this dark season.

Emily Babay is a coverage editor on The Inquirer’s Now Team.

Read more Inquirer Pro/Cons