The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


November 22, 2012

GEORGE HANCOCK | A brutal statement from Mother Nature

JOHNSTOWN — Mother Nature once again has made a brutal statement. Hurricane Sandy and a cold front from the north combined forces to produce a powerful superstorm. The Mid-Atlantic states bore the brunt of this vicious assault.

Sandy crashed into the New Jersey coastline with 80 mph winds. Weather analysts dubbed this storm “Frankenstorm.” Sandy’s monstrous qualities and the proximity to Halloween determined this moniker.

The Weather Channel reported Sandy had the lowest barometric pressure ever recorded for an Atlantic storm. Sandy’s power and intensity created record storm surges. New York City experienced 13 foot seawater surges. Entire neighborhoods were inundated by frothy, fast-flowing water. The havoc was astounding.

Round-the-clock news coverage coupled with social media spread Sandy’s spectacular images across the land. Home viewers witnessed the devastation from the comfort of their chairs. Favorite vacation spots were inundated by angry storm waters along the coast. Atlantic City’s famed Boardwalk was ravaged by Sandy’s relentless pounding. Heart-wrenching pictures, videos and firsthand accounts entered our homes.

Sandy produced troubling economic news. The financial toll is being tabulated. The final total will stagger the Mid-Atlantic economic base. However, the East Coast is no stranger to severe storms. A recent news report revealed an expensive trend.

Nine of the top 10 costliest East Coast storms occurred in the 21st century. Hurricane Andrew, the 1992 Category 5 storm, is the lone exception. Katrina tops this severe storm list. That 2005 hurricane created $108 billion in damages.   

Yet, many individuals refuse to acknowledge the powerful aspects associated with current weather. Nine of the 10 most destructive storms are recent occurrences. Even Hurricane Andrew was only 20 years ago. Folks, we are witnessing some significant weather trends.

This year is my 39th as a road runner. I ran in some powerful weather systems during this time span. I have vivid memories of one July 1977 evening run. My seven-mile run beyond the current Johnstown Galleria was beneath one incredible sky show. Those angry black clouds were troubling. The view the following morning was disheartening.

The Great Blizzard of 1993 was another incredible weather event. That superstorm impacted a vast section of our country. Many regions received snow in feet, not inches. The storm was accompanied by severe winds. The blizzard conditions snarled traffic and created monstrous snow drifts.

Greater Johnstown received more than 3 feet of snow. Running along Elton Road was nearly impossible in numerous areas. Most roads were narrowed due to huge snow drifts and plowed snow. For days, I ran roads in remote areas far from traffic. The March 12, 1993, weather event produced the biggest snowfall in my lifetime. Of course, the following January storm nearly tied that mark.

On Jan. 1, 1992, I began recording my daily runs in a diary. Runners call these running logs. We log our miles instead of recording the runs. Before 1992, I recorded the miles I had run on a calendar. At the end of each month the total was recorded in a book. I still record my running statistics in that book.

These running logs enable runners to record the date, time, mileage and weather conditions. Personal observations are compiled. I have two decades detailing running and weather records.

The weather trends are ominous. My records reveal milder local weather. Our stormy weather is short but intense. The storm damage is often localized.     

The next season arrives soon. Meteorological winter begins on Dec. 1.  Winter brings numerous seasonal scenarios to our region.

Government officials, power company executives and rescue workers advised citizens in Sandy’s path to prepare wisely. Are you ready for seven to 10 days without electricity? This was the widespread warning issued by numerous concerned agencies. Do you have enough food, water and power resources for a 10-day weather siege? Can you withstand street hazards and significant storm damage?

This Thanksgiving, let us pause and offer heartfelt thanks to all those brave first responders. Everyone who donated to the Sandy relief efforts earn our Thanksgiving blessings. This generosity helped ease Mother Nature’s brutal statement.

George A. Hancock of Scalp Level Borough is an occasional contributor to the editorial page.

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More police on the streets.

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