85th AMS Annual Meeting

Monday, 10 January 2005: 9:55 AM
Lessons learned from major snow events in Upstate New York
David A. Call, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY
Snowstorms disrupt life in much of the United States but have dramatically different effects depending on one’s location. Life in Atlanta is interrupted by just a few inches of snow, while residents in a city such as Syracuse routinely cope with many inches of snow. In the past, however, many cities had great difficulties removing snow, even those in the snowbelt. My research examines why the responses of cities vary across time and space, using four major cities in Upstate New York to form a regional case study.

I argue that a "snow event" is a cultural creation intersecting a meteorological event – a "snowstorm" – with a "place," in all its complexity. Each snowstorm has unique meteorological characteristics, but even before the snow begins to fall, the preparation and actions of government, the general population, meteorologists, and the media influence how disruptive a snowstorm will be. How these actors behave during and after a snowstorm also influence its impact.

Ultimately, all people affected by snow, regardless of where they live, should be aware of their power to shape the magnitude of a snowstorm’s disruptiveness. With quality forecasts, a responsive government and population, and favorable meteorological conditions and timing, a snowstorm can be reduced to a minor inconvenience. On the other hand, a failure of any one of these influences can turn a minor snowstorm into a major snow event that will be remembered for generations to follow.

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