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Curse you, snow!

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Snowpocalypse 2010, part III (or is it IV by now?), has claimed another travel-plan victim. My friend Stephanie was going to fly out here yesterday, but her flight was cancelled; she got another flight for today, but now that too has been cancelled, along with all flights tomorrow.

So she's cancelling her trip. Even if Sunday flights don't get cancelled, she would have missed more than half of the originally planned trip; just didn't seem worth it.

Feh. I recognize that the snowstorm is causing much bigger problems than this for many people. But still really disappointing.

(While I'm here, I may as well link to her latest blog entry, "Four hours of sleep in thirty-six hours, for all the right reasons," about Mixed Martial Arts and journalism on short notice.)

I gotta ask y'all East Coasterners: does this happen every year? This is the second time in a month that the Philadelphia airport has apparently more or less shut down for two days or more due to snow. When I lived out there, I never had to travel in February, so I honestly don't know: is this just the expected way things are, like O'Hare shutting down because of thunderstorms for most of every Memorial Day weekend? Should one just not expect to be able to fly into or out of PHL in February?

Hmm. The other common factor in the two cases was Southwest; are they more prone to just shut down for a couple of days than other PHL airlines, or is it the whole airport?

Oh, here's more: An Inquirer article today says that Southwest has grounded all flights but that US Airways has cancelled only a quarter of today's flights. I wonder what the difference is. Does Southwest do this regularly? Should one avoid flying SWA into or out of PHL during weather-prone times of year?

Huh—I had no idea Southwest was "Philadelphia's second busiest carrier." Back in the old days, shortly after they added various East Coast cities to their routes, I called them up and said I wanted to fly to California. They nicely told me that I ought to pick another airline, as getting to California via their then-patchwork of cities would've required about ten hops. (They may've been exaggerating.) But things have changed quite a bit since then; there are a fair number of one-stop and two-stop flights on SWA between PHL and SJC these days.

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When I lived on the East Coast a long time ago, we just didn't get much snow, so when we did, we were quite unprepared for it. (Not much of a point in having a huge snow-removal infrastructure if it hardly ever snows, especially in the face of tight budgets.)

Dunno if it's still the case, but I remember Long Island grinding to a complete halt with what seemed to my Midwestern eyes very little snow. They had far more hills, far more ice, and far fewer trucks.


I gotta ask y'all East Coasterners: does this happen every year?

Um ... maybe I'm misreading you, and you were in fact joking. But in case you were seriously asking:

Many winters, it doesn't snow more than a few inches in Philadelphia over the entire winter.

Never in recorded history (since 1884) had there been more than one 14"+ snowfall in Philadelphia in a winter.

This winter, there have been three 20"+ snowfalls in Philadelphia. Two of them within a week of each other.

Including this week's snow, I would guess our season total is around 75". I would guess that's more snow than we saw in the prior five winters combined.


Close, Will; it's more than we've seen in the past four winters combined: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/phi/images/phl_season.gif

Jed, while I think Southwest has been especially aggressive about canceling all its flights when a major snowstorm hits, most airlines have shifted to a "don't risk it" policy of canceling flights rather than risk getting thousands of passengers - and planes - snowed in. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2011069123_airlinesnow14.html has more info. Key excerpt:

"We've been doing it ever since our infamous Feb. 14 debacle because we found that it's easier and healthier for the system to proactively cancel those flights rather than leaving it to chance," said Mateo Lleras, a spokesman for JetBlue, referring to the Valentine's Day snowstorm in 2007 that stranded thousands of passengers, with some stuck on planes for hours.

Though the airlines lose money when they cancel flights, they can potentially lose more if they keep flying and risk having snowbound crews and planes out of place once the storm passes.


I think I heard that this year's weather is technically the fault of YOUR ocean, Jed -- El Nino messed with the Gulf Stream, pushing more wintery stuff farther south, where they aren't as exquipped to deal with it (as I recall, in Philly they were often afraid to even utter the word snow, with news shows predicting "X inches more of the White Stuff"). Up here in Boston, where we could deal better, it's actually been a fairly mild winter, it seems.

Two side notes: Ability to "deal with it," even in places that have regular winters, is frequently messed up by budget plans which base funding for snow clearing on the previous winter, or an average, whichever is lower -- resulting in them announcing with a straight face that they're out of money in December, since "no one could have predicted this need" (no one knew it would snow in the winter? The children were startled!)

And this was my first year of not just hoping for snow days, but being the one to decide whether or not to call one. It sucks to want to go back to bed, but know that I really have to go face my resentful students.


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