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Joe Guzzardi: Winter is a whole other ballgame on the East Coast

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Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 12:00 am

In January, Lodi’s average high temperature was about 66 degrees. Here in Pittsburgh, where I moved in 2008, we rarely reached the freezing mark. Some days were bone-chilling — highs of 3, 7 and 11 degrees with lows of -2, -7 and -9.

By comparison, today’s weather isn’t too bad. The projected high is 22 degrees, wind chill 5 degrees with occasional snow flurries — but no additional accumulation to the two feet already in my back yard. I’d be more comforted by the brief respite if I didn’t see three-foot long icicles hanging off my roof while the radio news in the background predicts another major storm this weekend. According to the Weather Channel, more than 125 million people in 32 states are in the direct path of the next arctic blast.

I’ve lost track of how many “major storms” we’ve endured. The next one may be the third, the fifth or maybe even the 10th since late November. They’ve all blended into each other.

Before I moved to Lodi in 1986, I lived in New Jersey and New York, and attended college in Pittsburgh. I’m no stranger to winter. But this winter is harsher than any I can remember — or for that matter, than anyone can remember.

Here are a few of our essential daily activities:

Don several layers of clothes to walk the dogs, who otherwise refuse to go outside. I bought special cleats designed to help secure my footing on the icy roads.

Heat up the car at least 15 minutes before needing to drive it. It takes at least a quarter of an hour to get the chill off the steering wheel. Scrape the snow off the hood and trunk.

Shovel the driveway, about 25-yards long. That’s harder than it sounds. When there’s a layer of ice on top of the snow and another layer underneath it, heavy lifting is required. During each of the seven winters I’ve lived in Pittsburgh, I’ve promised I’d sign up a snow removal service. Next year, I’ll do it for sure.

I guess I shouldn’t complain. Parts of the eastern United States have it worse. Sleet, icy rain, howling winds and snow drifts that reached six feet left 700,000 people without electricity in the Philadelphia area and caused power outages as far south as Arkansas, West Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee. Mississippi, Kansas, New York and New Jersey have declared states of emergency. Ploughs work overtime; salt is scarce. Schools have been closed as often as they’ve been open. Earlier this week, 3,000 airline flights were cancelled on a single day. When a flight in to or out of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is cancelled, every flight in the U.S. is at risk of interminable delays. Nationwide, at least 20 deaths have been attributed to the extreme weather.

Almost everyone I talk to says they’ve been checking the real estate pages in the Florida, Arizona and California newspapers. When I tell them I moved to Pittsburgh from the San Joaquin Valley, where there are 261 sunny and mostly warm days a year, I get incredulous stares. “What were you thinking?” they want to know.

I’m working on an answer but I may not have one available until spring rolls around.

Joe Guzzardi, a native Californian, plans to vacation somewhere warm in April — maybe Palm Beach. Contact him at

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