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Snow Removal Strategy & the Flurry of Winter Weather

We go deep on snow and snowplow and towns’ and cities’ strategies for how to deal with the avalanche.

City contractors spread sand on roadways in the early morning hours after an overnight winter storm, Jan. 10, 2011, in Johns Creek, Ga. (AP)

Last winter it was the “snowpocalypse” in Washington. Last month, it was howling in the Midwest, then New York City was frozen in snow.

This week, it’s the “weather bomb” of 2011, with 49 of 50 states seeing snow and, on the eastern seaboard, big snow and ice starting in the south – hello, Atlanta! – and moving north from there.

We’re playing in the snow today. We look at what’s going on: weather versus climate. Then we’re climbing into the snowplow world, to talk with some of the country’s top pros about the strategy and science of clearing snow.

-Tom Ashbrook


Heidi Cullen, climatologist and former research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. She was the Weather Channel’s climate expert. She’s now senior research scientist at Climate Central and a visiting lecturer at Princeton University.

Mark DeVries, national chair of the American Public Works Association’s committee on winter maintenance. He’s a snow removal expert who has worked for decades as a maintenance superintendent for McHenry County, an area just outside of Chicago. He’s a member of the Midwestern States Snow and Ice Group, and a member of the Winter Maintenance Technical Service Program.

Wanda Booker, sanitation services manager for the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She oversees snow removal for the city of Milwaukee.

Mike Kennedy, director of winter operations in the Minneapolis Dept of Public Works. He has been working with the DPW since 1990.

Ellis Hennican, columnist for Newsday in New York.

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  • Pancake, pumping $3, in NC

    A mixed group sat in our McAdenville cafe observing the weather channel and drinking hot beverages. Salt, brine and plows were not accomplishing much on that 15F degree morning. Those over 60 remembered a colder past that had come again. My scientific partner, using our umbrella as a pointer, traced the polar jet. Maybe it was the warmer Atlantic she said trapping cold circulation over the seaboard and the Mississippi basin. It looked as if the pineapple express had found a direct route to the east coast. How long will this prevail, and how high will increased northern continental energy use for heating push gasoline prices before spring?

  • Nick from Massachusetts

    We have it easy today !

    Not that long ago – in the 1970s, I would ski to work and school across Cambridge and Harvard Square during heavy snows – when we had several each year.

    Remember the days or years of many large snow storms, often starting soon after Thanksgiving and not ending until Easter? And those heavy storms in February would close down almost everything for a day or two. The first day of plowing left snow bankings that you could not see over. Now, we have one or two at the most large storms and they are major events.

    It’s the weather. We have no control over it. Sometimes it is inconvenient but there nothing you can do to change it. Enjoy it. Make the best of it. Catch up on Saturday.


  • Zeno

    What upsets us most is the snow budgets. They have a difficult year and they state they have to raise taxes to pay for it. When they have an easy year where they have a HUGE surplus in April…that money is GONE by may…and the following season they complain that they have no money in the budget for snow removal because so little snow fell in the previous year, and now they need to raise taxes.

  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    We have over 2 feet of snow on the ground at 7.04 am this morning and it’s still coming down hard. We may have 3 feet by the time its over. The state road we live on is plowed but our driveway is impassible at the moment, even by my 4×4 truck. I won’t start clearing it until things settle down, maybe by noon.

    This is the heaviest snow we’ve had in years.

    Our small town has its own plows and they take care of the smaller roads, the state plows the bigger roads like ours and they do a fantastic job. The only bummer (no one’s fault) is the pile of snow and ice the plow leaves at the end of the driveway which is a bear to move.

    The upside is that snowshoeing in the Catskills, Whites and Adirondacks is going to be spectacular.

    Warren, Connecticut

  • Yar From Somerset, KY

    We are a spoiled people. When did we become a nation that doesn’t think the weather should impact our lives? Our agricultural roots depended on the weather to determine what today’s job would be:
    Rain; fix fences,
    Snow; gather wood,
    Fair; plant or harvest.

    Now if the store is out of milk it is an emergency, if they are out for a week it is a disaster.
    Is our nation so fragile that our supply lines must operate 24/7, and nobody takes responsibility for themselves?
    In pioneer times if you didn’t have enough food going into winter, we might not see you in the spring.

    We must change our attitude, despite the advertisements for overnight delivery services, you don’t absolutely have to have it the next day!

  • Jon

    Please address the need to clear pedestrian paths to public transportation. How can people in snow areas rely on public transportation — which is even more important when we want to minimize passenger cars from snow clogged streets — when it’s extremely difficult to get to the bus or subway? There’s an analogy here to broadband access, where the last 500 feet from street to house is the problem. With snow, it’s the last or first 2 or 3 blocks that can cause the whole transit system to fail to serve its purpose.
    Thanks. Watertown,MA (which does a very good job of clearing streets)

  • Lynne from Quincy

    Hi Tom!
    Please ask your guests if the residents of their snowy cities use beach chairs, broken lawn furniture, pylons etc… to mark “their” dug out parking spots on public streets! Or is it only a Bpston thing.Thanks

  • cory

    Local governments in my region strapped for cash have been plowing and salting less in recent years. Some occasionally have run out of salt with a few storms to go! If you don’t have a 4×4, it doesn’t take much neglect for rural highways to become impassable.

    The passage of time doesn’t garauntee progress and advancement. It will be intersting to see what happens in this area as we have less and less money for municipal maintainence.

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • Bill Luzader

    from Brockton, MA
    Has any one who had a heart attack while shoveling the plowed up, chunky ice debris that block stairs, driveways and walkways ever taken a city to court?
    Do cities (and the related plowing services) make an “efficiency” analysis of the plowing pattern to make sure that energy and effort are conserved?

  • geffe

    I just watched this guy in front of my house as I was shoveling get stuck. He had van with no snow tires and he did not have shovel in his van. He was also not properly dressed. If I had one of the expensive snow blowers, like my so called neighbor does, I would have helped him.
    But I was pretty snowed into my driveway. My neighbor just stood there with his nice snow machine and watched this guy. I must admit this guy was pretty dumb, what part of snow emergency did not get?

    If I had a snow machine I would help all my neighbors or at least let them know they can use it if they pay for gas.

    Boston, MA

  • BHA – Vermont

    Not to ignore the problems some of you are having but my wife keeps asking how she can live too far north to get snow!

    She grew up in Stowe and remembers the big snowfalls of the 70′s (as noted by Nick as well). Now we see people south and east of us getting 2+ feet of snow and we get flurries in the Northeast Champlain Valley.

    Not that *I* mind NOT having to shovel 2 feet of snow at 4:30 AM! And I remember well the nearly 30″ in 12 hours on Valentines Day a couple of years ago. NOT fun. But a few inches here every few days is nice. Keeps the ‘dirty’ snow covered and adds some beauty to the winter cold.

    To Richard in CT. Unless you have a BIG snowblower, waiting until it settles down is a poor plan. A bit at a time, like every 6-8 inches (less if it is the heavy wet stuff) is much better. If you aren’t planning to go anywhere right off, leave the dam at the end of the driveway (except a cut for the mail carrier of course :) ), otherwise the plow will just replace it.

  • BHA – Vermont

    “Has any one who had a heart attack while shoveling the plowed up, chunky ice debris that block stairs, driveways and walkways ever taken a city to court?”

    I don’t think that would fly. That stuff is a known and expected ‘side effect’ of plowing. If you aren’t physically capable of shoveling the stuff that is left by the plows, you shouldn’t be doing it. Personal responsibility.

  • Martin V

    I remember the storm that killed almost 500 rare trees in the Arboretum (1998??) on an April 1st.
    Please remind your listeners to shake off the snow from their trees. If predictions hold many branches will otherwise break once the heavy snow turns to ice tonight.

    Martin in Arlington, MA

    PS: If WBUR really wants commenters to tell them where they live add CITY & STATE to the entry form (and toss the useless WEBSITE field).
    In general discussions almost no one identifies their location because they are not properly prompted for it.

  • Zeno

    When I was a kid in Vermont, I remember my parents yelling at me and my siblings to stop playing in the snow on the roof. No ladder needed we just walked up and slid down. The entire lower story was dark because all the windows were covered.

    To get accumulations like that required temperatures that were very cold by mid November and did not go above freezing until late March. That kind of cold does not occur in the North East anymore.

    In the winter with no snow, I remember bicycling in shorts in January when it was 87 degrees.

  • BHA – Vermont

    - Are those two people perhaps not on good terms?
    - Or the guy with the snowblower is tired of bailing out the guy with the van?
    - Or could the guy with the snowblower reasonably expect to be asked rather than have to offer his help to the guy with the van?

    I don’t particularly know Boston or Bostonians, but you would fit in around here. People definitely offer to help when they see a need.

    And, yes, the guy is the van is a sorry excuse for a Bostonian. It snows in Boston, it gets icy in Boston. One should be prepared for such things.

  • Zeno

    @ geffe – I see the under dressed thing all the time. Even if they are depending on rescue via cell phone… There are times when a car will break down and there is no rescue coming.

    A car cools off fast and it gets pretty cold in there after about 20 mins. I know I was stuck in a car from 2:30 AM until 8AM once in January.

  • John

    I had a great commute. Hardly anyone was on the bus or the subway.


  • Martin V

    Can Massachusetts please have a law that requires headlights when it snows or rains?
    Many states do because it makes for safer traffic. It’s not just about being able to see, it’s being seen.
    In weather like that vehicles without lights become invisible.

    Unfortunately laws are the only way to “educate” drivers.

    Arlington, Mass.

  • Yar From Somerset, KY

    We are a nation of individual rights.
    The right to act foolish,
    The right to be selfish,
    The right to endanger others.
    We are not a nation of responsibility.
    You have a heart attack shoveling snow,
    it’s not your fault.
    You get stuck on the interstate, it’s not your fault.

    We have by the minute news and weather reporting. Why so many people don’t use the information they have to make rational decisions is beyond me.

  • shannon

    I am snowed in here in TN, and I like it fine.

    The snow plow came but just made the road worse, by packing down the snow and creating a quarter inch of packed snow, which then froze into an ice sheet. If the county is going to plow, they should plow down to the asphalt.

  • http://ibelieveinbutter.wordpress.com Soli

    I’m in New Haven, CT, and at least one of my friends here yesterday was saying she suspected we wouldn’t get a lot because there was so much advanced fuss over the storm. Lo and behold, when I first woke up I saw enough snow to make me say “I do not want to get stuck at work in that!” and went back to bed. When I got up again around 8am, there was at least a foot of new snow on the ground, and perhaps 4-6 inches since then.

    I feel like a kid again, save for the fact that I have zero desire to go outside and play in it.

  • Brandstad


    Can you ask your guest if she still uses the IPCC report from several years back even though it predictions are diverging every day from the observed climate. How many years of divergence from the computer models is required for her to reevaluate her position?

  • Zeno

    When I was a kid the reporting and prediction were very minimal. These days the prediction is very accurate, but the media hype is WAY over the top.

    The Malevolent blizzard plunges area into chaos! Back then it was just plain snow.


  • Brett


    Don’t you mean the “malevolent JOBS KILLING blizzard”?

  • Tim

    Here in Rhode Island they’re saying as much as 3 inches per hour are falling. Probably a foot or so on the ground, but the plows seem to be doing an OK job – roads are certainly bad but still driveable.

    Providence, RI

  • http://notyet Charles A. Bowsher

    This is simply nature’s way of telling us to slow down for a day or two. Kids (and adults) deserve a snow day every now and then, enjoy it! As my buddy Jerry in North Carolina says “Get over yourself!”

    Tom, Shame on you for being negative about New York’s response to 20″ in December. Your guest hit it on the nose and put it in perspective.

  • Zeno

    @ Brett – Yes. How could I have missed the prefix slogan of 2011!

    I also remember in the old days roads were not so aggressively salted. Actually, snow is not that slippery, and is similar to driving on sand. But I think the number of cars, and legal considerations now produce a much higher expenderature than is actually necessary.

    But considering the kind of idiot drivers out there it is probably a requirement now. I always liked driving on snow (when I’m the only car on the road), it has a quiet dreamlike quality to it.

  • Dave

    We’re spoiled and helpless. The amount of snow we’ve received in Tennessee is trivial compared to what we had when I was growing up AND far more of us have all wheel drive vehicles. Why the panic? Why the school closings? What are we afraid of? Ridiculous.

  • A Listener

    I noticed that it often takes the first big snow storm of each year to get Boston to get it’s act together. Why does that happen? Talk about procrastination.

  • steve

    hi from Norway!
    Studded winter tires, and have emergency supplys
    flash light, can food water, and a radio, an shovel. in the house and in the car.

    but why not have towns mothball their old vehicles when they buy new, so there is a reserve for big storms.

  • Indrek Pringi

    I am a Canadian. One main reason for all of your weather problems is never discussed because it would show the truth too bluntly to you Americans. That reason is the 1/3rd of Alberta, which is larger than two of your average states being totally covered in BLACK oil deposits and totally black. This huge landmass of black earth and black unusable water: Held behind temporary earthen dams is the main reason your weather patterns have been destroyed. This area: namely the Athabasca Tar Sands Projects; created by American oil corporations is why you have these storms. Instead of white snow covering that land mass larger than 2 of your average states: this black mass does two things: It sucks all the heat from the air: yes…. It ABSORBS heat like a sponge, and it also radiates that heat. This huge polarity of temperature fluctuation is what really is causing all of your woes. But nobody will talk about it, or face it: especially you Americans who are responsible for it. Well… this time the Karmic justice of your ecological destructiveness is now hitting you literally in the face. Now that you all know where this is coming from: you can phone your congress and senate and demand somethi8ng be done about it. Here in Canada: this topic is not allowed to be expressed on the government owned media which is the only media Canada has. No corporate media allows this topic to be aired either, of course. If Canada had a PBS or NPR: there would be a huge public outcry about this. But we are not as fortunate as you in having any media that voices the opinions of its people.

  • Atty Fitzpatrick

    Love that irony! Earlier there was a discussion of climate change et al, now we’re talking about a machine that MELTS the snow rather than carting it away.
    Hah! Thanks for the laugh.

  • Jill

    I came from the best city in Iowa for street/snow cleaning, Dubuque. But my point is we shouldn’t blame winter. It is our expectation of moving freely no matter what that is the problem. Weather happens, but by God, we can’t miss our manicure appointment.

  • Alison

    I live in northern Vermont, where it snows even on clear days. While we are used to it, I think this excessive snow pattern elsewhere should be viewed as an awareness and yet another check in with our human nature, and how we deal with natural occurances. This should also be a hint for the future to prepare early on in the season for easier snow removal and personal health in these weather situations so people aren’t out driving in snow when they aren’t necessarily prepared to or experienced enough.

  • John

    Nature is obviously going along with the teabagger mandate that global warming doesn’t exist.

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    Thanks for reviving a little of Jesse Winchester’s “Snow”. He is one of my favorites of all time.

    Charles in Lexington, hoping for a blizzard, mad that Tennessee is getting more than us!

  • Yar From Somerset, KY

    Why must we clear roads? To keep the economy going?
    Isn’t this really shifting money from the public taxpayer to the private businesses.
    What is the economics of snow removal?

    How fast to clear snow at what price.

    We should vote on a snow removal tax?
    This is the problem with public works, people only notice when it doesn’t work.

  • Webb Nichols

    Do Meteorologists see any association between Climate Change/ Global Warming and these kind of snow storms and other violent weather?

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    It’s not all on the snow removal crews. People in areas that traditionally don’t see much, or any, snow aren’t prepared. I live in western NY state in ski country, and we get snow tires put on in Oct or Nov. I see all these people on the TV trying to drive their cars on summer tires or “all seasons” and getting in wreck after wreck. Worse, they try to drive like they do on dry pavement. I told a friend of mine that was moving south to get snow tires put on his SUV in winter. After a couple inches turned his part of NC to a demolition derby he called to thank me for the advice!

  • Scott Lewins

    I completely understand the fiscal constraints that states have been working with recently. Here in Vermont, the policy was changed from “clean streets” to “safe streets” in which they no longer completely clear streets, even interstate highways, rather they just temporarily lower speed limits. However it has gone too far! The state police have reportedly started issuing speeding tickets to drivers after they have spun off interstate highways, that the state has not maintained fully. There has to be other ways to make up budget shortfalls…

  • Russ Weis

    Up here in northern Vermont, the key to handling the big snows is being proactive. The plows are out and positioned in strategic locations well before the snow starts flying. And on an individual basis, people (and their cars) are generally prepared and allow extra time to get to work.

    In short, there’s snow way around it: you’d have to be a real flake not to be well prepared up here for the white stuff to fall anytime between November and early May!

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    Tom, I think Indrik Pringi at 10:33 brings up a great topic for a future show. You might want to couple it with a show on Fraking (sp?) used for natural gas production here in the US which is using unconscionable amounts of water and leaving poisoned aquifers in their wake.

    Charles in Lexington, hoping for a blizzard, mad that Tennessee seems to get more snow than we do!

  • Patrica McMahon

    Can we stop using salt to cope with the snow? Salt pollutes the environment, ruins our roads, cars, shoes, and hurts our pet’s feet.

  • Brandstad

    Did Sarah Palin have a bulls eye on this area of the map 2 years ago? The show fall might also be her fault!

  • scott eberle

    Great show.

    We live in Buffalo. And though Baltimore had more snow than we did last year–belying our reputation–we do know snow and we know how to handle it. Mostly we like it. (The dog loves it!) Snow is festive. When the kids have a rare snow day we hit the nearby slopes. My advice? Get out in it! Enjoy it! Play when you get the chance! Sled. Ski. Build a snowman. Play!

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    One caller said how many people would use their own trucks to plow their street. But in many areas that get snow regularly you can’t legally do that because in the past people that did that tried to sue for damaged to their trucks when they hit a curb or manhole or some obstacle.

  • BHA – Vermont

    Scott – When they declare a snow advisory the speed limit on the Interstate is 45 MPH. If people exceed that and fly off the road or collide with other cars, they deserve that “speed to high for the conditions” ticket.

  • vanessa

    I live in Washington Heights, in northern Manhattan, and during the “christmas” snowstorm, the worst problem in the neighborhood was people overestimating their ability to drive in the weather, and then abandoning their cars behind RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET, making plowing the next day totally impossible – and of course, tow trucks couldn’t get in to GET the cars until the area was plowed – it was a MESS.

  • George Curran

    I was in Brooklyn from Tuesday after the storm to New Years Day. Real emergency? Try no subways and no buses, which was the case in Brooklyn. What I saw was beyond belief. Having made the catastrophic error of allowing cars to remain on the streets, reducing many major avenues (e.g., Avenue U)to one lane, the situation became a disaster as the result of delivery vehicles blocking the roads. This was the case as late as Wed. I have heard many commentators laugh off the situation in the last storm in New York, but I want to remind them that people died because ambulances could not get through the blocked roads. How many people would accept 15 block walks over unshoveled sidewalks and unplowed streets for two consecutive days in order to the reach nearest operating subway station ?

  • David Henry

    After growing up in Madison Wisconsin and doing more than my fair share of shoveling, the trick to not letting your driveway get buried, is to shovel out far into the street. If you can get the snow get to the snow before the plow your all set. Well worth it.

  • Marie

    I live in Michigan and my husband plows for the State of Michigan. what people don’t understand also with salting the roads, the salt doesn’t work when it is very cold. It takes warming up a little before it works and starts to melt the ice.

  • Aimee Duplissis

    After living in Alaska and Northern Vermont, they do 2 totally different ways of plowing. In both places it is very unlikely that businesses and schools close. In Alaska they let it pile up and just smooth it out, which makes the roads better in the Winter than in the Summer, the ice is a dry ice though so the roads aren’t slippery. They have chains that drop down off the bus axels when the roads get bad.
    In Northern Vermont, they let it build up when it is wet snow because the thickness of it keeps it from being icy. When it has gone from a difference in snows, then they start to just put down dirt.

  • Kirstin

    Burlington, VT. We are not expected to get much up here in the Champlain Valley, maybe 4-6″. Very envious of the all the snow accumulation those to the south have been getting. We’ll take your snow – we want more!!!!

  • Merlin

    What about pedestrians. Clearing sidewalks helps keep people off the streets. Boston has an ordinace that walks must be cleared within 6 hours of the end of storm.

  • David Liroff

    (From Topsfield, MA)

    I can understand the continuing debate about whether “global warming” is occuring.

    Is there anyone who continues to deny that we’re seeing climate change?

  • BHA – Vermont

    “would use their own trucks to plow their street. But in many areas that get snow regularly you can’t legally do that ”

    True, and sadly so, in Vermont.

    The only time it would be necessary and the only time the private plows would be willing to do it is when the town/state plows can’t keep up.

    There were TONS of private plows going from one job to another during the Valentines Day storm. Had they been allowed to bring it down even to 4″ on whatever route they are taking (no ‘planned’ clearing) and clear the dams on smaller roads where they meet the larger and more recently plowed by the public plows roads, the number of stuck vehicles would have been VASTLY reduced. That would be a BIG plus for the public plows, they wouldn’t have to deal with stationary vehicles all over the road that make it impossible for them to clear the road.

  • Steve

    From Saranac Lake (far Northern)NY State.
    Let’s not for get about the impacts of keeping the roads clear of snow and ice. Hundreds of tons of salt are spread on roads here in the snowy part of New York State impacting native fish and wetlands. This will not abate with a ‘warmer’ climate as sleet and ice storms are more frequent.

  • madnomad

    Dick Proenneke lived in the Twin lakes region of Alaska for 35 years, “Alone in the Wilderness”. At the age of 52, he hand built his cabin and stayed until he was 87. He didn’t need a snow plow.

    I live on the Cumberland Platuea in Tennessee and we have had 3 really fine snowstorms this winter. As an outdoor photographer, landscape and wildlife, I have no snow shovel, no snowblower and no complaints.

  • BHA – Vermont

    “the salt doesn’t work when it is very cold”

    Neither do studs. The perception is that studded tires will save you from almost anything. In truth, they make no difference in snow, longer stopping distances on clear or wet roads and only work in ‘soft’ ice when the temperatures are closer to freezing than zero F.

    Studs pretty much work at the same temperatures as salt. If you live where they salt, don’t get studded tires. They rip up the road when it isn’t covered with snow. That, hard as it may be to believe to some of you getting yet another snow storm, is MOST OF THE TIME.

  • RG

    I moved to Connecticut from southern Michigan in 1997. It never ceases to amaze me how un-neighborly and un-civil people in the Northeast are. When we get the occasional huge snowfall, I haul out the snowblower and hit the sidewalks in front of my house and a few houses in each direction. After being here for nearly 14 years, only twice has a neighbor reciprocated. A fellow three doors down used to do the same thing, but he was a transplant from a more civil state too. People here (including NYC) whine about how they suffer if they have to walk 15 blocks to a subway station (to do what? Get water? food? diapers?)

    Extraordinary events are great opportunities to show that we are a resilient people who, as a matter of neighborliness and civic pride, pitch in when unusual things happen to our communities. There must be people in New York City who do pitch in, why not interview them instead of the self-absorbed sub-population who want 24/7/365 ease. I wonder if that is the same su-population who think its fine to bilk investors out of billions, and don’t find it unseemly to give bonuses running to tens of million$.

  • Brandstad

    David Liroff,

    I don’t think anyone denies natural climate change and its strong correlation to activity on the SUN!

    Meteorologist John Coleman talks about “Global Warming”


  • Brandstad

    Any true believer of Man Made Global Warming that doesn’t become a vegetarian, by a prius or similar car, stop using all fossil fuels to heat or cool their home, and never fly on an airplane is a complete hypocrite and should not be paid any attention to.

  • Beverly

    I grew up in Chicago, so we were used to a lot of snow. Once, when I was very young, we had a freak snowstorm, & had 2 feet of snow on April 4th.

    My father grew up in Manitoba, in the Canadian wilderness. They had several feet of snow for most of the winter. It was solid enough to walk on. He & his brothers, (& even his sister), took turns walking their 2 cows to a lake, over 2 miles away. In the winter darkness, through howling winds, blizzards & everything else, they first had to chop a hole in the thick ice, by the light of a solitary kerosene lantern. 

    After the cows had their drink, the child walked them more than 2 miles back home, put them in the barn, & fed them. That was all done BEFORE they went to school, & was repeated right after school. The worst thing of all, & inimaginable to me, is that none of them had shoes!!!


    • stillin

      What I like about this story if they KIDS WERE OUT OK BY THEMSELVES.  Nobody had to say, oh no, someone might get you. Let me drive you. Let me watch you. Use your cell and call me the minute you’re in trouble. It was such a different world for kids. I love stories like this. The kids were brought up self reliant and I am not talking latch key, the saddest term of the century.

  • Mary

    Wondering who the artist is on the song “Watching the snow come down”…was it Lori Carson?

    Enjoyed the show…I live in Des Moines, and we have not had very much snow at all this year. I think we had 5 snow days from school last year!

  • Susan

    I live and grew up in Vermont, so I’m used to snow. However, my daugther lives in Brooklyn. Last year I was down there just after a major snow storm, and I was surprised. What floored me was that there are so many people there, many with cars on the street, but everyone waits for the “city” to take care of it. I wished that I had a shovel in my car, as I could have done better. I said then and now, if people had some coaching and some small/ not expensive equipment, and a willingness to share responsibility, they would have much better success, and at least emergency vehicles might be able to get through. I know there needs to be removal of the snow, and there is little place to put it, but bringing folks out into the steet as a neighborhood community and working together with a few tools and some sand barrels would be a start. I laughed when I saw one guy put bags of salt on top of a foot and a half or more of snow, all around his car, expecting it would melt it all away! A shovel would have done him more good… Overly simple, maybe, but what I find in my Vermont neighborhood is that a snowstorm brings neighbors out and working together, shoveling together, helping each other, firing up snow blowers, and even laughing! A little of that on every side street in Brooklyn would sure go a long way…

  • Brett

    Interesting alternative Rock version of the old, old Folk song “Rain and Snow” at the end of the broadcast

  • http://wbur.org John in Gloucester


    In your segment intro for this show, ONLY 16 SECONDS in, you used the term “weather BOMB”, and you emphasized bomb.

    It was only yesterday when you were chastising Sarah Palin’s use of “target” regarding political districts (And lord knows I am no fan of hers!). When one of your guests pointed out such language is commonplace in political speech today, and quoted President Obama regarding “bring a gun if the other guy has a knife”, you pretty much ignored it and moved on.

    I love your show, and I really hope you are not making a calculated track to the left in response to now being up againse Dianne Rheem in your home market – getting the “lefties” in New England and elsewhere is easy (and probably good business), but if you track left you will lose me and others who appreciate the fact you’ve tried pretty hard to call it straight, and making the “lefties” have to listen to some conservative ideas from time to time.

  • Mark S.

    All right, I am going to go against the tenor of the times and indulge in hate speech…


    There. Condemn me, if you must. I will accept the charge of being a hater…

  • Thomas Egan

    Mr. Ashbrook,

    Please stop talking so much, especially when someone else is. Please stop asking open-ended questions seconds before a required station break and then cutting people off in the middle of sentences. Please listen to today’s Democracy Now! for a better example of the Haiti story. Why are the reasons for Haiti’s extreme poverty never explored: the ransom they were required to pay France as a condition of their independence, the heavy-handed actions of the U S and international lending agencies in assessing interest rates. Poverty is a cause of the flimsy construction in Port au Prince. The US interfered with Haiti’s democratically elected president (Aristede) because he wasn’t one of their favorites, this after years of support for the dictator Duvalier. Why are these issues never explored?

  • Jennifer Koranda-Niesse

    I grew up in McHenry County where your guest is from. Snow days are part of my foundest childhood memories. BUT it ok about a foot of snow before they would cancel school. I now live in Louisville KY and they ceancel will school just for a snow forcast. I know it’s about what your used to but it really feels like insanity. The news broadcasters really work to fuel the insanity with all their “winter storm trackers”!

    Relax and enjoy the day off OR just drive slow people!!

  • http://www.beccar.wordpress.com Eugenia Renskoff

    Tom, I can tell you that in Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, the plow truck did come by at around 2 in the morning. I have seen them today too, but there is still mountains and mountains of snow for people to jump over. For disabled people and the elderly this is not good. Eugenia Renskoff

  • Flowen

    Whoever thinks human activity is not affecting climate change because of the weather, whether weird or normal, is either making a living (maybe getting rich) off it, or is a fool.

  • http://www.onpointradio.org Eileen Imada


    You are correct. We did play Lori Carson’s “Snow Come Down” during the show today.

    Thanks for asking.

  • Bush’s fault

    Of course we’re experiencing climate change. Australia, NPR reports, hasn’t has floods like these in 100 years. The climate changed, and they paused for a century, the climate changed again and they’re back. So, what is “normal” weather; 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or now?

  • Sylvie

    I’m from Montreal, live in Boston now for few years. In Montreal, storms like these are much less disturbing. Why ? Because there is 10 times the equipment to clean it. There is a plower every 10 minutes in snow storms, they start cleaning at the begining of the storm. I see that it would be very expensive to get all this equipment for a few storms a year, but could the cities “rent” or have agreements with other cities and states to have more equipment available ? I remember a ice storm in Quebec many years ago, a lot of people/equipment came from Maine and Vermont to help..maybe that should be done more often.

  • Beetlejuice

    I understand there is some new technology that mixes salt with beet juice to melt snow. Anybody know about this?

    • stillin

      I heard that beet juice worked, and they were going to try it instead of salt, that kills plants and grass that needs to come up in the spring..but it was too expensive? I heard about it a year ago…it works, there was some reason they couldn’t just switch from salt to the beet juice.

  • Brett

    Maybe snow storms are literary devices designed to slow us down and bring us together…just a thought: dues ex machina! …Okay, so I just watched the movie from Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth”?!? So what?!? ;-)

  • Beverly


    Please don’t be ridiculous.

    When President Obama quoted Elliot Ness, he was kidding with an audience member, about Eagles fans, etc. They were laughting. I heard the whole thing live, then 2 repeats.

    Now “snow bomb” is inflammatory? That’s ludicrous to the extreme. Besides, it was Sam Champion who coined it; Tom just repeated it. Who might it cause to come unhinged, Frosty the Snowman?

    If you’re so fair & balanced, why are you trying so hard to make something out of absolutely nothing? Sorry, but you don’t have a leg to stand on. You’re grasping at straws . . . invisible ones. (Need more cliches?)

    By the way, only 37% of NPR listeners are Democratic. Whose propaganda have you been the victim of?

  • Selena

    I loved this show! The whole point seems as clear as a bell to me. Heidi Cullen was right on the mark when she pointed out the temporary cooling and increased precipitation we are experiencing from polar ice melting due to global warming. How much more do we need to emphasize this fact? People think only of what this weather does today for them. What about our future!? This is a climactic destruction! I loved this show, good for you for finally making the weather front and center.

  • jandybee

    If every able-bodied resident and business owner of NYC would take a few shovel-fulls in and dump them in the tub or sink, the roads and sidewalks would be clear in no time.
    JJ Central MA

Aug 21, 2014
In this November 2012, file photo, posted on the website freejamesfoley.org, shows American journalist James Foley while covering the civil war in Aleppo, Syria. In a horrifying act of revenge for U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq, militants with the Islamic State extremist group have beheaded Foley — and are threatening to kill another hostage, U.S. officials say. (AP)

An American is beheaded. We’ll look at the ferocity of ISIS, and what to do about it.

Aug 21, 2014
Jen Joyce, a community manager for the Uber rideshare service, works on a laptop before a meeting of the Seattle City Council, Monday, March 17, 2014, at City Hall in Seattle. (AP)

We’ll look at workers trying to live and make a living in the age of TaskRabbit and computer-driven work schedules.

Aug 20, 2014
In this Oct. 21, 2013 file photo, a monarch butterfly lands on a confetti lantana plant in San Antonio. A half-century ago Monarch butterflies, tired, hungry and bursting to lay eggs, found plenty of nourishment flying across Texas. Native white-flowering balls of antelope milkweed covered grasslands, growing alongside nectar-filled wildflowers. But now, these orange-and-black winged butterflies find mostly buildings, manicured lawns and toxic, pesticide-filled plants. (AP)

This year’s monarch butterfly migration is the smallest ever recorded. We’ll ask why. It’s a big story. Plus: how climate change is creating new hybridized species.

Aug 20, 2014
A man holds his hands up in the street after a standoff with police Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP)

A deep read on Ferguson, Missouri and what we’re seeing about race, class, hope and fear in America.

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