George Hancock

November arrived on a Friday this year.

November’s dawn frequently arrives with troubling weather questions. We see our 2019 year is nearly over. And, ready or not, the holiday season quickly envelops our mindset.

November is frequently filled with bleak weather days.

The colorful foliage is gone. The November winds sweep those dry leaves across our landscape. Daylight is in short supply. Frost is a frequent morning companion. And that first snow is a distinct possibility. Or is it?

Early November weather forecasts strongly hint at continued above-average temperatures with dry conditions.

That first significant snowstorm is postponed. However, weather enthusiasts are keenly aware that local weather can change in a heartbeat.

Smart runners are weather aware. Running outside every day demands the proper gear and mindset. Seldom, if ever, does a weather event magically appear, creating havoc.

The National Weather Service, the Weather Channel and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency plus local forecasters diligently work to produce weather forecasts. The public is alerted to potential deadly and destructive weather systems.

Our task is remaining weather aware. This is an easy chore with today’s 24/7 weather news. There is no valid reason for weather systems to surprise individuals.

Folks need a plan when dealing with weather emergencies. People residing in low-lying regions, near waterways, along the coasts or in any area subject to rapidly changing weather need an emergency exit plan.

I’m astounded how many people are weather clueless.

Numerous weather videos reinforce this point. Folks interviewed during or after a weather disaster continually state “I had no idea it would get this bad.”

The end of the 2019 calendar year brings news recaps.

Many news agencies are reviewing the top 2019 stories. Weather events are frequently discussed.

One recurring weather theme is the extensive cost associated with our weather patterns. At this writing, 2019 has already witnessed 10 separate billion-dollar weather events. These monetary costs stagger individuals and local communities.

Perhaps the more depressing news stories involve those communities dealing with past weather events. For example, a recent Associated Press article by Mike Schneider detailed the Florida regions affected by Hurricane Michael last year.

The information was bleak.

Thousands of residents are still homeless. Medical care, housing starts, food and retail supplies are meager to nonexistent. People who lost everything simply left. Sadly, domestic violence and mental health issues are skyrocketing.

Our weather woes began early in the year. The Jan. 16-21 winter storms featured winds in excess of 132 mph in the Pacific Northwest. The Mammoth Mountain, California, region received 52 inches of snow. There were 10 fatalities in this weather event.

Feb. 11-13 witnessed more winter storms from the Northern Plains to the Midwest to the Northeast. The snowfall was measured in feet.

Early spring spawned destructive tornadoes in many southern states. Tornado sirens wailed their warnings. Smart individuals were prepared and sought shelter.

Fires in California, Florida and the Pacific Northwest burned thousands of acres while destroying numerous buildings.

Yet, flooding was perhaps the most destructive 2019 weather force. Severe flooding is a force many in the Greater Johnstown region understand. We remember the 1977 Johnstown Flood.

The 2019 Missouri River flooding created nearly $2.9 billion in damages throughout Iowa and Nebraska. Lush farmland was devastated.

The 2019 Mississippi River flooding across several seasons created $12.5 billion in damages. Some areas were above flood stage for 85 straight days. Recovery is slow.

People fleeing destructive damage with tears flowing marked 2019 weather events.

Yet, this is all a matter of perspective.

The weather in Greater Johnstown during this same time frame was pleasant. Our summer into early fall brought some of our nicest weather patterns ever.

Weather alertness remains a solid concept.

The more you know, the better the outcome.

• • •

Perhaps folks need to learn more about our nation’s changing social and cultural attitudes. One of my previous columns mentioned these religious, patriotic and family value shifts.

The local Penn State football player letter outcry is a great example. Our world has changed. Deal with it and move on.

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

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