In the publishing business, deadline days are typically stressful and hectic, but yesterday took it to another level.
I started my day around 4 in the morning after having a dream about a power outage keeping us from publishing the paper. I am always up early on Thursdays because I usually have a lot of work to do. The short week and that nightmare heightened my load.
As I began to edit and write in my living room amid blizzard conditions outside, I started wondering what the roads were like and the newspaperman inside me distracted me from the task at hand. I had to get outside and see what the roads were like and get some pictures to share online with our readers.
What I saw at 7:45 a.m. was unlike anything I have ever seen. The roads were dangerous from the snowfall but it was the wind that made driving so treacherous. I followed some plows down the center of the two-lane Route 50 going about 25 mph. It took me 30 minutes to get to Ocean City to pick up our stranded art director so we could meet our deadline. At the corner of Routes 50 and 611, I sat through a green light because a handful of motorists couldn’t see out their windshield as their wipers kept accumulating ice. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, I joined them and got out of my truck on Route 50 and scraped ice off my wipers. Off in the distance I heard what sounded like two vehicles colliding, but it may have been thunder snow.
Once into Ocean City, the conditions were worse than I have ever seen. I have covered hurricanes and Nor’easters, but the wind combined with the white-out snow conditions and the horrible roads were unlike anything I have covered. It was unsafe to be certain. That is not intended to slight anyone. I saw crews out working and they were doing their best, but as soon as a plow would head through a three-foot drift a gust of wind would deposit it directly back where it was previously. In this case, it was an unwinnable battle against Mother Nature’s wrath.
If the wind was a sustained 20 mph in Berlin, it was easily double that on the beach. Visibility was less than a block around 8 in the morning. As I picked up our art director downtown, I spoke with a contractor working on a pump station project near 1st Street. He was from central Pennsylvania. I asked him if the conditions were a big deal to him since he’s more accustomed to winter weather. I felt a sense of relief when he told me what was happening in Ocean City was altogether different than what he gets at home. He called it a “hurrizzard” in a draw that had me laughing. I told him I was going to have to steal that term because I have an issue with naming these winter storms. It seems so contrived. I also detest the mention of “bomb” when it comes to weather. That just seems inappropriate to me. My friendly wordsmith was fine with using his creation so long as I credited him.
Unfortunately, it was snowing so hard the name of his company was covered up. As a huge gust of wind smacked me with snow and ice, he rolled up his window and was on his way before I could turn back around. He was heading north to central Pennsylvania to better conditions he shouted as he drove off.
People who work in the newspaper business are cut from a different cloth. We have a job to do and a responsibility we take seriously. We can’t call out or close if there’s a deadline. We don’t shelter in place to avoid weather extremes. We go out and cover it. We report on what we see to the best of our abilities. We get the job done. In yesterday’s case, it was wet, cold, dangerous and exhausting.
I thank my crew for toughing it out and making it to work yesterday in addition to the dedicated delivery drivers who put this paper on the streets overnight in Arctic weather extremes.
One of the things I have always loved about this job as a newspaper editor is every day is different. Indeed, yesterday was a deadline day I will never forget, especially because we never lost power.