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Sunday, February 18 Opinion

Woog's World / Winter, thy name is ____?

The new year was barely two days old last week when the first snowstorm of 2014 barreled into town.

It came bearing eight or so inches of white stuff, decently high winds and the coldest temperatures in several years. It also bore a name: "Hercules."

Give me a break.

Do we really need to name snowstorms -- which, this being New England, occur with pretty decent regularity? Hercules was not a blizzard. It was not a hurricane or typhoon (not that we have to worry about those). It was a snowstorm.

What's next? Naming rainy days? Clouds in the sky? Molecules in the air?

And Hercules? Where did that come from?

A Latin class at Bozeman High School in Montana. I swear I am not making this up -- how could I? Apparently, the Weather Channel -- when not producing breathless videos about every weather pattern possible, including hail and locusts -- decided that snowstorms need names. So they outsourced the job to a bunch of teenagers in a place where it snows quite a bit (but I am sure the schools never close). (Hey, that's Westport, too!)

The result is a list that begins with Atlas, Boreas, Cleon, Dion, Electra, Falco and Gemini -- apparently we've missed seven named storms already -- and powers through the likes of Pax, Quintus and Vulcan. Let's hope we never get to Xenia, Yona and certainly not Zephyr.

But I digress. I wanted to talk about what to do when the snow flies. Named or unnamed flakes, it's all the same.

Westport has long been a winter wonderland, but newcomers may like a guide to handling the white stuff. As with most life skills, there is a certain way of handling snow in Westport that is a bit different than, say, anywhere else in the real world.

The first thing to do when word comes of impending snow (spoiler: the next storm will be called Ion!) is to panic. Whether you regularly buy milk and eggs or not becomes irrelevant. If you are a true Westporter you must race to Stop & Shop, Fresh Market, Trader Joe's or Whole Foods -- or better yet, all four -- and buy every single item you can hurl into your cart. It is quite possible you will be snowed in for days, weeks, months, years, perhaps your lifetime, so you must stock your refrigerator and cupboards with bomb shelter-like quantities of food.

Especially milk and eggs.

Next stop is the library. Even though we now enjoy the miracle of livestreaming (thanks, Netflix!), one never knows what can happen. The servers might go down! So, to be sure we are not entertainment-less, we must scavenge the shelves for several dozen DVDs. We could not watch the amount of videos we check out even if we were lying helpless in a hospital bed, attached to the ceiling by pulleys, but that is not the point. The point is that we are the Westport version of Boy Scouts -- prepared for everything -- so we undertake the Herculean task of lugging a jillion DVDs to our car. After all, a snowstorm is on the way!

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Then it's time to head to the hardware store. There are several in Westport, but the go-to place is Crossroads. That is because it is an old-fashioned hardware store, the kind you would find in Vermont (or Westport, if you time traveled back to the 1950s). AJ and Jimmy Izzo and their crack staff of hardware store experts have an almost limitless supply of the things you should have bought long ago but did not because this is Westport and you were off at your second home in Vermont skiing. So AJ and Jimmy will help you stock up on snow shovels, professional-strength snow and ice melters, and any other storm needs. They will even tie it to your roof, if there is no room in your car because it is filled to the brim with milk and eggs and DVDs.

Two years ago, back in the dark ages before snowstorms had names, Westport got whacked with 79 snowfalls in about 12 days. We sat huddled in our homes, eating eggs, drinking milk, watching "Hercules" on DVD and wondering what that ominous sound was above our heads.

"Our roofs are caving in!" someone said. Yes, yes, we needed to buy roof rakes -- implements none of us ever knew existed, since from the beginning of time we had never had 25 feet of snow on our roofs. Crossroads Hardware turned out to be the Roof Rake Capital of the World, and we all lived happily ever after.

Until, of course, an unnamed windstorm came two months later and threw us all into the dark, for a week or three. But that's another story.

Editor's note: Winter storm names are an invention of television broadcasters and are not recognized by the National Weather Service or by most newspapers, including the Westport News.

Dan Woog is a Westport writer, and his "Woog's World" appears each Friday. He can be reached at dwoog@optonline.net. His personal blog is www.danwoog06880.