My grandfather, visiting the north Jersey areas for Christmas from Scranton, Pennsylvania, picked the wrong time to get ill. The doctor said appendix and put him in St. Francis Hospital for Christmas Eve.
As the extended family gathered around the tree Christmas evening, as was the custom, we thought a lot about Papa Tom and not much about the quiet snow beginning to fall outside.
We were unaware that this was the start of the Great Blizzard of 1947. Eventually there would be three feet of snow on the ground and drifts much higher.
The New York newspapers were making comparisons to the Blizzard of ’88 that paralyzed the region for weeks.
My grandfather recovered well despite the fact he was portly. The big problem was visiting him. Transportation was snowed in. A few brave sons and daughters managed to hike in the heavy snow to the hospital to confirm his well being.
For schoolkids, as I was at the time, the storm was at first a big letdown.
After all, classes already were canceled for the Christmas holidays, and the snow would be gone by the time schools reopened after New Year’s.
Unlike the storm that is hitting the northeastern United States today, there was no warning in 1947. There were no satellites to track the storm, and the blizzard snuck in from the Atlantic after having picked up strength from the Gulf Stream. That is an unexpected direction for northeastern storms because most of the weather comes from the west.
Papa Tom missed all the fun. By the time he exited the hospital, the streets were cleared and public transportation was back to normal. Snowmen dotted the landscape as did temporary ramps for sledding.
The blizzard was just an act of nature, folks said then. No one blamed global warming or climate change.