It’s coming. Any day now. Could be tomorrow, could be a week down the road, but it’s coming, oh yes. 

Mark LaFlamme

The first big snow storm of the year looms over us like the fabled Snow Scoop of Damocles, a seasonal threat that will always be delivered. 

We just don’t know when. 

I’m not talking about Wednesday’s cotton candy. I’m talking the Big One.

I find that I am tense waiting for it. I’m like a kid in a classroom waiting for that ruler to come down upon his knuckles as punishment for this or that. 

It’s not the rapped knuckles that hurts so much, is the waiting for it. 

I hate the first blizzard of the season because I know how it’s going to go. The first flakes will fall and the roads will become what the old-timers like to call “greezy.” 

Editors in the newsroom will be on the fence about whether we need to write about such a storm, but then the police scanner will start crackling with all the stupid drama of the season’s first blow. 

A car slides into a phone pole somewhere and dispatchers are sending out so many police, fire and ambulance crews, this prosaic fender bender suddenly sounds like a shootout on the streets. 

An SUV skids through an intersection and is now hopelessly stuck on somebody’s front lawn. Two cars plow into each other on Court Street in Auburn (it’s always Court Street) and dispatchers dutifully relate that the drivers are outside their cars and arguing viciously in the street. 

Somewhere in the Twin Cities, a car will slide into a house. Somewhere else, three or four will skid into ditches, all at the same time, as if the drivers coordinated the attack to spite me personally. 

A few cars will get stuck trying to climb Goff Hill in Auburn and the first cop on scene will relate (over the air and into the ears of my editors) that it’s “like a skating rink out here.” 

Maine State Police will put out a notice advising that the speed limit on the highways have been dropped. The turnpike people will post something on Facebook to plead with people to slow down and stop denting their guardrails. In spite of all this, nine cars will be reported off the road on Interstate 95 between Sabattus and Auburn, and brother, that’s all she wrote. 

I’ve been doing this for so long, I can actually FEEL the email slamming into my mailbox even before it arrives.  

“Say, Mark,” the note will begin, because editors are always polite even if within the reporter’s head, they all sound like Vincent Price at his most diabolical. “We’re going to need a weather story. A story, that is, about the weather.” 

At which point, the editors all retire to the secret editor lounge I know they have somewhere to titter madly because they know that my spirit has been crushed. 

Now, let me be clear about something. I always try to make my weather stories (I just sobbed aloud writing that line) as fresh and as interesting as I can possibly make them. I really do, because you, the four people who read these things, deserve to be entertained as you’re being informed. 

But after 27 #[email protected]#@ YEARS OF WRITING WEATHER STORIES, to me, they all sound the same, and the first storm story of the winter in particular. 

I’ll call the hardware stores. 

“Yup,” they’ll tell me. “Selling a lot of shovels and rock salt. Why, did you suppose they were buying lawn chairs and sunscreen? Idiot. Stop calling me every time it snows.” 

I’ll call the weather people. 

“We’re expecting a foot of wet, heavy snow,” they’ll say. “You know, just like we’ve been reporting on Facebook for the past week.” 

I’ll call the police and they’re always glad to hear from me, because it gives them a chance to dust off the same yellowing script they’ve been using for decades during winter’s first storms. 

“This time of year, people seem to have forgotten how to drive in snow,” they’ll tell me, yawning. “It’s important to consider road conditions, particularly when approaching intersections. Did you want information about the triple homicide, too, or are you just doing weather tonight?” 

Cops, like me, would rather be working on more meaty stuff than breaking up fights at Court Street crash scenes. During storms, I get turned into a weatherman, they get turned into crossing guards. It’s just no fun for any of us. 

The one saving grace of covering storms is the fact that the police scanner traffic can often be entertaining as aggravated cops go out to manage a population of people who drive like they’ve never seen snow before. But this year we don’t even get that, since the local police have blocked their channels to us riff raff. 

Not that I’m bitter. 

I don’t know when the first storm of substance will hit us, and the anticipation is making me crazy. The weather people keep making noise like MAYBE something is coming, but that something so far has turned into mostly rain and a little bit of wind, or a glorified dusting like this week. 

So I wait. And wait some more, with one eye on the window and an ear on the scanner. I wait, knowing that one day soon I may be deep into a story about an extraterrestrial space ship that has landed in the middle of Kennedy Park (oh, it’s going to happen) when I’ll get a note from an editor. 

“Say, Mark…” this note will begin. 

And that will be that. I’ll have to put the big story aside and start writing about people driving onto front lawns and into ditches while E.T. grants his first interview to Channel 8. 

Somewhere off in the distance, Vincent Price will just laugh and laugh… 

When Mark LaFlamme isn’t avoiding his editors’ calls from the newsroom on snowy days, he’s covering crime for the Sun Journal.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.