Category Archives: weather


Erie unseated as snowiest U.S. city … for now

As of earlier this evening, all that separates the top two snowiest cities is about 5 inches.

But earlier today, Worcester, Mass., unseated Erie as the snowiest city (of at least 100,000 people), according to

Worcester also is the first city to hit 90 inches of snow this year, the site says.

But there’s still time, and we all know that it doesn’t stop snowing in Erie until at least mid-April.

Remembering Edith Hughes…

Unlike many colleagues and friends, my stories of Edith Hughes don’t involve what seemed to be a haphazard interview session or a layout filled with red ink corrections.

My first run-in with Edith came one morning in 2007 in the Gateway Newspapers former office on Greentree Road. It was early that morning — just myself and Signal Item editor Bob Pastin were in. Edith quickly zipped through the office, pausing just enough to look at me — a new face. She rushed into Bob’s cubicle and asked, “Who is that?”

Bob replied, explaining I was the new (at the time) part-time reporter for the Signal Item and Sewickley Herald. She came back out of his cubicle, looked at me as I awkwardly smiled at her — unsure of what just took place, and then she left.

The first time I spoke to Edith was in Harrisburg for a Pennsylvania Newspaper Association weeklies conference. Her first statement: “Did you get breakfast?” No, I said. She then looked me up and down and asked how I was liking the Sewickley Herald. Before I could finish a sentence, she said, “Interesting attire, young man.” I had on khakis, a polo shirt and tennis shoes — my usual work attire.

She then said, “Maybe you’ll learn something here to take back to Sewickley.”

What she didn’t know is that it wasn’t the guest speakers from The Patriot-News or any other newspaper that I’d learn from that day. It was Edith who would teach me more than I ever thought I could know.

You see, Edith had a way with more than just journalism. She had a way with life. In her eyes, good manners, proper attire and fine detail meant everything. You didn’t cut corners. You gave more than your best. And you did all of that out of respect for yourself, your talent and your colleagues.

I got to know her more through stories from colleagues and from her random visits to the Sewickley Herald office. She played a major role in the Herald’s annual honors dinner, recognizing the great community-minded individuals of the year. Place cards were handwritten, not typed. The menu offered nothing but the best food. And the entire evening was as perfect as perfect could be. Why? Because she’d settle for nothing less.

At one of the honors dinners, she looked at me and said, “You clean up well. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

In January of this year, I returned from a nearly two-week-long vacation. I had a missed call and e-mail from Edith. Odd, I thought. Out of the more than 20 voice mails and 200 e-mails, Edith’s were the first messages I responded to.

Days later, I heard from her. She wanted to talk to me in person. I was nervous, to say the least. She couldn’t fire me, she didn’t have that authority anymore. Right? But what did I do to be getting a visit exclusively from Edith?

I dressed a tad nicer than my average wardrobe (no tie, though), and awaited her visit. Snowflakes were flying. Edith called and said she’d be late. Finally, Edith arrived and whisked me away into the conference room where she shut the door.

“I need you to talk at the weeklies seminar about everything you do with technology,” she said. “It’s in April.”

This was early January — many months and inches of snow away from April.

“Yeah, I’ll do it,” I nervously said, scribbling down the words “April” and “PNA.”

“Yes, you’ll do it,” Edith said, either repeating what I said, but probably correcting my language.

She expected an outline by mid-February. I e-mailed her an outline by the end of that week in January.

The morning of the conference, Edith — oddly enough — was late. As it turned out, the massive rain and flooding from the previous day and night knocked the power out at her hotel. I stayed elsewhere in the Harrisburg area, which was unheard of in Edith’s mind because I did not get breakfast options at my hotel (though, she was impressed that I got a better room rate than she!).

Right before my turn to present, I completely re-did my entire presentation because the previous speakers took most of what I was going to say. Introducing me to the crowd, Edith explained what a dedicated and passionate reporter I was, and what I had done to help make the Sewickley Herald a newsier paper. I can remember standing there thinking, “Holy crap, Edith is saying this about me?”

Afterward, Edith told me I was the best presenter (even though I went over by 15 minutes). “That was some talk you gave” she said. “Even I was surprised. You knocked their socks off.”  She paused and said, “You’re already booked for next year.” I didn’t get a chance to agree because she grabbed a mint and walked away.

I wasn’t hired by her or even worked under her, but I still felt I needed her approval as a journalist. And I’m pretty sure I got it that day.

She didn’t make the Herald’s honors dinner this year because she was traveling. But I did sit next to her in May at the Keystone Press Awards, where she, again, spoke highly of my presentation a month earlier. At the Keystone Press Awards dinner, we talked about my presentation for next April and how she thought the awards dinner chicken was too dry and the speakers were mostly boring.

She, no doubt, has made a lasting impact on my career — and more importantly, my life. Thanks to Edith, I hold myself in higher regard and respect the decisions I make and the stories I cover, knowing that my name is on whatever story I’m writing at the moment, so it better be the best it can be.

“Reporters are a dime a dozen,” she once told me. That phrase has stuck with me, allowing me to remember what my job is and to carry it out with dignity and respect.

Edith made me realize just how important grammar and proper communication skills are, and to be poignant, sharp and decisive.

My world is a better place thanks to Edith.

I don’t mind the rain

I realized something today that I think I’ve probably always known: I like rain.

No, I don’t like flooding or monsoon-type conditions. But a nice, cloudy day with hit or miss showers and some thunder and lightning really are nice.

There’s something about hearing the rain pelt off a roof or windowsill that allows me to be at peace and still accomplish the day’s tasks. That pitt-pitt-pitt noise of the drips coming from an overhang help me to imagine that I’m sitting on a wraparound porch on a wooden lounge chair (sometimes a swinging chair) with a nice, soft cushion as a light breeze dances through.

Off in the distance, I can see a large body of water (at times, it is Lake Erie, and other times, it is an ocean) with constant waves marching to the shore.

I’ve always wanted a patio with a protective cover. My family has a nice deck on the side of our house that is fantastic for the summer sun. But when it rains, we scatter indoors as a few of our neighbors remain outside watching the rain fall.

At an apartment I once lived in, there was a front porch area where I’d often sit and take in the views the rain offered.

Lightning and thunder add to the views, too. And, while I know it is dangerous to be outside in a storm, I still can escape an opportunity to sit outside in a thunderstorm.

Of course, the muddy yard is a less than desirable after effect of a rain fall, but that’s to be expected, I suppose. Puddles always are fun unless you’re standing at a street corner as a car whizzes by. That happened once to me — I was waiting to cross when a car’s tire hit a puddle. From the waist down, it looked as though I couldn’t wait to use the restroom.

Probably, the only time rain disgusts me is during a day at Kennywood Park. There’s nothing more upsetting than to be in line for the Thunderbolt or Jack Rabbit and hear the ride attendants talk about an impending storm.

I’ve waited out the rain a handful of times at Kennywood. Those were the times you filed into the Penny Arcade or the cafeteria. Of course, so did everybody else.

No matter how long the rain lasts, I know it won’t be around forever. It’s just part of the constantly changing weather. Besides, come August, we’ll be longing for a good, steady rainfall to help the plant life grow.

If for nothing else, I finally was able to use a Christmas gift my friend Jim Lokay gave me — an umbrella with a fun map of Pittsburgh on the underside. Kept looking up when I should have watched where I was going!

I’ll need a few more rain falls to look at what other landmarks the map offers.

It’s winter. It snows.

Fact: It snows in winter.

Fact: It snows in western Pennsylvania.

So why do so many people continue bitching and moaning and acting like it’s just the end of the world because of snow falling from the sky?

News flash: It snows in western Pennsylvania in winter. Deal.

When the snow started following Monday, this is what my Twitter feed looked like:


Look at how stupid all of sound who bitched about the snow. Is your life so important that you can’t deal with a little snow?

Anywhere between 7 inches and 9 inches appear to have fallen. That’s nothing for other regions in the country in a similar time period.

And then the roads… first, let’s look at some of the issues with a level-headed process:

  • Snow plows: PennDOT and other road crews couldn’t clear roads or salt because so many drivers had clogged roadways. Think about what a snow plow looks like going down the road. The driver is cruising along clearing snow. Now think about how a snow plow driver could have done that yesterday?
  • Speeds: Driving along a snow-covered road at anything under 20 mph is unsafe. Driving a long a snow-covered roadway going above the maximum speed always is illegal and wrong. But let’s focus for a moment on drivers who think it’s OK to go under 20 mph. Why? You’re on I-79 and you’re going 10 mph? Get the hell out of my way. You go slow and you’re going to get stuck!
  • Going up a hill: If you go up a hill at anything under 20 mph, you’re going to get stuck, spin out and/or slide back down the hill. You’re also going to cause more wrecks. Go up the hill as fast as you can so not to get stuck. Trust me.

Look. I drive an old rust bucket. I don’t drive some vehicle with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. I don’t have a Hummer or some honkin’ SUV. I drive an old Chevy Cavalier that if I told you how old it actually is, you’d laugh at me.

My tires aren’t the best (they’re also not the worst). I tell you this so you don’t think I am one of those drivers who thinks that because I have four-wheel drive that the snow doesn’t affect me.

I’m telling you what I drive so you understand that I’m not some cocky ass on the road in a snowstorm. When I was able to cruise along by myself on I-79, I was going no more than 35 mph and no less than 20 mph.

When I was going up hills, I gunned that sucker.

But what I was dealt with were drivers who freaked out, panicked and otherwise lost any amount of common sense they had. Rather than calm down and take each move one step at a time, all I saw were people who had no clue what to do on the roads.

I guess your iPhone and Twitter can’t help you in every situation, eh?

Twitter and Facebook don’t help, either. Both of those sites help increase the hype surrounding a snowfall. People tweet and pass on information with false messages.

I heard a few people say that they were shocked at the amount of snow since meteorologists didn’t forecast that much. So what? SCIENCE IS FLUID. IT ALWAYS CHANGES!!! A forecast isn’t a legal contract. It is a prediction. If a meteorologist says it might snow, then plan for snow. If it snows, then it snows. If it doesn’t snow, then it doesn’t snow. Move on.

It boggles my mind how people freak over snow. Why? What does it solve to act like a complete fool on the roads? Why panic when a flake flies?

Instead of panicking, learn to drive in it. You can’t push a button and turn it off, so you deal with it, like you do everything else life throws your way.

I really wonder what everybody would act like if we truly had a catastrophe. I fear for the future of our civilization if we can’t even deal with a little bit of snow.

It’s winter. It snows.