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Long Story Short: Just cool it


illustration by JP Thimot


They did it again

There’s another word for last Thursday’s east coast "cyclone bomb." Winter. Yes, it got cold, real cold. And there was snow. But if you listened to media forecasts in advance of Thursday, you would have thought we were headed for Armageddon.


The details:

The news media did what it always does; it raised a hyperbolic alarm over what was touted as potentially one of the most catastrophic events in weather history. “Bombogenesis” sounds downright biblical, doesn’t it? But to meteorologists the term “bomb” simply refers to a quick barometer drop of at least twenty-four millibars in twenty-four hours. The barometric pressure drops like a bomb. Nothing explodes, and the sky does not fall. And since when are we naming snowstorms in advance like hurricanes? You give something like that a name and it sounds grim. This one was “Winter Storm Grayson”—the Boy Wonder of snow storms. If you’re going to start handing out names for winter weather, how about something less ominous—like “Bob the Blizzard?”


While we’re at it, "polar vortex" is another scary phrase forecasters discovered a few years back. To meteorologists it refers to rotating polar winds that occur 365 days a year, and grow stronger every winter, and weaker every summer. And here’s the thing; polar vortexes are barriers that keep cold Arctic air in, so it doesn’t make its way down to us. A polar vortex is good. It’s when it weakens that cold air escapes and makes it down to Buffalo (and beyond). So, when radio and TV weather-announcers say there’s a polar vortex driving cold air down, they have it backwards. And what weakens the polar vortex? Climate researcher Marlene Kretschmer says it’s sea ice loss, due to human induced global warming. When noted climate change denier Senator Jim Inhofe infamously brought a snowball into the Capitol, he was actually illustrating global warming.


The takeaway:

It’s true that South Carolina got buried under more snow than it usually sees in a decade, and people with unpracticed snow-driving skills turned roads into bumper-car rides. And Boston was pummeled with heavy winds and coastal flooding. The Washington Post reports that “The storm dumped more than a foot of snow in areas from Virginia to New Hampshire,” which to Buffalonians sounds like a moderate inconvenience.  In Buffalo, it was just cold.


Frightening headlines lose their impact when apocalyptic prognostications fail to materialize. And forecasters miss the big ones anyway. They never saw the Blizzard of 77 coming. They were caught offguard by the October Surprise. Advance weather reports got the Knife all wrong. So, dialing back the dire rhetoric might be a good move all around. 



Here’s the skinny on a skinny park planned for Buffalo

Congressman Brian Higgins has long been a strong advocate for public access to Buffalo’s waterfront. Now, the man who helped secure the New York Power Authority settlement that funded much of the Inner Harbor’s transformation, and assisted in creating the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation, has another waterfront cause to champion. He and others have a plan to create an innovative public park out of industrial wasteland. Higgins wants you to know this is not a pie in the sky idea, though the park will, in fact, be in the sky.


The details:

On January 3, the Western New York Land Conservancy (WNYLC) announced a plan to convert a mile and a half section of the abandoned DL&W rail corridor along the waterfront into an elevated trail and linear park. The environmentally friendly trail would stretch from the Buffalo River, across from Solar City, to Canalside. The unused railway is elevated twenty-five feet, so it would offer a great view of newly developed areas of the city. The concept has been carried out successfully in nineteen other cities, including Chicago, where the 606 trail has proven to be a popular attraction. The elevated nature trail would connect the Old First Ward (where homeowners’ properties butt up against the railway), with Erie County’s Red Jacket Riverfront Natural Habitat Park.


The Valley Community Association and Old First Ward Community Center are on board, along with other political leaders, including Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which owns the land, also appears committed. Around $120,000 in startup funds have been provided by Ralph C. Wilson Jr. through the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, and from M&T Bank, along with individual donations. How much money must eventually be raised won’t be known until plans are completed this summer, but the potential for economic development looms large with this sort of project. Higgins’ role is largely supportive, though his track record for getting such things accomplished is pretty solid. And he has flatly stated, “This is going to get done.”


The takeaway:

With something like this, you just know brainstorming is already in high gear. Besides being a wildlife habitat with various environmental perks, there is talk of an observation point for railroad buffs. Jogging would be popular in the warm months, and cross-country skiing or even skating could occur in the winter. The idea to include public art arose quickly too. If you would like to donate to the DL&W project, you can do so through the Land Conservancy’s website.  



Prints vs. institutional plain

Nurses at Kaleida hospitals have always decided for themselves what kind of scrubs they would wear. Most favor cheerful prints, which tend to lighten the otherwise antiseptic hospital atmosphere. But Kaleida Health wants to give their nursing staff a uniform appearance—with actual uniforms. This would include the nurses at John R. Oishei Children's Hospital. And Kaleida’s corporate think tank came up with the perfect color for working with sick children—gray.


The details:

Kaleida executive vice president and chief nurse executive, Cheryl A. Klass, had the following to say, according to the Buffalo News: “Our objective is that the standards of appearance reflect the standard of nursing care we deliver across our system. Nationally, clearly identified registered nurses support feelings of trust and confidence. We want our patients to know who our registered nurses are.”


Kaleida is concerned that patients and family members might be confused by the current varied uniforms. They might, for instance, think that the person wrapping the blood pressure cuff around their arm is someone who wandered in off the street, and that would be a perfectly reasonable assumption, if not for the identification badge visibly hanging around the nurse’s neck. The nursing staff believes patients—especially children—benefit from the cheery appearance of their more colorful scrubs, with Mickey Mouse, baseballs, and pineapple patterns, to name a few. Some of the nurses even make their own scrubs.


The new dress code was supposed to start New Year’s Day. But the nurses have a union. Since the nursing staff pays for its own working garb—which can be very costly—the hospital’s two nurse unions contend that this is an item to be negotiated, and the current contract runs to May 2019.


The takeaway:

Patients and parents have been very supportive of the nurses’ bid to keep their colorful outfits. The hospital has backed down for the time being, after the union’s response. The new Children's Hospital is a state-of-the-art facility that will build on a tradition of exceptional treatment. Does homogeneous gray “reflect the standard of nursing care” the hospital is known for? I go with pineapples.




Artist and educator Bruce Adams is a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.


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