Erie, Pennsylvania Just Got Buried in 53 Inches of Snow in 30 Hours

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iStock

Be careful what you wish for: Residents of Erie, Pennsylvania who were dreaming of a white Christmas got more than they bargained for when a jaw-dropping 53 inches of snow fell on the city and its surrounding areas over a 30-hour period. The white stuff started to fall on Christmas Day, and by the end of Monday there was a total of 34 inches on the ground, according to the National Weather Service in Cleveland. It was a record-setting total for the city, clobbering its previous snowiest-day-ever, when 20 inches fell on November 11, 1956. But Mother Nature wasn't done with them yet.

The heavy snowfall continued into Tuesday morning, dropping another 19 inches, for a grand total of 53 inches of snow—just under 4.5 feet—by Tuesday morning. But it’s still not over; the snow is expected to continue through Wednesday. The city of Erie and several surrounding areas have declared snow emergencies, and requested that residents stay off the “dangerous and impassable” roads until emergency workers can make them safe for drivers again.

Chuck Zysk, Erie’s assistant director of public works, told GoErie.com that he had never seen this much snow in such a short period of time. “I think our guys are doing a tremendous job," he said. "But we have work ahead of us." Adding to the challenge is the number of vehicles that were abandoned in the middle of city streets after getting stuck in the snow.

As of 9:12 a.m., however, U.S. mail carriers were still scheduled to hit the roads and make their deliveries. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” may not be the USPS’s official motto, but maybe it should be.

How Waffle House Helps Measure the Severity of a Natural Disaster

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iStock

There are a lot of ways the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assesses and addresses the severity of a natural disaster. Meteorology can predict movement patterns, wind gusts, and precipitation. Resources are dispatched to areas hit hardest by torrential weather.

But when the agency needs an accurate, ground-level gauge for how a community is coping during a crisis, they turn to Waffle House.

Since 2004, FEMA has utilized what former administrator Craig Fugate called the “Waffle House Index.” Because the casual dining chain is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, tracking to see if a location is closed or working with limited supplies can help inform the agency as to whether affected areas are ailing or taking steps toward normalcy.

“If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad,” Fugate told NPR in 2011. “We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow ... If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the bad stuff yet.”

For FEMA, the ability to order a plate of smothered and covered hash browns is an important analytic. If a Waffle House is having trouble getting stock, then transportation has been interrupted. If the menu is limited, then it’s possible they have some utilities but not others. If its locations have locked their doors, inclement weather has taken over. The chain’s locations would normally stay open even in severe conditions to help first responders.

The company has opened a Waffle House Storm Center to gather data in anticipation of Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm expected to touch down in the Carolinas this week. But not all locations are taking a wait-and-see approach. One Waffle House in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has already closed due to the looming threat, making it the first red dot on the Index.

[h/t CNN]

See What Hurricane Florence Looks Like From Space

NASA via Getty Images
NASA via Getty Images

As Hurricane Florence continues to creep its way toward the Carolinas, it’s repeatedly being described as both "the storm of the century” and "the storm of a lifetime” for parts of the coastlines of North and South Carolina. While that may sound like hyperbole to some, Alexander Gerst—an astronaut with the European Space Agency—took to Twitter to prove otherwise with a few amazing photos, and issued a warning to “Watch out, America!”

According to the National Weather Service, “Hurricane Florence will be approaching the Carolina shores as the day progresses on Thursday. Although the exact timing, location, and eventual track of Florence isn't known, local impacts will likely begin in the afternoon hours and only worsen with time throughout the evening and overnight period.”

On Tuesday, Wilmington, North Carolina's National Weather Service took the warning even one step further, writing: "This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew. I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm.”

Gerst’s photos certainly drive that point home.

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