Editorial: Let it melt!

Readers have asked how the great snow events of recent days compare with times past. Such queries reconfirm the central place that traditional county-seat weeklies have in local citizens’ lives.

For this kind of local history is readily available only in the usually dusty archives of the local weekly newspaper. One day perhaps even the oldest editions of the most local newspapers will all be digitalized and available online. But, still, the original source of that unique information remains the local newspaper.

So it was with pleasure that we have gone searching though old issues of Rappahannock News to find:

The front page of the February 3, 1966, edition was covered in snow pictures of the “weekend blizzard” that brought upwards of a foot of snow, which gale-force winds piled much, much higher. Drifting snow covered Route 211 in many places, and highway crews had difficulty keeping one lane open for traffic. The Harris Hollow road leading to the Skyline Ski Area had to be bulldozed open to release about 50 people trapped there all weekend by the huge drifts.
Big Meadows on top of the Blue Ridge recorded a record 47 inches of snowfall accumulation!

On Feb. 22, 1979, the front page heralded the “Blizzard of ’79,” also called the “Presidents’ Day Storm.” It was, said the story, the worst storm to hit the area in more than half a century. A photo showed a roadside stand with a sign offering cider for sale, near Sperryville, buried in snow after the highway department plows had done their work: “The cider may be ice cold but you’ve got to dig it out first,” read the caption.

Just three weeks earlier, the Feb. 1 front page was lamenting the season’s lack of snow. Which just goes to show two universal truths: (1) Be careful what you wish for. (2) It’s the newspaper’s job to report the unusual, whether too little precipitation or too much snow. It’s only really news if man bites dog. With its weekly deadlines, the local newspaper punctuates the normal rhythms of life by reporting what’s unusual.

With all this unusual cold and snow, now’s the perfect time for the Piedmont Environmental Council to launch its first “Energy Smart Solution” campaign. Rappahannock residents can expect to receive a printed guide in their mailboxes shortly with smart tips on “saving energy, saving money, and saving our planet.” The guide is modeled after PEC’s hugely successful “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” mailing.

To support this latest PEC campaign, the CFC Farm and Home Center Route 211 is offering a 10 percent discount on energy-saving materials that they offer, such as compact florescent bulbs, silicone caulk, spray foam insulation, and power strips/surge protectors.

So even if the snow doesn’t melt anytime soon, you can stay warm.

Walter Nicklin