Worst Winters than the Current U.S. Winter

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 28th, 2014

History 101

The 1993 Storm of the Century killed some 318 People

If you live in the Northern Plains, the Midwest or the Northeast you’re probably thinking about one thing.  Spring.  Having had enough of snow and cold.  Alberta clippers.  Polar vortexes.  Nor’easters.  Enough.  Some people have already shoveled more snow in January than they did all of last winter.  Feeling that this winter was the worst winter ever.  But is it?  No.

The 1993 Storm of the Century is the only storm that I literally ran away from.  Or, rather, drove away from.  I was in New York State at the beginning of the snowfall heading to some New England ski resorts in March.  The forecast was not good for the drive ahead.  So we raced north.  To get above this monster that dumped some 4 feet of snow where we were and were about to drive through.  And skied at Mont-Tremblant north of Montréal for a day.  Then headed east.  On the drive from Montréal to Québec City for a day of skiing at Mont-Sainte-Anne there was drifting snow and whiteout conditions on the Quebec Autoroute 40 freeway.  It took about 8 hours to travel what normally took 4.  High winds buffeted the car.  And snow drifts crept in from the shoulder.  Covering icy roads.  The drive was stressful to say the least.  And we had skirted north of the worst of this storm.  Which reached as far south as Central America.  With hurricane storm surges, tornadoes and arctic temperatures killing some 318 people.

Before the 1993 Storm of the Century people in the Northeast called the Northeastern blizzard of 1978 the storm of the century.  Some still do.  This was an extra-tropical cyclone that blew up the east coast and crashed into an arctic cold front in February.  Hurricane-force winds, heavy snow and rain and a storm surge pounded the Northeast.  Snow fell for 33 hours straight.  Then turned to an icy-snow mix.  Putting a layer of ice over some 2 feet of snow.  And weighing down tree branches and power lines.  Which fell under the weight of this ice.  Adding power outages on top of everything else.  By the time it was over approximately 100 people were dead.  With close to $2 billion (in current dollars) in damages left in its wake.  Making the Northeastern blizzard of 1978 a close second to that other storm of the century.

The Great Blizzard of 1888 produced Snowfalls between 2 and 5 Feet

The Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940 was a 1,000 mile wide winter storm from Kansas to Michigan in November.  Temperatures plummeted and winds grew.  Then came rain then sleet then snow.  As a low pressure system from the south crashed into a cold arctic air mass creating blizzard conditions.  Over 2 feet of snow fell and the howling winds blew that snow into 20 foot snow drifts.  By the time this storm was over it killed approximately 154 people.  Including 66 sailors lost when three Great Lake freighters sank in the storm.  And duck hunters who got trapped unaware in the approaching storm.  Who were swamped by 5-foot waves washing over islands in the Mississippi River.  Then froze to death in single-digit temperatures and 50 mph winds.

A November witch in 1975 claimed the bulk ore carrier S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald and all of her crew.  But the November witch of 1913 was even worse.  The Great Lakes Storm of 1913 was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds.  Dry cold air moved down from Alberta, Canada, while warm moist warm air from the Gulf of Mexico moved up.  These two systems met over the Great Lakes and started to spin around each other.  Growing to hurricane-force winds.  Which created waves over 30 feet high.  Hammering coastal areas.  While dumping up to 2 feet of snow in its path.  The worst of the storm was on the lakes.  Claiming 12 ships.  And 258 souls.

The Great Blizzard of 1888 was another nor’easter hitting New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in March.  This blizzard produced snowfalls between 2 and 5 feet.  And its 45 mph winds produced snowdrifts in excess of 50 feet.  The storm paralyzed cities.  And trapped people in their houses for up to a week.  Even the firemen.  Causing fires to burn out of control.  Until they burned themselves out.  The snow soon began to melt.  Causing severe flooding.  By the time it was over the storm claimed more than 400 lives.

We warmed up from the Little Ice Age without Centuries of Carbon Emissions

Everyone knows of that terrible winter at Valley Forge (1777–1778).  Where the Continental Army persevered and left Valley Forge a stronger and more disciplined army.  Thanks to Baron Von Steuben.  But the Winter in Morristown in 1780 is largely forgotten to history.  Why?  Because that winter was worse.  And the men were shamefully neglected more.  The Revolutionary War was fought during the Little Ice Age.  A period of global cooling from about 1350 to about 1850.  Making for some fierce winters.  Like in 1780.  When it was so cold that coastal seawater froze.  Including New York Harbor.  People rode in horse drawn sleighs across the ice between Manhattan and New Jersey.  In Morristown, New Jersey, a winter storm hit the army so hard that it blew tents away and buried men in snow.  Heavy snowfalls made it impossible to supply the army.  Even if the impoverished Continental Congress could.  The starvation and exposure to the elements and their abandonment by the people they were fighting for caused something to happen in Morristown that didn’t happen at Valley Forge.  Mutiny.  Lucky for the nation a delivery of food diffused the mutiny.

The Great Snow of 1717 was a nor’easter that blew in on March 1.  Then another one on March 4th.  And yet another one on March 7th.  In all some 3-5 feet of snow fell.  With drifts as deep as 20 feet.  Burying one-story homes past their chimneys.  While people with 2-story homes entered and left their homes via the second floor.  Livestock died from starvation.  Froze to death.  Or were buried alive in the snow.  Even the deer in the area were nearly wiped out.

So, no, the current winter is not the worst winter ever.  And, no, the current brutal winter is not the result of global warming.  Just as mild winters are not the result of global warming.  For we’ve had both going back through time all the way back to the onset of the Industrial Revolution.  And before.  Even before smoke from burning coal filled the air.  And internal combustion engines filled our roads.  We warmed up from the Little Ice Age without centuries of carbon emissions.  Yet even with that warming we’ve still had storms of the century.  Alberta clippers.  Polar vortexes.  And nor’easters.

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2012 Endorsements: Alexander Hamilton

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 18th, 2012

2012 Election

When Hamilton looked out Across the Vast North American Continent he saw Great Economic Opportunity

Alexander Hamilton was born in the British West Indies.  At the age of eleven he had to get a job.  As his father abandoned his family after losing all the family money.  Young Alexander worked at Cruger and Beckman’s.  a New York trading house.  A window onto the world.  And international trade.  Where young Alexander learned about the world.  And business.  He had a gift for numbers.  He was bright.  And driven.  Born in the British West Indies he was also something else.  A Founding Father without any state lineage.  With no provincial views.  During the prelude to American independence when other patriots talked about the states going their own way he was already thinking of an American union.  And only of an American union.

The British response to the Boston Tea Party was the Intolerable Acts.  Or the Coercive Acts in Britain.  Where the British put the hurt on Boston.  And Massachusetts.  To separate it and isolate it from the rest of the colonies.  Reverend Samuel Seabury took to the papers and argued against uniting the other colonies to support Massachusetts.  That the people should support their king.  And Parliament.  And not the spoiled, trouble-making people of Boston.  Hamilton took to the papers and argued in support of union.  And Boston.  Warning the people that this was just the beginning for Britain.  More taxes would certainly follow.  Hamilton warned the people to put away their sectional differences.  As this attack on one was an attack on all.  And that if they gave up on Boston it would only be a matter of time before other colonies met the same fate.

That was all well and fine during the warm months of summer.  But the American colonies were part of the British Empire.  Which was a mercantilist empire.  Whose colonies shipped raw materials to the mother country.  And the proceeds from those sales were used to buy manufactured goods made from those raw materials in the mother country.  Making the colonists dependent on Britain for their clothing.  The lack of which would make a very cold and miserable winter.  Which led a lot of people to agree with Reverend Samuel Seabury.  But not Hamilton.  For he looked out across the American colonies and saw something else.  Economic independence.  The South had cotton.  The North could raise sheep for wool.  And they could build factories in the cities to make cloth and clothing.  Staffed by skilled immigrants from European factories.  This is what Hamilton saw when he looked out across the vast North American continent.  Great economic opportunity.  Made possible by an American union.

Hamilton spent the Winter Seasons at Valley Forge and Morristown Reading and Studying Economics and Public Finance

When the Revolutionary War came Hamilton joined the Continental Army.  Fought bravely.  Then ended up as General Washington’s aide-de-camp.  Serving in Washington’s inner circle he knew what the commanding general knew.  And he knew the sorry state of the army.  Half-naked, hungry and unpaid.  While some civilians were living the life of Riley.  Making a fortune off of hording commodities and selling them at high prices.  Which they could do with impunity as the Continental Congress was powerless to stop them.  As it was at the mercy of the states.  The national congress was broke and had little legal authority.  Which let the speculators run roughshod over it.  Leaving the people sacrificing the most for independence half-naked, hungry and unpaid.  Diminishing the fighting ability of the army.  Which greatly increased the risk of defeat.

Hamilton learned an important lesson.  The stronger the national government was, and the richer it was, the easier it was to wage war.  And the easier it was NOT to be defeated in war.  The problem here was that the national government was too weak.  While the state governments were too strong.  Which was fine for the people living normal lives in their states.  But not the soldiers in the field fighting for the nation.  Making things worse was inflation.  The Continental Congress was printing money.  As were the states.  And the more they printed the more they depreciated it.  Which led to even higher prices.  More profits for the speculators.  And even more hardship for the army.  Which had to at times take things from the local people in exchange for IOUs.  Making these people hate the army.  And the army hate the people.  As they were the ones risking life and limb for what was to them an ungrateful people.

Hamilton spent the winter seasons at Valley Forge and Morristown reading and studying economics and public finance.  And set out to solve the inflation problem.  What he learned was that a lot of people were benefiting by the rampant inflation.  Debtors loved it.  For the greater the inflation was the easier it was to repay loans in those depreciated dollars.  Especially the farmers.  They sold their produce at ever higher prices.  Borrowed money to buy land (and repaid those loans in depreciated dollars).  While escaping much of the ravages of inflation themselves.  Because they were farmers.  And were self-sufficient.  Eating what they grew.  Even making their own clothes.  For some inflation was a way to get rich quick at the detriment of others.  To help dissuade such activity Hamilton suggested high taxes in kind (if a farm grew wheat that they turned into flour they would pay a portion of their flour to the government as a tax) on those benefitting from inflation who where destroying the confidence in the dollar.

If Hamilton were Alive Today he would likely Endorse the Republican Candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan

Hamilton also suggested a plan for a national bank.  To help restore the credit of the United States.  And to provide a source of credit for the national government.  The bank would be owned half by the government and half by rich investors.  By letting the rich investors make money on the bank it would, of course, encourage them to invest in the bank.  And provide capital the government could borrow.  Hamilton believed in bringing the rich people closer to the government.  So the government had access to their money.  Both would win in such a partnership.  And both would have a vested interest in seeing the government succeed.  The Continental Congress used some of Hamilton’s ideas.  But not enough to bring his vision to life.  He would get another chance, though.  When he became America’s first Secretary of the Treasury.

At the end of the Revolutionary War the United State’s finances were in a mess.  State governments and the national government owed money.  As they used that money to prosecute the war Hamilton believed the national government should assume the states’ debts and roll in into the national debt.  And, more importantly, the new national debt would help strengthen the union.  By binding the states to the national government.  These actions also helped to restore the nation’s credit.  Allowing it to borrow money to repay old debts.  As well as finance new spending.  Hamilton also got his bank.  And he produced a report on manufacturers.  A plan to use government funds to help launch American industry.  So they could catch up to Great Britain.  And even surpass the former mother country.

Hamilton pushed for these things because he wanted to use the power of government to make America strong and fiercely independent in the world of nations.  With an economic plan that would make the nation wealthy.  And allowing it to afford a military that equaled or surpassed Great Britain.  He did not want to make America wealthy to implement a massive welfare state.  His idea of partnering government with business was to make an American Empire modeled on the British Empire.  Making it a rich military superpower.  Able to project force.  Maintaining peace through strength.  Much like the British did with their Pax Britannica that he didn’t live to see.  And to protect what it had from anyone trying to take it away from them.  So based on this who would he endorse in the 2012 election?  The party that had business-friendly policies to encourage economic growth.  The party that was more anti-inflation.  The party that would best exploit the nation’s resources.  And the party that favored a strong military.  Which is NOT the Democrat Party.  No, if Alexander Hamilton were alive today he would likely endorse the Republican candidates Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.

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