In Statistics, we talk about two types of error. The first, called “type I error”, occurs when we reject a true hypothesis. For example, if an innocent person is found guilty (and the “null hypothesis” that they are innocent is rejected,) the jury has committed type I error. On the other hand, if a false hypothesis is not rejected, as when a guilty person is found “not guilty,” then type II error has occurred. I found myself thinking of this a few days ago when I heard weather forecasters apologizing for making such a big deal out of the storm that hit the East Coast, but largely spared New York City. Indeed, this issue even became a subject of discussion for news services outside of the United States. Some news services suggested that it would be better to err on the side of caution, which they had done, (thus avoiding “type II” error). I tended to agree, as I had spent the first few days of this past week listening my family in Connecticut prepare for the coming blizzard. I am amused that it seems to be the new policy to now name blizzards, even as hurricanes are named. This blizzard was named Juno.
As I listened to my father prepare for the storm, I was worried for his safety, since he lives all alone now. Potentially losing power had always been a major issue in the years when I was growing up in his house. When they had built the house in the mid-1960s, there was no access to public water on their street, so they installed a well and septic system which ran on electricity. A loss of power therefore meant a loss of water. My grandparents’ home had public water and sewer, so it was not uncommon for us to spend the day at their house, when our own home lost power and water. This issue has now been dealt with through the purchase of a generator that he now owns. My brother in law also promised to look out for him.
Discussions with my father quickly reminded us of the blizzard of 1978 (yes, I am THAT old!) That was the storm that closed school for the entire week of final exams during my high school years, moving them almost into February that year. I spent most of those days at my grandmother’s house, squeezing in extra time studying for my final exams and regretting that I did not have quick access to other teens, as she did not live in a neighborhood with other young people. When it was all over, t-shirts began to appear saying “I survived the blizzard of ’78.” I wonder if anyone still has one of those.
But, of course, the blizzard that my father remembered was the blizzard of 1969. His wife was in her seventh month of a difficult pregnancy, and things were not going well. At one point, he realized that she needed to get to a hospital, and so he went to open the garage door and pulled up the door (with no door opener, of course) to a wall of drifted snow. Frightened, he went out to the street and flagged down a snow plough and told them his story- his wife was in labor, and he needed to get to the hospital. The driver ploughed out his driveway and that allowed him to drive her to the hospital. I don’t remember the details, but I know that I somehow ended up at my grandparents’ house until the next day. That is a day I remember clearly; March 4th, 1969. It was my sister’s birthday.
For my readers Eastern most parts of the East Coast; how did everyone survive the blizzard that was supposed to be one of the largest in years? And does anyone else want to share memories of Juno or of other blizzards from earlier years?
I hope that everyone is surviving the winter, and that we will soon learn that spring is just around the corner (we are counting on you, Punxsutawney Phil!)
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