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But just because you're snowed in doesn't mean you can't have a little fun. One of the best ways to ride out the storm is to make some prop bets with friends and family on just how bad the storm is going to be.
So next time you're hunkered down for a winter storm that The Weather Channel has insisted on naming (whatever happened to titles like "The Blizzard of '78"?), take out this list of 10 great winter storm prop bets and make some friendly wagers.
10. How much snow will you get?
Weather forecasters predicted anywhere from 6-12 inches of snow on the low end to up to 40 inches on the high end for our most recent storm. Next time you're waiting to see what the latest storm will bring, set an over/under or get a pool going with a bunch of people and make predictions, then watch as the flakes start flying and root for your number to hit. You can go by the official number at a nearby airport, or you can go old school and get out a measuring tape and see what piles up in your backyard.
9. Will school be canceled or delayed? And if so, for how many days?
If you’re a kid in school, or if you're a parent of kids in school, you watch the local news with rapt attention when there's a storm to find out whether the superintendent has decided to cancel or delay school. Once you live in a district long enough, you get a good sense of what the superintendent will decide to do. The superintendent of my school growing up was always one of the last holdouts, and there were many days when we were one of the only schools in the area that remained open. Once you have that feel, why not place a wager on it?
8. Highest sustained winds
In order to be categorized as a blizzard, a winter storm needs to have severe snowfall and sustained winds of at least 35 miles per hour for at least three hours. Will the next storm be a blizzard? Or will it fall short of the hype? How severe will the wind speed get? Set a line and make a wager, then huddle under the covers and wait to see what happens.
7. When will the flakes start flying?
Meteorologists try their best to predict when a storm will start so that people can get home safely in time to beat the snow. But weather forecasting is an inexact science. Make a bet and keep an eye on the sky and see when the first snowflake is spotted.
6. When will the storm end?
Perhaps more important than when a storm begins is when it ends. It's hard to know just when the snow will stop falling, and most of the time you're rooting for it to just be over so you can go out and start digging out your car. But if you picked a time later than anyone else, you'll probably find yourself cursing when the snow starts to peter out earlier than you expected.
5. Will the power go out?
There's nothing worse than losing electricity in a winter storm. With short days and cold nights, losing power in the winter can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. When the power goes out during a winter storm, the normal reaction is to roll your eyes and say, "Oh, great!" But why not bet that the power will go out, so when it does you can pump your fist and celebrate it as a win?
4. How long will the power be out?
Once you lose your electricity, the first thing you ask is, "When are we going to get our power back?" Hook up your generator (if you have one) and make some wagers with your friends and family while everyone prays for the lights to come back on.
3. How long will it take to shovel the driveway?
As I went outside on Saturday, I said to my wife, "See you in three hours." Three and a half hours later, I was only about two-thirds of the way done, but had to wrap it up as my wife works for a utility and had to go out to help towns and villages that were dealing with power outages (thankfully, we never lost power). It usually takes me about an hour to dig out from a storm that brings 6-8 inches. Now I know it takes about six hours to dig out of a two-foot storm.
2. Will there be a travel ban?
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick made a controversial decision to ban all non-essential travel during the storm. It wasn't a decision that was made lightly, and he likely won't make it again on a storm that's not as powerful as the one our region just had. If the storm looks like it's going to be a real doozy, go with the travel ban.
1. When will it all melt?
Two years ago, we had a bunch of snowstorms in a period of a few weeks. None of them were as powerful as last weekend's blizzard, but the total accumulation of snow was actually higher, especially in the snowbanks left at the side of the roads. We had a snowbank nine feet high, 45 feet long and 30 feet wide in front of our house. No, I'm not joking. It didn't completely melt until March 29, which was actually out to be much earlier than I expected (my first guess was April 21). For those looking for action on the current snowbank in our front yard (which is probably half the size), with weather reports calling for rain and temperatures in the mid-40s today, I'm guessing that it will be gone much earlier this year. While it's hard to say whether we'll get additional snow to add to it, my guess it will be gone before I turn 35 on March 7.