Millions of people shivered today as they heard that one of the worst storms in years would snap tree limbs, snarl air travel around the country, keep children home from school in a large part of the East, and burn through their tender flesh with napalm-like flakes of absolute zero chill.
At least 20 deaths had been blamed on the storm since it blew across the southern Plains earlier in the week. Schools closed in parts of the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Oregon, California, and Hawaii.
Americans have suffered through hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes with heroic impunity. However, this particular storm is sending chills of fear through even the bravest, for never before has there been a storm that rained such deadly missiles upon the people.
These deceptively beautiful death flakes—called "snow" by meteorologists—are actually a form of razor-sharp, frozen, crystallized water. Scientists have not yet been able to determine how they are created—all that is clear is that they are falling from the sky in massive quantities. "The closest thing I can compare it to is the flakes of burning ash that descend after a volcanic eruption," said meteorologist Ann O'Malley. "The only difference is that these flakes are cold—cold enough to burn right through you in seconds."
But the danger doesn't end there. Once on the ground, the snow flakes can mix with ordinary ground water to produce a deadly substance called slush, which can eat through boot soles and car tires like acid. If it is not removed, it may remain for weeks before melting.
Although some companies have developed special protective "snowsuits" and "snowshoes," the durability and efficacy of these items is still untested.
Many schools sent students home early today, and workers headed home even earlier in a panicked rush.
"It's horrible out there," said Freddy Catt, a lawyer from Fornication, N.J. "I had to beat three homeless people with a baseball bat to get them away from my car. They were trying to get in to escape the snow."
"We've got wrecks everywhere," Virginia State Police Sgt. Ida Pistmypantz said. "Not only is there five times as much traffic as usual, but people are panicking, and that means more pileups. And frankly, once a car stops moving for more than a minute, the snow will eat through the tires and you'll be trapped until someone comes to rescue you. Or until the snow melts."
The Carolinas were the hardest hit as the pure white flakes snapped tree limbs and sliced through the protective coating of power lines. In Raleigh, N.C., the crack of buckling pines and oaks sounded like gunfire during hunting season.
Duke Power said about 1.2 million homes and businesses were blacked out today in North and South Carolina, far surpassing the record number affected by Hurricane Hugo in 1989. The utility said it could be months before service is restored.
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency and waived most weight limits for trucks removing debris and repairing utility lines.
The storm was "probably the largest single-event power outage we've had in this state," said Bryan Beaty, secretary of the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.
The storm had an equally devastating effect on the nation's already-wounded airlines. Most flights to or from the East Coast were canceled, although thousands of refugees mobbed airports in an attempt to escape the snow. Many have set up makeshift camps in the corridors.
Although it is not known exactly how the snow was created, speculations abound.
Right-wing politician Pat Robertson announced that the deadly fall of snow was a judgement of the Almighty on the people of America for tolerating the existence of gays, feminists, liberals, and non-Christian countries.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters that Saddam Hussein and/or Al-Quaida may be—no, probably are—no, definitely are responsible.
"This gives the term 'white Christmas' a whole new meaning," he said. "Somehow, the terrorists have figured out how to turn ordinary tap water into a frozen juggernaut of destruction."
"See, see!" shouted the president, jumping up and down. "Saddam DOES TOO have weapons of mass destruction! Can I bomb him now? Can I can I?" He was then led back to the underground bunker for his daily nap.
Homeland Security czar Tom Ridge speculated that terrorists may have obtained the plans for a top-secret "snow-making machine" now being developed in isolated testing facilities in Stowe, Vermont. "I guess it's no secret now," he confessed sadly.
In the meantime, the Department of Homeland Security has added a new color to its terror advisory system: white. Representing a threat level that surpasses even red, this new color warns of an ongoing crisis of massive proportions that directly threatens the life and property of every American.
Meanwhile, the steady snowfall in New York City (reminding many of the ghostly fall of ash after the destruction of the World Trade Center) rained pallid crystalline death upon formerly busy avenues and sidewalks. However, a few tourists still ventured out to snap photos.
"In a funny way, this just seems like the way New York should be, you know?" said Getta Laif of Portland, Maine. "I mean, it is December."