Wednesday, January 10, 1996
Take blizzard for what it is: a rare treat

BY CLIFF RADEL
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Laughing all the way, they went over the embankment and plowed into 14 inches of snow.

Whomp!

Schwoosh!

Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Launching clouds of snow as they picked up speed, they barreled down what looked like a marshmallow-covered hill looming over Eden Park's Seasongood Pavilion.

Some slid down on inner tubes that from a distance could have been giant licorice Life Savers. Others rode to the bottom upon plastic saucers in bright, Necco-wafer colors of pink, orange and yellow.

Everybody laughed.

Nobody got mad.

That was the order of the day Monday afternoon. I tromped in the park for three hours, sometimes through thigh-deep snow. So did scads of others as they took walks, hopped on sleds and went skiing. Everyone I ran into huffing and puffing and wondering - ''can I still feel my toes? Yes. I can go for another hour!'' - said nary a discouraging word.

No one griped about the condition of the roads. No one suffered from shopping withdrawal because the malls were closed. No one worried that the snow was costing Cincinnati millions of dollars in lost productivity.

Nobody complained about there being too much snow or it being too powdery.

Everybody just reveled in it.

The big one

They should. Registering 14-plus inches on the Nanook of the North scale, this is Cincinnati's biggest snowfall. And, there's more ''wintery-type precipitation,'' as the TV weather-guessers like to call the white death, on the way.

But this is the big one. Enjoy it. Get out in it. Fall into it. Back first. Make snow angels. Marvel at the drifts piled, layered and swirled like white dunes of icy sand. Years from now, when a big storm hits, the children who slid down Eden Park's hills Monday will be able to say, ''You think this snow is deep? When I was a kid back in the winter of '96, there was a blizzard that buried the city. Why, the snow was so deep . . . ''

It went up the nose, down the throat and into the eyes and ears of 4-year-old Catherine as she slid down the Seasongood hill with her Fort Thomas dad, ''just plain Dave, because I'm playing hooky from work today.''

She started to cry and her just-plain dad threw her over his shoulder. He tickled her through her pink snowsuit. That revived her sense of humor.

She laughed, and a cheer went up from 25 other sledders holding their breaths and watching from the top of the hill in hopes of a happy ending.

The happy sounds traveled over Mirror Lake, whose icy surface is ringed with frozen, storm-churned ripples, and past a baseball diamond whose infield is blanketed by two feet of drifting snow. They were silenced by the bombing of Eden Park Drive.

Drop the big one

Three kids - 13-year-old Lesley Day, her 12-year-old brother Jamie and their lookout, 11-year-old Ryan Jacob - were dropping atomic snow bombs off the old stone bridge straddling Eden Park Drive.

''All clear, Ryan?'' Lesley asked. It was. Bombs away.

''Cool!,'' marveled Jamie Day. ''Look at the highlights as the snow explodes on the street. It's like an atom bomb exploding.''

Just then, a car pulled onto the bridge.

Wendy Ellis, a Cincinnati native working for KING-TV in Seattle, stepped from the car to get a picture.

''I was here for the blizzard of '78,'' she said. ''I never thought I'd be here for the blizzard of '96. I'm supposed to be on a beach in Australia. But, I'm standing on a snow-covered bridge in Cincinnati because I changed my vacation plans to surprise the family.''

She was impressed by the snow. ''But '78 was worse. The city stood still.''

The three bombers heard her words and held their fire. They stared in wonder at the thought of a town stilled by snow.

Down the road and around the bend, 10-year-old Jeff Hellmann shot down the Seasongood hill.

Going face first into the snow, he came up smiling and licking his lips.

''When you get a big mouthful of cold snow,'' he said, ''it gives you a big wake-up call.''

It's a wake-up call to enjoy life.

Cliff Radel's column appears in The Enquirer Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Available to speak to groups. Tips and comments most welcome. Call 768-8379 or fax at 768-8340.