An 80% Chance of Lizards

(I remember when it only rained cats and dogs)


It’s being called “one of the strongest winter storms in modern history.” Other meteorological experts are declaring it “the most explosive East Coast storm ever observed.” And of course, there’s always that one guy in your office whose comment will be, “So. Cold enough for ya?”

Yes, you should beat him to death with a ream of printer paper. No jury would convict.

But weatherman-induced hyperbole aside, this winter’s arctic-like event has another, greater distinction: this snowstorm has the coolest name…ever.

Ladies and gentlemen: it’s the 2018 Bomb Cyclone.

Now, before we continue our discussion, let’s get the obligatory one-liners out of the way:

How cold is it?

  • It’s so cold that ex-Senator Al Franken put his pants back on.
  • It’s so cold that an entire season of M*A*S*H spontaneously appeared in New England.
  • It’s so cold that President Trump got blamed for freezing financial aid to Pakistan.
  • It’s so cold that Marlon Brando went into hibernation.
  • It’s so cold that drivers in Atlanta slowed down.
  • One of these is not true.

In case you didn’t know – I certainly didn’t – a “bomb cyclone” is not just a pretty cool name for ride on the midway, or some catchy North Korean warning. It’s an actual meteorological measurement – a storm can get itself classified as a bomb cyclone if its pressure falls 24 millibars in 24 hours (as opposed to “bombed,” which is when a casino guest  falls down after emptying 24 minibars).

But this year’s mercury freezer tanked fifty-three millibars in just twenty-one hours, with the inevitable result: round-the-clock TV coverage of The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore semi-standing on a beach next to a hurricane.

Even more interesting, this season’s bomb cyclone hit areas of the American South where cold weather is more of a generational event, like Detroit winning a football game. And it’s true, most years, that even our wildest winters down here are what people in Montana and Minnesota would call “late August.” The classic Southern overreaction to a snowflake sighting is practically a punch line, famously punctuated by local groceries running out of milk and bread within hours (even quicker if Jim Cantore shows up).

During the bomb cyclone, housewives were buying entire cows.

And then there’s Florida, the universe’s ever-giving gift to humor writers. Yes, this season’s bomb cyclone exploded in the Sunshine State, too, as far south as glitzy Boca Raton.

(Boca Raton is an ancient Spanish phrase, loosely translated as “Yes, we’re insanely rich, but it’s a dry rich.”)

Here’s an actual quote from a real new article:

It’s so cold in Florida, iguanas are falling out of trees.

It gets better. Here’s the rest of it:

Please don’t pick them up.

According to one news story from 4 January, a Boca resident awoke to near-freezing weather and, at the edge of his pool, a frozen, very confused iguana. (In South Florida, every home has a pool. It’s the law.) As a caring, concerned friend of Earth and its amazing menagerie of fauna, the man took the appropriate action: he snapped a smartphone photo of the frigid lizard and posted it on facebook.

As it turns out, iguanas are cold-blooded, like politicians and other reptiles. So as temperatures drop, they get more and more sluggish, like the woman wearing Mom Jeans who’s ahead of you in the grocery’s “express” lane with her twenty-five items, because, you know, two dozen feminine hygiene aerosol cans count as one item.

A representative from Florida Wildlife says iguanas sleep in trees, possibly to avoid getting hit by any bales of marijuana that fall out of drug-runner planes. And, if it gets cold enough, the lizards could fall out of the trees, like late-season apples, or fraternity freshmen.

Florida. Beaches. Theme parks. Drug mules. Reptiles landing in your hair.

Personally, I think surprises of that magnitude should be mentioned to prospective tenants prior to signing a lease:

Thank you for your interest in Swamp Manor, where phone, cable, and persistent drywall mold are always included! Should you encounter any unexpected frozen iguanas, marijuana bales, or cocaine skids, our maintenance phone number is conveniently posted on each floor, just next to the automatic weapons vending machine.

And, as noted, the official Florida lizard police strongly recommend you don’t pick up frozen iguanas…for good reason. During an earlier arctic anomaly, in 2010, a story filed by an employee of the Miami Zoo tells of a local gentlemen who, for whatever reason, drove around collecting non-responsive iguanas and tossing them in the back of his station wagon. Maybe he imagined some kind of creative, reptile-based tax write-off, or maybe he planned to sell them as sex slaves to very small green people. (It could happen. Remember…we’re talking about South Florida here.)

But then, in the heat of the car, the lizards thawed out.

In the ensuing crash, the driver survived … though his pants did not … and two street-facing units at Swamp Manor required extensive repairs.

Here’s one last bomb cyclone anecdote from South Florida. The aforementioned Boca Raton resident claims he overheard this poolside conversation between his iced iguana and a passing mockingbird:

“So,” asked the avian. “Cold enough for ya?”

The iguana didn’t respond.

“Wow,” riffed the mockingbird. “You are cold-blooded.”

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