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Weather or not, area natives cope with Mother Nature

| Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A heavy duty tractor clears snow from the driveway of Carol Kearns and her husband Harry Schuh in Harwinton, Conn., on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2012. Submitted photo
A heavy duty tractor clears snow from the driveway of Carol Kearns and her husband Harry Schuh in Harwinton, Conn., on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2012. Submitted photo
Tony Cosgrove attempts to clear the driveway at his home in Southington, Conn., on Saturday morning, Feb. 9, 2012. Submitted photo
Tony Cosgrove attempts to clear the driveway at his home in Southington, Conn., on Saturday morning, Feb. 9, 2012. Submitted photo
Tony Cosgrove was more than knee deep in snow as he toiled to clear the driveway at his home in Southington, Conn., on Saturday morning, Feb. 9, 2012. Submitted photo
Tony Cosgrove was more than knee deep in snow as he toiled to clear the driveway at his home in Southington, Conn., on Saturday morning, Feb. 9, 2012. Submitted photo

Growing up in Charleroi and the Mon Valley, Peter J. Calistri learned to cope with the whims of Mother Nature, especially the winter months.

That's why he is always ready for the elements that affect life in Bergenfield, N. J., where he has lived since 1976.

Ditto for Carol Phillips Kearns and Tony Cosgrove, natives of Monongahela and Charleroi, respectively, who both live in parts of Connecticut hit hard by the weekend blizzard.

“Oh, I remember the winters in Charleroi very well,” Calistri, 81, said in recounting the impact of the blizzard that pounded the East Coast and New England during the past weekend. “I think having lived in Charleroi and experiencing the steep hills there and throughout the Valley trained me better to handle and drive in snow storms. It has paid off as I have lived in New Jersey, where are not as many hills and people are not accustomed to handling cars in bad weather.”

Calistri and his wife, Theresa, didn't have to be concerned with driving during and after Friday's blizzard, even though the Bergenfield area received just over a foot of snow.

“We were well aware of the impending storm and opted just to stay at home,” he said.

Bergenfield, a thriving community of nearly 27,000 people, is located seven miles northwest of the George Washington Bridge, a major link between New York and New Jesey, and 22 miles from Times Square in New York City, which was blanketed with some two feet of snow.

“We didn't get hit as hard as the states north of us,” Calistri said. “They felt the biggest impact.”

According to the National Centers for Environmental Protection, the howling storm with winds up to 75 miles per hour in some areas dumped snowfalls this way:

Connecticut – Milford, 38 inches; Oxford, 36.2, and New Haven, 34.3.

Maine – Gorham, 32.9, and Portland, 29.3.

New York – Upton, 30.3, and Commack, 29.1.

Massachusetts – Southwick, 28.3, and Worcester, 28.

New Hamshire – Goffstown, 28, and New Ipswitch, 25.

Rhode Island – West Glocester, 25.7, and Burrillville, 25.

“We have family in the Boston area who had 26 inches of snow,” Calistri said. “But my son and his children are OK. They had no real problems.”

Calistri said he and his wife experienced more severe problems with Hurricane Sandy when it devastated New Jersey and the East Coast in late October 2012 than with the weekend snow storm.

“Trees were knocked down in Bergenfield and we were without electricity for four days when Sandy swept through here,” he said. “Of course, we were more fortunate than other areas where whole towns were destroyed and wiped out.”

Exchanging emails with friends in Charleroi on Friday, Calistri noted at 11:39 a.m. that “it's a snowy, cold day here in northern Jersey.”

An update at 2:05 p.m. indicated the snow was still falling.

“My wife is taking a nap and we are preparing for heavy snow and blizzard-like conditions tonight,” he said. “It's a good day to be inside and stay there.”

The results of the storm in Bergenfield did throttle the Calistris' daily schedule.

“I am retired and my wife and I have a routine of going to the gym to exercise,” he said. “Those plans were curtailed Friday and Saturday but we'll probably get back (to the gym) on Monday.”

Calistri, who will celebrate his 82nd birthday March 30, is a member of a pioneer Charleroi family.

His grandparents Peter C. and Blanche Giannini Calistri, lived in Snowden (Allegheny County) for several years before moving to Charleroi in 1899. They opened a bakery and ice cream confectionary at the corner of Fourth Street and McKean Avenue that year and the second floor of those buildings was the family residence. They also owned and operated an ice cream manufacturing business at 322-326 Fallowfield Avenue for many years, providing ice cream and related dairy products for over 300 stores in Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Calistri, a son of Jeremiah J. and Veronica Hurley Calistri, attended Charleroi High School and graduated from St. Vincent Preparatory School in Latrobe in 1959.

He was graduated from Western Reserve University in Cleveland and Columbia University in New York City, holds a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and has completed graduate work in computer sciences.

He moved to Teterboro, N.J., in 1959 and then resided in Fort Lee, N.J., while working in computer programming at the Bendix Corp.

He later worked for TWA in New Jersey and Kansas City before returning to New Jersey to join ITT Worldcommunications (Worldcom) in 1976. He retired in 1998 from AT&T, which purchased Worldcom in 1990.

He and the former Theresa Kelsey, who have been married since 1959, are the parents of four children and have 11 grandchildren.

Meanwhile, in Harwinton, Conn., (about 40 miles from New Haven), Carol Kearns and her husband, Harry R. Schuh, found themselves nearly locked into their home on Sunday.

“This was quite a storm,” said Kearns, a 1960 graduate of Monongahela High School and the daughter of the late Byron C. (Bud) and Ida C. Kennell Phillips of Monongahela.

“In fact, the media has called it Blizzard Charlotte and it reportedly was a storm of historic proportions rivaling the Blizzard of 1978, which Harry and I also experienced.

“According to the Waterbury Republican, one of two newspapers we read daily, Harwinton received 23 inches of snow. However, because of the blizzard conditions and raging wind, we have snow drifts eight to 10 feet high. We are not able to exit any of our doors, including three deck doors. Our only means of egrees is through the garage. Some towns in Connecticut received up to 40 inches of snow.”

Kearns, who attended the University of Pittsburgh and then graduated from California State College (now California University of Pennsylvania,) explained that Harwinton is located in northwest Connecticut in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains with an elevation of 1,000 feet.

It is a rural historic community of 5,300 incorporated in 1737, and Kearns and her husband served on the first Selectman's Committee of Five to orchestrate the town's 275th anniversary celebration last year.

Reflecting on the impact of Friday's blizzard, Kearns said she, her husband and others in Harwinton “suffered more” through the last two October Halloween storms.

“In 2011, we lost power for four days, Saturday morning until Tuesday night,” she recalled. “That was horrendous. The reason for the extensive power outage was due to the leaves still being on the trees and freezing. The weight of the snow sent limbs and trees crashing down on power lines all over the state.”

Even though they did not lose electrical power this time, the storm has had a major impact, Kearns said.

“We have been housebound for the last three days,” she said. “Our driveway has a five-foot drift in front of our garage door, which is preventing us from getting our cars out. We are waiting for our contracted plow operator to come back later today. We were unable to attend church (Sunday) and most area churches were closed.”

Kearns said her brother, Dr. Byron “Bucky” Phillips of Monongahela, called Sunday morning to “see how we're doing.”

“We're coping as best we can,” she said.

Tony Cosgrove is doing the same thing in Southington, Conn., located about 15 miles southwest of Hartford.

“It started to snow lightly on Friday morning around 8:30 and continued to increase with intense strength all day,” Cosgrove, a 1962 graduate of Charleroi High School, said. “Winds were between 35 and 60 mile per hour here in Southington but along the coast, about 50 miles to the south of us, winds were recorded at hurricane force and in gusts in that range.”

Central Connecticut had some power outages.

An estimated 30,000 people “at least” along the coastal areas were without power, he said.

“Because the storm hit on a weekend and there were several days notice, the overall impact was softened,” Cosgrove said. “However, at one point during the storm four to five inches of snow were falling per hour. I recorded 35 inches in a protected area of my yard with no drifting.

Digging out began at 7 a.m. Saturday and we worked five hours with a shovel and then a snow blower, but to get to my front driveway I had to go out through the slider to my deck wearing snowshoes.

“It was great to have a clear way to get my car out but my street didn't get plowed until 2 a.m. this morning (Sunday).

“Since I've lived in New England since leaving the Valley, I've become very used to the weather and really enjoy a variety of winter activities.

“In reality the seasons all take on their own form of enjoyment, winter being only one of my favorites.”

Ron Paglia is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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