Recent weather patterns have been a tale of extremes

Traffic-related fatalities in 2022 tie state’s all-time high of 165
January 6, 2023

I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s crazy that as I sit down to type this column Jan. 4, we haven’t had the heat on in my house for two straight days. Not because our 20-year-old, past-its-useful-life furnace has died, but because it’s been up near 70 degrees for days.

It comes on the heels of a cold front that was cold, cold, cold. I have two 55-gallon rain barrels in my backyard. I have every intention of rebuilding the space for my garden in time for the spring plantings. A couple of days after Christmas, I set out to begin that process by draining the rain from the barrels so I could move them. The problem was the rain barrels were frozen solid. I knew it had been cold, but I hadn’t expected the barrels to be 55-gallon ice cubes.

Sarah Johnson, a veteran meteorologist for the National Weather Service’s office out of Mount Holly, N.J., was quick to confirm the last week-and-a-half has been a tale of extremes. There was a very strong cold front that came through right before Christmas that had many places 20 degrees below normal, while just a few days later those same places were 20 degrees above normal, she said.

Johnson said the weather extremes are a lot more common in the winter months.

Johnson has 16 years of experience with the NWS, and even she was surprised by how quickly ice formed on local waterways during the recent cold front. It was below freezing for three days, which is nowhere near a record, but there was ice on area waterways, she said.

Ice may have formed on some of the local water bodies, but Johnson warned the adventurers out there to be cautious when trying to walk on it if temperatures get cold enough for it to freeze again. The ice needs to be at least 4 to 5 inches thick for an adult to walk on it, and it should be at least 6 inches thick for multiple people.

As we move into the coming weekend, Johnson said temperatures are expected to be back to seasonal norms – highs in the low to mid-40s, with lows in the high 20s. That sounds good to me. I’d even be OK with some snow, because the family likes to go sledding and I like driving around taking photos of it.

Traffic-related fatalities tie all-time high in 2022

I’m not sure how often I’m going to revisit past Choppin’ Wood topics, but I feel obligated to update the column I wrote at the end of November about the number of traffic-related fatalities in Delaware in 2022. At the time, the state was about to pass 2021’s total of 139 traffic-related deaths, which was a 15-year-high.

I wrote, “It doesn’t appear the state will break the dubious all-time high of 165 fatalities with 147 fatal crashes in 1988.”

Technically, I was correct. Unfortunately, however, I was only correct by one death. A New Year’s Eve accident on Route 1, near Midway between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, ended with a pedestrian being killed. That was traffic-related death No. 165.

I don’t have any great ideas on how to help with the safety of Delaware’s roads. I’m hoping continued coverage of the problem helps and also encourages our makers-of-the-rules to continue to try to find a way. If I had to guess, though, as the number of people using the roads continues to increase across the state, I doubt it will take another 34 years for the record to be tied again.

Joke of the Week:

It’s not at all lost on me that sometimes a joke feels out of place following a topic that’s not at all a joke. But I’m sticking with them, and here’s one that’s mildly related to the new year – or at least the turning of the calendar. As always, send jokes to

Son: I can’t believe I got fired from the calendar-making factory.

Dad: Why were you fired?

Son: All I did was take a day off.


  • Chris Flood has lived in or visited family in Delaware his whole life. He grew up in Maine, but a block of scrapple was always in the freezer of his parents’ house during his childhood. Contact him at

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