FILE THIS UNDER the heading of a bullet largely dodged: The great alarm that attended the spread of the H1N1 virus -- also known as the swine flu -- had some factual basis. According to a study published online by Pittsburgh's Center for Vaccine Research, some 21.5 percent -- 261,000 people -- of Allegheny County's 1.2 million population probably were infected with the H1N1 virus, as estimated by the presence of antibodies in blood serum taken from samples in various population groups. Schoolchildren were the most commonly exposed (45 percent) with those in their 70s the least (5 percent). Not all those exposed got sick but some did -- according to the Allegheny County Health Department, reported cases totaled 1,966 with seven deaths as of last week. But just imagine what would have happened if the widely spread H1N1 virus had lived up to its earlier deadly billing? It hardly bears thinking about. We got off relatively lightly this past fall and winter.
WINTER weather has fired not just bullets but artillery shells at the region -- and we didn't dodge too many. By Thursday, the Pittsburgh area had experienced not just the snowiest February but also saw the record broken for the snowiest month ever recorded, which previously stood at 40.2 inches in 1978, and everything since then has been piling up a new mark. The city of Pittsburgh, as inept as its snow removal response initially was, has not dodged the cost. According to figures released by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office, the city spent approximately $3.6 million on snow removal from Feb. 5 through Feb. 20. While Pittsburgh will try to plead its case, it may be that the Federal Emergency Management Agency may reimburse only $1.16 million under its formula, forcing the city to dip into its savings. February, be gone.
TOMORROW it is March, but some things will stay the same for a while -- and not just the weather. Just as daffodils bloom in the spring, potholes come out in late winter and this year's crop is especially plentiful. Work crews from PennDOT and the city got an early start last week, but it is a makeshift effort at best, with cold patch mostly being used because asphalt plants are still closed for the winter. As motorists try to dodge the caverns that flatten tires and bend rims, the age-old Western Pennsylvania question will be asked once more -- other places have tough winter weather, so how come their roads seem to survive better?