I hope everyone had a wonderful and warm 2010 Christmas and holiday season along with a safe and Happy New Year as we ushered in 2012.

This year brings with it excitement and hope as well as anticipation and probably for the superstitious among us a degree of trepidation. We look forward to Federal elections as well as the 2012 Presidential election.

For many this election is expected to be a critical one that will decide the long term direction in which our country continues or changes its bearings. Only time will tell.

Many of us wonder with varying degrees of interest what the hype about the Mayan calendar is all about and will it have the earth changing effects many are predicting. By the time 2012 draws to a conclusion, this question will be answered as well. We will find out whether it is something significant or just another day at the office. What do you think?

Having wrapped up our holiday hiatus, I thought it would be good to take stock of 2011 before we plunge further into 2012. Before moving forward, I like to review what happened before and what can be learned from the lessons of 2011 so what was significant to me?

The winter had some snow, but it didn't seem to be really hard as compared to other years. Weather wise, I think the weather since the spring thaw was quite remarkable for one year.

While spring was pretty much normal, Memorial Day week brought summer in with a roar. Within a few days after the holiday, the area was pounded by one of the most intense thunderstorm squall lines to ever hit eastern Pennsylvania. Weather forecasters remarked the hail in those storms was unlike anything they ever personally experienced. One meteorologist said the three inch hail that fell in the Panther Valley was larger than anything he ever saw even in Kansas where larger hail typically falls.

Within twenty minutes, the stones smashed countless cars and windows and damaged scores of houses throughout the region. My personal experience was nerve wracking as I raced to get our cars into the garage before they got smashed. On my return to the house, I heard one of those little ice nuggets whiz past my head making a terrifying whistle reminiscent of artillery fire in a war movie before it exploded against the house. I put a steel shovel on my head in an attempt to provide protection as I raced through the hail to the safety of the house.

Other areas though fared much worse as the same squall line that brought these tremendous pieces of ice shrapnel also brought several tornados to the Carbon-Schuylkill area that caused quite a bit of damage as well from torn off roofs to uprooted trees and other damages.

This prelude for summer was followed by weeks of above average, hot weather which spawned trips to the lake and much use of the air conditioners.

Just when things seemed normal one of those hot afternoons was interrupted by a 5.8 earthquake in Virginia that was felt by most of the states east of the Mississippi River. While our area had little damages, those who were inside managed to feel the unnerving swaying.

This phenomenon was followed by a hurricane, tropical storm one two punch that brought historic flooding from Vermont to Virginia although the entire Susquehanna Valley was heavily hit by this epic flooding. By unplanned coincidence, my family and I experienced this disaster much closer than I cared to have seen it. We were trapped outside Lebanon on the third floor of a Best Western for a day in the rising Swatara Creek flood. It had rained so heavy the night before as we were heading on vacation that we were forced to seek shelter. The hotel seemed to be a safe place but six hours later we discovered ourselves in a flood that reached a half foot in the hotel before the water finally retreated. Thousands of people were displaced and many more suffered damages that have collectively reached billions of dollars.

Fortunately, my wife Katie couldn't sleep and our swift actions that morning spared our car from damage as I was able to get it to high ground before the flooding reached it. After the waters receded, the roads north were blocked so we altered our destination and continued on our trip to Antietam with little problem.

Just when we thought things couldn't get stranger, the eastern half of Pennsylvania was hit again on Halloween with a pre-winter nor'easter that caused almost as much havoc when it knocked out the power for up to a week for many tens of thousands of people. While some of our town only suffered a short term loss other areas along with most neighboring communities were without power for several days.

What could follow up such a winter opener? How about the remainder of 2011 being spring jacket and shorts weather for several weeks? Many years winter roars in during November. For the first time in a long time, winter stayed away until January this week to be specific.

While many critics believe this is the result of climate change and it could possibly be so, others think this is just a reflection on what many have already concluded, namely the end of the Mayan calendar will bring changes to the world. I'm not convinced that the calendar has any more significance than what we see in front of us. Specifically, a calendar that has reached the end of its cycle and is preparing to begin again. Or maybe it is more. What do you think?

Til next time..