The Blizzard of ’18

It is hard to tell, in these later days, when something is really bad or when it is simply overhyped. Or possibly, really bad but national coverage so you only got the glancing blow from it. (See also: Hurricane Sandy.)

Today’s blizzard has the makings of a Real Event. We’re used to storms up here. It snowed on Christmas Day and we thought it was scenic. Until we had to start shoveling, at least. In 2015, feet of snow fell and did not melt on an unrelenting weekly basis. Snow is no reason to panic. But today’s storm has a few attributes that make me think the hype has a chance to be justified, and we have a reason to be wary.

1) The key one is the wind. Usually our snow storms are just snow. It falls on our driveway and we shovel it. But this storm has near hurricane force winds associated with it. Sideways snow is more serious than straight snow. This makes it harder to keep a house warm, and also threatens trees. We’ll be absolutely fine as long as we keep power. This isn’t usually an issue. But things will get very serious for us very quickly if we lose power. And that’s what wind threatens to do.

2) Potential. The worst of this storm is actually offshore. Our planned 12 – 15 inches is not the best this storm can do. The heart of it could be worse. And it’s gradually been moving closer to us. Even two or three days ago this was only going to be 4 inches. It’s a tiny distance. If the weather forecasters get just a bit of a surprise, we could end up with far more snow than any of us are ready for.

3) Cold. The storm is part of a one/two punch. It’s actually “pretty warm” today (eg. in the 20s). Given our streak of last week (seven days under 20 degrees – which hasn’t happened in 100 years) twenty actually sounds pretty warm. And it is, compared to what’s coming next. There are places in the world where a winter temperature of -9 degrees is normal. Boston is not one of them. We’re right next to the ocean, which ought to moderate our temperatures. It’ll be worse inland. This is not a normal temperature and may set a new record for the day on Saturday. This is what makes the prospect of losing power so appalling.

It gets worse

On the plus side, pretty much everyone wisely canceled almost everything, so we’re working from home. It’s cozy. The kids are much older now, so it’s a lot easier to spend a day with them! And I’m looking forward to the traditional snow day pot luck with neighbors!

I’ll keep you posted!

10:18 am – They say we’ll be getting about two inches of snow an hour from now until 4 or 5 pm tonight. So far it’s not too heavy, but very steady. Accumulations are hard to gauge because of the wind. I hear some plows attempting to plow a nearby parking lot. Good luck – this snow won’t stay where you put it!

11:28 am – Visibility has dropped a lot. I can probably only see about 200 feet. The snow appears to be falling sideways and you can hear Hollywood-style whistling. I’m on my second pot of coffee.

9 am – it begins
11:30 am picture – Compare and contrast with this morning’s picture

1:31 pm – The neighbors have started shoveling and snowblowing. I’m skeptical regarding how useful that is in 40 mph winds. Visibility has, if anything, gotten worse. So has the wind.

Even less visibility

3:32 pm – The dark is rising and the snow is falling.

Visibility lost

11:21 pm – well. I think that was as much snow as we’ve ever dug out of our driveway from one storm. The snow piles are nearly as tall as 2015! The snow stopped falling around 5 pm and the wind stopped whipping. It’s hard to tell with the drifts how much fell, but I’d have to think it was at least a 12 inch baseline. And our driveway is not kind to us in the drift department. Adam probably spent 3 hours shoveling. I spent at least two. It really had to be done tonight, because the big freeze coming will make the snow harder and the work harder. But we did it. Mostly. I think.

If I can’t move my arms tomorrow, you’ll know why.

Very high banks – almost as high as ’15
We had to walk a lot of the snow a considerable distance, including across the street.
Meanwhile, the kids…
The traditional Nobility Hill snow day potluck
How you get a car out in this situation
That’s a lot of snow to be moved

In Stoneham in this fateful hour

The skies are dark outside Boston tonight. The falling drizzle drives sideways, pushing low-clouds fast across deserted crosswalks. The air is heavy with portents and low barometric pressure. The golden-dark leaves swirl to timely doom, their frenetic fall briefly illuminated by pockets of streetlamps. An unprecedented storm, half hurricane, half nor’easter, and named after my Great-Aunt takes aim at the East Coast like a high caliber bullet: sure to do damage even if the details remain uncertain.

Already, school has been cancelled tomorrow. Daycare and afterschool were the first to throw in the towel. Both HR departments have sent out notes saying we should continue to do all our work, but should do it from home instead of the office. Even the folks who come to clean my house called to say that Wednesday would be better than Monday.

The hatches are battened. The lawn furniture is put away. The basement has gallons of fresh water stocked away. Every one of our multitude of electronic devices is plugged in, getting fully charged. We’ve never lost power here. We’ve definitely never lost water. I don’t think we will this week either, but my. It sure seems like a Big Deal.

I wrote yesterday about the memories imprinted with music. Similarly, there are a few books that belong with events. Chrsistmas with “The Dark is Rising”. Spring with “The Secret Garden”. My very favorite of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet is A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Meg lies, pregnant, in an attic room in a small New England town while Charles Wallace traverses time and realities. The scene is set in very late autumn, with a post-seasonal hurricane barreling down and a very present threat of the end of the world. Of course, there are also unicorns, Puritans, Celtic warriors, noble natives and a good Civil War reference or two, as any good novel should have.

So if you were wondering “What book should I read during the hurricane?” now you know: A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Maybe I could convince Grey to read it tomorrow, in his day of leisure with school cancelled. Hm. Perhaps.

Grey is intrigued by the hurricane. He has, coincidentally, been studying a lot about hurricanes at school. Here is one of his three book reports on the topic that have made it home so far:

A book report on Hurricane Hugo
A book report on Hurricane Hugo

Thane, who did not get out of PJs once on this, the day of his 4th birthday, would like to know if hurricanes are a gift-giving occasion. If so, he would like it to be known that for his birthday he would like “little” Legos. Star Wars. Chop chop. (Don’t worry, I’ll give the four year report soon.)

I am somewhat grateful to the storm for the reprieve from normalcy. I was planning on working from home tomorrow anyway, because I have a very large, very thinky thing that is due on Tuesday for work. But now I get my whole family clustered around me (including, thank heavens, my mother-in-law who will be performing the bulk of the child care). I look forward to cozy, blustry time with my family, since Boston is not likely to get much worse than power-outages. (And even with a power outage and no internet access, I should be able to get my work thingy done. Win!)

So let the winds with their swiftness come, and put a pause on our busy lives for a day or two. May all remain safe, warm and loved throughout the storm.

What are you doing to be ready? Do you like or fear events like this? Do you have particular reading, or music, set aide for while the winds howl?