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
Icycles
That’s a lot of snow to be moved
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11 thoughts from shoveling

I often blog in my head while I’m doing physical labor. My very best blog post ever came from doing the laundry. Here are my deep thoughts from this morning’s dig out.

My house, today
My house, today

1. I’ve always loved my neighbors, but this winter has made me extra grateful
Adam is laid low by the stomach bug that knocked me out. He’s no longer actively ill, but in the weak phase. Also, we don’t own a snowblower. Also also, I promised to take care of a neighbor’s house while they were gone. This means I’m like extra duper screwed, right? Wrong. I have the key to the neighbor’s snowblower (the folks who are gone have the best one on the block). I flagged over another neighbor to help me, and he spent two hours doing the snow blower work while I did the shoveling work at both houses. We’ll be potlucking at at yet another neighbors house tonight. Friends are awesome. I love friends. I haven’t seen my friends who live half a mile away in WAY TOO LONG. But neighbors who are friends are such a gift in blizzard conditions!

2. What would it take to actually make our little New England civilization stop working?
A la Hurricane Sandy, at what point does our society cease to function? Or does it shut down in dribs and drabs? Already there are plans for some Boston streets to be one way until April 1st. At what point does normal life stop? Are we already there?

3. Seriously, April 1st?
March is supposed to be colder than normal. The 10 day forecast only gets above freezing once (35 degrees). There are two more precipitation events in that forecast, adding up to 5 – 10 inches of snow. I don’t know when life will go back to normal, but six weeks seems like a good guess. It will probably be a lot longer until you can no longer find snow anywhere.

That fence below is a 7 foot fence. That snow bank is more than 12 feet tall. Granted, that's where we blow the snow, but still...
That fence below is a 7 foot fence. That snow bank is more than 12 feet tall. Granted, that’s where we blow the snow, but still…

4. With great power comes great responsibility
A common thought as I shovel snow is that winter is a crappy time to be a feminist. See, I’m physically perfectly capable of shoveling snow. I don’t believe in a gendered division of labor. Do you see where this is going? What it means is that I, as a feminist, can’t tell my husband that snow is his job because he’s a man. This is a crying shame on days like this.

5. Thank goodness we got a new roof
I’m guessing that our old roof wouldn’t have held up to this. Lots of people have lots of leaks. Our pitched roof is dropping the snow all by itself, no problem. The insulation looks great too, as the only melting is sun melt on the Southern exposure.

This is all sun melt. Our roof has many fewer icicles than most of our neighbors.
This is all sun melt. Our roof has many fewer icicles than most of our neighbors.

6. I blow dried my hair this morning.
I almost never do that. The few times I’ve tried it was to make my hair look good, a goal that I’ve never really been successful in accomplishing. It looked great this morning. Then I pulled a wool hat on top of it. The point was that going out in 13 degree weather with a high wind warning for two hours of shoveling with a wet head. I should try less hard, and maybe the whole hair drying thing will work.

7. I seriously wonder when I’ll make it into the office
Tuesday? Tuesday only? Will there be parking when I get to Fort Point? What’s the best combination of not spending stupid time on the road and stupid money on parking, while still spending time with my colleagues. I can’t work from home until April 1st, and might go insane if I tried.

Josh is rocking the roof rake
Josh is rocking the roof rake

8. The children’s brains are currently oozing out there ears
They’ve never played this many video games in their life. I’ve lost all will to parent. Judging by how many of their friends are online, making Minecraft traps with them, I’m not alone.

9. But at least they won’t miss school?
That’s the upside of this all happening over Feb break week, right? No chance of snow days this week, nuh uh! And hopefully by the time next week rolls around, we’re now longer in the icy clutches of Snowmageddon. (10 day forecast says it snows 5 – 8 inches Sunday night. I hate you 10 day forecast!) I feel really badly for the teachers whose success is judged by the standardized tests these children will be taking in a few weeks. They’ve missed so much instructional time, and I have to say that I think my kids study skills and core skills have backslid in the last three weeks. Totally not fair to their excellent teachers!

Our front walk way has a fault line. Considering teaching the children avalanche safety.
Our front walk way has a fault line. Considering teaching the children avalanche safety.

10. Let’s see who’s laughing this summer
I’ve gotten plenty of comments from Northwesterners who point out that Boston currently has more snow than Snoqualmie Pass. The entire US is suffering from a changing climate. (BTW – any time we want to collectively start acting on this problem is good for me. Count me in.) But given a choice between extra violent winters, extra precipitation and more extreme weather, and drought and loss of ground water… I’ll take the nasty blizzards. The entire West is going to bake this summer, with no snowpack to feed the rivers. Florida is losing it’s potable ground water. We may live in Snowmageddon country, and this may be our new normal, but at least we have water.

11. We’ll get through this
The spring will come. There was a year in medieval history when summer never came. That’s not our situation. They may be delayed, but we’ll have snowdrops and crocuses and lilacs and camping trips this summer. We’ll look back on this as an epic memory, but we will some day see grass again!

Happier (warmer) times!

Digging in

Grey made this cake from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. At 9, he’s already a better cook than I was when I graduated from college.

So you might have heard that New England is looking at a wee bit of snow tonight. Just a trace. Hardly more than two feet, with hurricane force winds. I mean, barely hurricane force – no more than Category 1!

Tonight, the great city is quiet. The blanket of softening snow has begun to fall, but the vast dimensions of the sky have not yet opened their portals to loose the flakes upon us. In another hour, by law, we will be contained to our homes with those children who lay slumbering in guaranteed-snow-day anticipation upstairs. There is no sound of traffic outside – no airplanes flying overhead. There is the hum of the furnace and the creak of a hundred year old house settling in the cold night air. The winds are sliding past – not yet howling or moaning. The house is warm and slightly messy – scattered with Transformers, stuffed animals, cables & little boys’ socks.

The entire region on every side gives a great exhalation from the normal pace. We lay down our commutes and our schedules and our appointments. We forgo our childcare. We do not go into work. (Although – curse of the age – work we must tomorrow since our labors depend hardly at all on our physical location.) In the morning the world will be transformed into twisting snow, cutting us off from the burdens and comforts of our society and demanding that we take a few moments to think of who we are and what we are doing in this world. We will shut the doors against the icy gale, but open the curtains to see the power of the storm. Before the world resumes anew there will be shared meals, laughter, sledding, video games, board games and baked goods. Some of those moments will soak into the souls of my young sons, and become the definitions of winter, of storm, of blizzard.

Assuming the power stays on (we’ve never **knocking on wood** in the seven years we’ve been there had the power go out in any meaningful way), this storm will be for us an interregnum. A gift. (I know it won’t be that way for everyone. We are very lucky in our circumstances.) For us it will be a time set apart.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably live-blog it for you – not so much because I think you’ll be fascinating, but because our era allows us to feel most connected when we are most apt to be isolated. I’ll tell you whether it’s a lark, or getting a bit scary. We’ll ponder together the likelihood of school on Wednesday (low). We’ll be joyful and funny and snowbound together. Tonight, I feel great gratitude for the circumstances of this storm, that brings us together even more than it keeps us apart.