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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High Pressure System

Somewhere on the drive between Stoneham and Meredith New Hampshire, the seasons changed. As I wrote last week, I’ve spent the last few months without once feeling cold outside. I brushed past my beloved bathrobe – my constant companion while at home – and wondered why I had such a useless thing the other day. As we laded the family vehicle of burden with the heavy gear of our adventuring (bikes dripping off the bag like wax from a candle) I felt the familiar prickle of sweat across the brow of my back.

But over the glow of the campfire, I felt compelled to add a flannel shirt. And then a hoodie sweater. And as we lay under the canopy of stars, seamed by the Milky Way, I remembered that I really should bring an additional blanket on this last camping trip of the year, and that I’d long contemplated upgrading our sleeping bags from “useless” to “slightly useful”. I shivered in the cold, and it was strange.

I’d thought that my family was working our usual camping-weather-magic. You know, the rain dance kind of magic. I sent a note out to my coworkers promising a cessation in the drought, based on past successes there. The prediction that Hermine would land just about the time we’d be wrapping up led to a conclusion that maybe we should wrap up ever so slightly earlier, so we wouldn’t have to put away a wet tent. But I felt good – nay, noble! – in bringing the rains to our parched land.

(Aside: I’m coming to see a drought drought as being very similar to a romantic drought. The more desperate you are, the less likely you are to get lucky. Apparently our ground is so dry it just tears apart rain storms for the water before they can even form.)

***Now, let us take a break to comfort a terrified child who hears horrors lurking in the wind. I laid myself next to him and turned on a Youtube video of sleep hypnosis. I think you should all be extremely impressed that I made it back to my keyboard to finish my blog post.***

But, the rains have not come. The high pressure which has lurked over the northlands these last few months is fending off a determined attack from the warm waters of the south. These storms birthed in the womb of the Sahara, nurtured over the Atlantic crossing, trained in the placid waters of the Caribbean have had their attack shunted aside by the shield of warm, dry air that hovers protectively above us. There was no rain last night. There are great gusty sighing winds tonight, with spatters of rain. But there are not the pelting sheets of water that wash away the slough of Summer and turn roads into temporary rivers.

Still, it feels good to feel the pressure drop. We humans are far less attuned than our animal brethren to such things, but I think we still know when storms are coming on a physical level. The drop in barometry has always felt uncanny to me. I (as you may have noticed) get poetical. (My terrified son just called my sensible. He meant it as a compliment. But I am not so sure that I am always sensible. I am not so sure I wish to be sensible.) The winds feel wild and my heart rides on their wings. The autumn is coming. I’ve always been able to feel closer to my truer self in the clearness of autumn. And I can reach past sensibility in an autumn storm.

Outside my window, something rubs. There is a creaking complaint against the wind. The “sensible” homeowner in me (who has a litany of complaints, at the moment) does not believe that the scraping is either part of my house or in a tree that has reach enough to touch my house. It is a dry and whiny sound, like the last remembrance of superstition. I won’t be surprised to find a branch down in the morning, and that complaining screed forever silenced.

We are not the same, after storms. Even after storms that deal us only glancing blows, turned aside by the armor of our pressure. For many, this is no metaphor but instead tragedy. For others, it is a chance for us to escape, however briefly, from the ridge of high pressure that locks us in the clear-skied and consistent heat to a wild moment of low pressure.

Talking about the weather

There is something fundamental to humanity that we notice and talk about the weather. Even though we are climate-controlled dwellers of enclosed homes, we will turn on our televisions to discover whether the 25 feet between our car and our place of work will be a sunny or damp sojourn. We never tire of talking about the weather: praising, blaming, complaining.

This week, however, the weather has made a real impact on my life, and more so on the lives of my friends. This weekend, it rained. It was epic. There were the standard jokes about ark-building (which actually DO get old, thanks). Still the deluge continued. By the time it was all over, we’d had more than 10 inches of rain. (Thank HEAVENS it didn’t come down as snow!) On Monday, as it was supposed to stop raining and wasn’t, I got a call from a friend. The water was coming up through the floorboards. Did I have any advice? Of course my advice was to get out and come to my home. Thus it was that three people and four cats joined us for two days. I’d love to say there’s a happy ending, but in truth they’re still displaced. All of their furniture is ruined, many of their belongings are, and they aren’t likely to be back in their own home until next month sometime.

Then, on Tuesday, the weather has been trying to win us back by being the most lovely, clement, soft, gentle, comfortable version of itself you can imagine. The last three nights the boys have come home by way of the park, where they have run and laughed and slid down slides and climbed and NOT WORN THEIR JACKETS because it was so warm. The extra light has been a halo of joy in my evenings.

Sunlight on a slide
Sunlight on a slide

On our walk home, I’ve watched with great interest the progress of the bulbs. By the bank, where there’s obviously a heat leak, the tulips and daffodils are likely only a week away. There’s a bank of snowdrops on a south-facing lawn. In my own front garden, the irises are out and lovely (I do not remember planting them, I confess!). The crocuses are significantly behind them. The daffodils are about 2 inches high. The hyacinth will bloom this weekend. I suspect the 70 degree weather on Saturday will also bring forth the first of the forsythia, which would be unlovely at any other time but in the newest days of Spring is a shocking delight of sunlight in flower form. I may find an excuse to travel along a local road, once on my commute, which I know is early to the forsythia party.

If past experience holds true, I will likely get very optimistic and convinced that really! This is Spring! I will go and buy some bedding plants. Then we will get 2 feet of snow.

This has never stopped me. In my defense, it also has never stopped Lowe’s from enabling my optimistic bedding-plant behavior.

I love this time of year. It is so miraculous. Through the winter I have looked at pictures of my sons, nearly naked in a lake, and wondered what sort of abusive mother I was to permit them to do that. Weren’t they cold? Imagination and memory fail to stretch to a time of warmth, or even heat — of overhead fans whirring and windows wide. We have stopped believing it is possible by the time spring comes. And yet, here it comes. Full of delights and remorse for the way we have been treated through the cold winter. And we fall in love all over again.

Thane loves the sandbox
Thane loves the sandbox