Monday, January 25, 2016

The Blizzard of 2016

Photo from
My busy weekend prevented me from watching TV coverage of the big, powerful wolf of a Nor'easter that clobbered the East Coast over the weekend.  The news coverage this morning left me longing for a nice big snowstorm for Minnesota.  Right now, we have maybe four inches on the ground with the promise of another one or two to grace us by midnight tonight.  There's nothing like a big snowstorm, and I have many memories of them since I've lived most of my life in places where winter weather includes snow, subzero temperatures, and icy sidewalks. But a blizzard?

Despite all the big snowstorms I witnessed as a kid, the snow shoveling I did, as well as the snow playing, my first blizzard was in Minnesota as an adult in the winter of 1983-84.  There had been big snowstorms here before then, of course, but the winter of 1983-84 gave us a couple blizzards in about a month.

The first hit just after I'd returned from spending Christmas with my parents on the East Coast.  The National Weather Service through all the local media warned us to stay indoors, stay off the roads, and wait it out.  I followed those instructions wondering just what was going to happen.

The storm arrived on tip toes with snow flurries and plunging temperatures.  Then the wind picked up and the snow gained momentum.  Soon enough, I could not see out my windows the snow was so thick in the air.  Where the apartment building next door had stood was only white, impenetrable white.  I could hear the wind knocking the ventilation covers on the roof and rattling the windows.  I don't recall now how many hours the snow fell, but if my memory serves, we got about 2 and a half feet of snow during that storm. 

The city shut down.  I didn't have to go into work the next day.  But Minnesota has experience with such storms.  The snow plows leaped to life and cleared the roads.  People armed with shovels dug out their sidewalks and cars, and helped those without shovels dig out.  Without the usual traffic on the streets, the world had quieted.  The snow muffled voices and shovels scraping the cement of sidewalks.  I've always loved big snowstorms because of the stillness afterward.

Another blizzard punched us a couple weeks later.  The snow banks on either side of streets and sidewalks stood up to my shoulders and it felt like walking through a tunnel to get to the bus stop.  Ice and frozen snow rutted the streets.  But life continued on and I went to work everyday, trudging through the snow, bundled up against the sub-freezing cold.

Half of me envies the East Coast their blizzard, their white, quiet world, and the pause in life that it's brought to them.  I have many friends who were affected by it, and I've heard from only one of them -- a cheerful note about just finishing up shoveling the snow around their home.  I hope all my friends stayed warm and safe indoors during the storm, and will take it easy and slow in clearing the snow from the sidewalks and driveways.

There's one thing that blizzards give us: time.  It's up to us to slow down enough to experience it.


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