I moved to Boston in September of 2011. “Enjoy the winter,” people would say upon hearing of my plans, barely suppressing their glee. I had spent just about my entire life in Southern California. They could smell blood in the water. “Better get some boots.” “Hope you have an electric blanket.” It all sounded so foreign to me, and vaguely intimidating. I was prepared for the worst. Instead, year one – like the movie – was a complete letdown.* There was just 7.7 inches of snow all winter, the 4th least snowy on record. The average temperature was 37.2, the second warmest ever. Considering I was out of town the one weekend that snow came the hardest, I was completely let off the hook.
*Actually, I’m one of the few people who enjoyed the Jack Black-Michael Cera comedy, but I won’t let that get in the way of a mediocre punchline.
This winter too began quite weakly. While it was certainly colder (marked by the presence of the famous bitter winds of the region), snow was again at a premium. Then, with just a few days’ notice, a storm loomed on the horizon. Finally, I got exactly what I wanted – a genuine winter experience. The most severe snowstorm of the last 30 years, the 5th snowiest Boston-area storm of all time.
Snow began to fall on the morning of February 8th, a Friday. It was slow, steady, and thoroughly unremarkable. An inch or two built on the ground. I left the television on all day. The reporters were going nuts. And only their frenzied coverage helped to assuage my fear that Boston might be spared at the last moment. I could tell this was different.
They said the storm would turn in the late afternoon. Sure enough, around 4:30 pm, the snow became a downpour: loud, even chunky. On-location reporters were no longer stalling for time. Instead, in the tradition of idiotic storm coverage the world over, they were braving heavy winds, pointing out various oddities (a hot tub dislodged and floating down the street). Nemo had arrived.
Around 7:30 pm, I decided to brave the storm, heading outside for a peek. I was immediately greeted by the sight of two fire engines to either side of my small residential street, both evidently stuck. It was cold and windy and snowy; I had to walk backwards to avoid being battered. I briefly circled the block and returned home to remove my glasses and put in my contacts.
Then I set out again. The streets were relatively empty, save for a few curious souls like myself. I erred on the side of caution, with six layers for my torso (including a North Face down jacket), and three for my legs. But the wind was brutal. I walked for what felt like ages, then headed home again – for good this time, quite beat. The whole trip had scarcely taken 30 minutes.
It’s a strange feeling to go to bed with a storm in progress, knowing that the most severe damage remained imminent. When I woke up Saturday morning, I looked out over a Roland Emmerich production. My apartment being so high up enhanced the surreal effect, and were it not for the several feet of snow on our third-floor porch, the scene might have felt even more detached. It was stunning.
It took a few hours before signs of life emerged. A couple of ambitious souls shoveled the areas around their cars, despite the fact that the snow was decidedly still falling. The city had essentially shut down since yesterday. State of emergency declared. All vehicular travel banned. And all public transportation cancelled.
I planned to go outside to explore again, though the sight of a neighbor wading his way into the mass of white where his front steps used to be provided an effective deterrent. Only when I saw a couple of people outside horsing around a bit did I decide it was time. Temperatures were around zero. It was 10:45 am. Go time.
I managed to struggle from my apartment to the sidewalk to the middle of the street. I then made it down to the end of the block, which had been plowed (if not with a great deal of success). Distinctive image after distinctive image emerged. I turned the corner, looking for more, joined by a few other would-be photographers. I decided to traverse farther. Way farther.
To be continued.