A blizzard. In January. On a Saturday. The recipe for a perfect storm.
Days before last Saturday’s storm hit, weather forecasters everywhere were announcing the potential for a storm of historic proportions. The warnings were dire, complete with catch phrases like the terrifying “Bomb Cyclone” and the deadly-but-fun-to-say “Bombogenesis”.
The storm met the official criteria for a blizzard: Three consecutive hours or more with considerable falling or blowing snow that reduces visibility to a quarter mile or less and frequent gusts or sustained winds at or over 35 m.p.h.
Saturday morning, looking out my living room window, things didn’t look so bad. I thought maybe the snow line shifted and Stoneham was going to get less accumulation than predicted. The television news stations covering the storm were doing their best to ramp up the severity of the situation. Why do I need to see reporters holding trash bags blowing in the wind while the reporters themselves are being blown across the screen as fifty m.p.h. gusts whip off the water? More importantly, why do I watch? The television stations know they have a captive audience when people are trapped inside for the duration of the storm.
I may be jaded because I’m a little bit older now. I was a 20 years old college student during the unforgettable Blizzard of ‘78. Without the benefit of modern meteorological technology, no one saw that storm coming. There was no preparation. The snow started without warning and didn’t stop. Everything else did, though. For about a week, maybe more, life came to an abrupt standstill. And no one minded at all. There was no internet back then, so people were used to entertaining themselves. Entire neighborhoods shoveling out at the same time became block-party events. We were cold but we were happy. I shudder to think what would happen if the internet shut down for a week in 2022.
New England winters have changed radically over time. Blame it on man-made pollution, global warming, or nature taking its course, it doesn’t matter. Weather is undeniably different in our part of the world. When I was a child, there was snow on the ground from late November until mid-March. Snow piles were our moonscapes as we recreated our favorite scenes from science fiction or adventure movies (okay, maybe that was just me). Nobody minded three or four months of snow. In fact, we embraced it. It made the spring thaw that much more welcomed.
Flashback: As a child, I lived across the street from a school. Every winter there were 12-foot mountains of snow after the parking lot was plowed. These mountains became the battlefield for neighborhood King of the Hill championships. Only the strongest of the strong could make it to the top and remain there for any length of time. The throne at the peak was hard to hold onto for more than a minute. Other kids were always sneaking up from behind, grabbing a leg out from under you or shoving you with a gut-wrenching two-handed push. The dreaded double-team charge always resulted in all challengers tumbling down the icy slope. Everyone took a turn falling or being pushed off the top of the mountain and rolling like a snowball to the bottom, covered in snow, ice in our boots, slush in our mittens. Despite the cold temperatures, the sun was warm on our red cheeks. Funny thing, I don’t remember the cold. I only remember laughing so hard while lying on the ground as bodies of screaming children flew over me from the top of the snow pile while the voice of the next victor echoed, “I’m King of the Hill!” And in a matter of seconds, that king would tumble to the ground as well. Weary is the head that wears the crown.
In two months time, Winter 2022 will be just another memory. Enjoy it while you can.