The Storm of the (New) Century

Saturday the 25th we had a fitful snow, turning to a fine rainy mist midday, then back to snow.  It painted the bushes and branches though, and the next morning the rising sun caught the far bank of the river in the west, and highlighted the small woods beside our home:

Photo Copyright © L.E. Joiner 2015

Sunday was a tranquil day, but Monday brought dire warnings of an ‘historic blizzard’, tearing up the coast from New York City northward.  By three o’clock it had already begun, gently enough.  Number Two Son and his family had decided to move in with us, as his wife was gravid with child and due any day, and the midwife lived in our town, not theirs (they were preparing for a ‘home birth’).  It was a virtual certainty that the historic blizzard would make the roads impassable, and probably deprive us of electric power.  Temperatures were in the teens and dropping.  Normally I’d have relied on the fireplace, letting the pipes drip to prevent freezing, but what if labor began?  They would need heat upstairs; Number Two Son offered a space heater.  It was up to me to provide power, and that meant—a generator?

I began to see why hospitals were so convenient for delivering babies.  This was not the 19th century.  But then, I like gadgets, and had toyed with the generator idea for years, to the point of getting a quote on a natural-gas-powered whole-house installation.  No time for something like that now.  I got on the phone, and quickly discovered that Home Depot, Lowes, and Sears were all sold out of portable generators.  Apparently the whole town was on home-birth alert!  Or else, everyone was spooked by the TV authorities, who compared the coming onslaught with The Blizzard of ’78, which shut down the whole region for about a week.  Don’t just buy bread, milk, and toilet paper—buy a generator!

Fortunately, the invaluable Robinson’s, our local hardware store, had some generators.  They offered mostly Hondas, which cost about twice as much as the competition for comparable Wattage, but they also had a Briggs and Stratton ‘Storm Defender’, which although more than I had contemplated, was exactly the right name.  Well, I thought, it had wheels, so I could get an electric chain saw and use it in the summer, too.

By mid-evening the storm, which I think some weather people were calling ‘Juno’, for unknown reasons, had fizzled out in New York.  They had taken extraordinary measures, shutting down not only the Long Island Railway, but the subways (even though they ran underground), and even banning auto traffic.  They got a few inches, and some weathermen actually apologized.  The models were at fault, they said.  Well, of course it’s models that enabled that ‘global warming’ movement to move from a political agenda, back in the ’70s, to one that scientists could (mistakenly) espouse.  But meteorologists use models more carefully tuned to local facts on the ground, and to be fair, are actually pretty good at predicting the weather (yes, weather is not ‘climate’).  Snowstorms, it is said, are notoriously hard.

In our case, here in Eastern Massachusetts, the prediction was accurate.  We did get a lot of snow, nearly two feet, and a lot of wind, whistling in the eaves overnight, and blowing the snow nearly horizontal for much of Tuesday.  It wasn’t The Blizzard of ’78, by any means, but that had been an extraordinary confluence of storms, and one for which we were not at all prepared: the forecasting really is better now.  Here’s what it looked like by Tuesday afternoon:

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Photo Copyright © L.E. Joiner 2015

The snow was still coming down, but by evening it had tapered off.  Not once did the electric power even flicker (NStar, the power company, credits the very cold, light snow with sparing the branches that a heavier snow might have snapped off).  People stayed home, and the plows kept up.  And there was no baby.  I never needed the generator.  The little kids got out the next day for the bright white transformation of the world that only deep snow offers.  I built a fire with the wood I’d been husbanding (in case the power went out), and we watched a movie in the evening on our 55″ Samsung LCD TV.  We weren’t exactly roughing it, and had there been a baby, we could have managed that, too. /LEJ

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Photo Copyright © L.E. Joiner 2015