Thursday, March 15, 2018

The storm, one year later

A year ago we had one hell of a snowstorm. All I managed to post during it was a picture and a little text.

21 inches of snow on the front porch by noon on March 14, 2017. Snow was still coming down. Three hours later, when it seemed to have stopped, I measured it again at 22 inches.
We've had bad snowstorms before. The blizzard of 1993. The Valentine's Day 2007 storm, which dumped "lasagna" snow - alternating layers of dry snow, sleet, and wet snow. The March 2017 storm was bad, but manageable. Still very bad. This storm was mostly light, shovelable stuff, but an awful lot of it, with drifts of over three feet.I watched as the outside world was transformed into a "marshmallow world," with a soft, thick, flowing layer of snow covering every surface.

I worried about the feral cats outside. I hoped they had retreated to places of safety, but had not become trapped or buried alive. They did not show up on the porch at all that day to eat the food I had put out. That night, I resolved to fight my way out to the bird feeder, fill it with seed, and put out some suet cakes. With effort, I forced open the back porch door and faced down the smooth slope that had once been a flight of steps. I grasped the wrought iron railings, searched in the snow with my boot for the surface of the stone steps, and slowly made my way down to what I eventually decided was the ground level.

Drifting snow buried the back yard waist-high. I waded though the snow blindly, operating on a remembered map of the yard: here is a recycling container, here is a lawn chair, this is a rhododendron,  that lump is the bird feeder... The snow came up to the bottom of the bird feeder. I knocked it clean of snow, refilled it, and set the empty seed container down on the waist-high snow. I then hung the suet cake cage I had bought decades ago from the shepherd's crook that the bird feeder hung from.

Satisfied I had given the birds a fighting chance, I looked around the back yard. I could not have positively identified it as my house. Gentle, fluffy mounds occupied the places where familiar objects had been. Were the cats buried under those mounds?

I plowed my way back toward the steps, carrying the now-empty bird seed container. The snow-covered slope of the steps was much harder to navigate going up than it had been to come down. Eventually I hauled myself back onto the porch, set down the bird seed container, and looked sadly at the untouched water and food bowls.

I shook the snow off my clothes and opened the back door. Looking back one last time, I saw that Little Girl, a feral cat who has been with us since 2010, had followed me up the steps and was drinking from the water bowl.


My mom had an appointment the next day. I was either scheduled off or had taken the day off, I don't remember which. It was an important appointment, hard to get,not easy to reschedule. It turned out that the doctor's office was opened and seeing patients. Her appointment was not until the afternoon, so I had some time to clear the sidewalks and dig out the car - all by hand.

Shoveling the snow took strategy. Shave off the top twelve inches, toss aside. Shave off the next twelve and toss somewhere else. Dig down to the sidewalk layer and clear. Take one step forward. Repeat.

I wasn't doing it alone. My brother and nephews stopped by to clear out the car and help with the sidewalks. We also shoveled the side street and dug out the fire hydrant. It was a lot of work, but we got the job done.

Shortly after we finished, I escorted my mom down to the car. She needs a cane to help her walk, especially when the sidewalks are covered with snow. As we made our way to the car, we looked at the walls of snow piled on either side of the sidewalk. The one on the tree lawn was pretty impressive. It was braced by the snow piled up on the side of the road, pushed there by snow plows. But the sidewalk was clear, and my mom could walk to the car and get to her appointment.

When we came back from the appointment, the sidewalk was buried.

This is what my mom had to walk over. It was worse before I dug at it. It was much better before it was buried.

So the plan was, I would drop my mom off at the bottom of the sidewalk, and she would begin to make her way up as I parked the car. That would have been at a spot next to the utility pole in this picture. The sidewalk had been shoveled clean before we left. But while we were at her appointment, a snowplow had helpfully come by and scraped the snow off the street, all the way to the curb - so close that it actually broke a chunk off the curb near the handicapped access ramp that the city installed on the corners of every block a few weeks ago. The snowplow pushed all the snow that had been piled on the tree lawn onto the sidewalk, re-burying it and making it nearly impossible for my mom to get back into her own house. (Incidentally, they also buried the fire hydrant under several feet of snow.)

I picked up some of the bigger blocks of snow and hurled them into the street like an enraged caveman. I remembered the shovel I had put in the car to deal with any emergencies. I took it out and began to shovel. I cleared enough of a path for my mother to get back into the house. I then continued to re-shovel the sidewalks I had just shoveled, getting angrier and angrier with each passing second. Finally my anger got the better of me. I carried the shovel into the house with me, grabbed a phone, and called the city. 

Note the collapsed snow and the path I had cleared for my mother. The snow at the bottom of the sidewalk was so densely packed that I dug an alternate path across the lawn and around the utility pole.

I gave them an earful. Told them about what my elderly mother had just had to deal with. Told them about the buried fire hydrant. Told them that whatever contractor had been hired to plow the roads had better get their ass out here to undo the mess they'd made.

And they did.

I can be very persuasive when I'm angry.


The snow melted, eventually. Sometimes I still can't believe that it did, but it did. I think it took about two weeks. When the snow was finally all melted, we were hit with a heavy rainstorm that caused my basement to flood.

But that's another story.

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