Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Missed Blizzard

Even though we have been told time and time again by Southern Sister that it never snows where she lives, we all woke up to find three inches of snow covering the south on the Sunday morning after Christmas. For most of us, Southern Sister included, three inches is not too big of a deal. But when you live in an area where snow infrequently visits, there is no snow plow, snow tires or good snow drivers to welcome its cold, white, loveliness.  I imagine that most people in the south lock their doors and pull down their window shades when snow comes a knockin' and I can't say that I blame them.

Sadly, the Sunday after Christmas was the day that Elizabeth, Elsie, Granny and Grandfather were scheduled to leave Southern Sister's house and drive back North, and blizzards don't make fun travel companions. The snow was still coming down thickly while the presents were being loaded and the travel coffee mugs were being filled. The wind was still blowing wildly as their cars pulled out of the driveway and headed North. Both cars would make it home over the next two days but road conditions were poor and all four people were relieved to make it home in one piece.  As a public service announcement to our friends in areas that don't frequently snow, Elizabeth and Elsie would like to remind all pick up truck drivers that Snow Means Slow.  Please don't drive your usual fast highway speed.  Pick up trucks aren't necessarily four wheel drives, and cars without proper tires have a terrible habit of slipping on snowy surfaces and sliding out of control. 

The roads sounded treacherous and frightening, but we had flown.... would we be lucky enough to make it home?

Our first piece of good fortune was that we weren't planning to leave Southern Sister's on Sunday morning. We headed to The Great Wolf Lodge and watched the snow come down from the warm comfort of their heated pool area. While the Northeast was being hammered with the Great Christmas Blizzard of 2010, we were sipping beers and watching animated stuffed creatures sing happy songs from a restaurant tree. Every moment we could, we checked the weather channel and watched the poor LLBean-wearing correspondents file their reports while the wind whipped through their hair and the snow covered their camera lenses. We watched as the storm hit Philadelphia and then New York and then Boston. We were hopeful that we would miss the storm completely. It looked like the storm would be heading out to sea at the same exact moment that we would be heading to the airport on Monday and that it would be gone before our plane even took off.

But storms have been known to laugh in the face of weather reporters - especially in New England and we did not uncross our fingers yet.

The next day we woke to gorgeous blue skies. It was freezing cold and windy, but the only signs of a major storm in Southern Sister's town was the left-over snow and even that was only on the grass and the roof tops.  The storm was still raging in the north, however, and we checked in with our travelling relatives while we ate breakfast.  My parents had made it to their planned over-night stop but were now worried about continuing on into the storm.  Using a complex system of Mobile phone calls, Elizabeth's computer in Philadelphia and Mapquest, they were able to plot out a route that swung to the west and avoided the worst of the storm until they got closer to their home state. 

Elizabeth and Elsie had arrived in Philadelphia around dinner time the night before.  It had been a stressful trip spent watching cars around them spin out of control and crash into the highway barriers.  The blizzard was hitting Philly when they arrived, but Elsie really wanted to head on to her house (two hours away) and she figured that the streets would have better visibility once she left the city.  Apparently she was wrong, because six hours later she unlocked her front door and fell into bed.  We're just happy that she made it home safely.

This storm was sounding worse and worse and after watching the weather reports on tv, we started to wonder if we'd be leaving as scheduled.  LaGuardia and Kennedy airports were closed until 4:00pm but Logan is a much more stoic place.  Logan was born of sturdy New England stock and it takes more than a blizzard to shut it down.... of course, like LaGuardia and Kennedy, Logan wasn't allowing planes to land nor were any planes leaving, but IT WASN'T CLOSED!  You got that?!?

At this point, we were completely uncertain about where we would be spending the night.  The airline was telling us to come to the airport and prepare to fly home.  Our guts were telling us that we would regret the decision to return the rental car.  We had to hope for the best and head to the airport.

Southern Sister's airport was filled with stranded passengers trying to get squeeze on to planes.  Our plane was coming from the Bahamas and it still claimed to be arriving on time.  We made it through security, bought sandwiches for dinner and sat down to wait by the gate.  We were starting to feel hopeful and it was uplifting to watch standby passengers hitch rides on the few planes leaving.  All systems were pointing to Go when five minutes before the plane was supposed to board, we overheard an employee making a phone call to an unknown second party.  In whispered tones, he explained that the Bahamian pilot was not "certified" to fly in high winds and we needed to "call-up" a pilot who was.  This news was both encouraging and discouraging.  We were glad that our pilot would be able to land the plane in the blizzarding winds, but unless said pilot was hanging out in the next terminal over, it sounded like we were going to be delayed. 

The pilot was not in the next terminal over.

We waited for the pilot for over an hour.  And while it wasn't fun to entertain the children with few resources at our disposal, we were thankful that we didn't have to wait for DAYS which was really our alternative.  The plane ride home was bumpy to say the least and the Wind Certified Pilot did an amazing job of landing our plane in unbelievably windy conditions.  When we arrived at Logan, the airport was covered in snow and I have no idea how the brakes on the plane worked and didn't slide like those pick-up trucks in the South.  It looked like Alaska at the airport - it was snowy and desolate.  No one was in the airport and even the buses and taxis were absent.

But we almost home and we were happy.  At least we were until we arrived at our house and discovered that the snow removal guy hadn't plowed our driveway and there was over two feet of snow blocking our ability to sleep in our own beds.  The children and I felt like intrepid explorers as we trudged through the snow to the front door.  We were like Almanzo Wilder crossing the frozen tundra to get wheat to save the town.  It was very fun and dramatic.  I doubt Gordy agreed (and luckily I couldn't hear his complaints over the roar of the wind) because he was the one who had to snow-blow just enough room on the bottom of our driveway to pull the car in off the street.  It was, after all, eleven o'clock at night and not the most polite time to start up a snow-blower.

All in all, I was slightly sad to have missed the blizzard.  It's fun to be snug in your house, watching the snow come down and it's a beautiful sight to see the sun shining on fresh snow.  It was school vacation week, though and that meant that we had days available to enjoy the outdoors.  The next day, we invited a friend of Henry's to join us for some hard-core sledding at the local golf club, which is on a hill and has great places to sled.    The blizzarding winds had blown the snow off many of the peaks, but the ground was still perfect for fast sledding and the various bumps of the golf course made for some good flying.

The snow is mostly gone now, we had some strangely warm weather last week and a lot of the snow melted.  We may have missed this blizzard, but I'm sure there will be more before winter is over.  I'll keep you posted.

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