It’s hot today so this post seems appropriate in a strange way–a reminder that the heat won’t last forever.
The Brooklyn Blizzard.
One morning at the beginning of February at 10am my cell phone, and in fact, cell phones all over the city, began to broadcast alarming beeping noises. The National Weather Service had just announced a blizzard warning for the Northeast, including New York City.
I am not a novice when it comes to blizzards. They blow into southwest Wisconsin every winter, and when they arrive everything stops. In anticipation, farmers–especially people who live along the back roads–stock up on groceries, because even with all the snow-clearing road equipment, it takes a while to clear three feet of tightly packed blown snow off the roads. Schools call off. Stores close early. Families are home together. It’s time out of time–a good excuse to take a break. We stack extra wood on the back porch, pop popcorn, and hunker down until the storm blows itself out.
One of my yet to be published novels, Callie’s Wolf, takes place in Nebraska in the winter of 1888. I did lots of research on blizzards before I began to write it. In those days, blizzards were truly life-threatening. Visibility can shrink to only a few feet. If you can’t see where you’re going, you could miss the house and be out on the empty plains in five minutes. Read The Children’s Blizzard–especially the sections describing what it’s like to freeze to death. If you think blizzards are no problem, that will change your mind quick.
So when my weather app said a blizzard was coming, I expected stores and businesses to close down and the streets to be deserted. No way. People still headed off to work and school. Cars stayed on the roads–if anything the traffic increased. I did see a couple carrying a twelve-pack of bottled water, but that was the only stocking up I noticed.
When my daughter invited us over for dinner that night I was surprised. In a Midwestern blizzard, the last thing you’d do would be to walk over to someone’s house for dinner. But Jack and I put on our winter coats and boots and walked about a mile over to her apartment. It was snowing, but it wasn’t like any blizzard I’d experienced. The snow didn’t feel like icy sand pelting you in the face. It was wet and soft. Fluffy snow piled up on the verges, and each little post of the fences between the brownstones grew a tall white cap. I kept thinking I heard Christmas carols and jingle bells.
We spent the night with our daughter and walked home through a sunny winter morning. It was Saturday, and parents were out sledding with their kids in the park. Snowmen and snow women sprang up in tiny front gardens. Dogs cavorted down snowy sidewalks. People out shoveling their steps called cheery greetings to their neighbors and threw snowballs at each other’s unsuspecting backs. It seems the Brooklyn and Wisconsin sorts of blizzards have something in common after all. Here, too, it’s time out of time–a perfect excuse for a break.