Tuesday afternoon, February 1, the storm blew in like wind-driven fog, the flakes were falling that thick and fast. Janet got home from work about an hour early (although a little later than I would have preferred myself). However, she made it with only a few white-out moments. We hunkered down for Tuesday evening as the storm howled loudly and whipped incredible amounts of snow into our windows. We went to bed, lulled into unconsciousness by wind wailing and screaming outdoors.
Assuming she might call in, unable to make it to work on Wednesday morning, I had delayed my Wednesday morning alarm for an hour or two. The blizzard, after all, dumped fifteen inches of new snow on us that night. Janet got up a little later than normal to check the road conditions via phone and then leave her message at work. “Travel was not advised.” She returned to coziness, and we didnʼt arise until just after 8:00.
The city snowplow had come through perhaps an hour earlier, evidently moving fast as it had scattered snow and chunks fully halfway up our drive. I also discovered we had a vast, deep drift from our little porch all the way across the door of the garage (in fact, the drift actually covered the whole front of the house, but I was only interested in the part of it I would have to clear). I determined to start my day by shoveling us out. So I dressed myself in many layers, capped with my new white windbreaker, that Janet had given me for Christmas, on top and my thin snowmobile pants over my running tights below. I had found recently that both garments insulated me almost perfectly from wind and cold. I pulled my rubber boots on over my shoes before facing the blizzardʼs deposits.
Just opening the garage door disheartened me. The drift was fully chest high (about four feet, swaying up about a half foot partway along) and nearly eight feet across.** But I valiantly got out my shovel and began trying to dig an opening in front of the entry door. I didnʼt do very well, merely hollowing out a tiny space that immediately filled with snow. I did attempt to shovel out a narrow lane across the front of the big garage door, but I couldnʼt keep any of this cleared space from gathering collapsed snow, so I determined to try the snowblower. When I opened the big garage door before starting it up, I found myself facing a wall of white. “Disheartened” may have been too jovial, too upbeat a word…
However, I did start the machine and push it out into the wall of snow, which immediately collapsed all around me and it. But I turned the blower sideways and, having closed the door, cleared that little alley between the garage and the drift, an alley that kept filling with snow that fell off the drift without apparently diminishing the drift itself whatsoever. I pushed the sucker through that snow again and again, without apparent success, merely maintaining my little passage before the door.
And then Janet appeared, decked out in her winter gear, ready to help! I had turned the corner at the far end of the drift, where it was only about a meter tall, and opened a collapsing lane out to the middle of the driveway along the eastern edge. I told her to take over the machine while I went back for my shovel to try and attack the big drift.
Every effort I made just saddened me because the snow was so thick and deep. But as she cleared the wind-scoured center of the driveway, and I kept pushing snow along my little curved alley between the garage door and the drift and around and out into the open area, and she moved on to reducing the considerable mess at the end of the drive, her success gave me some heart to keep at the immense snow dune. And by walking through the middle of the mass repeatedly (thank goodness for those new rubber galoshes!) and eventually pushing through with my shovel in that same spot and then repeating that process at other points in the drift, I slowly began to make progress, even as I frustrated her by pushing snow out where she had already cleared it. Meanwhile she challenged the blower, at the street-end of our drive, by attacking city-plowed mounds of snow that rose to six feet in height (not that she actually tried to snow-blow that deep a mound; the plowʼs tailings just built that high on the eastern side).
After more than two hours, having blown away much of the mess at the end of the driveway and then my reductions of the huge drift and then trading me the snowblower as she decided to clear our front steps, The Lovely One realized she had begun to freeze her toes in her thin socks and tight boots. So she went inside while I remained outdoors, first blowing away what she hadnʼt dealt with at the end of the driveway and across the entire street in front of our drive and a big drift off the six-foot pile on the eastern end, and then switching back to my shovel to try to clear the edges of the drive all the way to the actual edges of the drive (or at least nearer the verge of concrete). All in all, the effort took us not quite four hours, but the drive was absolutely clear and so was a good space of the street in front of our house.
I also got a little disheartened when I realized that the guy who plows the old folks home across the street had merely shoved all the snow from at least one of the drives straight across into our yard! Now our house really is secluded behind a privacy wall of snow that extends the whole front yard. (I should have taken a picture of that.) Janet theorized that he hadnʼt done so before because I was usually outdoors shoveling by the time he arrived in his truck to plow across the way.
Once I got inside, I found out about her toe issue, which after more than an hour after sheʼd gone inside had been resolved positively. We spent the rest of the day being quietly domestic indoors, taking seriously the advice broadcast on every station not to go out unless it was “absolutely necessary.” And we had a great pot of leftover chili from Sunday night to consume for supper!
The workout against the snow had been so exhausting that we both retired to bed by 9:00 PM. Although I read for a while, finishing The Swords of Lankhmar, sleep came deep and fast. We slept solidly and well as temperatures plunged to double digits below zero.
Janet got out for work successfully on Thursday morning, and I stayed home in the subzero day and eventually wrote this.
Thus endeth The Great Blizzard of 2011.
* Yes. Thatʼs me at the feeder. Janet got into having possession of the camera. What you see is my usual shoveling gear (minus the white windbreaker mentioned in todayʼs post). The colorfully reflective vest was purchased as running gear but seldom worn. I determined to wear it this year while shoveling to avoid being run down by jerks speeding toward the dead western end of our street.
** Or, looking at my picture, even wider across (although I am sure it narrowed somewhat on the far side of the drive, the eastern edge).
Click on any of the photos for greater detail and size.
Over 1350 words. So much for keeping these short this year.