Who Doesn't Love a Blizzard? (OK, Maybe a Few Softies and Killjoys)

I know there’s a good chance I’ll be eating these words when I’m shoveling, shoveling, shoveling, or huddled with a candle next to the wood stove while melting snow for drinking water after the power has been knocked out for days, but really, few experiences are more exhilarating than witnessing the raw fury of a blizzard, hurricane or similarly ferocious meteorological phenomenon – as long as you’re prepared and reasonably well-protected.

I’ve slept outdoors in a nylon bivvy sack during a blizzard – maybe not comfortably, but certainly not life-imperiled – and have climbed mountains in blizzard conditions, as well as hunkered down in a tent at 19,000 feet in the Chilean Andes while a whiteout storm raged nonstop for days. Well, now that I think back, my tent-mates and I were pretty miserable, but at least we have good stories to tell.

Anyway, doubtless we’ll all be able to relate tales from the Blizzard of ’17, just as have had those who survived the 1938 Hurricane or the Blizzard of 1978.

I remember well that February nor’easter (for some reason given the rather lame sobriquet “Winter Storm Larry” in Connecticut), having spent the night of Feb. 7 not in a snow cave or igloo, but in the newsroom at The Day in downtown New London. I couldn’t drive home after Gov. Ella T. Grasso shut down Interstate-95 because of massive drifts and thousands of stranded vehicles.

That afternoon a report crackled over the police scanner – two men who had departed from Fishers Island in an open-cockpit Boston Whaler just as the storm began to intensify never made it to their destination in Noank.

“Well, they’ll be lucky to find their bodies in the spring,” I remember thinking. But the next morning I called the Coast Guard and was astonished to learn that the pair had washed up alive on Long Island.

I hope nobody is foolhardy enough to venture out on the water during this, or any other blizzard.

I had the foresight to pack my cross-country skis before leaving for work the day before the blizzard struck (but for some reason not a sleeping bag) and so while I had to curl up and try to doze in a chair I was able to schuss down the middle of Bank Street after the flakes stopped flying.

Here in southern New England we’re “lucky” to live in one of the few parts of the country subject not only to blizzards and hurricanes but also an occasional tornado. The only natural disasters missing, I suppose, are earthquakes and dust storms.

Given the choice I’ll take my chances with a blizzard, mainly because you don’t have to worry so much about getting struck by flying debris or lightning, which I dread more than any weather-related menace. Because hurricanes strike when leaves are still on the trees there’s also a greater risk from snapped trunks crushing houses and ripping down power lines.

My wife and I heat our house principally with wood and use a gas stove to cook, so we can get by without power as long as we stockpile enough water beforehand for drinking, cooking, washing and flushing (electricity powers the well pump). We also have access to a lake and small pond, but that would involve a lot of lugging.

So far I’ve resisted installing a backup generator because the deafening roar makes the neighborhood sound like a war zone. By the way, if any of my neighbors with a generator reads this, I intend no offense, particularly if the power is out for a few days and I come over to watch TV or check my email.

So, stay safe, stay warm and try to get out at some point and enjoy the thrill. This may be the last chance for a blizzard this year – but the way this crazy season is going you can never tell.



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