Be careful what you wish for. I wanted snow — well, I certainly got it. One of the biggest snowstorms Baltimore has ever seen has effectively shut the city down and put most of the mid-Atlantic into a state of emergency. Last weekend’s blizzard dumped 2 to 3 feet of snow. Before that could be cleared away, a second major snowstorm arrived midweek right on top of it.
School? Work? Forget it. You’re lucky if you can open your door far enough to get out of the house to buy milk. I haven’t shoveled this much snow since I was a first-year general assistant at South Pole Station.
A week ago today, I bought an extra shovel, a sled, a gallon of milk and some cocoa. Despite the predictions, though, I was skeptical about the forecast storm. I shouldn’t have been. When I woke up last Saturday morning, the world was gone. My neighborhood already was buried under a foot and a half of snow — and it was still snowing hard.
This was no light and fluffy snow. It was a wet, heavy blanket. It took a few minutes of pushing to open my front door enough to squeeze outside. My neighbors struggled to free themselves from their own apartments. Someone’s dog got out the door only to disappear in the snow — just his tail was visible. “I’ve lived in Baltimore for 22 years now, and I don’t remember ever seeing snow like this,” one woman said incredulously.
We shoveled the doorways first, so that those still trapped would be able to get out. Then we set to work making a pathway down the middle of our alleyway. When we finally had made it so that everyone could get to the street if they had to, we leaned on our shovel handles in relief. Exhausted as I was, this was the most neighborhood camaraderie I had felt since moving here. “See you in a few hours, I guess,” one neighbor said before going back inside. “After the next 4 inches!”
Outside our alleyway, the streets were equally impassible. The blanketed city was gray and muted; familiar landmarks had eerily disappeared. Snow was banked up to the windows of businesses, and tree branches bent toward the ground. One downed tree went right through a parked car. With sidewalks impassible, packs of curious, dazed people slogged through main intersections, loitering under the now-purposeless traffic lights which, surreally, continued to run through their standard routine of green-yellow-red.
“It’s the snowpocalypse!” someone yelled.
Skiers went down Main Street. Kids with sleds headed for the park. I passed two girls resting in the snow. “We’re trying to go to the playground,” they said, pointing. “But it’s so far.” I laughed. It was just a hundred yards away, but the thigh-high snow made that feel more like a mile.
Finally, the snow dwindled, and stopped. In less than 24 hours, we’d gotten more than 2 feet of snow.
Maryland — unlike Maine — is unprepared for so much snow. Some residents used small garden hoes and brooms to clear the snow. One man sported homemade snow boots made of socks, garbage bags, and duct tape. When Sunday dawned blue and clear, I was surprised to find the streets unchanged and still buried. “Has anything been plowed at all?” I asked.
While crews have restored electricity to thousands, most streets have remained useless all week. The smaller snow trucks built for the narrow city streets aren’t strong enough to move so much snow, and anything bigger wouldn’t fit. Instead, the city suggested that residents of small streets like mine dig the street area in front of our homes ourselves, particularly, they requested, the fire hydrants.
We’ve shoveled what we can, but there is simply no place left for the snow to go. “What I wouldn’t give for a Bobcat!” I said, thinking wistfully of the snow-clearing machines I drove in Antarctica.
We’re well and truly snowbound. All public transit has been down or is severely impaired — the buses, even the metro. My car is trapped. And, impossible as it seemed, another blizzard warning was issued midweek. On Monday I knew it was time to get more supplies. I wrestled my frame-pack down from the rafters, strapped it on, and set off on foot for the nearest supermarket.
It was a strange experience, going through the aisles with my hiking pack and boots, pushing the cart in front of me. But slogging back home through the snowbanks, pack full of groceries on my back, I couldn’t help but grin.
I sure picked an interesting winter to live in Baltimore.
Who knows when we will get unburied? For now, I’ll just keep shoveling, doing the best I can to get through the Blizzards of 2010. Some people are worn down. Others — particularly the school-aged — are loving it. Me? I say let it snow. Because, let’s face it — it’s going to, whether we want it or not. Make some cocoa, check on your neighbors, and batten down those hatches. We’re in for some weather.
Meg Adams, who grew up in Holden and graduated from John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor and Vassar College in New York, shares her experiences with readers each Friday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.