Snowstorm travel, 1978 to 2005

... the white stuff helps keep one in shape

by Bob Ross

In 1978 Lil and I went to a wake for a relative. It was snowing lightly through the day, not much accumulated and I figured it would be no problem getting to the funeral home in Cambridge.

It wasn't. My son and his wife who lived in Wenham were there already. We spent awhile mingling with relatives. Late arrivals said it was really snowing and several of the men, including me, went outside to check. It really was coming down, over two inches and wind blowing it around. I told Lil, my wife, and said we should leave before driving got difficult. It took 15 or 20 minutes for her to make the rounds and we left. How much snow we had gotten I don't know. Started the car and began cleaning the windows but I could hardly see the car it was coming down so hard. Traffic was crawling and by the time we got to Malden the snow was backing up on the windshield. Parked at the shopping center, cleaned it and continued out the Fellsway to the route 28 cut-off toward Melrose.

My drive from street 1978

I was having difficulty seeing the road and the wipers could not clean enough for me to see out. Opened my window near the hospital, and slowly made my way toward home. Going slow we made it to Charles Street, and fortunately a snow plow was coming down the hill and cleaned a path and we made it to Oakland Street without incident. Had the snowplow not been there I doubt if I could have made it up the hill.

Once inside the house I turned on the radio and listened to the weather forecasters telling us to stay off the road. I wondered how Bobby, my son, was doing.   

Settled down and watched TV for an hour or so and the doorbell went off and my son came in. "What happened?" I ask. He laughed, said they couldn't make it home. Got somewhere near Danvers and the roads were impassable. His only choice was to come to our house. Had a beer (I gave beer up somewhere along the way), talked awhile while Lil got the bedroom ready for them.

Oakland Street 1978

As New Englanders know, we got snowed in. Auto traffic was stopped, except for emergencies. The highways were parking lots, only difference, you couldn't move. People had to walk to the stores, which was good really as everyone on the street got to know each other.

My son and his wife stayed with us over a week. Finally the roads and highways were cleared and traffic was allowed again. They went home but the road to their house at the top of a hill had not been cleared and they had to park about a quarter mile from home. People who lived there had packed the snow for a path to get to their cars and that was a blessing for them.

When the snow stopped I made a path to the garage, shoveled about four feet of snow from the door, just enough to get it open, started up the snow blower and made a path to the street, cleaned in front of the car, moved it and cleared about 25 ft. to the back door.

After taking a coffee break and warming up, I started on the pile the plow had left at my driveway. The pile was about 5-6 ft high, packed, frozen and took forever to clean.

The front yard and beside the driveway had piles so high of snow that the blower would not get over the top. Finally stopped and sure was glad I had the snow blower.

Eventually it disappeared, life got back to normal, and the street was a friendly place. That fall we had street parties, everyone bring a dish, and this continued for several years and ended when lots of the folks moved away.

Although it has been over 20 years since the storm, people still remember and talk about it. It nice to remember, but I sure hope I never have to go through another one like the winter of 1978.

These were my famous last words.....

But... Mother nature did not take me seriously and played tricks on us as described below.

In December 2003 we had another freak snowstorm. Dumped over two feet, and drifts over five feet in my back yard. Fortunately it warmed up then rained and most of it was melted before Christmas. It reminded me of the storm we had in 1978. Decided to add this comment to this article as an afterthought. Living in New England, such inconveniences are expected and you learn to live with them.

On Dec 27, 2004, weather men predicted a few inches of snow. As it turned out, at my house we got over eight inches. It started Monday ended Tuesday late. The wind really moved it around, some piles over a foot deep.

The first week of January 2005 we had snow several times. Over 14".  Fortunately it got warm or rained and not necessary to do removal myself. We lucked out. Friday evening it snowed again, ending late Saturday. I didn't bother as it was expected to be light with rain. I assumed it would be washed away.  

How wrong I was. It didn't rain; turned to sleet and froze. I really messed up by failing to do as always, get Missy Ariens out to do the work. I manually removed just enough to park the car with a path to the street. Everything else remained covered.

Missy Ariens My Life Saver 1978
Still doing her job after 35 years

Previously I kept a path to the street until it stopped and when it finally stopped I pulled "Missy Ariens" out to clean the drive. No problem getting started, but when I hit one of the deep piles, she didn't rev up to take the load. Oh it moved it, but very slowly.

I stopped, checked to see if something was blocking the accelerator, but nothing there. Fooled around awhile but no improvement. Continued cleaning slowly. The wind made it difficult as it blew back on me, I turned into a snow man. Glasses covered as was my face, and I gave up as I was covered in snow and freezing.

An hour or so later I finished enough of the drive for the car and access to the mud-room. Did not do the deck as forecast called for warming and rain. Hoped the forecast is correct and it all melts before the next snow storm.

Last night, January 20th we had another three inches of snow and advised to clean it up as we will be in a "deep freeze" for several days with another major storm predicted for Saturday and Sunday. This time I wasted no time cleaning it up. It was light and fortunately the wind was not blowing too hard. It was cold though, Under 20 deg. when I started. Tonight it is suppose to drop to zero...

The WX men were right. At 3:15pm Saturday, January 22, flurries started. Very light at first for a couple of hours, getting heavier then coming down at 2-3 inches an hour. At 8pm we had four inches. At 9pm over six inches. Wind picked up and at 10pm drifts began to form and I could not get a measurement. The steps and porch to mud room had about four inches and after cleaning, I stopped attempting to measure.

Up at 5am 23rd. About eight inches on steps/porch, up to the kitchen window on the deck. Some spots on the drive were clear, with over four feet drifts around the car and most of the driveway. The snow plow made two passes which allowed travel if anyone could get out of their driveway. I did not see anyone going out.

It continued snowing and WX men estimated winds of up to 45-55mph, with 12 degrees making wind chill dangerous for anyone outside. Continued snowing lightly until 4pm and I pulled the snow blower out, cleaned the drive a bit at a time. Blowing snow turned me into a snowman and had to stop until the wind died down.

The WX people estimated 27-28 inches. I won't question their estimates. This storm was worse than the '78 storm according to all reports. The main problem now, where does one put all the snow? To add to the problem, another storm is in the making for Wednesday with four to eight inches predicted with another for Saturday. The kids love all this, but at my age, its work trying to keep up with it.

The three photos in the 1978 section were taken in 1978. Except for Seans house the following six were taken just after the snowing stopped.

Click image for larger view

Car buried 2005

Deck covered 2005

Up to window 2005

Car/Drive cleared


Seans house snowing hard

February 4, 2005

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