New England Nor’easter

Snow, House, Winter, Blizzard, Snowbound

Me being a New Englander having moved to Massachusetts from Chicago some 25 years before I can truthfully say I have been accustomed to the arctic temperatures winters consistently bring. However, it was on that one February day I had been sensing there was something which was not going to be ordinary about this one specific nor’easter. I had been up late last night watching and listening to the latest weather reports and they were predicting a normal nor’easter. That’s if anything is normal about a nor’easter but that’s what they were telling people.

With that information I started gathering up as much firewood as possible believing that a typical nor’easter brought with it bat extermination cost and heavy snow. I guess in the back of my head I thought maybe this one simply could be somewhat more interesting. With that thought I was able to make one last run to my neighborhood store to stock up an a few of the basic supplies to tide me over just in case this storm would last a bit longer. With supplies of meat, veggies and of course beer and wine I just made it back when the first flakes of snow started coming down. In case the power went out with the warmth out side was a rosy 18 levels I could use my makeshift outside cabinet as a temporary freezer to maintain my perishables from spoiling.

Around 6 o’clock the snow was really starting to really come down. The heavy winds though were blowing the snow flat and drifts were piling up along side the house. From 9 o’clock that evening the first floor windows were covered by the mounting snow drifts. By now the lights were flickering and that meant with this heavy snow and winds now at gale force the power would soon go out. At the back of my mind I thought about that back up generator I saw at Home Depot a month ago but the price just to have the permit was more than the unit itself and me being on a fixed income well I just had to settle with the fireplace in the living room and the wood stove in the kitchen. There was just one problem, once the power goes out the toilet will not flush due to the septic system is tied to the electric panel. I remember as a child our summer home before it was attached to the cities sewer lines the outhouse was only a few yards away and at night it was an experience to say the least just to go use the restroom. It was not only in the summer that we used that home but as children on cold winter nights when my family decided to get away the bunkhouse that we slept in during the summers now served us as a winter oasis when my family decided to escape. With a space heater it provided heat and some relaxation on those winter nights. It was at the time of year rather than trudging out to the cold of night to the outhouse the good old urine pot served us well. That’s how people over a 200 years ago went to the restroom in the middle of the night. There’s an old custom associated with pee pots but that is another story.

With that frame of mind I knew what to do. Now confident I had made all of the necessary preparations for the long siege of this nor’easter I put some wood chips in my wood stove and more logs in the fireplace just in case that when the power does go out the house will maintain a somewhat cozy temperature. Keeping the bricks around the fireplace warm by keeping the fire going is the key to radiant heat. I am often confused by the new houses that are going up today. So many do not have fireplaces and if they do the fireplace is at a wall on the side of the house so the heat from the fireplace goes mainly outside instead of radiant heat for the inside. In my home the fireplace is at the center of the home, so what radiant heat there is spreads evenly throughout the entire house. Centuries ago houses always had fireplaces at the middle of the home and frequently had them in every room of the home. Back then that was their only source of heat and for cooking. Today, I often use the wood stove to keep a pot of coffee on and use the fireplace that has bread nooks to keep food warm once the power is out which in New England happens when ever there’s a nor’easter. Something an in ground pool or a jacuzzi can’t do.

By 10 o’clock the power went out. With candles lit and the fire going I had been content to wait out this storm . Fortunately I have my computer charged so I checked the latest weather forecast. Now, they were stating another low pressure system is on a collision course with this nor’easter bringing with it the possibility for that perfect storm situation. Putting my sleeping bag on the living room rug before the fireplace I was just going to settle in for a winter’s rest when I hear outside cries for help. Jumping up to look out the window but the window was covered over so that I ran upstairs to the hall window and saw what seemed to be headlights piercing through snow drifts. A women was standing on top of her buried car waving for help. I kept thinking what possessed this women to drive in this weather only to get caught in snow drifts that coated her car.

Now you would think that more people would be able to respond but my house was the only one that seemed to be occupied, by me. The other homes where my neighbors stay have packed up and went to some safe haven to wait out this storm. Thinking quickly I grabbed my parka and snow shoes tying a rope to the bottom of the up stairs hall window. I managed to slide down my roof and using the rope for a life line trudged about 100 feet to where she was standing atop her vehicle. The wind was howling as the snow was making visibility very difficult but just as I was going to say hello the wind blew her off balance right into my arms. Caught off balance I knew we needed to make it back to the house and up into the second floor window because the first floor was already inaccessible before we were all trapped outside.

After about ten minutes using hand over hand pulling along the rope as a lifeline we managed to make to the side of my property. The snow was already 5 feet deep. As I stared at the upstairs window at which my rope was tied to I managed to climb and open the window so I could adjust my feet to bend over and grab her arm as she put here foot against the wall she was able to climb up my rope with my help and low and behold she slid into the window exhausted landing on the floor. Instantly I shut the shutters and the window just as a burst of gale force winds brushed against your house. Now, safe inside she introduce herself as Alice saying she had been on her way to meet her husband who just arrived in Boston having served a six month tour of duty as a merchant marine. She left her home thinking she could beat the storm and make into the port before the storm hit.

With the power out the only way to communicate was through my computer that I had installed a wifi device to create my entire house a hotspot just in the event of a power outage. Now comfortable in front of the fire in my living room Alice e-mailed her husband saying she was fine and staying with an acquaintance until it was safe to travel again. As I began cooking popcorn in the fireplace Alice got a response from her husband where he was able to find a room at the Long Wharf Marriott until the storm passes. For two days we exchanged stories and managed to be quite comfortable. The power was restored sometime the following morning. On the next morning after the storm hit I was able to dig our her vehicle and by 10 o’clock Alice was on her way to meet with her husband. I can honestly say that nor’easter of that February will be one for the record books and forever remembered for me rescuing a damsel in distress.

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