Snow like I remember it

As the Northeast got pummeled with snow earlier this winter, I realized how much shoveling I would be doing if I still lived in Connecticut, where I grew up, or Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where I lived as a young adult. I was not at all sorry to miss out on all that snow.

Yesterday we finally got our own big snowfall, which shut down schools and even many businesses. Like most of my co-workers in the IT department, I worked from home today, using remote access to monitor my email and use the company intranet. When the connection got too slow to get anything useful done, I headed outside to shovel the walk.

As a girl I could never understand why adults treated shoveling as such unpleasant work. Sure, it was tiring, but I had plenty of energy. Now I scoop off the top several inches of snow in front of me, scoop off some more, take a swipe at the bottom few inches – and then take a quick break to catch my breath and straighten my back. Foot by foot, I clear a path, but I’m grateful for the teenage neighbor we’re paying to do the driveway (our own teenage son being five hours away at college – where, he tells me, the piles left by the snowplow reach his chest).

As I walk between knee-high walls of snow, I realize that this is more like the snow I remember from my youth than anything I’ve seen in a very long time. (We saw a lot of snow where I worked in northern Michigan for six years, but that was largely because it fell every day; we rarely got a foot of snow dumped overnight.)

For a long time I wondered if I remembered more snow in my childhood because older people always seem to remember the weather having been worse back then, or because the snow came up higher on me when I was smaller. Or because I grew up in Connecticut, and we simply couldn’t expect to get as much in the greater Philadelphia region.

But apparently there really was more snow in those decades. At the National Climatic Data Center website, you can look up snowfall records for the country as a whole and by state. For Connecticut, the year (from August to July) with the greatest snowfall was 1967. The 7-day snowfall record was in December 1970.

For Iowa, where I live now, the 7-day snowfall records and greatest monthly total were in 1968, and the greatest daily snow depth was in 1969. Granted, all the records are for a specific location within the state, and other parts may have had much less, but it seems likely that in the snowiest years, all parts of the state got more than in the years when no records were set.

I wonder if 2011 will show up in any of those records next year.

4 Responses to Snow like I remember it

  1. Karen O says:

    One of the snow storms we had a couple weeks ago set a new record for most snowfall in one storm. But I forget how much it was.

  2. Margaret says:

    Pauline, we did have a couple of big snowstorms back in the early 1990s, when you and I were both living in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. (I have a picture of me digging my car out of the snow in Trenton.)

    • Pauline says:

      I remember one of those storms, when Zach was 1 or 2 years old. They closed I-95, but I didn’t realize that and drove on it anyway, trying to take Zach to Grandma Marcy’s so I could go to work. I got stuck on the off-ramp to Newtown, and I remember standing in the snow outside my car, holding Zach, desperate for someone to stop and help. Someone finally did, but there was no place to park near Marcy’s because of the snow. I gave up, called work to say I couldn’t make it, and drove home – which took nearly an hour, and I was afraid I was going to get stuck again.
      I also remember Jon insisted it wasn’t a blizzard, just a lot of snow, because the wind and visibility weren’t bad enough for the definition of blizzard. And that neighbors thought he was crazy for shoveling while it was still snowing (he didn’t want to have to try to shovel the full accumulation once it was over). And that he tried to shovel one neighbor’s driveway, and she yelled at him to stop because her son was going to do it – when he was just trying to be helpful. That’s when he decided we definitely had to move out to the midwest, where people understood neighborliness.

  3. Peter L says:

    Ah, yes. The “Snowpocalypse” of 2011. We got 18-20″ the other day here.

    I don’t have memories of deep snowfalls as a child, other than the 5″ when i was 6 and the 7 1/4″ when I was 14, and a few 2-3 inchers in between. But then, the Arizona desert is not the place people think of when they think of snow. The nearby mountains, however, used to get a lot of snow, and several times each winter we would bundle up and go there to play in the snow. We had no sleds, but used old inner tubes. Dangerous for their lack of control, but we had a great time. We would pack snow against any trees in the path so that the tube would bounce off of them.

    In fact, I have not seen this much snow at one time since I lived in those mountains in the winter of ’78-’79, and there was a 2 ft. snowfall on top of the 10″ from a few days before.

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