The Biggest Blizzard Ever
All over Canada, everyone heard about the Snowmageddon, the biggest, fastest dump of snow that ever happened, that anyone living could ever remember.
I live in St. John’s, Newfoundland Labrador, and only our neighbour city Mt. Pearl got more snow than we did, though that was not a statistic anyone would really value.
The mayor declared an “SOE” – a state of emergency, and called upon the armed forces to help us. We were on “The National” every night, on the news every day, and every bit of attention was merited, for although the amount of snow was truly overwhelming in reality more than imagination, what came through was a people’s ability to turn a disaster into an adventure.
The first time I stepped out into the storm, I was blown over by the 120-km/hr winds, lying on the hardened snow, like a turtle unable to roll over. At our house, it took an hour just to dig the snow blower out from under an 8-foot high snowdrift.
It took the rest of the day for all of us to dig out a path to the driveway and then to the street. Even then, our street was blocked with snow higher than my waist. We snowshoed to my father’s house, normally a ten-minute walk away.
His garage door was completely buried by a snowdrift 12 feet high. My daughter Kathryn snowshoed up to his front door and dug the 5-foot drift away from the front door so we could make sure he was ok.
The city reminded me of the ending of an old Planet of the Apes movie where Charlton Heston discovers New York City buried from an ancient nuclear disaster, only the top of the Statue of Liberty showing. There was so much nothing happening.
My colleagues and friends who were stuck in the hospitals braved it for 36 hours steady. Babies continued to born, emergency surgeries continued.
My daughter Lesley working in Carbonear an hour away from St. John’s, covered anesthesia call for 86 hours, staying in the hospital during the peak of the storm.
It is a trait of this very hardy people to follow the Nike swoosh, but with a touch of Mary Poppins, “just do it”, “with an element of fun.” Everyone shared the load of shovelling and snow blowing family, friends and neighbours, especially those who couldn’t do it for themselves.
Snowdrifts became refrigerators. Huge piles of snow became snow forts, of which many were elaborate. The braver sorts used the snow as a one and only chance to snowboard down the steep hills so characteristic of downtown.
Our neighbours down the street started a campfire for the kids at the corner of Roche Street and First Avenue. It started with S’mores and roasted marshmallows, and then came Coronas and Miller Lites; and then it was “red or white” and the tinkling of wine glasses, lawn chairs, and a party that went on for hours.
As comedian Mark Critch remarked, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians make you wish you could be there to share their disaster. Thank goodness we got the fun in before the snowplow finally showed up that night, to cheers, and loud thank-you’s, and Pepsis handed aboard.
When the supermarkets and grocery stores opened, over a thousand people lined up at one of the inner city ones, patiently waiting for their turn to go in. Not everyone did, or could afford, to stock up.
Taxis gave free rides to anyone who needed it. When one driver being interviewed was asked why he was doing that, he replied “Well, why wouldn’t you?” People here rose to the occasion in a way that “restored his faith in humanity”, one journalist commented.
Turning a disaster into an adventure – it is the same phenomenon as 911. An adventure story of generosity, faith in the goodness of the other, trust in knowing that it will all work out, so it’s right to smile.
This people can be so good at showing the divine that we all hold within.
I love living here.
(Unless indicated all photos are courtesy of the author)