Monday, February 20, 2012

Memories of a Vacation Blizzard

This President's Week school vacation week is a huge contrast to one I remember 60 years ago.  This week's mid-week weather forecast caught my attention Sunday morning.  It said our area of Maine could hit 50 degrees Wednesday, but that number was reduced by a couiple of degrees by Monday morning.  That's what it said Sunday morning.  Even thinking about 50 degrees in February in Maine is sort of incomprehensible. 

February is considered by many as the year's snowiest month.  And with snow usually comes cold temperatures.  There are many indications this February won't quite live up to the month's reputation.  It seems a litle strange, though, that in February we in our part of the state have to be told that there is snow cover in the western Maine mountains and up north and ski areas are operating as usual this school holiday week.  I'm not a skier, but some I know tell me it is difficult to look outside around this part of the state and see relatively bare ground and hear of potential 50 degree weather to get excited about heading for the slopes.  So, the reminder, there is good skiing in Maine this school vacation week.  You just have to drive a bit to get to it.

That wasn't the case 60 years ago.  I was an high school student in 1952 and, like most students at the time and I understand today as well, I looked forward to those "no school storm days."  But that year, the snows blew in the weekend that started vacation week.  It snowed.  And snowed.  And snowed.  It resulted in Greater Portland's worst blizzard in my memory, and some say the worst ever.

Our family home was directly across the street from a field and the winds packed us in.  The snow was so deep we had to use the upstairs windows to get out and slide down that packed snow to the ground.  We finally were able to shovel a tunnel from the driveway into the back door.  It took "forever," but we eventually did get the driveway shoveled.  We didn't have a snow blower back then and so that storm resulted in one mighty "back breaking" chore. 

I'm not sure just why the driveway was so important to get cleared because there was no way to get a car out of it.  The street on which we lived was so deep in snow that the city's plows couldn't touch it.  They didn't even bother to try.  However, getting that driveway cleared of snow was the beginning of what has become an important part of every storm we've had since.  I still take great pride in getting my driveway free and clear following a snowstorm.

By mid week we ran out of heating oil.  My dad did have a guarantee delivery system, but no oil truck could make it down the street.  I pitied the poor delivery guy.  He had two five or ten (one memory that fails me) gallon containers which he lugged several times as he plodded to our house.  It must have been a miserable time going a block through waist or higher deep packed drifts, but he got enough oil into the tank to run the furnace for a few days.

My dad was a partner in a business and he had to go there during the week to check on it.  I went with him one time as we donned snow shoes and skis to make the long trek in the snow.  I wasn't used to using either so a trek that in the summer might take a half hour took us several hours in both directions.  To say I was "pooped" by the time we got home would be a big understatement.

By mid week, we heard a loud roar outside and looked to see a huge military machine plowing our street.  Even that powerful land mover was working with difficulty moving the now self-packed, wet snow.  But when it finished, we were free at last and able to once again to use our car for travel around the city.  Of course there were another few days of getting the plow banks cleared up and the porches cleared for safe use, but it had been a storm for the memory of a lifetime.

It began as February school vacation began.  By the time the vacation ended, it had been cleared so we teens did not get a single second of a "no school" storm day.  I remember, I think, of many of us in the high school corridors saying that it had been a real lousy timing for such a great storm.

It certainly doesn't appear that we're in any danger of repeating that blizzard this vacation week in Maine.


No comments: