Snowpocalypse 2011

As you might have heard, we got a bit of snow last week. Snowpocalypse, or #snOMG as Twitter was calling it, was unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced. I vaguely remember the 1999 storm, but I was a senior in high school still on Christmas break.

This storm was incredible for its fury. All week, Skilling and others kept raising the expected accumulation totals and narrowing down the exact hour the storm hit. And they were right.

I woke up Tuesday morning to a fresh inch or so of snow and word that Metra was rearranging their afternoon schedules to help people get home ahead of the storm. All day, the skies were relatively clear. Until 2 PM, when suddenly, I looked out the 22nd floor windows and saw snow blowing horizontally, swirling violently.

The few coworkers who had come into the office started leaving to catch the special early Metra trains. I heard that Union Station was chaotic, so I decided to wait an hour to let things thin out a bit.

I left work at 4:15 and hunched against the wind and snow until I got to the eerily empty Union Station. I boarded the 4:50 train, which closed the doors right on time, with several empty seats. We sat for 10 minutes and then departed. Just past Western Avenue, we stopped. And sat. For nearly two hours. The conductors had no information, but I was able to learn from Twitter that there was a switch failure ahead. We sat on a bridge, near Damen and Grand, as the wind rocked the train back and forth. I was hungry and cursed myself for leaving an apple on my desk. Another passenger joked about ordering a pizza, if we could convince someone to come to the rail bridge.

Eventually, we pulled into Elgin just before 8 PM, and I made a very difficult walk home, as the 40 mph winds flung snow at and around me, obscuring my vision and sucking my breath. Scenes from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Long Winter filled my head, as I thought of pioneers getting lost in blizzards, stringing clothesline to navigate from house to stable. I wish I had a rope to follow home.

As I killed time on the train, I had seen several Twitter friends mention power outages. When I finally got close to my house and saw the porchlights, I breathed a sigh of relief. But as I trudged through the drifts on the driveway, I found a couple shingles. I think they’re from my roof, but I’m still not quite sure. I had made it home, but had to dig out my back door, which was already encased in snow nearly up to the doorknob.

As I left work, I had hoped to settle in early and study, but after a four hour commute, I curled up with a glass of wine and listened to the storm. I’ve been in this house nearly five years, and I’ve never heard it rock and shake and creak quite like it did Tuesday night. I followed the storm on Twitter, as Elgin’s city manager tweeted from a snowplow, and crossed my fingers every time the power flickered. Finally I went to bed, but laid awake, listening to the howling storm.

No wonder my kitchen was so dark! That's a six-foot tall fence

When I woke up, the winds had died down quite a bit, but the house seemed very odd. I realized it was because nearly every window was covered with frozen-on snow, obscuring much of the light. I surveyed the damage: officially, we got 20 inches, and I had drifts nearly 4 and 5 feet tall, some next to bare patches of pavement. A piece of my garage roof soffit was lying in the backyard.

The driveway: 4 ft drifts next to bare pavement

But since I was working from home, there wasn’t really a snow day. I went out at lunchtime and began shoveling – after I tunneled to the garage to retrieve my shovel.

I went out for a couple brief spells in the afternoon, thankful I didn’t really need the car until Saturday.

My tunnel, from house to street

Late in the afternoon, I started to dig out the end of the driveway, where it was drifted pretty deep, and finally had a tunnel to the street. My neighbor stopped by with his ATV, to which he had strapped a plow blade. He had a great time, riding up my drifts and then barreling downhill towards the street, pushing mountains of snow as he went. As he plowed, a former neighbor pulled up with his snowblower and asked if I wanted some help. Other neighbors also offered help. (I love this town.)

Luckily, I had no pressing need to take out the trash.

Later, I met up with some neighbors and helped clear the sidewalks of the main street in the neighborhood. Afterwards, we went to the local bar for chili and beer.

So while I didn’t get a traditional snow day, it was still a pretty good day. I even settled in with a mug of tea and pulled out The Long Winter before bed.

But that said, I think I’d be okay if we didn’t get any more snow this winter.

Though it was kind of pretty.

I do love the view over the river.


4 responses to “Snowpocalypse 2011

  1. Yes, always make sure the snow shovel is close at hand before the snow arrives! We keep ours at both the front and back doors.

    Frank got caught an hour after you at the same spot on Metra for the same switching problem.

    • Yes! Valuable lesson has been learned about keeping a shovel readily-accessible. Though I have to venture out to the garage to get it today so I can shovel again…

      Poor Frank. And he had a much longer walk home than I did. I was so thankful I live so close.

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