It was not my intention to rail against the weather, nor those who are paid to hype it, in this blog episode, but the events which unfolded on Tuesday and Wednesday were so extraordinary, that I am compelled to report them in some measure.
It is no secret that a vicious one/two snowfall (approaching blizzard conditions) had been predicted for the Philadelphia area (including Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey). The first of these punches was delivered over the weekend, from Friday night into Saturday afternoon. As detailed in my last blog, we all coped, and even managed to have a good time.
The second part of the onslaught was not slated to start until Tuesday night, and most of the talking heads on the weather programs had assumed a less hysterical stance by Monday morning. In fact, there were fewer of the dire predictions that constitute good weather drama. The usual scenes of people storming the local markets in search of bread and milk had been replaced by the more prominent stories of shootings and robberies, which constitute “human interest” in Philly.
(Above) During the lull in the storm, this is what the house looked like at 2:30pm on Wednesday. This was before the heavier storm activity. Note the "plowed" driveway to the right of the house. In two hours, it had accumulated another 6 inches of snow. The front door is not visible behind the snow-covered dogwood tree. Photo by Leslie Marsh
The storm started on cue, about 9pm Tuesday evening, and was duly noted by our two dogs, who were in the yard at that moment and who are ambivalent about this sort of thing. Dawn Wednesday morning saw an additional 4 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground, which made for pleasant breakfast speculation during the normal conversation.
(Above) The mailbox on its ornamental carved post is barely visible in the as the storm winds up for the pitch. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
Both the news teams and the weather forecasters — all talked out over the cataclysmic events of the weekend — seemed a lot more pensive and tended to issue more practical assessments of problems likely to develop in the next 24 hours. Gone were the interviews with morons shoveling snow on the street. In their place were reports from New Jersey Transit, PENNDOT, and PECO about major suspensions in service and the potential for serious road closures. These seemed incongruous with the gently falling snow outside.
(Above) Less than three miles from the house, this picturesque lane appears as desolate as any country road in the middle of nowhere. The snow here was over ten inches deep, but no challenge for the Suburban. The tire tracks indicate someone was ahead of me in here at some point.
Our plow guy, Joe DiGiacomo (from Planet Granite in West Chester), pulled up, dropped the plow, and had the driveway and garage area cleared out in ten minutes.
“I’m gonna be back during the night and once again in the morning,” Joe said, with an infectious grin. “Then I’m leaving for a ski trip up in Montreal. My friends left yesterday, but business is business, and I’m going make sure all my customers get plowed out before I go.”
(Above) The field to the left is usually host to a dozen horses. They were probably eaten by rich people who did not want them stolen by hoards of "Have Nots," roaming the countryside looking for a meal. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
I fired up the Suburban, and rolled out into the street, which had already been cleared by East Goshen Township, who have done a magnificent job of dealing with the snow. A fast spin around the block and into town clearly indicated the truck was up to anything accumulation that was on the roads. “Another series of storm predictions that were much ado about nothing,” I surmised. Yet I noticed that a handful of cars moving around without 4-wheel drive were having a tough go of it, and seemed to be at the limits of their expected performance range.
(Above) Weighed down by hundreds of pounds of snow on each branch, trees bowed across the road, giving a wild aspect to their usually more dignified county road nature. Picture by Leslie Marsh.
Leslie was eating a bowl a steaming barley beef soup when I tramped in.
“The trees are heavy with snow and their branches are hanging down to the pavement,” I said, “Want to take a ride in the truck and grab some pictures?”
“Sure,” she said. “How is it outside? They say it’s going to get worse.”
I told her the snow seemed to have reached a lull, and that the best scenes for pictures would be now, before the wind picked up. We headed out 20 minutes later, and I couldn’t help noticing that there was already two more inches of snow down on the newly plowed driveway.
(Above) A solitary tree wearing the colors of winter: shroud-white and bleak. Photo be Leslie Marsh
We were out for an hour and a half, during which time the wind did pick up, as did the rate of snowfall. Nearly all of the vehicles we encountered were commercial plowing vehicles and township trucks. Ducking down some of the more picturesque side roads, we found the snow to be as deep as ten inches. The “Big Blue” Suburban took it all in stride, though there were at least two country roads where the snowbanks had narrowed the right of way to a single lane. These were on downhill stretches, and I did not see how I would be able to yield to a vehicle coming the other way. (Fortunately, none did.) At one point, we hit a stretch where the plow had simply stopped, leaving a standing snow barrier. I gave the truck a hit of gas and drove right through it.
(Above) Exiting an old mill pond by the side of the road, this creek was one of the few example of open water we could find yesterday. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
Our objective was to find and photograph some open water, where Ridley Creek passes under a bridge on Dutton Mill Road. That was out of the question. Dutton Mill Road was in bad shape as it runs for a couple of miles and there are only a few houses on it, mostly at opposite ends.
(Above) Frequent readers to this blog will remember that in the most recent past episode, the furniture on the patio was used to measure the accumulation of the snow. Please feel free to compare this shot with the last one taken of the yard. The white blob in the center is a coffee table. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
The run back to the house was without drama, despite near white-out conditions . It was a lot warmer outside than I expected, and I had the driver’s window down more often then not. With less then two miles to go, we were confronted by a three- truck conga line of plows. All were headed towards us like fate, with each vehicle plowing a respective third of the road. There was enough of a gap between the first and second truck that I could swing to the right of it, and then to the left of the other two, with Leslie snapping pictures the whole time.
(Above) The East Goshen Public Works Department deserves the highest accolades for snow removal in a state not known for vicious winters. None of the adjoining municipalities had streets and thoroughfares as clear as ours. Nearly all of the snow-covered roads in this blog's pictures were taken in neighboring Willistown. The East Goshen Public Works Department is so well rehearsed in snow removal, they could give the guys in Lake Placid, NY or Buffalo, NY a run for their money. This is a conga-line of plows we cut through.
That ended our big adventure for the day. But not the drama.
The snow fell faster than my hopes for getting a decent Christmas bonus last year. Branches snapped off the magnolia tree in front of my office and a couple of really big branches broke off the pines in the yard. The drift against the gardener’s access gate to the yard was more than four feet high and 15 feet long. Septa cancelled all bus and trolley service by 5pm. New Jersey Transit cancelled all statewide bus service by 7pm. Philadelphia International Airport, the most rural on the east coast and the one I hate the most, was closed all day and was still closed early this morning. Even the crack dealers were gone from the usual corners in Philly. The driveway was once again a seamless sheet of white with more than a foot of new snow in it. Yet this time, the snow was heavy and weighed a ton per shovelful.
(Above) This was the view out of the front door early this morning. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
By 6pm last night, I-76, I-476, I-676, and I-78 were all closed. The Pennsylvania Turnpike remained open as did I-95. I-80 was open until there was a 50-car pile-up someplace west of here. A state of emergency had been declared in Delaware, and none but emergency vehicles were permitted on the roads. Leslie’s son Jordan called to report the electricity had been off there all day and that he, his wife, their two babies, three dogs, and one visiting mother-in-law were all huddled around the fireplace, but that they were down to using birthday cake candles for light. We prepared to go into rescue mode to go and get them with the Suburban. The snow was winding down, but the wind was howling. It would make driving in the dark on snow jammed country roads that much more difficult. I figured it could take me an hour to cover the five miles between there and here.
“Tell them I’m on the way,” I said. At that moment, current again surged through the wires and Casa Jordan was aglow once more.
At 9am this morning, a huge plow truck from East Goshen Township was slamming through the Cul De Sac when it slid into a slow bank. The township dispatched a bulldozer to pull the truck out. Both then labored to open the street to blacktop in many places. They had barely left when the great miracle occurred. Our plow guy appeared in a burst of sunlight. (This is not the douche we had before, but a guy who is as good as his word.)
(Above) My 15-year-old Suburban, "Big Blue", in the driveway just plowed by Joe DiGiacomo of Planet Granite. The vehicle effortlessly handled 22 inches of snow on Saturday, and 16 inches of wet snow yesterday. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
Against all odd, Smiling Joe DiGiacomo of Planet Granite roared into Leslie’s driveway with the plow down. His Chrysler pickup is powered by a Cummins diesel, with a heavy duty transmission. It bit into the incline of our driveway like a T-Rex running through a room full of puppies. Eight passes later, the driveway was cleared, as was the tarmac area in front of the garage. The snow banks at the back end of the driveway are over 6 feet tall.
The trees in the garden have sustained heavy damage. I don’t know if the magnolia tree can be salvaged. Likewise, the dogwood tree out front has every branch bent to the ground. With more snow predicted for the weekend and early next week, it is unlikely I will be able to get this bike out for another month. But that’s why they call it winter.
Hopefully, I will not get the opportunity to write about snow again this year.
©Copyright Jack Riepe2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
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