Monday, February 4 dawned signaling the beginning of a new week and no hint to what was to come. Yet with each passing day the weather reports grew more ominous predicting that we could be seeing a storm the likes of which had not been seen in years. At first forecasters would only say that by Friday we could see some plow able snow. Forecasters seemed to take extra caution with this storm after several predictions over the last few months had been wrong. And with each passing day that seemed to fluctuate. One to three inches of snow grew and grew with each passing day and passing hour. So far this winter we had only very minor snow falls, a coating to one or two inches at the most. Officially the local weather services noted that we had a total of ten inches of snow by this date and usually Boston has an average of twenty-five inches this far into the winter. The last significant storm was over two years ago when 18.2 inches of snow began falling on the day after Christmas on Dec. 26 and 27, 2010. By Friday, February 8, the forecasted totals had mushroomed significantly with snow totals predicted to run in the range of one to two feet of snow in and around Boston. Later even that would change, with eighteen to twenty-four inches forecast for Boston and some areas seeing thirty plus inches of snow! That red area on the weather map was impressive! What made this such a massive storm was that two storms, one from the Midwest and one from the south converged into one as they approached the New England area.
With warnings growing more urgent by the hour, we weren’t taking any chances either. On Thursday, Wess Travers in our Human Resources Department was busy lining up staff, making sure we had enough nursing assistants and dining aides on hand. Many were called and asked to come in early and stay over. Some employees arrived with bags in hand. Empty rooms on the units, parlors and empty apartments in the Jeanne Jugan Pavilion were readied. Emergency bags with travel sized toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, body wash, etc. were made up and stored up for staff use. Some of the staff were already here and simply planned to hunker down and stay in place. Others arrived for their shifts overnight bags in hand. The kitchen made sure they had what was needed in the way of food stuffs. Donna, our temporary Director of Nursing was making sure we had enough nursing staff on hand. Maintenance tested the snow blowers, lined up shovels and readied the salt. We were as prepared as we could be.
Friday dawned very overcast but still dry. The announcers on television and radio were urging people to get what they needed and plan to get off the roads by noon but as of yet there wasn’t a flake to be seen. Some people thought the weather people were going a bit over board. But by 9:30 a.m. on Friday, the snow began to fly and the storm presented a different face with each passing hour. At first the flakes were light and seemingly making little impact, the roads were wet thanks to the fact that salt trucks were already out and about prepping the roads. But just a short time later, the ground was already covered. By 2:15, we were at recreation and the flakes were flying. We looked out the window to see our plow truck make a pass through the parking lot and five minutes later when we looked again the ground was already covered. By 4:30 the tempo of the storm had picked up significantly, the wind was owling by this point and the snow was coming down fast and furious, a blizzard of epic proportions was in the making. Maureen Doherty, a resident of the Jeanne Jugan Pavilion, had to take Reilly, her golden retriever, out early in the evening. Both were snow covered and wet but Reilly took all in stride, dressed in a yellow slicker, hat and scarf!
By 8:30 p.m. the snow was coming down hard and the wind was relentless and it was indeed a full blown blizzard. When you looked put the window you couldn’t see the houses across the street. Many of the windows in the home were obscured by snow and ice. For the Residents, the storm became an activity in and of itself as many came by the lobby during the evening hours to sit and watch the falling snow and the activity outside as the snow plow and the men with snow blowers made pass after pass trying in vain to keep up with the snow.
City and state officials weren’t taking any chances either. Schools were closed, non-emergency workers were urged to stay home. And as the blizzard picked up in intensity, Gov. Deval Patrick issued a state wide mandate that stated that all cars with the exception of police, fire and hospital workers had to be off the roads by 4:00 p.m. on Friday. Connecticut and Rhode Island did the same. Anyone caught on the roads would face stiff fines and even the possibility of prison time. He wasn’t taking any chances for a repeat of the Blizzard of 1978 when thousands of cars became stranded on local roads and people spent the night trapped in their cars. The Blizzard of 1978 was thirty-five years ago nearly to the day on Feb. 6 and 7, 1978. It dumped 27.1 inches of snow on the city of Boston. The MBTA also wasn’t taking any chances and shut down all bus and train service at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, timed just so there was enough time for evening shift workers to get in, day shift workers to make it home. There was nothing we could do now but wait and ride out the storm.
During the night the winds were relentless and the snow fell at rates of one or more inches an hour. Bob Bouvier and Alex two of our employees, stayed over and as darkness fell, they fired up the snow blowers and went to work trying to keep up with the fast falling snow, hoping to keep the walkways somewhat clear. They worked a few hours hoping to at least make a dent in the quickly accumulating snow. Throughout the night the equipment on the roof groaned and things went bump in the night but everything seemed to hold. We suffered no loss of power as some communities did due to the high winds and heavy snow. When dawn came on Saturday morning, it was still snowing heavily and the winds were still blowing at 35 miles and hour and more! Drifts in some places were five to six feet high!
The snow didn’t stop falling until around 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning. When it was all said and done, the storm was indeed one for the record books. It knocked a storm from 1995 from its pedestal as the overall 5th place holder and stepped into its place with an officially recorded snowfall of 24.9 inches for the city of Boston. Somerville beat out Boston with a total of 28 inches falling in the city. Saturday morning, thanks to so many of the staff staying over we had few if any staffing problems. Several of the staff walked to work on Saturday morning in order to get in. Carolyn manned the Reception Desk having come in early on Friday since she was scheduled for the evening shift as well as the week-end. This allowed Jeanne Amlaw to go home before things worsened. Although they were exempt from the driving ban, while main roads were somewhat open side roads remained impassable. Because of this we were unable to have Mass on Saturday morning as our chaplain, Rev. William Mulligan, S.J. couldn’t get out of his driveway. Instead we had to hold a Communion Service in place of Mass. Later in the day, the storm didn’t stop us from having a little fun as during the course of the afternoon we threw an impromptu Snow Party. One Little Sister played the keyboard and led everyone in singing the old time favorites. Hot chocolate, cookies and miniature cupcakes were served.
By Sunday morning, things were beginning to slowly returning to normal as the clean up continued. But it looks like the snow is going to be around awhile, a lingering reminder of a storm named Nemo and dubbed the Blizzard of 2013 that not only went into the record books but made memories to be talked about and relished for days to come!