Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow Emergency

The forecast calls for a major snowstorm in the NY metro area beginning tonight. It’s one day too soon for me, threatening to wreak havoc with a planned Wednesday morning trip to Los Angeles and my return to a no socks needed anymore environment.

Of course, a flight delay would be a small inconvenience compared to what my brother is going through after last week’s storm blew up the East Coast.

While not one flake made its way to White Plains, some 30 inches landed on his property in Rockville, Md., outside Washington, DC. Shortly after 11:30 Friday night, he lost power. When Bernie and wife Annette woke Saturday morning, they discovered 250,000 of their immediate neighbors shared their power shortage. The snow was too high for their snowblower to be effective. Their cul de sac street would be among the last to be plowed, they suspected, so they could not expect a private contractor to extricate them. They were isolated.

Somehow, one of their close friends about half a mile away was an island of power. They strapped on snowshoes and trundled over for the night. Sunday afternoon their house remained without power, though they managed to have their driveway plowed (the street remained unplowed). They came home to open faucets to prevent frozen pipes. Temperature hovered below 50 degrees inside the house. The evening forecast called for wind chills in the teens.

They arranged to stay at a Marriott Sunday night, but before they checked in they were alerted that it, too, had lost power. Instead they stayed at a different friend’s home.

On Monday they trekked back to their powerless home and started throwing out food. They loaded frozen meats on a plastic sledding disc, rigged up a harness, and mushed their way to the first friend’s house and freezer. Their son’s nearby townhouse regained power, so they stayed with him and his family Monday night.

Washington area forecast is for another foot of snow from the new storm. Forecast for power restoration, if it doesn’t happen by today, is Friday at the earliest.

Schadenfreude: Dictionaries define this German term as “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.” It partly explains why people relish celebrity gossip. During football season, I take comfort when the Giants lose if the Redskins, my brother's team, lose as well. But this is different. Though I’ve kidded him about his snow predicament, there is little joy in what he and a quarter of a million others in the Maryland suburbs alone are going through.