Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Blizzard of 2013 – Now That Was a Storm

Remember William H. Macy’s character The Shoveler in the 1999 film Mystery Men?  Well that was me today – minus the outfit.  I spent four straight hours shoveling, then roof raking (see pic below if you don't know what that is), then shoveling some more.  I figure I moved roughly 1,800 cubic feet of snow in that time (that’s 14 cubic meters for the folks on the metric system.)  I don't even want to think about what that works out to in pounds (or kilograms).  I’m going to be one hurtin’ puppy tomorrow.

You may be asking, “Why the heck did you do that Chip?”  Well, you see, Friday and Saturday we had this snowstorm come up the coast, stop right on top of us, mate with another snowstorm coming in from the west, and they dumped about a trillion baby snowflakes on top of us before moving on to harass Atlantic Canada.

Now picture feet of snow up there
The national news was covering it, but from all that they showed, the storm only hit New York City (where they work) and Connecticut (where they live).  There was an occasional mention of Boston.  Anything outside of Boston is apparently either non-existent or irrelevant to them.  Guess who got as much or more snow as the three areas mentioned on the news?  That’s right, southwestern Maine where I live.

The forecast was for as much as two feet of snow.  Friday we were only supposed to get 2-4 inches before the storm really kicked in around Midnight.  Well, I had 4 inches of snow on the ground before Noon.  The part of the forecast where it was supposed to snow several inches an hour throughout the night proved to be correct, though.  (For the folks who do not live in snow country, one inch an hour is a serious storm.  We got up to five inches an hour at times during this one.) 

It wasn’t just the snow, but the 50 mile per hour sustained winds, with hurricane force gusts that made this storm so interesting.  In fact, this blizzard was basically a snow hurricane.  Here is what I woke up to Saturday morning.  These are drifts up against my second story bedroom window (there is a sloping roof a few feet below).

It continued to snow throughout Saturday.  Here are the drifts just an hour and a half later.  By the way, I'm already well over the two foot forecast with several hours to go.

Sunday dawned beautifully, with the sun shining down on all the new snow.  When I went outside to look, here is what I found.  I have my driveway plowed; there’s no way I’d try to clear a 400 foot driveway, even with a snowblower.  By the way, I don’t have any before the storm pictures, but I basically had no snow on my property prior to it hitting me.

It was tough to tell how much snow I got because of the drifting, but the path in to my front door looked relatively level with the rest of the lawn, so that seems to be as good a guide as any.  The snow was between 3 and 4 feet deep there.  I’ve lived in Maine my entire life, and am not a stranger to winter storms, but that’s a lot of snow even for me.

After clearing my mailbox I started on the path to my door.  Here are the before and after pictures of my front entrance.

I’m not done yet, though.  I’ve got to have a path to my other entrances, so around the porch and down the side of my house I go. 

That's just the beginning of the sunroom.  I've got to go around it, which starts with the rest of the side by this first door I cleared.

Made it around the corner.  Guess where I’ve got to go next.  Yup, right through 40 feet of the deepest snow drift.

I added the shovel to give a sense of scale

Who was the idiot that had them put the second door as far as possible around the circumference of the sun room when it was added on?  Oh wait, it was me.  Never mind.  I caught a break here. The wind had left "only" two feet of snow on this side.

Two hours in and Phase one is complete!

I didn't take any pictures of the roof raking (Phase 2) and the subsequent shoveling of the snow brought down from the roof that filled in the doorways with several feet of snow again (Phase 3).  I just wanted it to be over and didn't feel like going back inside to get the camera a couple more times.  You may be wondering why I cleared the doorways and paths if the roof raking was just going to undo all that work.  I did it because I didn't want to trudge through waist deep snow while doing the raking, and because when it comes off the roof the weight of it seriously compacts the snow when it hits, making it very heavy to shovel.  Any snow that is under where it lands also gets compacted, so that's why I cleared the steps beforehand.

Finally, as much of a workout as I got from the shoveling, the hardest part was the roof raking.  With shoveling at least you can use your legs and back to help.  With roof raking it is all arms and wrists and even an aluminum rake gets really heavy when you've got it out to its full 18 foot length, lifting it way above your head, dropping it into feet deep snow, then pulling as hard as you can to move that mass of snow towards you until it drops off the edge.

There's supposed to be a storm coming in tomorrow, but it might change over to rain after a couple inches of snow so hopefully I won't have to shovel after that.


  1. Man, that is a lot of snow! And nice pictures of your house.
    do not underestimate the importance of roof raking. 3 years ago (minus one week, we had just come back with our newborn son) a big load of snow and ice fell down from the roof at 5th floor height and trashed the roofs of all the cars in the street including our own. A bit of preemptive raking could have prevented that.

    1. That's exactly why I do it - to prevent heavy ice buildup on the edge of the roof in some spots. My roofs are pitched enough so I'm not thrilled to get up on them and try to shovel, so that it why I rake, even though it is harder.

  2. Glad that wasn't me having to do all that shoveling! :) Not very good on the back, although it is a kind of exercise I guess.

    1. It's about the only exercise I get in the winter. I never became a big winter sports fan because of the expense.

  3. I don't mean to brag, but we had a snowfall a couple of weeks ago, and it may have breached the one-inch deep mark. That's something of a record round here. I can tell you, I was pretty beat when I'd finished clearing it off the step of my shed with the side of my shoe.

  4. We "only" got about a foot out here. It was dicey travel on Friday/Saturday, and I was very glad when I got home on Friday to be in and done. And also, god bless snowblowers. And husbands who do the snowblowing for their wives, who sit inside drinking cocoa and looking at all the pretty snow outside.

    Nice pictures. Your snowfall was definitely more impressive than ours.

    1. "And husbands who do the snowblowing for their wives"

      Sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

      I guess I'll have to get a husband. Maine just passed same-sex marriage, so I could, if I were inclined that way.

      You live in the area that gets lake effect snows, right? If so, you'll have a lot more occasion to use a snowblower than I would. Also, I think snowblowers have a problem when the snow is deeper than their auger. I've never seen a snowblower that was deep enough for the snow I had. I'd have had to have someone in front of me breaking the snow down with a shovel and feeding it into the auger.

  5. Wish you were on Face Book, I posted my pics there. We couldn't get out the Kitchen door as there was a drift half way up the door. Luckily we could get out the back door. Unbelievable amount of snow!!