Tagged: snow

Party Like It’s 1888

Telegraph and electrical lines dangle dangerously overhead during the Blizzard of 1888.

Telegraph and electrical lines dangle dangerously overhead during the Blizzard of 1888, the blizzard by which all others blizzards are compared.

Between Friday night and Saturday morning, snow fell on New York City. I was out late, and it snowed enough that I had to ditch my bike in a friend’s basement for the weekend. By Saturday morning, there was a nice layer of snow covering the streets. It was just enough to hide the grit and grime of the city streets, but not enough to cripple the city. Many people I spoke to on Saturday rhapsodized about waking up with snow on the ground. To these shiny happy people, I offered these two thoughts:

  • Sure it’s nice to wake up with snow on the ground on a weekend. Snow on the ground isn’t so lovely on a weekday when you have to schlep to work.
  • Wait until Tuesday.

By Saturday, only the most fervent weather watchers were aware that we were expecting significant snowfall starting on Monday. I knew there was something coming but couldn’t believe that we were in store for about two feet of snow over a two day period with hurricane force winds. Today, it seems, the blizzard is all we can talk about. Will we get an early dismissal? Will our classes be cancelled? Is the city actually shutting down the streets tonight at 11:00 PM?

The answer to all these questions is yes.

The awning of a grocery store is damaged from the weight of the snow during the blizzard of 1888 in New York City.  The blizzard on March 12-14 paralyzed the city with about 40" of snow and winds that reached up to 60 miles per hour, creating drifts as high as fifty feet.  (AP Photo)

The awning of a grocery store is damaged from the weight of the snow during the blizzard of 1888 in New York City. The blizzard on March 12-14 paralyzed the city with about 40″ of snow and winds that reached up to 60 miles per hour, creating drifts as high as fifty feet. (AP Photo)

Although it’s worrisome that the usually dispassionate NOAA warning has qualified this storm as “potentially historic,” my attitude towards these things is pretty blazé. I learned long ago that I couldn’t control the weather, and that it was fairly pointless to fret about rain, snow, cold, heat, hurricanes, etc. Instead of sweating these uncontrollable climatological events, it’s more productive to find a few things to do to occupy my time.

  • Be thankful it’s not 1888. The Blizzard of 1888 is one of those weather events that led to at least two major infrastructural changes. Power and telegraph lines were moved underground because they dangled dangerous over the street: icicles were like daggers waiting to come down onto an unsuspecting pedestrians. Similarly, elevated train lines and streetcars were crippled by the fifty-foot-high snowdrifts, leading to move mass transit underground and the construction of the first subways systems in Boston and New York. The Bowery Boys have a great written summary and podcast about this storm. Another extraordinary fact about the Blizzard of 1888 was that it was a “superstorm,” not unlike Sandy. The major difference is that it happened in the winter: imagine all the flooding from Sandy, but instead of water which can recede fairly quickly, it was snow that has melt or be cleared.
  • Make chili. During our many storms together, from hurricanes to blizzards, Sarah would make us a huge pot of chili and leave it out on the stove. We would scoop out a bowl at a time over the course of several days. But these days, I’m making my own chili. Dan Nosowitz argues that the essence of chili is the spices and suggests you make chili without meat. This is consistent with my thinking about Mexican pozole and Japanese ramen being more similar than different: their essence lies with the broth, not the meat, noodles, or hominy.
  • Take photos with your nice camera. Writing for The Verge, Chris Plante argues that you should buy and use a nice camera instead of your phone to capture your life’s memories. In this spirit, I’ve packed my SLR and will be carrying it around in the event I come across some worthwhile photo opportunities from this blizzard. I doubt any of my photos will be as impactful at the one above from 1888 with the dangling power lines threatening New Yorkers below, but maybe your photos will.
  • Do something. And because a blizzard of this magnitude usually closes roads, schools, and some offices, we get the luxury of time. This is a good time to write something or clean the bikes.

By Wednesday, we’ll all be back to fighting our fellow humans and the elements to get to work. And some of us will be rethinking how nice it is to wake up to snow on the ground.

Longest Winter Ever

Slush on the Queensboro Bridge

I’ve been complaining about the cold since Thanksgiving Day, when I took a Turkey Day bike ride to Piermont to turbocharge my metabolism. (It didn’t work, by the way.) That was a long time ago, which means that this has been the longest winter ever.

Since I started bike riding again in March, we’ve had some respite from the cold with some days warming up to 50°, 60°, and even 70°. This past weekend was no exception as it was almost hot outside. However, any hint of warm weather gave way to a cold snap that dropped rain, ice, and then snow on us Tuesday night. By Wednesday morning, there was a thin but visible layer of snow on parked cars. Watching drivers scraping snow and ice off their windshields seemed unimaginable on Sunday, when the temperature hovered around 70°, and I got my first sunburn of the year.

If mid-April seems a bit late for a snowfall in New York City, it is. Tuesday night’s snow was the latest day for measurable spring snowfall in Central Park.

By Wednesday morning, after the snowfall had stopped, the morning air was cold but not bitter enough to stop me from riding to work. That was too bad because riding over the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan was nearly impossible: the bike-and-pedestrian path was covered in slush.

I ended up walking across the bridge because my tires are as thin and slick as they come, and I didn’t dare to slip and slide en route to 9:00 AM class, especially when I had my MacBook Pro in my backpack. That computer has been through enough, as have we all over this winter.

More Ice than Snow

I was all set to lecture this morning on the telegraph for my Introduction to New Media class, a topic that Communication and Media Studies students study a lot, but then we got another storm today. If I’m counting correctly, that makes this the fourth winter storm this year.

By the way, if you ever noticed that New York City has almost no overhead utility lines, it’s because they caused havoc during the Blizzard of 1888.

This storm is a different than the previous two as it brings with it wintry mix. As lovely as it sounds, wintry mix should be renamed winty misery. You’re going to get wet, the streets are essentially covered in slush, and as soon as the slush hits the ground, it freezes to create ice. And ice makes travel a dangerous enterprise.

Consequently, my morning class at Fordham University, Lincoln Center was cancelled. As my only scheduled commitment today, I’m turning it into a GTD day.

But what about my other colleges?

  1. Queens College is defying the weather gods and is open all day.
  2. Pratt opened late, at noon, allowing the sanitation department to clear the roads.
  3. NYU opened late at 11:00 AM to similarly let things clear up.

I don’t understand what factors schools consider when closing due to a storm, as there seems to be little consistency, but apparently New York City public schools consider snow accumulation, temperature and windchill.

Through Ice and Snow

Snow covers this corner of Washington Square Park

Another winter storm is upon us, and my schools of employment are again responding to the weather.

  1. Fordham announced this morning that they were closing all campuses on Monday. Too bad I don’t have a class there until Wednesday.
  2. Around 2:00 PM, Pratt announced that they were closing at 3:00 PM. Too bad I don’t teach there this semester.
  3. NYU insisted they were going to remain open today. Although I had a library shift there today, it didn’t bother me having to go: it’s a pretty easy trek since my entire trip is underground via subway.

Unfortunately, Queens College, where I teach an evening class on Mondays this semester, did not close for a few snowflakes, as their emergency webpage emphatically reminded us:

Queens College will be open on Monday, February 3. Please be careful when traveling to and from the college and when walking on campus as the pathways may be slippery.

It usually takes me an hour and a half to travel the eleven miles from NYU to Queens College. The subway portion of the trip is a slog in itself, as the E train starts relatively empty at West Fourth Street but picks up the rush-hour crowd along the way to Queens. And after arriving at Forest Hills, there’s a short but very slow bus ride: it takes about 15 minutes to travel two miles. And after that, there’s a five minute walk from the bus stop to campus.

Jefferson Hall at Queens College has some snow

After all my belly aching, it actually took less time than usual. An hour and ten minutes after leaving NYU, I arrived in the winter wonderland that was Queens College.

Snow Daze

Snow in Central Park

Women and children in Central Park, undated photograph. Geographic File. New-York Historical Society # 67175

A seasonable, three-day weekend, where I could have gone for an overdue bike ride, has given way to an old fashioned winter storm. We’re supposed to get as much as a foot, although it could be significantly less, between now and daybreak tomorrow. The threat of all this snow has pushed some of my schools to begin closing for the day. And some are contemplating closing tomorrow, too.

  • Fordham closed at 1:00 PM today. A bit after 8:00 PM, they announced that they’re canceling Lincoln Center classes, starting before 4:30 PM. That includes my 8:30 AM class.
  • Although I am not teaching there this semester, I still get emergency alerts from Pratt. They will be closing today at 2:00 PM.
  • CUNY has decided to stay open. Thankfully, that won’t affect me. My first class doesn’t begin there until next Monday. Otherwise, I’d be facing a hellish commute.
  • That leaves venerable NYU, where I am currently occupying the basement in Bobst Library. For most of the day, NYU was hanging tough and determined to stay open. However, just before 3:30 PM, they announced that they were closing at 4:00 PM today. Although spring classes don’t start here until next week, they’re in the midst of J-Term. They were probably reluctant to cancel classes because it would be hard to make them up. They are, in fact, letting individual instructors make that determination.

Even if the storm isn’t that bad, it’s still hard to concentrate on anything other than the impending doom this storm is evidently causing.

Snow then Slush

Help Me Shovel

The first significant snowfall since late October brought a relatively minor amount of accumulation, but here in the city, the snow went through an accelerated pace through its usual steps. First it snowed, leaving a thin blanket of powder, which was quickly turned to slush. Now, it looks like it snowed three days ago and the grey sidewalk slush is going to make crossing streets an adventure.

Slush but no subway

Winter is here. Groundhog Day is about two weeks away. But for now, we got slush.