Baltimoreans seem to be getting their snow legs

February 07, 2010|By Jean Marbella Jean.MARBELLA

Icy snow stung the sliver of my face that was bare, the rest of me swathed in something of a burqa created by my hat, scarf, parka, mittens, pants and boots. I was trudging miserably through an otherwise empty downtown Friday night, hoofing it home through the elements so that my car could spend the epic weekend snowstorm under cover.

Just as I was feeling particularly aggrieved about yet another weekend snowfall that obviously was happening only to me, a couple walking hand-in-hand passed me in the other direction.

"Isn't it beautiful?" the woman asked me, giddy as a child.

After an initial and crabby thought ("Are you on crack?"), I would have to say: Why, yes.

I have to concede that this winter's snowstorms are becoming guilty pleasures, and not just for the hot chocolate that has become my Pavlovian response to the first flake I see from my kitchen window. I'm starting to look forward to the snow rather than dread it.

Some of that is no doubt the felicitous timing, given that these storms have largely occurred on weekends rather than during the workweek; some has to do with my particular snow-accommodating lifestyle: I can walk to and from the office, I'm no more than a couple of blocks from food and, more important, drink; and the amount of sidewalk real estate that I have to shovel is rowhouse-narrow.

But beyond that, there's something entirely satisfying about this year's snowstorms. Except for last weekend's surprise several inches, the forecasts have been early and accurate. It's been kind of fun indulging in the pre-storm anxiety when you know you have plenty of time to prepare, to get the refrigerator and car trunk stocked, to make sure there's at least one complete pair of gloves somewhere. I rarely feel so competent as when I'm faced with a small task and actually accomplish it.

Then there's the delightful shiver of anticipation, waiting rather anxiously for the snow to come and seeing how closely the forecasters got it right.

Mr. Foot and his students are my new Nate Silver. I anticipate the every prediction of the Baltimore County teacher-forecaster the way I did those of's Silver during the 2008 presidential election. There's something mindlessly entertaining about arguing with other weather-obsessives over whether it will be 2 feet or 3, or whether it will start Friday afternoon or evening because a) your guess is as good as mine, and b) we'll all find out soon enough. Just like worrying about who was going to win the, say, Pennsylvania primary.

It also feels a bit like going to a scary movie, indulging in a kind of manufactured fear, knowing full well either a) it's only a movie or b) it's only snow.

Isn't it amazing how Baltimoreans, famous for their snow panics, have been fairly calm in the face of this winter's repeated whiteouts? It's almost as if the more snow there is, the less we freak out. A city that used to storm the grocery stores and shut down schools on the mere rumor of an inch or two instead has pulled up its snowboots and dealt with it.

Maybe it's hard-won wisdom, or simply practice making perfect. Way back in December, when we had the winter's first snowfall to be measured in feet rather than inches, I confess to being slightly less cool and collected. I'd forgotten to take down the umbrella on my backyard table in anticipation of the storm, so I had to wade through knee-high snow to wrestle it off and right the tipped-over table

The sense of my own heroics slightly unhinged me: Coming back inside, I took off my mittens and put them on the heating vent to dry, a fact I entirely forgot five minutes later when I bundled back up to shovel out the front and was peeved because ... I couldn't find my mittens. Days went by - during which time I had gone online, ordered an identical pair and received them - before I came across the old ones on that vent.

So I face the rest of the winter with the kind of security one gets from being battle-tested and having come through it stronger, wiser and, yes, with an extra pair of mittens.

I woke up Saturday to a backyard where the grill and the patio table and chairs had already been covered by a better-prepared homeowner, each plastic-shrouded lump topped by a perfect, cottony and ever-growing snow cap. Snow has collected on the power lines and cables, including one that now looks just like marshmallows on a stick. Instead of a toppled umbrella, though, there are a couple of branches of my neighbor's tree tangled in the ivy on the backyard's brick wall - and others less benignly woven around another power line.

I am snow pro, hear me roar. Calm as a fighter pilot, I swagger to the front of the house, snow shovel in hand, to face the still cascading flakes. Bring it on.

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