Wednesday, February 02, 2011


We were in the bull's-eye of the Big Blow of '11. I suspect the NWS isn't calling it that; maybe just a "significant wintertime weather event." But blow it did. Constant heavy snow and strong winds roared through from before sunset yesterday until sometime this morning, when it devolved into light snow and light winds, leaving behind more snow than I've ever seen at our present house, and almost as much as in 1999, when we lived in west suburban Westmont.

News reports say 20.2 inches of snow this time, compared with 21.6 inches in 1999. The number-one recorded total for snowfall in Chicago remains January 26-27, 1967, at 23 inches. I wasn't around for that one, but for all I know that was the same weather event that made it snow heavily that one time when I lived in Denton, Texas, as a small child. "Heavily" in that context being two or three inches.

This is a view from our front door this morning. Only a few minutes earlier, someone had whizzed by on a snowmobile going down the street, which was mostly still buried.

We heard a little thunder snow at about 9 last night, but it wasn't much more than a few rumblings. I woke up at 3 in the morning for no particular reason and took the opportunity to peer out of the upstairs bathroom window. Everything looked exactly the same as six hours before -- that is, as if a giant feather pillow had been torn open and the contents filled the air, blown around by one of those industrial-sized fans. It wasn't until late morning today that the clouds cleared away and the sun, absent many days now, made an appearance.

The wind had left behind all kinds of odd-pattern drifts. The north and east sides of my house hardly had any snowy buildup, while the south -- and I assume west, but I haven't been over there -- caught drifts higher than my waist. This is what my back door looked like before I shoveled a path to it from the garage.

The problem was that my shovel was just outside the back door, which was impossible to open more than an inch or two. Or at least the shovel I usually use for snow. There was another one, a little shorter and a little less useful, in the garage. So I went outside by the front door and made my way along the northern and eastern edges of my house to the driveway, part of which was partly clear because of the odd winds. A three-foot drift ten feet wide and ten feet long blocked the garage door, but I was able to edge my way around the car we park outside -- its north- and east-facing sides provided a path, too -- and make it into the garage. Shorter shovel in hand, I cleared a shovel-sized path across the driveway drift, passed the backyard gate, dug to the deck and then reached to the back door to fetch the longer shovel.

That was as slow-going as it sounds. It was the longest time it's ever taken me simply to go from my front door to my garage to my back door. But at least I didn't get stuck somewhere in my car, such as on Lake Shore Drive.

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