The Blizzard of the Century. The storm to end all storms. We’ve never seen anything like this. The mountains and walls of snow that enveloped the city are as tall as small houses. The banks overflow into the streets. Plows and snow-blowing machines are having a difficult time trying to keep up. A state of emergency has been put in place and remains for seven straight days. People are getting impatient and want out. Grocery store lines are arduous and people have to endure long waits just to get inside. No Tim Horton’s coffee? What?? No restaurants nor bars are open. Small businesses are suffering. People are trapped in their homes. The military arrives to shovel folks out and to give some reassurances that we will be okay. Power outages were rampant at the onset of the storm, but have since been restored. If people haven’t begun wondering why they live on an Island seemingly so destitute and removed from the rest of the world, this storm will certainly have them thinking, what are we doing here? The downtown area was buried in a mass of snow but is seeing some restoration. The narrow streets and hills were impassible, dangerous and overwhelmed with snow. A snowboarder’s paradise that has now begun to look more pedestrian-friendly, dare I say?
Based on everything that has happened over the past week, one would think complaints would be widespread; that people would be sick and tired of the state of emergency to the point of protests and rioting; that there would be more looting of businesses and crime would be on the upswing. Boredom breeds malevolence, bad-temperament, and unbridled nastiness; the urge to remain aloof and uncaring; the inclination for ego-centric acts of ‘every person for him/herself’. I’ve not witnessed any of this.
The stories that have emerged over Facebook tell tales of acts of selflessness. People helping to buy groceries for those who can’t. Neighbours shoveling out neighbours and digging out buried vehicles. Others creating tunneled paths to lead from a door to the street. Food being bartered and shared. Snow forts being erected and decorated with lights and bonfires being lit. A drink here, a barbeque there. Everyone making the best of an almost impossible situation. And then, the sun arrived.
I strolled my neighbourhood a couple of days after the storm. The sun came out for three straight days. People were out walking their dogs, taking sleds and pulling their children along the streets, digging out the snowshoes and traversing the trails. Having a laugh at the big bad storm that tried to break the spirit of a province that couldn’t be broken. It’s been a rough week but we survived it all in Newfoundland style. We made light of the monstrous snowbanks and decorated them with snarky phrases instead of cursing their existence. We posted signs and made snow-people instead of complaining we would never see our lawns. We assured the downtowners we would visit when they opened, that their pleas have not fallen on deaf ears. Who doesn’t want a beer and a meal after all of that shoveling?
In a country where winter defines us, we have set an example for other provinces and other cities that will no doubt be faced with its own version of Snowmageddon. The world stood still and watched as people treated others with humanity and compassion. People offered food, strained muscles, worked tireless hours without complaint, offered free rides, gave without the expectation of anything in return all in the name of helping each other endure an impossible circumstance. Not only did we survive, but we also demonstrated what a lot of heart, an indelible sense of humour and a few helping hands from our military can do when faced with ‘a bit of snow’.
If another snowstorm the size and ferociousness of this blizzard happens to darken our doorway again, I imagine we would react much the same. “Get out the shovels, b’ys she’s blowin’ a gale. Youngsters, put your hoods up, we goes.”
And we will.