As I recall it was the winter of’96, blizzard after blizzard griped the northeast. Me being a New Englander having moved to Massachusetts from Chicago some 25 years before I can truthfully say I have been accustomed to the frigid temperatures winters always bring. But it was on that one February day I had been sensing there was something which was not going to be normal about this one specific nor’easter. I was up late last night watching and listening to the most recent weather reports and they were predicting a normal nor’easter. That’s if anything is ordinary about a nor’easter but that’s what they were telling folks.
With that information I started gathering up as much firewood as possible thinking that a normal nor’easter caused it to power outages and heavy snow. I guess in the back of my head I thought maybe this one simply could be a bit more interesting. With that thought I managed to make one last run to my neighborhood store to stock up a few of the basic supplies to tide me over just in case this storm would last a little longer. If the power went out with the warmth outside side was a rosy 18 degrees I could use my makeshift outside cabinet as a temporary freezer to keep my perishables from spoiling.
Around 6 o’clock the snow was really starting to really come down. The heavy winds were blowing the snow horizontal and drifts were piling up along side the house. From 9 o’clock that evening the first floor windows were covered by the mounting snow drifts. By the lights were flickering and that intended with this heavy snow and winds now at gale force the power would soon go out. At the back of my head I thought about that back up generator I saw at Home Depot a month ago but the cost simply to have the license was more than the unit itself and me being on a fixed income well I just had to settle with the fireplace in the living room and the wood stove in the kitchen. There was just one problem, once the power goes out the toilet will not flush because of the septic system is tied to the electrical panel. This is because the location of the house is too far from the city’s main sewer lines. I recall as a child our summer house before it was attached to the towns sewer lines the outhouse was only a few yards away and at night it had been an experience to say the least just to go use the bathroom. It was not only in the summer that we used that home but as kids on cold winter nights when my family decided to get away the bunkhouse that we slept in during the summers now served us as a winter oasis when my family decided to escape. With a space heater it supplied heat and some relaxation on these winter nights. It was at that time of year rather than trudging out into the cold of night into the outhouse the fantastic old pee pot served us well. That’s how people over a 200 years ago went to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There is an old custom connected with pee pots but that’s another story.
Now confident I had made all of the necessary preparations for the long siege of the nor’easter I put some wood chips in my wood stove and much more logs in the fireplace just in case that if the power does go out the home will keep a somewhat cozy temperature. The exact same can be said of the wood stove in the kitchen. I am often confused by the new homes that are going up today. So many do not have fireplaces and if they do the fireplace is at a wall on the side of the house so the heat from the fireplace goes mainly outside instead of radiant heat for the inside. In my house the fireplace is in the center of the house, so what radiant heat there’s spreads evenly throughout the entire house. Centuries ago houses always had fireplaces in the center of the house and often had them in each room of the home. Back then that was their sole source of heat and for cooking. Now, I often use the wood stove to keep a pot of coffee on and use the fireplace that has bread nooks to keep food warm once the power is outside which in New England happens when ever there’s a nor’easter. Something an in ground pool or a jacuzzi can not do.
With candles lit and the fire going I was content to wait out this storm till morning. Fortunately I have my computer charged so I checked the latest weather forecast. Now, they were saying another low pressure system is on a collision course with this nor’easter bringing with it the potential for that perfect storm situation. Putting my sleeping bag on the living room rug in front of the fireplace I was just going to settle in for a winter’s nap when I hear outside cries for support. Jumping up to look out the window but the window was covered over so that I ran upstairs to the hall window and saw what appeared to be headlights piercing through snow drifts. A girls was standing on top of her buried car waving for support. I kept thinking what possessed this women to drive in this weather only to get caught in snow drifts that covered her vehicle.
Now you would think that more people would be able to respond but my home was the only one that seemed to be inhabited, by me. The other homes where my neighbors stay have packed up and went to some safe haven to wait out this storm. Thinking quickly I grabbed my parka and snow shoes tying a rope into the underside of the up stairs hall window. I managed to slip down my roof and using the rope for a life line trudged about 100 feet to where she was standing atop her car. The wind was howling as the snow was making visibility very hard but just as I was about to say hello the wind blew her off balance right in my arms. Caught off balance I knew we needed to return to the house and up into the second floor window because the first floor was already inaccessible before we were all trapped outside.
After about ten minutes using hand over hand pulling along the rope as a lifeline we managed to make to the side of my house. The snow was already 5 feet deep. As I stared at the upstairs window where my rope was tied to I managed to climb and open the window so that I could correct my toes to bend over and grab her arm as she placed here foot against the wall she was able to climb up my rope with my assistance and low and behold she slid into the window emptied landing on the ground. Instantly I shut the shutters and the window just as a burst of gale force winds brushed against your home. Now, safe inside she introduce herself as Alice stating she had been on her way to meet her husband who just arrived in Boston having served a six month tour of duty as a merchant marine. She left her house thinking she could beat the storm and make to the port before the storm hit.
With the power out the only way to communicate was through my computer which I had installed a wifi device to make my whole house a hotspot only in the event of a power outage. As I started cooking popcorn in the fireplace Alice got a response from her husband where he managed to get a room at the Long Wharf Marriott before the storm passes. For 2 days we exchanged stories and was able to be quite comfortable. The power was restored sometime the following morning. On the next morning after the storm hit I managed to dig our her car and by 10 o’clock Alice was on her way to meet up with her husband. I can truthfully say that nor’easter of that February will be one for the record books and permanently recalled for me rescuing a damsel in distress.