Magazine

For meteorologists, the more snow the better

After the record-setting winter of 2015, Boston-area weather watchers share their favorite snow memories.

Blizzard Neptune descended and Newbury Street disappeared.

Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff

Blizzard Neptune descended and Newbury Street disappeared on Feb. 15.

My favorite snow memory: A Florida snow

By Dave Epstein

Dave Epstein.

My favorite snow memory is from the winter of 1976-1977 when cold and snow reached far into the South. That winter a trace of snow was even recorded in West Palm Beach, Florida. In Portland, Maine, where I was in junior high school, snow and cold brought record snow depths forcing school to be canceled for an entire week. In some ways this season reminded me of that year. The disruption to our daily lives was enormous, but at 12 years old, the biggest inconvenience was the loss of April school vacation to make up for the snow days.

All that snow was capped with a coating of freezing rain so thick you could easily walk on top of all of it. I remember walking to the store to get a birthday card for my dad with my sister during a major nor’easter. She fell through the snow and got stuck. I couldn’t get her out and it was my father who eventually found us after driving around the neighborhood. The long-running joke in our family was that he discovered us only because he recognized my sister’s hat sticking up out of the snow.

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Snow fell well into March that year and in spite of some warm days, it wasn’t until the last week of that month that the snow finally disappeared. This year rivaled that. The awe of all that weather at a young age helped solidify my love of meteorology and eventual desire to make it part of my life’s work.

Dave Epstein, a meteorologist/horticulturalist, writes for Boston.com, PressHerald.com, and WBUR and teaches at Colby College and Framingham State University.

My favorite snow memory: Giddy anticipation

Mish Michaels

By Mish Michaels

I remember my love for snow as a child. I’d get so excited waiting for a snowstorm to start. I could hardly sleep after watching the forecast on the 11 o’clock news. All night I’d peek out my bedroom window to see if the first flakes had started. In the morning, I’d listen to the radio for school cancellations — then freedom, playing outside in the magic of a fresh snowfall. The more snow, the better! But the winter of 2015 was beyond even a child’s wildest dreams.

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My passion for snow led me down a stormy path to a career as a broadcast meteorologist. The job often required me to look at extreme weather from a clinical viewpoint, like a lab technician. Inside the four walls of a weather center, I studied computer screens and data sets to track a snowstorm. It felt unnatural given the real excitement was outside.

Now that I am on the outside, working the “home front,” not a “weather front,” I enjoy snowstorms like I did when I was a kid, but now with my own kids. There is no greater joy than watching my 1-year-old discover snow — her tongue out catching one of the trillion snowflakes produced during the 2015 snow blitz. Working as a snow fort architect and sledding instructor for my 8-year-old tops the list of winter memories. I know my girls will always look back on the epic snowstorms of ’15 with wonder and awe. In their lifetimes, they may never see this much snow in such a short time again. But let’s hope my forecast is wrong and more dream winters raise a fresh crop of snow lovers.

Mish Michaels is a former TV meteorologist. She now creates the Cambridge-based organic clothing line called Natural Cloud Cover.

Kids weren’t complaining as the region got pummeled. More snow meant less school.

Lane Turner/Globe Staff

Kids weren’t complaining as the region got pummeled this winter. More snow meant less school.

My favorite snow memory: Thundersnow!

Jim Cantore.

By Jim Cantore

At The Weather Channel, we have a slogan: “It’s Amazing Out There.” Well, in Plymouth in February, I had the most amazing, exhilarating experience of my career. I experienced six instances of thundersnow in just 30 minutes. Maybe you saw my reaction — it was all over the place  and trust me, it was genuine! It was absolutely spectacular — the tremendous power of the storm with intense snowfall rates along with thunder and lightning. It’s also incredibly rare to be in the right spot when it occurs. So, I was like a kid in a candy store. It was the highlight for me, and one example of Massachusetts’s extreme 2014-2015 winter season.

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I have experienced all types of weather in my 29 years, but this winter season in Boston will always stand out. It was unprecedented and relentless. Almost 100 inches of snow fell in a 30-day period, testing even the toughest New Englanders.

Jonathan Wiggs/ Globe staff

Growing up in Vermont, I’ve seen 15-foot snow piles, but I never expected to see them on the seacoast. The barrage of storms followed by brutal arctic air never gave Boston a chance to thaw out. It created massive snow piles that towered as high as small buildings. In many neighborhoods it was hard to tell where the snow stopped and houses started. It was unbelievable to witness these conditions in a densely populated city with narrow streets that were created for a horse and buggy. In a city that is usually unscathed by whatever Mother Nature throws at it, every aspect of life was interrupted.

I’ll never forget the morning I did live reports from inside Fenway Park. It felt more like the home of the “Big White Monster.” Having been to the park on perfect summer evenings, I was now looking at untouched snow drifts that piled high over the right-field wall. Simply amazing.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Fenway during the winter of 2015.

The record-breaking winter season kept me in the field constantly. I was live almost an entire month from somewhere in the Boston metro area — more time for me in one place than even Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy. Looking at the numbers, many records were smashed, but a few really stand out: Boston’s average seasonal snowfall is just over 43 inches. In just 10 days, we had more than an average season’s worth of snow, and in 23 days, more than two seasons’ worth!

Not to mention February obliterated the previous snowiest month on record with 64.8 inches — more than an average season in one month.

It was in 1978 that I fell in love with weather from the infamous blizzard. Back then, we didn’t have the tools to predict weather as we do today. Will this winter inspire the next generation of meteorologists from Boston? Time will tell.

Jim Cantore is a meteorologist and storm tracker for The Weather Channel.

The Blizzard of ’78.

David L. Ryan/ Globe Staff/File

The Blizzard of ’78.

My favorite snow memory: A ‘Heavenly’ sight

Pete Bouchard

By Pete Bouchard

My favorite snow memory is simple. It was the first time I saw it snow. I was a giddy 16-year-old riding a chairlift up to the top of Heavenly Mountain in Lake Tahoe, California. The flakes were small and random, and the accumulation was slight on my newly christened parka, but the sight of frozen precipitation at nearly 10,000-feet elevation with an emerald-green lake shimmering behind me is one I will never forget. Truly otherworldly for this meteorologist-in-the-making.

Pete Bouchard is the 7NEWS chief meteorologist and oversees the operation of the 7NEWS weather department.

My favorite snow memory: For meteorologist dads

Kevin Lemanowicz

By Kevin Lemanowicz

Thinking back on a life lived in the winters of the Northeast, snow has always played a part. As I child, I remember listening to the radio for school cancellations read alphabetically and sliding downhill on a piece of plastic that Dad would bring home from the factory.

Professionally, there have been countless sleepless nights watching the radar, waiting on new model runs, and, of course, working nonstop during blizzard coverage. That’s something I did a lot of in the winter of 2015.

My teenage sons, upon hearing I was writing this, immediately began retelling the same story I’ve apparently told too many times. You know, the one about the Blizzard of ’78. As they playfully mocked my story, it occurred to me that my best snow memories have been with them.

Every snowball fight, sledding adventure, and ski trip brings a smile to my face. The one that stands out the most is captured in a picture we have at home of two young boys poking their heads out of holes in an amazing set of tunnels we had made in the plowed snow pile at the end of our driveway.

It was the winter of 2005, featuring a ton of snow in January. Meteorologist dads are working during snowstorms and too exhausted to play in it when we get home after the snowfall, but, with my boys that day, they said I made the best snow fort ever. A perfect memory for this weather dad.

Plows tried to clear the Lynnway in high winds in January 2005.

Mark Wilson/Globe staff/File

Plows tried to clear the Lynnway in high winds in January 2005.

Kevin Lemanowicz is the chief meteorologist for FOX 25 News.

My favorite snow memory: Alphabet anticipation

Danielle Niles

By Danielle Niles

The winter of 1995-1996. I had never seen so much snow in my life! It’s the closest comparison we have to our current record-setting winter. But “back then” was different. I was just an 11-year-old fifth-grader trying to take advantage of every snow day I could. Our basketball hoop was barely visible behind the mounds of snow. While my dad may have despised cleaning our extra-long driveway in the winter months, the towering piles of snow it created made for some terrific king-of-the-mountain memories for my sister and me. My mom would bundle up the two of us and let us play until we couldn’t feel our fingers and toes. One of the best parts about that was the marshmallow hot cocoa we got back inside. With the help of my dad, we built our own snow “house” that year, complete with couches, windows, and stairs. There’s something so magical about seeing the soft, white, pure snow falling outside when you’re a kid, knowing there’s a potential snow day to come. My sister and I shared a room growing up and I remember us waking up to flick on WBZ Radio to hear the school-closing list. We’d wait for what seemed like an eternity to get to the end of the alphabet, anticipation building, to hear those magical words: Weymouth Public Schools closed. I never could have imagined that years later, I’d be forecasting on that very same station. Snow days may have a different meaning now — but the excitement remains.

Kids shoveled a tunnel after a snowstorm in January 1996.

Stan Grossfeld/Globe staff/File

Kids shoveled a tunnel after a snowstorm in January 1996.

Meteorologist Danielle Niles delivers weekday forecasts on WBZ-TV and at CBSBoston.com and on WBZ News Radio 1030.

My favorite snow memory: What if I’m wrong?

Harvey Leonard

By Harvey Leonard

My favorite snow memory still goes back to the Blizzard of 1978. It was my first winter forecasting on Boston television. Four days before the storm hit, I started talking on air about the storm’s potential, and I was so focused and wired that I had trouble sleeping for several nights before the storm. I did not have to work the day before the storm, but it was still the only thing I could really concentrate on.

That night, I watched the 11 p.m. news from home, but once the news was over, I told my wife I was going into work, even though I did not have to be on the air until 7 the next morning.

She thought I was crazy (which I am when it comes to snowstorms). She was also six months pregnant at the time. I knew I would not see her for a while, but even I didn’t realize it would be a full week before I would see her again.

Once I arrived at work, I noticed Boston’s temperature was 25 degrees — perfect for snow. But an hour later it had quickly jumped up to 30. What was going on? Was it going to continue to get warmer and were we going to wind up with rain? My heart sank into my stomach.

If that were to happen, my career in Boston would be over, almost before it started!

The temperature rose no higher than 32, so I could breathe again. But when the snow started in Boston, for the first six hours of the storm, only 1 inch had accumulated.

Now I was worried again. Could the storm be going out to sea, and would we miss most of it? Again, I feared my career would be over. But, just then, like a snap, the snow became heavy, the winds began to gust to hurricane force, and the rest was to become history.

Harvey Leonard’s first winter forecasting the weather on Boston television was in 1978.

JOHN BLANDING/Globe staff/File

Harvey Leonard’s first winter forecasting the weather on Boston television was 1978.

Harvey Leonard is WCVB Channel 5’s chief meteorologist. He celebrated 40 years as a New England meteorologist this year.

Related coverage:

Photos the blizzard of ’78

As Boston’s winter got nastier, riders pulled together

What snow days taught me about my career

Send comments to magazine@globe.com. If you would like to purchase photos from this article, go to doriancolor.com/winter-2015.
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