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Boston newcomers set for a winter welcome

 Boston University freshman Morgan O'Hanlon poses for a portrait with her new winter apparel outside her dorm in Boston in late January.
Boston University freshman Morgan O'Hanlon poses for a portrait with her new winter apparel outside her dorm in Boston in late January.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Really, there isn’t much more Morgan O’Hanlon can do.

In preparation for her first winter in Boston, the Texas native has checked off all the important boxes: She’s gotten a warm coat, stockpiled gloves and earmuffs. She even read the article her mom sent, about how to survive a winter in the Northeast.

The only problem is that, in the midst of a historically warm season, there just hasn’t been much need for it.

“I haven’t taken that stuff out since two weeks ago,” O’Hanlon said Thursday, as temperatures reached 56 degrees. “Today, I’m wearing shorts.”

But with forecasts predicting as much as 8 inches of snow Friday, Boston’s newcomers — the transplants who’ve hit town in recent months for school or work or love — are in store for a taste of actual winter weather.


Trial by ice, you might call it.

At this point, it’s difficult to imagine there’s anyone left in the hemisphere unaware of the meteorological abomination that was last winter in Boston, when CNN ran regular updates, Instagram was flooded with photos depicting the more than 100 inches of snow, and BuzzFeed churned out the listicles: 24 Pictures That Perfectly Capture How Insane the Snow in New England Is; 40 of the Most Epic Photos From the Blizzard.

Hearing about it, though, is one thing; living it is quite another. And with winter now officially upon us, the city’s newcomers are scrambling to arm themselves.

“[I’ve been] out searching for leggings, ordering winter boots, researching stuff I never thought I needed,” said Warren Backman, a first-year medical resident at Boston Medical Center, who moved to the area recently from London. “Wool socks, wool leggings. Do I go for a down jacket? What kind of jacket do I go for? And will I look stupid walking around in a facemask?”


Perhaps this wouldn’t be the best time, then, to mentionwhat New England veterans already know: By local standards,this winter has been not only mild but, often, downright tropical.

According to the National Weather Service, this past December registered as the warmest on record for Boston, with temperatures reaching, on average, more than 10 degrees above normal. The minuscule .9 inches of snow the city received, meanwhile, fell far short of the 9-inch average for the month.

Even January, which felt closer to what residents have come to expect, didn’t devolve into whiteout madness. Temperatures for the month averaged about 4 degrees warmer than normal, while snowfall — 9.5 inches — fell short of the monthly norm, as well.

But as anyone who recalls last year’s late surge can attest, a quiet start to the season doesn’t always mean a quiet conclusion.

Already, there have been signs. A few weeks back, some areas of the city received as much as 5 inches of snow. And if the recent East Coast storm hadn’t mostly missed the city, things could have gotten significantly messier — enough, perhaps, to change the tune of newcomers who might still be questioning the potency of a Boston winter.

“All it would take is a couple of well-placed storms,” said Nicole Belk, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton. “We’ve still got February and March, and we can even get snowstorms into April. There’s still plenty of time.”

For those hailing from traditionally warm climates, preparation — and the snippets of cold they’ve experienced so far — has been daunting.


Dave Sebastian, a first-year Boston University student from Indonesia, admitted he “thought deeply” about the weather conditions he would be subjected to if he attended school in Boston, but said the chance for a quality education was ultimately too good to pass up.

“I heard about it, and I kind of expected it,” he said. “But obviously, I’m far from prepared.”

Added O’Hanlon, of a lesson she learned the hard way one morning in January: “You can’t walk outside with wet hair in the middle of winter; it will freeze.”

Even those newcomers who arrived from relatively similar geographical locales, however, admit there’s just something different about the Boston cold.

Before work brought him to Boston in October, Will Welt had spent most of his life in New Jersey, attending college in Rhode Island. Still, he admitted, the early sunsets and lingering chill make Boston’s winters harsher than those in his home state.

“Much more unpleasant,” he said. “It’s kind of like the cold that never goes away.”

When last year’s snowy shenanigans began, Backman, living in London at the time, had already committed to doing his medicalresidency at Boston Medical Center. So it was with trepidation that he followed the reports of massive amounts of snow being dumped on his soon-to-be hometown.

Once he arrived, Backman quickly realized that the angst wasn’t limited to the newcomers.

“Even when the weather’s nice, people are talking about the snow, or (saying) ‘you’re lucky you weren’t here last winter,’” he said.


As for his early reviews of this winter?

“My wife can’t get a thick enough pair of gloves,” he said. “She’s now wearing two pairs of gloves, one on top of the other — and her hands are still cold.”

Dugan Arnett can be reached at dugan.arnett@globe.com.