Nor’easter delivered less drama, more fun than forecast
The winter storm dubbed Juno delivered flashes of humor and high drama — a costumed Yeti tweeting pictures around town; a woman in labor rescued by State Police from a car stranded in a snow bank in Leominster — and brought sledders to the hills of Boston Common, beer pong to the snow-stalled streets of Allston.
But with the region braced for the worst snowstorm in years, with businesses and schools closed and most heeding the emergency travel ban, the result felt like a lot of snow but not a lot of Sturm und Drang. Mostly it was a day for Netflix binging, knitting, and noodling around the house.
“Honestly, it’s been kind of a little underwhelming,” said Liz Fong-Jones, a Google site-reliability engineer, cross-country skiing with her wife and their dogs in Somerville.
Preparing for a storm some had billed as Snowpocalypse and others dubbed Snowmageddon, the MBTA shut down in advance, and Fong-Jones’s Kendall Square office, along with thousands of others, closed for the day.
But after a breakfast of French toast and a glide through the streets, the scene around Fong-Jones — neighbors shoveling nearby, snowblowers rumbling in the distance, the occasional child passing with a colorful sled — seemed much more Currier & Ives than cataclysmic.
“It’s just really fantastic to be out,” she said, her Samoyed, Misty, resting on the snow-covered pavement of Albion Street. “They told us to expect it to be pretty bad, and it’s not.”
Around the corner at Olde Magoun’s Saloon — one of a sprinkling of businesses that opened to serve the stir-crazy in walkable neighborhoods, even if that walking was done in the middle of quiet streets — the excitement was the Liverpool-Chelsea soccer match on the big screen, not what seemed like just another snowfall out the window.
“How is that not a red card?!” Life LeGeros called out, throwing his arms up in disbelief as he made his way to a table where neighbors sipped bloody marys around a platter of nachos, their children playing alongside.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as people make it out to be, but I’m from Minnesota,” said Bridget Adam, a math teacher at a Dorchester charter school, who came in with husband Anthony and children Corrina, 3, and Stuart, 6, their sled resting in the corner. “The hype is amazing to me. I’d be happy to be in school right now.”
“She does not speak for all teachers,” added LeGeros, a Milton middle school math teacher, helping 5-year-old daughter Zoe out of her snow gear. But that did not make this a storm of biblical proportions, he said. So far the most notable moment had been the seeming theft of the shovel he had left leaning safely outside his house for a decade — though a neighbor had seen LeGeros groping arms-deep in a snowdrift and lent him an extra, in the collective spirit of any good snowfall.
At the bar, talk ran toward the mysterious creature tweeting as @BostonYeti2015 and the snowmobilers owner Greg Coughlin had passed on an otherwise quiet Memorial Drive on the way in. Coughlin expected steady business, the crowd split between those rewarding themselves before shoveling and those bolstering themselves after. “People get sick of sitting around the house,” he said. “As long as the power’s on, we’re open.”
Outside, the wind might have stung exposed skin, but the scene on Boston Common was bliss — all brightly colored plastic saucers and blow-up sleds, dozens of people taking advantage of the first substantial snowfall of the season to ride down the hills.
It’s like “a winter wonderland for children,” said Tom Redekopp, a lawyer who brought his sons, 6 and 7, sledding, walking over from Beacon Hill to escape cabin fever.
For those craving meteorological drama, Juno left something to be desired. Paul Maravelias, a storm chaser from Windham, N.H., didn’t even venture out. Part of it was that he had come home late the night before from a business trip in Minneapolis; with his flight to Logan canceled, he flew to Montreal, rented a car, and drove the remaining 275 miles. Mostly it was because there was not much to chase.
“This nor’easter simply just isn’t all that strong or powerful,” Maravelias said by e-mail, noting that the strongest gust recorded so far in New England — not counting the top of Mount Washington — was 77 miles per hour in Nantucket. “I would not even call it a moderate nor’easter until that figure hits 85 [miles per hour] or 90.”
But atop Great Blue Hill, Brian Fitzgerald, chief observer at the Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory, found plenty to keep busy. An observer has tended the instruments every day at the three-story concrete tower since it was erected in 1885, and though the job rarely requires round-the-clock monitoring, Fitzgerald hunkered down on Monday with his air mattress and his Alaskan husky, Pearl, to ride out the storm, making sure that road conditions did not keep him from tending the wind-up instruments and analog gauges, among them the nation’s oldest still-operational mercury barometer, that have recorded 13 decades of weather.
“It’s been fun to watch today as the pressure just dropped and dropped and dropped and the storm’s gotten stronger,” said Fitzgerald, who ventured out on snowshoes every few hours to measure snowfall. With more accumulation through the night, “we could end up near top-six or top-five snowstorms all time here.”
To Michael Feeney, a Weymouth plow driver sipping coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts in Quincy, all that snowfall was like “quarters falling out of the sky.”
But as the 36-year-old Feeney and his fellow drivers crowded into the only open coffee shop for miles around, he shrugged at the suggestion that this storm was epic.
“Please,” he scoffed, after 24 hours behind the wheel. “We’ve seen it all before. It’s just snow. A lot of it, yes. But only snow.”