We are way past joking.
February 12, 2015 11:46 AM   Subscribe

 
It's Minnesota light without an infrastructure to deal with it. :(
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 11:59 AM on February 12, 2015 [24 favorites]


We're thinking about moving to Boston Haha ha heh hmm huh hrrr harbl.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:02 PM on February 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


And oh hey it's snowing again no seriously fuck this.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:02 PM on February 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


Since we're "way past joking' I won't insert a global warming comment here.
posted by HuronBob at 12:06 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Living in Minnesota, we probably would be hard pressed to keep up too.

Montreal has a good setup for this (Boston Globe article), but I suspect it involves a bit of planning, the kind that one is forced to do when snowy weather is the norm.

These days, it seems like every winter is different from every other winter, making it harder to justify setting up a good snow removal infrastructure.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:07 PM on February 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Every time I visited Boston while my girlfriend was in school there (2010-2012), me and my west coast sensibilities found it a very tough city to get around in, even during good weather. I basically never wanted to leave the North End while we were there. I can't even imagine what that city is like during a mess like this. :(
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:07 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


She left out the part where trying to keep the sidewalk shoveled takes 3 times as long as it normally does because all the snow piles are taller than me so I toss a shovelful up and half of it slides right back down and the other half blows all over my face.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 12:08 PM on February 12, 2015 [34 favorites]


It's Minnesota light without an infrastructure to deal with it. :(


Also without the resignation that sets in the second and third and fourteenth time it cycles between snowing ridiculously and being so cold your eyes freeze when you go outside.

And Parts of Minnesota don't even have the infrastructure to deal with it all the time - I'm looking at you, St. Paul, last winter.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:08 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Buttons Bellbottom: It's Minnesota light without an infrastructure to deal with it. :(

As a Minnesotan, I have been wondering how Providence, RI, and other cities don't hire a DPW chief from somewhere more snowy -- not crazy-snowy like Buffalo, just more like Duluth or Pennsylvania -- and get some advice on practical measures for dealing with this.

For example, it's been, like, days since the last big snowfall, but they never went back and scraped up all the snow that was only partially cleared during the storm, and now many downtown streets remain two-thirds blocked (and floored with ice!). If the city had declared a snow emergency the day after the storm, and then cleared one side of the streets and then the other, it would have helped a LOT. But it's snowing now and will again on Saturday and twice more next week, and there's just no place to put it.

Streets were plowed onto sidewalks, so up by the Weybosset Hill post office there is a slot maybe two feet wide that goes from the intersection to the alley, halfway down the block. Sorry, wheelchair-users who need a money order, wait until spring thaw comes so you can pay your rent!
posted by wenestvedt at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


And hey, here in Salt Lake City, Utah it's been 60 degrees in the end of January (only 40ish degrees above normal). Luckily mountain snow pack levels are around 80% so this summer won't be a total drought. But I'd love some snow. Pretty please?
posted by msbutah at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2015


Since we're "way past joking' I won't insert a global warming comment here.

Not sure there's anything to joke about anyway; frequency and distribution of extreme weather events is a component of climate change and cities in the US (and anywhere) are built with a set of assumptions about weather that aren't going to hold true in the future. And fixing the cities and other population centers is going to vary from incredibly hard and expensive to just impossible. See also California's slow, frog-boiling death from drought.
posted by selfnoise at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2015 [54 favorites]


When schools are closed because the potential for school building roofs collapsing is too great, it is pretty serious.
posted by helicomatic at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I went into the backyard today and dug out the dryer vent so I could do laundry. I found myself looking in the kitchen window. It is seven feet off the ground, but there I was, looking straight ahead into the kitchen.
I decided there was no point in shoveling the back stairs. Better to leave them, you'd just have to climb back up three feet to walk across the snow anyway.
posted by Adridne at 12:11 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Is this the thread where we bitch about the 6 feet of frozen guano that the gods have seen fit to defecate upon us?

BECAUSE FUCK THAT SHIT
posted by Behemoth at 12:11 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Living in Minnesota, we probably would be hard pressed to keep up too.

I've lived in Minnesota since the early nineties and I have not seen anything like what folks are dealing with in Boston. Last year was bad, yeah, but we didn't get six feet of snow in a couple of weeks.

When I was a kid in Illinois, our garage collapsed from the weight of the snow, but then it was an old garage.

I'm due to travel to Boston for work one month from tomorrow...I assume there will have been a lot of melt, but I'm wondering whether there will still be some lasting issues.
posted by Frowner at 12:12 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


She left out the part where trying to keep the sidewalk shoveled takes 3 times as long as it normally does because all the snow piles are taller than me so I toss a shovelful up and half of it slides right back down and the other half blows all over my face.

Yeah, I'd love to run errands that require my car, but I've given up on the idea of digging it out because I literally cannot reach high enough to put the dug-out snow on the piles on that street.
posted by dorque at 12:13 PM on February 12, 2015


That is literally the whiniest thing I've ever read on the internet.

I'm sending this to all friends in parts north so they can have a good laugh.
posted by fshgrl at 12:13 PM on February 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


Anyway, fuck that snow and fuck winter. Just remember that there will be SPRING! and SUMMER! oh yes, have summer like there will never be summer again, because that is what makes this shit even remotely tolerable.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:13 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


And Parts of Minnesota don't even have the infrastructure to deal with it all the time - I'm looking at you, St. Paul, last winter.

St. Paul is notoriously cheap/slow to remove snow from side streets. DPW got roasted last season though for a late response.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:16 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah fshgrl it's hilarious up here, all those old people stuck in their houses, all the people who can't get to work, people getting killed by snowplows.

Comedy gold.
posted by helicomatic at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2015 [117 favorites]


I assume there will have been a lot of melt, but I'm wondering whether there will still be some lasting issues.

I wouldn't assume anything at this point. The NWS is forecasting record low temperatures next week (and another blizzard Sunday!), and I wouldn't be surprised if it stays below freezing well into March.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:17 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Not to be...whatever, but won't any melt cause of a hell of a lot of problems itsownself because of flooding and sewer overflows and so forth?
posted by holborne at 12:20 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's briefly mentioned in the article, but worth mentioning again, imo, but if you live in the city (also Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, etc.) there are lots of places where houses/apartments have no garages (so there's nowhere to stash a car or a snow blower) or driveways. So. That, coupled with the narrow or steep streets means that even if you dig out your car, your street might not get plowed. Even if your street gets plowed, there might be no way to dig out your car (the piles are over my head at this point), or place to stash your car! (And many of the public garages are full.) So much lacking in fun right now. /whine
posted by skye.dancer at 12:21 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


That is literally the whiniest thing I've ever read on the internet.

That can't possibly be true, unless you just joined the internet, like, Tuesday.

I'm sending this to all friends in parts north so they can have a good laugh.

You mean in places where they don't have Boston's rickety little streets and have plans and infrastructure in place for this sort of thing?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:21 PM on February 12, 2015 [33 favorites]


Montreal has a good setup for this (Boston Globe article), but I suspect it involves a bit of planning, the kind that one is forced to do when snowy weather is the norm.

A lot of planning, and also a lot of money (155 million a year).
posted by jeather at 12:23 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm sending this to all friends in parts north so they can have a good laugh.

Speaking as a Canadian from Ottawa:

HAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHHHAHA



But in all seriousness, if you aren't used to this kind of snowfall and your city doesn't have the infrastructure and snow removal programmes in place, this would seriously suck. It still amazes me how Ottawa can get a massive dump of snow in the evening, and all the streets and sidewalks will be clear by morning.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:24 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Since we're "way past joking' I won't insert a global warming comment here.

I think it's actually instructive to use those kinds of social situations to point out why climate change is a really big deal all of the year, and being a first-world industrialized nation isn't going to be so helpful.
posted by odinsdream at 12:24 PM on February 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


BTW here is an important PSA:

If you own a Subaru, it is not the Batmobile, and you are not Batman. AWD does not help you stop.

I have seen 3 snow related accidents here in the last 2 weeks, and all three have been single-car encounters with the road vs. Subarus. One ended with an Impreza all four wheels off the ground on top of a median snowbank.
posted by selfnoise at 12:27 PM on February 12, 2015 [19 favorites]


Those subway platforms look like my platform in New York every day of the year.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Living in Western NY I would normally shake my head and laugh at the noobies dealing with the kind of snow we take in our stride around here, but I find myself feeling for them instead. I hope their weather improves.
posted by tommasz at 12:29 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, ok, Bostonians are way past joking. Where have they arrived at, then? Has the Army or National Guard been called out? Have other resources (ploughs, trucks and loaders from other parts of the state) been requested? Who's the 'Brownie' in this scenario, that we can say 'heckuva job' to?
posted by Artful Codger at 12:29 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's also going to be really shitty when the snow finally gets around to melting, then freezing over, then melting again.

I'm from 'parts north' and I've got nothing but sympathy and snow shovels for you guys.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


But also, like, it's Boston. Why don't they have the infrastructure to deal with this?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:30 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Has the Army or National Guard been called out? Have other resources (ploughs, trucks and loaders from other parts of the state) been requested?

The NG has been shoveling out hydrants, actually, and yes, supposedly we're getting equipment from neighboring states.
posted by dorque at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I grew up in Milwaukee. Lake effect snow was a fact of life. I thought I knew snow. Boy oh boy did this winter in Boston/Camberville prove me wrong.

The first storm was kind of fun. Novel. Now? We've got 6ft of snow, plus maybe another foot coming this weekend and oh, look, next Wednesday says we have another storm coming. Grand. I've already dug out my car from on-street parking three times. We're running out of places to put the damn stuff.

Everyone knew the T was underfunded and old, but we've seen it basically catastrophically fail. It is goddamn ridiculous, people can't get around to jobs, to get food, to hospitals. The public infrastructure we depend on can't be depended on.

But hey, at least there's a new mountain range at MIT.
posted by ultranos at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


And for people not from the area, I think it's important to realize that Boston is in many ways not like other cities. It's old and very dense - streets were planned out well before people were thinking of two-way traffic and parallel parking on each side, and we don't really have a ton of empty lots like more sprawling metropolises do. Most homes and buildings butt up right to the sidewalk, so there aren't front yards to push snow in to. Few people have driveways, let alone garages, and parking has become a nightmare.

It's created some interesting new problems, too. Like this intersection in Roslindale that is now not large enough to let trucks and buses pass through. Or people who park next to the too-wide piles of snow on the street and turn already narrow two-way streets into completely impassible one-way streets. Police officers are busy shuttling hospital employees to and from work because public transit is shot to shit and no one can drive anywhere; in their free time, the cops are going around trying to figure out where the fire hydrants are so they can be dug out. On the plus side, it's too cold and snowy for people to go out and commit crime.

We're incredibly lucky that we both have the ability to work from home, since my wife literally could not get to work the day they shut the rail system down. I haven't moved my car in weeks partly because of work travel, but also as soon as I move it I'll never find a place to park it again. Somerville's basically in parking lockdown at this point - they're reopening street parking as quickly as they can remove the snow piles, but it's slow going. My usual transportation alternative, my bicycle, is completely useless right now because our shed is buried under six feet of snow and I can't open it.

I'm not thrilled with the way Governor Baker has been handling all of this. Every speech he makes, he talks about how hard this has been for businesses and industry, but he never makes any mention of the people that have to live through this. The MBTA general manager just resigned because she got fed up with the governor stonewalling her. He just doesn't seem to care about the people.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2015 [72 favorites]


I live in the biggest city in Maine, and it's bad enough up here for people to complain loudly. And we have enough parking that the City can declare overnight parking bans and actually plow effectively. And then post emergency no-parking orders and chew up the giant snow banks, shoot them into dump trucks, and cart them out of town. It still sucks, but it makes a huge difference. When you can't get all the cars off the streets, you can't--CAN NOT--clear snow of the streets either. Life is shitty in Boston right now.

And yeah, there's a lot of whining. But that doesn't mean the problems people are complaining about aren't real.
posted by that's candlepin at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


Heck, who am I kidding. It sucks even if you are used to it. After my first really bad winter living here when we had snow high then the roof of the car, I learned that I have to have a snow removal plan just for my driveway and walkways all planned out in October just in case it is another bad winter. Where will the snow go this year, where to build the snow ramps to push the snow out of the way (and don't end up with giant walls at the edge of your driveway), making sure windows, vents, etc are clear, marking shrubbery and gardens so they don't get destroyed, etc. etc.
posted by fimbulvetr at 12:32 PM on February 12, 2015


To find another Boston winter similar to this one, you have to go back to 1717. No shit.

The city I live in (not Boston -- I think we actually got hit harder than most of Boston) has basically given up on school until after February break because they are concerned about roof collapses. One of the last days they held school, a kid got hit by an MBTA bus because the snowbanks are too high to see. (The kid wasn't killed, but several other people have been in the area, mostly by plows.) We have had roof collapses and evacuations already, and there will be a lot more when we get another 1-2 feet of snow this weekend.

Also, the ice dams are epic -- I have coworkers whose houses are leaking like sieves.

When this finally starts melting, it will cause horrific street flooding and likely more roof collapses.

This is already causing serious property damage and it's only getting worse.

Our average winter here gets maybe 1-3 serious snowstorms, and generally we get nice melting periods between them. So we're designed to deal with, at most, 24" of snowpack at any one time. We do not have the infrastructure or equipment to deal with this.

I grew up quite a bit north of Boston and I see nothing funny about this.
posted by pie ninja at 12:32 PM on February 12, 2015 [27 favorites]


AWD does not help you stop.

AWD does not help you stop.

AWD does not help you stop.
posted by Behemoth at 12:33 PM on February 12, 2015 [38 favorites]


Can somebody explain why Boston's transit sucks so bad in the snow? This article just blames the fact that "it's old and outdated", and apparently everybody is suddenly trying to ride it. But I can't remember the last time Chicago's el service got screwed up because of snow (you know, any more than usual), and it's hardly the model of 21st century infrastructure. I couldn't believe it when I heard Boston's trains were shutting down the other day, because the CTA usually runs extra trains through the storms to make sure the tracks stay cleared. (Of course, Metra's a different story because the switches always freeze and I can't understand how they haven't worked out a solution to that by now.)
posted by gueneverey at 12:39 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


So, they are (tentatively) forecasting rain next Wednesday which is actually the worst case scenario right now. And by worst case scenario I mean catastrophic.

All the roofs that have collapsed so far have gone because of snow weight alone. Now add another foot of snow this weekend and then soak it? We are definitely way past joking.
posted by lydhre at 12:39 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is mostly great and very true, but she's got it wrong when she says
Complaining can get things done. And right now our city and our state really need to hear us complain. They need to know that we can’t be an urban center without being able to get through a heavy winter. We should plan for a heavy winter and be pleasantly surprised if it’s not that bad.
This isn't about "getting through a heavy winter". Boston has gotten through plenty of heavy winters. There has never in recorded history been a series of storms like this.

This is about facing and dealing with climate change. This is about the definition of "bad weather" changing, and not just in hurricane season. This is about adaptations that go beyond dealing with sea level increases twenty years from now.

But this part she has right:
We need serious changes, we’ve needed them for decades, and if we don’t complain we may not get them.
The transit system, in particular, has been underfunded for decades. The trains are breaking down because they are still running on DC motors, which can't deal with the cold and powdery snow. The number I've heard is $5B of investment needed. And we could do this. Gasoline prices are down by $2/gallon. If the state took back 50 cents of that, gasoline would still be at historically low prices and we'd have some money to invest in our failing transit system.

But unfortunately, the Democrats who control the legislature and the Republican who just became our governor have all decided that the most important statement to make in light of this state of emergency is that there will be "no new taxes". The governor goes out, calls the performance of the T "unacceptable" but then makes clear that he's not going to do anything about that $5B of underinvestment. It's insane.
posted by alms at 12:41 PM on February 12, 2015 [41 favorites]


AWD does not help you stop.

But snow days are the few days in the year I can blow the doors off of sports cars at stoplights, for a change.

</annoying 4x4 driver>

[kidding. I grew up and learned to drive in the North. AWD does not help you stop.]

Tip from a Northerner - if you can do so safely, shovel your roof off.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:41 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


But also, like, it's Boston. Why don't they have the infrastructure to deal with this?

Three weeks ago, the snowfall total for the year was around 4 inches or so, one of the most snow free seasons we'd had in years. As of yesterday, it was the ninth-snowiest winter in 150 years. We have broken the records for the snowiest 10, 20, 30, and 40 day periods in recorded history --- in just three weeks. We are getting another inch today, six inches to maybe 18 or so this weekend and some unknown amount but potentially a lot, again, next Wednesday. We can handle snow. We cannot handle two winter's worth of snow in less than a month.
posted by maggiepolitt at 12:42 PM on February 12, 2015 [34 favorites]


"There’s some karma in having the public transit system fall apart on this governor’s watch. The last time Baker served in state government — during the era of Governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci — the state’s transportation energies were directed at finishing up the over-budget, over-deadline Big Dig. Baker played a major role in coming up with the borrowing scheme to fund the largest public works project in the country. And while Boston did end up with an engineering marvel — albeit one that sometimes leaks — the Big Dig incurred huge debt and other transportation needs suffered. The T absorbed some of that debt."

And Baker's also proposing $14 million in MBTA cuts.
posted by blucevalo at 12:43 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


gueneverey, take a gander at this: How Snow Can Cripple Boston’s Subway Cars
posted by just another scurvy brother at 12:43 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can somebody explain why Boston's transit sucks so bad in the snow?

The T is well-known to be "old and outdated". That's actually kind of understating the problem. A significant fraction of the Red and Orange line cars (which are probably the best of the bunch) are years past end-of-life. They can't deal with the cold and snow like they could when they're new, and every time you run something past its "end-of-life", you risk system failure more and more. So you're seeing a lot of mechanical and electrical failures. To say nothing of track that's above ground, which means the third-rail gets covered in ice and snow. Which means your trains are so not running.
posted by ultranos at 12:43 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The breakdown is transportation is something that I don't quite think people are getting, if they aren't experiencing it first hand. Usually, when we have a big snow storm, public transit suffers during the storm, and possibly for a short time thereafter. Then the T pulls itself together, people shrug it off, and we move on. The MBTA isn't pulling itself back together this time. Every subsequent day of my commute this month has been worse than the last. All I do at this point is search for news "alternative routes" to get to work. My normal half hour commute took almost 2.5 hours this morning, and I had to give up on the rail entirely, and hopscotch my way across the city by bus and foot.

I don't see any hope on the horizon. The T isn't saying "we're almost there, tomorrow will be better." Instead, more trains are failing by the day, and more trains are being cancelled, and as employers get impatient that we've been out for so long, they get more insistent that we come in, and we all try to cram into the remaining functional vehicles.

It is brutal at this point.
posted by instead of three wishes at 12:44 PM on February 12, 2015 [29 favorites]


As of yesterday, it was the ninth-snowiest winter in 150 years.

That doesn't explain what happened the other eight winters.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:45 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can somebody explain why Boston's transit sucks so bad in the snow? This article just blames the fact that "it's old and outdated", and apparently everybody is suddenly trying to ride it.

Among other things, the carriage doors are freezing shut, they don't have the infrastructure to clear all the aboveground track, people in cars are getting stuck crossing tracks or just getting confused and driving onto the tracks, and in addition to everyone who usually rides the T to work, there's everyone who's trying to ride the T because they can't get to their cars.
posted by dorque at 12:45 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


And people seem to not realize that this is not typical for Boston. Yes, we get snow. Yes, we average above 40" of snow per season. Yes, we get stretches of weather consistently below freezing. But everything has converged.

We've gotten almost 80" of snow in three weeks, with no chance for any of it to melt. We are not equipped to handle it because we've never had to handle it. The schools in my town are closed because all the roofs might fail. I mean, this is not a lot of snow. This is an unprecedented amount of snow.
posted by lydhre at 12:46 PM on February 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


wenestvedt: " they never went back and scraped up all the snow that was only partially cleared during the storm, and now many downtown streets remain two-thirds blocked (and floored with ice!)."

I expect at least some of this is that they're 150% of the way through their snow removal budget and it's only February so they're scrimping where they think they can. Next year they will buy too little road salt to make up the budget shortfall, look forward to it!

helicomatic: "When schools are closed because the potential for school building roofs collapsing is too great, it is pretty serious."

This is actually a surprisingly frequent occurrence requiring surprisingly little snow, especially in gymnasiums with the wide-span roof. Even when the classroom parts of the building are safe the gym, cafeterias, etc., might not be. But school roofs are low-biddered, under-maintained, and FLAT. When school capital project bonds don't pass in a referendum (as they often must), generally you're betting that a 20-year roof will last 30 years and you won't have to close school for two weeks from snow weight. (But yeah, this is also why schools are always getting their roofs peeled off by tornadoes ... they're not very good roofs.) (Rooves? Roofs.)

Also 20 years ago they used to hire workmen to climb up on top of flat-roofed buildings and shovel them off to prevent collapse, but that is actually REALLY DANGEROUS and a lot of places either won't risk it anymore -- or their insurance won't.

backseatpilot: "The MBTA general manager just resigned because she got fed up with the governor stonewalling her. He just doesn't seem to care about the people."

Do you have a link? I'd like to read more!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:46 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "That doesn't explain what happened the other eight winters."

They were spread across an entire winter, instead of all happening in two weeks?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


And people seem to not realize that this is not typical for Boston. Yes, we get snow. Yes, we average above 40" of snow per season. Yes, we get stretches of weather consistently below freezing. But everything has converged.

I keep telling people that winter is usually either really cold OR really snowy, not really cold AND really snowy. It turns out the latter really sucks!
posted by selfnoise at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


That doesn't explain what happened the other eight winters.

roomthreeseventeen, those snowfall totals are over the course of a season. We got 80" in three weeks.
posted by lydhre at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


They were spread across an entire winter, instead of all happening in two weeks?

That's what I wanted to know, thanks.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:48 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just tweeted at MEMA to send some of that National Guard help to my typically neglected large city north of Boston. The one way streets are a joke and people are still parking on them - not that I can blame them, where else is there to park?

I am terrified of a fast melt: my sump pump outlet is currently frozen under five feet of snow. There's nowhere for the water to go . The consolation is that five feet of snow can't melt too quickly. Right? RIGHT? (temperatures soar into the seventies late next week)

Also, people BWA-HA-HAing in our direction about the amount of snow don't get what it's like to live in very close urban quarters and try to remove the snow. Other than taking it out with a dump truck, there aren't too many places left to put it.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 12:48 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


This link shows some of the issues, and at the bottom, you can see the respective ages of the trains on each line.

So the Orange Line hasn't had a single new train since 1981, for example. They're just stapling bits back on at this point.
posted by instead of three wishes at 12:50 PM on February 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


As of yesterday, it was the ninth-snowiest winter in 150 years.

That doesn't explain what happened the other eight winters.


Those other winters we got a similar amount of snow spread out over three or four months, often with significant periods above freezing in between.

Comparing the two is like saying "I drank 14 beers last week and felt fine, so I should be fine drinking 12 beers tonight as long as I only have two beers for the rest of the week!"
posted by firechicago at 12:51 PM on February 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


Grump grump grump.

Like they say timing is everything. Yesterday right after the big snow I had a short important errand downtown (by the garden). Keeping an eye on google maps I left 'late' just when traffic dropped off on 93, found a 'secret' free parking space, was in and out as there was no crowd and after an impromptu run to Mikes for a celebratory cannoli I was out of town in 10 minutes.

An element of luck, I missed the yacht that was stuck 5-6 blocks away. But it amazes me how many folks (thankfully, ever so thankfully) just line up and wait when there is an almost direct route almost free of cars.

It is really beautiful, the snow has been pretty dry so shoveling has not been that bad. The third time a plow filled the narrow slot of a driveway was disillusioning but ce la vie.

Do NOT walk too close to buildings. I retraced my shoveling path later in the day and found a 40 pound chunk of ice right in my footsteps. Really really spooky scary.
posted by sammyo at 12:53 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The number I've heard is $5B of investment needed. And we could do this. Gasoline prices are down by $2/gallon. If the state took back 50 cents of that, gasoline would still be at historically low prices and we'd have some money to invest in our failing transit system.

alms, the Democrats who control the state legislature passed a gas tax increase specifically to fund the T in 2013. It was repealed by ballot measure in November.
posted by maggiepolitt at 12:53 PM on February 12, 2015 [19 favorites]




Is it Federal Emergency time for Boston? What would trigger some effective action? The National Guard's current sole response is digging out fire hydrants?
posted by Artful Codger at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would have a much different story if I was currently a subway commuter, really really need a social/political referendum to fix that infrastructure.
posted by sammyo at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2015


So the Orange Line hasn't had a single new train since 1981, for example. They're just stapling bits back on at this point.

The best part is that the bits they're stapling back on are from Blue Line trains that were retired 5-10 years ago.
posted by davros42 at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Federal Emergency time for Boston?

The new guvner called up the National Guard, take a beat, to dig out fire hydrants.
posted by sammyo at 12:57 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I lived in Somerville during a series of huge blizzards and until you've done it, you really can't imagine how hard it is to put snow SOMEWHERE when your front yard is the size of a postage stamp.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 12:58 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


> We've gotten almost 80" of snow in three weeks, with no chance for any of it to melt.

Yeah, see, this is fucking crazy. We had snow when I lived there. We had snow days. They were great! This is not great. Of course Boston isn't equipped to deal with this, because why should they be?

I'm so sorry, Boston. I wish you could send the snow to our Sierras because we could use the water.
posted by rtha at 12:58 PM on February 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


If nothing else, maybe the collapse of the MBTA will make the International Olympic Committee think twice about giving Boston the 2024 Olympics.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:00 PM on February 12, 2015 [19 favorites]


So according to that Boston Globe article about Montreal, Boston doesn't plow the sidewalks?

They don’t just plow the streets. They also plow the sidewalks. (Imagine!)

I live in Ottawa and they plow the sidewalks here. If they didn't I wouldn't be able to get anywhere because of my disability. Thinking of all the people in Boston with mobility issues and how extra awful this must be for them.
posted by aclevername at 1:00 PM on February 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


The Democrats who control the state legislature passed a gas tax increase specifically to fund the T in 2013. It was repealed by ballot measure in November.

Actually, the Democratic governor at the time proposed a bigger gas tax increase. The Democratic legislature instead passed a smaller gas tax increase with future increases coming automatically indexed to inflation. The ballot measure just repealed the inflation indexing, it didn't roll back the (albeit smaller) increase.

Point taken, though. People are dumb.
posted by alms at 1:01 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Sheydem-tants: "I am terrified of a fast melt: my sump pump outlet is currently frozen under five feet of snow. There's nowhere for the water to go . The consolation is that five feet of snow can't melt too quickly. Right? RIGHT? (temperatures soar into the seventies late next week)"

As long as the ground slopes away from your house even a little, it should be fine -- the ground will remain frozen underneath the top inch or two and the water will run off to the street (rather than soaking in to the soil and pushing in on the walls of your basement), at least long enough to free your sump outlet. Failing that, most sump systems have a reasonable capacity to hold water inside them before they start to pump out, and 10" of snow is equal to 1" of rain. You'll probably get a clear outlet before it gets to be a problem. (Probably.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:02 PM on February 12, 2015


So according to that Boston Globe article about Montreal, Boston doesn't plow the sidewalks?

Can't speak for Boston, but here in Portland the city does have equipment to plow the sidewalks, but they can't do the whole city. They do the business district and major arteries (primarily following the bus routes). Residential side streets are on their own.
posted by anastasiav at 1:04 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


But also, like, it's Boston. Why don't they have the infrastructure to deal with this?

Having the infrastructure to deal with this and having the go-ahead to use that infrastructure are two different things.

People were picking on New York City for freaking out about an impending storm last month (and fshgirl, if you want "whiny stuff on the internet," that's probably much more so an example than this article), but the freakout was actually more due to De Blasio being prepared - because the last time New York City had a threat of serious snow, the mayor waited too long to declare a state of emergency; and by the time he did, it was way too late. So what looked like whining to the rest of y'all was more a case of the city collectively saying "we do NOT want to be caught with our pants down again".

You may have all the means in the world to deal with a situation like this, but if your mayor isn't sending you out to use it, then that's not gonna help.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:04 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


the switches always freeze and I can't understand how they haven't worked out a solution to that by now

The solution is called a "switch heater" and it's the very finest late-19th-century transportation infrastructure technology. (They have electric ones now too, though, if your city hasn't kept its coal gas system up to date.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:05 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


aclevername: "So according to that Boston Globe article about Montreal, Boston doesn't plow the sidewalks?"

I don't think I've ever lived anywhere that the municipality cleared the sidewalks. It's the responsibility of the property owner.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:06 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


There is little that I despise more than calling the complaints of people suffering serious problems that you don't have yourself as "whining". Strive for more.
posted by thelonius at 1:06 PM on February 12, 2015 [57 favorites]


Boston doesn't plow the sidewalks?

A shocking (to me) number of cities outsource the clearing of an important part of the transportation network to the citizens. I absolutely don't get it.
posted by jeather at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does any city plow the sidewalks? I thought it was just a given that the property owners take care of the sidewalks in front of their own property everywhere.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:09 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


My town plows major sidewalks, and I believe Boston does as well. They just don't do *all* the sidewalks.

Also, the sidewalks are where all the plow snow is being pushed from the streets, so in most parts of town there is literally no place to plow the snow on the sidewalks TO at this point. Which is why they are using front-end loaders and dump trucks, but that's slow and it's taking a while (and the snow is accumulating faster than they can remove it).
posted by pie ninja at 1:09 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Tip from a Northerner - if you can do so safely, shovel your roof off.

No way. To achieve the same goal without falling and breaking your fucking spine, what you need is a roof rake, or actually, two so you can plug the extra pole sections from the second one into the first rake to make it extra long. Raking your roof will dump more snow on the ground around your foundation, which isn't optimum, but it's a damn sight better than having all that weight and increasingly huge ice dams on your roof (plus more snow + rain on the way), especially if the roof isn't super-steep.

I've got an ancient uninsulated house whose eaves make ice like a motherloving Zamboni all winter long even from small snowstorms, and raking the roof is the only thing that makes a difference.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:11 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I live in Kingston, which is also been quite snowy but not insane snowy like you poor Bostonians (for reals, guys, I am sending you warm thoughts that sadly cannot translate into warm weather), but yeah, they plow the sidewalks here as well as the roads. Priority are major thoroughfare sidewalks, next are busy residential streets, and streets like mine? Well, it happens eventually.

I love the sidewalk snowplow. I just wish I lived on a street it was a high priority.

I hope you guys get some better crazy winter snow preparedness plans out of all this.
posted by Kitteh at 1:12 PM on February 12, 2015


Does any city plow the sidewalks?

Montreal, as was mentioned upthread
posted by just another scurvy brother at 1:12 PM on February 12, 2015


from article: “If your friends who live here have been moaning about the weather and you’ve playfully said how it’s so warm where you are and you wish you could have some of that snow, you should probably know that we are way past joking. We are tired and beat down and every single day is a struggle to get to work and leave again, to drop off kids and pick them up, to do anything.”

There is another angle to this, actually.

I lived in Boston last year, and still have a lot of friends there. I watch them alternately complaining and marveling at the insanity in the city this year. I haven't said much about how it is where I am now – Albuquerque. That's because highs have been in the mid-60s and even 70s for the past two or three weeks. But I'm far from thinking this is a wonderful state of affairs – it isn't. I don't mind the warm weather, of course, but at this point almost all the snow cover is gone, completely melted off already, two full months before it was supposed to; and given the fact that the monsoon season has moved back almost a full month from where it was ten or fifteen years ago, that means that our decade-long drought, one of the worst we've ever faced, is going to be much worse this year. Agriculture is one of our biggest industries here, and even if it weren't, water is precious and rare in New Mexico.

The sad fact is that weather is fucked up everywhere. "It's snowing insanely in Boston" and "It's crazy ridiculous warm in the West" – these are two sides of the same coin. Taken together, they add up to bad times ahead.
posted by koeselitz at 1:14 PM on February 12, 2015 [38 favorites]


Removing snow by dump truck and front loader does take for-EVER. Peoria does it downtown when we get blizzards, and Caterpillar will lend us a bunch of construction equipment (more than can be used!) and drivers (so they can operate round-the-clock shifts), and they only have to drive six blocks to dump full loads in the river ... but it still takes just ages. It is a VERY slow way to move snow.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2015


Does any city plow the sidewalks?

Montreal, as was mentioned upthread


Any American city.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2015


Does any city plow the sidewalks? I thought it was just a given that the property owners take care of the sidewalks in front of their own property everywhere.

My small-ish town has little miniature snowplows and/or riding blowers with cabs (sort of like the small tractors that mow highway ditches) that clear the sidewalks in some areas.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:15 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does any city plow the sidewalks?

Montreal does (all sidewalks, eventually). You can catch a lot of videos.
posted by jeather at 1:16 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


This link shows some of the issues, and at the bottom, you can see the respective ages of the trains on each line.

Wow, that is really old. I was like, yeah, yeah, CTA has sliding doors too. All but our newest generation of trains run on DC. But jeepers those trains are old. Chicago just recently retired the last of our '70s cars (here's what we've got now), and I thought that was pretty bad. My sympathies. You all deserve better. If I were a Bostonian, I'd be demanding it now, more than ever.
posted by gueneverey at 1:17 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Steely-eyed Missile Man: "Any American city."

Yeah, it's assumed cities in other countries do things correctly.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:18 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I lived in Cambridge during a couple of large storms (2003 and 2005, I want to say?), but in largely non-residential areas. The sidewalks were plowed out pretty well, but often there was no cutout at the corner, which you couldn't see until you got there. And since there had been 2+ feet of snow in the road and sidewalk that was now plowed in a giant pile between the sidewalk and the road, you'd have to turn around and go back to wherever the last cutout was and walk in the street. I imagine it's much, much worse than that right now.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:18 PM on February 12, 2015


We need a new political party devoted to raising taxes to pay for infrastructure. We can call it the T party.
posted by uosuaq at 1:19 PM on February 12, 2015 [60 favorites]


Can somebody explain why Boston's transit sucks so bad in the snow?

Well, the biggest problem is that the legislature, as well as both the new Republican governor (in a past role) and the previous Democratic governor, have consistently underfunded the MBTA. In addition, they decided to give some of the Big Dig debt (which went over budget in the billions) to the MBTA, which I never quite understood.

The MBTA General Manager just resigned today. Opinion is equally divided about whether she quit in disgust or was not up to the job (and possibly an affirmative action hire). She used to be the General Manager of the Atlanta transportation system, and there's been a lot of divided opinion on how she did there. A million different internet opinions, can't figure out what the truth is.
posted by Melismata at 1:20 PM on February 12, 2015


My small-ish town has little miniature snowplows

Almost hit one yesterday, on a highway! At least he was in the right hand lane. Didn't blame him, the mounds of snow on the sidewalk right there were much higher than the little plow. There are areas where anything other than a full sized industrial front end loader do not have a chance.
posted by sammyo at 1:21 PM on February 12, 2015



And I don't think anyone here is whining, more amazed exasperation, it is just really wacky in places. But we take heart, there's only two more major storms scheduled for the next week or so.
posted by sammyo at 1:23 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Watching the General Manager's (of the MBTA) press conference on Tuesday, followed by the Governor's, was pretty amazing. I mean, amazing in a vicious way, horrible, car-crash sort of way, since she clearly seemed to know that he was going to lay the blame for this at her doorstep, and preemptively made a point of letting everyone know he hadn't so much as picked up a phone to call her and see how things were going. This was followed by his conference, where he implied she was not up to the task in seventeen different ways, and insisted that it was not his place to speak with her directly, and that he would get around to that on Thursday, or whatever.

Really, really did not give the viewing audience any confidence in the individuals involved in either side.
posted by instead of three wishes at 1:25 PM on February 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


The small city I live in has a sidewalk sized tractor snow blower, that they appear to use mainly on roads that kids use to walk to school. Downtown there's way too much street furniture for that, and businesses are expected to shovel in front of their stores. As you might expect, the quality of shoveling varies quite a bit. Bank of America shovels its sidewalks between the driveways at either ends of the building, but not all the way to the next property line. Subway is on a corner but just shovels the sidewalk and doesn't cut a way through the snow bank. The supermarket doesn't shovel any of the sidewalks that border their parking lot, certainly not the one where the busy bus stop is.

I shovel in front of my workplace wide enough for a wheelchair user to get through, but none of my neighbors do so it doesn't matter. There's no way for someone in a wheelchair to get over the snowbanks on either ends of the block anyway, and that's the case even when there's a normal amount of snow, never mind this year.

It's not like there's any place left for people to park to come to my store anyway. Sometimes I feel like I come to work this time of year just to shovel the sidewalk and watch dump trucks full of snow drive by on their way to dirty snow mountain.
posted by helicomatic at 1:26 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is swimming good!
posted by sammyo at 1:27 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


more like Duluth or Pennsylvania\

Pennsylvania?! I've lived in both places, and Pennsylvania deals with nothing like this. Boston has nothing to learn from PA.

I can see both sides of this discussion. I'm in the midst of this, and it sucks. Everything she says about the physical danger, the accidents, the economic impact, the difficulty of daily life - all true. As stupid as it sounds, my job has been crippled this week because there is literally nowhere in my city you're allowed to park - people here don't have driveways or garages, and the public lots are all full with people who have already moved their cars there. Dumb waterfall effects like that are making everything quite a bit harder.

But I don't want to complain too much, because it can still get a lot worse. This isn't yet a Hurricane-Sandy-level disasters. It is plenty bad. People who think that there is something weak-ass about Boston because they live in another part of the country where this is more easily dealt with are partly correct that Boston is not prepared for this, but also do not realize that in its centuries of history, Boston has not had to be. It's not the amount of snow alone, but the rapidity with which three storms have piled on top of one another, leaving the cities insufficient time to plow thoroughly and remove the snow in between. This is a city that can take a two-foot blizzard and not bat an eye, but it has trouble taking four of them in three weeks. That shouldn't be surprising or laughable. It's a pretty tough situation and would be for anybody, let alone for a place that doesn't have the Midwest's wide streets and abundant garages and non-closely-built housing and pedestrian design.

I can't remember the last time Chicago's el service got screwed up because of snow (you know, any more than usual), and it's hardly the model of 21st century infrastructure.

The L is so much better than the T I don't know where to start. This is basically the chickens of a city and state who don't want to fund public infrastructure coming home to roost. Disinvesting over decades has its consequences, and these are them. It was all going to fail at some point, and a giant storm makes a perfect point for failing.

And the points about climate change are true. We're experiencing it. And it's pretty daggone difficult.

I just know that after a lifetime of living where it snows, I have had a new thought enter my head while walking to work in a tall, narrow, shovel-wide canyon cleared by my employer: "I hope these eight-foot walls of snow towering over my head are stable, because if this wall of snow fell on me it would stand a good chance of killing me." I've never had to think that thought in my life. That sort of thing gives you a "whoa" moment.
posted by Miko at 1:30 PM on February 12, 2015 [23 favorites]


Those subway platforms look like my platform in New York every day of the year.

Cool
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:36 PM on February 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


A few years ago there was a quite small storm (in comparison) but it hit at about 3pm, it would have been nothing to drive in, a few fender benders from the idjits but it was just a few inches. BUT, the governor/mayor and everyone panicked and sent everyone out the door home at the same time. Insane gridlock, literally a 10 minute drive was 3-4 hours many 5-6. The mayors in the next few years sent out heavy sanding trucks if there was a cloud in the sky. I expect out shiny new governor and mayor will way over spend on snow removal. The T, ha, no one really cares about the peons riding the T.
posted by sammyo at 1:36 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Those subway platforms look like my platform in New York every day of the year.

I think everyone understands by now that you think this all no big deal, thanks.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:38 PM on February 12, 2015 [29 favorites]


sO was reading this and wondered why they don't dump the snow into the bay since isn't that where it ends up anyway? I figure it has something to do with road chemicals and salt?
posted by The Whelk at 1:39 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


At least Sisyphus was warm.
posted by zamboni at 1:39 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Opinion is equally divided about whether she quit in disgust or was not up to the job (and possibly an affirmative action hire).

Wow, I would not say "opinion is divided" about that, I would say that some ranty racists think she was not up to the job and "an affirmative action hire." (Jesus.) Up unto this point I thought she was the best thing to happen to the T and that her positive but forceful attitude might get some motion going on the delayed maintenance of the entire system.

I get that politicians do not want to hear the message that they tasked someone with running a system they have totally handicapped at the outset and are refusing to invest in. But that doesn't make it untrue.
posted by Miko at 1:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


I expect out shiny new governor and mayor will way over spend on snow removal.

I expect they'll be too busy jetsetting around desperately trying to convince everyone the Olympics are a good idea to care too much.
posted by davros42 at 1:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Whelk: “sO was reading this and wondered why they don't dump the snow into the bay since isn't that where it ends up anyway? I figure it has something to do with road chemicals and salt?”

And lobsters.
posted by koeselitz at 1:41 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Whelk, it's absolutely road chemicals, salt, and all sorts of stuff that gets picked up by the plows. Normally, when it melts, this stuff gets filtered by the ground, and doesn't poison our water. Dump it straight in, no filter.

There are special rules regarding when you can dump it straight in. Boston asked for and received permission to do so, and at least one community is already doing so. Boston has not yet started, and here's hoping they won't have to.
posted by instead of three wishes at 1:42 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]




The Whelk, they generally don't dump due to chemicals and salt as you say, but most towns along the coast have gotten waivers to go ahead and do so.
posted by Melismata at 1:43 PM on February 12, 2015


sO was reading this and wondered why they don't dump the snow into the bay since isn't that where it ends up anyway? I figure it has something to do with road chemicals and salt?

Yeah it's an environmental hazard, but some cities are getting permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to do so (Boston Globe link)
posted by sutel at 1:43 PM on February 12, 2015


Water quality in the bay and major rivers is a very big deal here, because all of Greater Boston's major waterways were fantastically polluted until the 1990's. People take a lot of pride in how much progress has been made and want to see it continue.

For instance, last summer the Charles was declared clean enough to swim in. Of course, you are not allowed to touch the mud because it's full of heavy metals, but if you have a boat or a dock, go nuts!
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:46 PM on February 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


oops jinx with koeselitz!

I live and work in the 'burbs, and I consider myself damn lucky I don't have to take public transportation to and from work. It is unbelievable how bad it is. But the driving is still terrifying - snow banks are so high that you can't see if anyone is coming and streets are so much narrower. My 30-minute commute has turned into 45 or 60 minutes - which again, not a huge deal, I'm OK. I'm a white-collar office worker and I'm salaried so it's not like I'm missing out on any pay. If my kid has a snow day (six so far this year. SIX! They only build five into the calendar!) I can take a day off or work from home, or my husband can. We are really lucky.

I read this after the blizzard and it was a heartbreaking read about how the transit woes are really affecting a key portion of the population. It's not just a bunch of people whining. These are real issues. People can't make rent or pay their bills because they are losing out on pay.
posted by sutel at 1:48 PM on February 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


Those subway platforms look like my platform in New York every day of the year.

I agree that photo would not cause concern in someone familiar with New York (it doesn't even cause concern if you've ever tried to ride the Red Line on a game day at Fenway). It's not a particularly useful illustration of what's going on.

What's less easy to understand is how much worse the entire riding experience at the end of the wait is, how often these trains are delayed and how often they break down in the middle of service, and how few alternatives there are. In NYC you can usually figure out how to walk a few blocks over and use a different line, or take the bus, or get a cab at the absolute limit. In Boston, only one line serves each spur with almost no overlap, the buses are not a viable alternative (infrequent and far slower and little overlap), and cabs are not easily found.
posted by Miko at 1:51 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oops, forgot I meant to add this nice piece of writing to the mix: The Great Snow of 2015. I thought it added a little historical/philosophical perspective to the discussion and had some beautiful notes, as well.
posted by Miko at 1:52 PM on February 12, 2015


I live in Salem (narrow streets even worse than Boston's!) and commute into Boston on the train. It has really sucked. At home I'm walking my four year old home after sunset and forced to walk in the streets because half the sidewalks aren't cleared. We have close calls at least half a dozen times every time, and I have purposely picked out a longer route home to try to be as safe as possible. Our houses are packed together and we don't have yards, there is no place to put all the snow. Salem is also dumping the snow into the ocean. Oh, and because our streets are so narrow now the trash trucks have been very spotty about trash pickups, and our recycling hasn't been picked up in three weeks.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 1:53 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think everyone understands by now that you think this all no big deal, thanks

I wasn't saying that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:54 PM on February 12, 2015


I moved my parents out to san francisco a few years ago from the east coast because I was afraid for them on the east coast. I was terrified that they couldn't get around - to the doctor, to the pharmacist, to the store - not to mention falling on ice - a snow storm could literally kill them. My parents aren't in any shape to weather waiting in long lines for the bus in freezing weather. It was sad because they left family, friends, and a city that they really liked. They weren't enthusiastic about moving. But my dad can't miss insulin - the idea that they could be in a city paralyzed by something like this - and not mobile to get life sustaining medication - meant that moving was the only choice.

This isn't a 'nanny nanny boo-boo, I'm smarter than you (east coasters)' post (because, who are we kidding, I live on an fault line) , but a statement about how frightening this must be for all of the vulnerable populations out in Boston.

Even if you don't meet that definition of vulnerable, if your schedule operated on infrastructure being available, this could push you over the edge. I'm thinking childcare, hourly workers, etc.

I can't imagine how much money it would take to really design a city that could handle this. It boggles the mind.
posted by anitanita at 1:56 PM on February 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Just dropped in to mention living through the famed Blizzard of '78 during my Boston-area childhood. This seems like it's more snow, but '78 seems more devastating. Anyone here live through both? I'd be interested in hearing comparisons.
posted by slkinsey at 1:58 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


but a statement about how frightening this must be for all of the vulnerable populations out in Boston.

Our local news recently ran a piece on the impact of school snow days (particularly consecutive snow days) on families where the children rely on school-served breakfast and lunch to combat hunger.

I haven't been able to identify a specific NPO or food bank that supports families in Somerville, MA where schools have been closed all week due to the threat of roof collapse, but if you know of one, let me know - I'd love to throw some money their way. Lots of hungry kids and struggling families there, I'm betting.
posted by anastasiav at 2:02 PM on February 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: “Those subway platforms look like my platform in New York every day of the year.”

They look like platforms in Boston every day of the year, too.

The difference is how long the people in the photographs have been standing there waiting for a train, and how long they will have to wait for the next one to arrive.

It's also in the timing. I've been to New York. Certain subway stations are like that at certain times of the day. But they're not like that all day, and there are certainly sometimes downtimes. For someone who knows Boston T stops, it's surprising when a place is crowded to a certain extent in the middle of the day, during non-peak times, when trains are sparse.
posted by koeselitz at 2:04 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


. Anyone here live through both?

I did. I was just a kid, but this makes '78 look like a picnic.

I think the difference was that people just were even less prepared in '78. There were hundreds of people stranded on the highway while driving, for instance, until they could drive no more. That doesn't really happen any more, partly because the state now calls travel bans for nonessential travelers, but also just because honestly I think people have smartened up some.

And also, weather prediction is much better than it was, so you can plan ahead.
posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I remember my mom telling me stories basically every winter when I was growing up about the Blizzard of '78 - I wasn't born yet but from her stories it was one big storm that dumped on top of what was already quite a bit of snow, and it was a major coastal event too which took out a lot of towns and buildings on the ocean. These pictures are pretty interesting to look back on it.

We've been fairly fortunate with this series of storms that not many have lost power like they did back in '78. Whether that's due to the long drawn out series of storms or infrastructure improvement over the past 30+ years is anyone's guess.

Basically, it sounds to me like '78 was the sprint - it was over pretty quick but Boston was sore for a while. This is more of a marathon that no one got a chance to train for, and it's gonna hurt for a while.
posted by danapiper at 2:04 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Three- or four-hour commutes in below-freezing temperatures, including waiting outside for trains or buses, or anywhere without heat -- not funny. Hourly workers are in some cases unable to get to work. A shuttle bus on my work street took an hour to go three blocks one day -- this is a crisis after years of underfunding and neglect.

Anyone laughing should be absolutely ashamed. This is a record-setting amount of snow in three weeks!
posted by theredpen at 2:08 PM on February 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Those '78 pics are interesting indeed. It looks to me like most of the shoreline damage was due to a storm surge - something we really haven't had to deal with with these blizzards.

Another factor is indeed loss of power. It's been relatively minimal, partly because it's so freaking cold, consistently, that the snow has been light and the winds have kept it blown off power lines. Wet heavy snow and ice tend to do much more of that sort of damage.
posted by Miko at 2:09 PM on February 12, 2015


There is no easy answer, unfortunately. In the age of privatization, not many US cities want to purchase a fleet of appropriately sized plows to get to the very narrow streets and they have no company contracted to provide that service.

The people are the only answer. Bit by bit, block by block, to clear out what they need to clear out. I believe that Boston would "pick up" the snow if it was cleared from around cars. This is incredibly hard, but seems the only path forward. Just my opinion.

Don't forget these days and what you want your city to do for you. Don't. Activate politically. Again, this is hard, but this is what will prevent your pain in the future.

Also: the worst time to plan for crisis is in crisis.

Tipping a cup for my snow-bound brethren in Boston. Be well.
posted by zerobyproxy at 2:10 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I haven't been able to identify a specific NPO or food bank that supports families in Somerville, MA where schools have been closed all week due to the threat of roof collapse, but if you know of one, let me know - I'd love to throw some money their way. Lots of hungry kids and struggling families there, I'm betting.

A friend runs the Somerville Backpack Program which provides food to hungry kids in the Somerville schools. I have no idea if they've been able to operate in this crisis, since their primary m.o. is to hand out the food at school, which doesn't work so well when school's closed. Donation link here.
posted by firechicago at 2:11 PM on February 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Can somebody explain why Boston's transit sucks so bad in the snow?

The Boston Globe says it is largely because the trains still use direct current motors, rather than the motor modern alternating current motors.
posted by alms at 2:11 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Basically, it sounds to me like '78 was the sprint - it was over pretty quick but Boston was sore for a while. This is more of a marathon that no one got a chance to train for, and it's gonna hurt for a while.

I like the metaphor, but this feels less like a marathon and more like a sprint followed by another sprint then oh I think I can take a breather and get some wateNO ANOTHER SPRINT OH NOT AGAIN.
posted by shortfuse at 2:12 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


There are greenline cars from '46? I've ridden in some that I thought were old, but 70 years? (admittedly, it's only 10, but still, wtf?)
posted by Hactar at 2:13 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Just about to say the same thing, Hactar. That's amazing.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:13 PM on February 12, 2015


In the meantime we're already having 90° days here in Los Angeles.

In February.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:15 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just walked home through Coolidge Corner in Brookline. It is crazy out there. Gridlock at literally every intersection I passed, including streets where there is normally very little traffic even at rush hours.

People have been making a valiant effort to carry on like normal, but I don't know if that can go on much longer. The mayor of Boston just called for the T to be shut down this weekend, preemptively, in expectation of another major storm. If we get another foot of snow I don't know what will happen. I could imagine a lot of people just throwing in the towel and giving up on going outside, trying to go to work, trying to do anything until the snow somehow clears.

We have plenty of food in our house, but a lot of people don't. I'm worried what will happen if there's another foot of snow. Hunger will get to be a problem. Cold will get to be a problem. People working paycheck to paycheck won't be able to work, won't be able to buy food, won't be able to pay their rent.

So far the emergency has all been about commuting and clearing the snow, but it could get to be a lot bigger than that if this keeps going.
posted by alms at 2:16 PM on February 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Do NOT walk too close to buildings. I retraced my shoveling path later in the day and found a 40 pound chunk of ice right in my footsteps. Really really spooky scary.Yeah. In Chicago, every once in a while there's a tragic story about someone getting injured downtown by falling ice from skyscrapers.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:16 PM on February 12, 2015


Those subway platforms look like my platform in New York every day of the year.

I wonder what the difference is then...

Oh, wait. In NYC, A TRAIN IS ACTUALLY COMING SOMEDAY.
posted by kythuen at 2:17 PM on February 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'd suggest taking parked cars off the streets in Boston, if I could be convinced that the snow would stay away long enough to allow removal of snow car-less streets. But then again, the cars would be have to be dug out in the first place.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:19 PM on February 12, 2015


Something pretty to stare at:

Here's an HDR photo I made in the storm.

In the mean time, let me just suggest that outdoor coitus had better commence come the first of May.
posted by ocschwar at 2:21 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Three- or four-hour commutes in below-freezing temperatures, including waiting outside for trains or buses, or anywhere without heat -- not funny.

Seriously - and if you have trouble standing for hours, guess where you're going to sit while you wait for that train that's not coming?

Nowhere.
posted by kythuen at 2:21 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was nearly twenty years ago - I was living in the Buffalo area and had The Weather Channel on while I was getting ready to head out in the morning. The dumb idiot on the screen actually smiled and said through the dumb idiot grin plastered on her dumb idiot face from her dumb idiot studio in Atlanta, "Well, looks like they got another twenty-four inches in Buffalo overnight. But, I guess they must like it, or they wouldn't live there! Ha, ha! Ha, ha, hahaha!"

I looked down at my hands and I knew that I had enough pairs of mittens on to punch the TV and not hurt my hand. But I couldn't afford another TV, so I just screamed at her dumb idiot laughing face until I felt like I was going to throw up.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:22 PM on February 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the biggest issue is that in '78, the forecast was not as accurate. I was 9 years old; best two weeks of my life with no school.

There was also no internet then, and working from home was not an option. Plus the storm surge, and the high winds, and the amount of total snow in one storm. Total snowfall was 27.1" (Logan Airport); that record stood until 1996, when we had one storm with 27.9".

Another interesting thing about '78: the subways (not the buses) never stopped running, ever.
posted by Melismata at 2:23 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are greenline cars from '46? I've ridden in some that I thought were old, but 70 years? (admittedly, it's only 10, but still, wtf?)
posted by Hactar


Yup, that's the Mattapan Line, 10 reconditioned 1946 PCC trolley cars. Technically on the Red Line but administered by the Green Line because they're all ex-Green Line cars and they've got all the experience with overhead electric lines and such.
posted by davros42 at 2:24 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'd suggest taking parked cars off the streets in Boston, if I could be convinced that the snow would stay away long enough to allow removal of snow car-less streets. But then again, the cars would be have to be dug out in the first place.

Most places have a parking ban in effect, meaning that you aren't allowed to park in the street. But that hasn't stopped many people, as far as I can tell. And some places can't really have an effective parking ban, because people have nowhere to put their cars. We rely on street parking, even in a normal winter - most of the Greater Boston area outside of the actual city doesn't have a ton of parking garages or parking lots to put cars in. They have to be somewhere...and sometimes that has to be the street.
posted by kythuen at 2:26 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought that sidewalks were always the responsibility of the property owners to maintain. At best my city will cite an owner for not shoveling if enough neighbors complain. The city has enough problems dealing with its own property to deal with private property.
posted by octothorpe at 2:26 PM on February 12, 2015


But we take heart, there's only two more major storms scheduled for the next week or so.

The most frustrating part of this for me (as opposed to the most terrifying, which is trying to navigate ice patches and snowbanks with a baby) is that there's no way to know when this will stop. Whenever I check the 10-day forecast, there's yet another snowstorm or two looming. There's been no break in sight - same shit, different week. If I ever see a high above freezing again, I will probably weep for joy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:28 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'd suggest taking parked cars off the streets in Boston,

Right. Where would you put them?

Digging out is not really the problem.
posted by Miko at 2:30 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Most places have a parking ban in effect, meaning that you aren't allowed to park in the street. But that hasn't stopped many people, as far as I can tell.

Here in Somerville, parking ban only means you can't park on one side of the street, not both.

I have to give mad props to the city of Somerville for doing their best to get the ban lifted one street at a time. Major snow removal efforts have been in effect the past 2 days with dump trucks back hoes, already making a huge difference.
posted by danapiper at 2:31 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was 9 years old; best two weeks of my life with no school.

Right?
posted by slkinsey at 2:33 PM on February 12, 2015


A shocking (to me) number of cities outsource the clearing of an important part of the transportation network to the citizens. I absolutely don't get it.

In Peabody Mass yesterday, one of the electronic billboards was programmed with a message from the Dept. of Transportation imploring people to pitch in by digging out nearby fire hydrants. They need all the help they can get at this point.
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:37 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel I should explain, not just snark. I don't live in Boston, I live in a city about half an hour north, but we have the same problem. It's related to the city built environment, not people's behavior. Most residents don't have private parking. We have multi-unit dwellings close together, with several car-owning households in each one, and no driveways(because they were built before there were cars). And most businesses, being in nineteenth-century buildings, also don't have parking lots associated with them and are accessible only from sidewalks. On a regular day, people park in city lots or garages or on the street, where it's metered. Residents have parking stickers and park in residential areas designated for their stickers. There's some all-access parking outside the downtown center. This all works out on a normal day. It even works out when we have special events, which we do for the month of October and at the holidays, when crowds of tens of thousands manage to make their way here, no problem.

Our city has three large garages. Each has a special set of snow rules. You can put your car there overnight if it's snowing, and that takes your car off the street, but all the commuting workers who normally drive in and park in the garage now can't use the garage, and they also can't park on the street. So they are SOL. Meanwhile, if you need to go to work, and take your car out of the garage, there is no guarantee you are getting back in. There are a few lots, but they are located a mile or so fromthe downtown center. So you might be able to park there, but now you are walking on city streets to get to the city center, because sidewalks aren't plowed. You might have groceries, you might have a child in tow. It's not easy. The streets that are allowing single-side parking are jammed with cars. Each day we get a new email alert telling us that addiitonal streets are being designated no parking at all so they can do snow removal. But this is going more slowly than expected, so the plan changes daily, and each day, a couple of times a day, people have to solve the problem of where they are going to put their car.

And anyone who knows Northeast metro areas knows that it's not like there's open countryside across the town borders. There's just...another town, having the same problems. There's no open catchbasin anywhere nearby for cars to go - and if there were and you could get your car there, how would you get back to your house?

All of that is why it's not just a matter of "well, move your cars so they can plow!"
posted by Miko at 2:38 PM on February 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


They need all the help they can get at this point.

"Help" is spelled T-A-X-E-S.
posted by Miko at 2:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [24 favorites]


So, I am actually very lucky in that I can get to work on foot. (Which is great because this weather caused someone to rip our car's mirror and fender off, which means we have no car.)

I am a spry, ablebodied person--my commute on a good day now goes as follows:

1. SIDEWALK OF YANKEE RESPECTABILITY: Down the steps and to the corner, on my lovely block shoveled and salted by my responsible landlords!

2. PATHS OF GLORY: One one side, a five-foot retaining wall--on the other, a five-to-six foot snowdrift. Bushes arch overhead and roof the whole thing off. The path is 18 inches wide. Plus corgi-sized alcoves, for when my neighbor walks his dog and meets another person--the corgi gets tucked into the drift to allow others to pass. That's right, I'm getting closer to my neighbors than ever before.

3. HYDRANT OF HORROR: A 90-degree zig-zag out of Paths of Glory, where I climb a three foot snow bank to cross the street. Will I fall and crack my head on the hydrant? Who knows!

4. Two blocks of respectable shoveling.

5. BUS STOP OF SLUSH: Where will commuters wait today? The sidewalk? A puddle the size of a train car? In the street itself? Atop a four-foot snowbank? Who knows!

6. THIS CROSSWALK HAS NOT EXISTED FOR WEEKS.

7. Drugstore parking lot, bless them.

8. TRAIN TRACKS OF TERROR: You know those nature documentaries where deer are exhausted, and they're being chased by wolves, and they get caught in the snow? Yeah, it's great watching people flounder across, and then the warning lights and bells start going off. I saw a guy do a ninja roll under the lowered pedestrian arm the other day.

9. Three blocks of desultory shoveling, intermixed with random four or five-foot drifts that you have to climb over. I also saw a lady wearing a baby do a faceplant coming down from one of these. Luckily, no one was injured.

10. I GUESS I'M JUST WALKING IN THE STREET, NO WAIT, THIS IS FULL OF STUCK CARS. Every day, I see someone pushing a stuck car on this block. From where do I see this?

11. THE NO-MAN'S-LAND OF SHOVELING ENFORCEMENT. The city line! Clinging on, squirrel-like, to a ten-foot tall chicken wire fence, while trying to put my feet where braver souls have gone before me. But usually sinking up to my waist three or four times.

12. NO SCREW IT I REALLY AM WALKING IN THE STREET.

My commute has doubled and tripled in time, but at least I don't have to work out before I leave any more!
posted by Hypatia at 2:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [102 favorites]


I have to give mad props to the city of Somerville for doing their best to get the ban lifted one street at a time.

Seriously, I've been super impressed with Somerville's public works department. It's been an incredibly difficult situation and I feel like they've not only handled things as well as they can, but communicated with the public really well.

My one complaint was that I spent an hour digging out a (even-sided) parking spot in front of our house to try to free up some extra parking, and then the next day they brought the Snowzilla industrial-sized snowblower down our street and made all that work pointless.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


The sidewalk in front of my house isn't shoveled any more, and I don't care any more. My neighbor and I each shoveled it out about three times. During this last storm, the plow came by and toppled everything into the path, and then when we had to dig out our cars we had no other place to put it. It's now a good 7' tall and most of the crap from the plow is at the bottom - slushy ice. I'm not digging it out. We can all walk in the street - it's one way.
posted by Miko at 2:43 PM on February 12, 2015


It's briefly mentioned in the article, but worth mentioning again, imo, but if you live in the city (also Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, etc.) there are lots of places where houses/apartments have no garages (so there's nowhere to stash a car or a snow blower) or driveways.

I've lived off-and-on for twenty years in a part of Japan that regularly gets three feet of snow in one night (we got two feet a couple of nights ago). My second winter here 19 years ago I owned a car, but didn't have a garage.

I had to drive all over rural Japan to visit factories and so on to teach. The people scheduling my lessons didn't care that I had to drive an hour home after a lesson that finished at 9, only to have to get up by 6am to travel to a 8AM class.

So I got home one night, exhausted. My car was parked out on the street. And it started to snow. And snow. It was hard pellets of snow that rattled on the windows all night.

I heard the snowplows going by and worried they would hit my car. I worried about digging out my car in the morning.

It was a terrible feeling, know that I would have to get up again in a few hours (I had never experienced true winter before and didn't have proper footwear for snow, so my shoes were wet too; at the time I couldn't find shoes my size in Japan).

By morning there was three feet of snow. Luckily all the trains were stopped, the roads leading out of town were blocked. I had a snow day.

The thing that makes this part of Japan different is that serious thought is put into managing snow. There are huge snowplows. There are large covered drains with water where you can dump the snow you shovel from your driveway.
posted by Nevin at 2:46 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


The T is what happens when 20 years of deferred maintenance, operating deficits and Big Dig debt come back to bite you on the ass. Rather, come back to attempt to bite you on the ass but break down 3 times along the way and eventually taken out of service.
posted by Spatch at 2:54 PM on February 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


anastasiav: "Our local news recently ran a piece on the impact of school snow days (particularly consecutive snow days) on families where the children rely on school-served breakfast and lunch to combat hunger."

firechicago: "A friend runs the Somerville Backpack Program which provides food to hungry kids in the Somerville schools. I have no idea if they've been able to operate in this crisis, since their primary m.o. is to hand out the food at school"

Yes, this is an enormous problem and, unfortunately, children who are only eating at school frequently do not have the family support where parents are routinely accessing food banks and so on. (Many more families struggle with hunger and rely on children getting food at school, but are able to at least scratch together meals at home during a snow day.) Many of these families (functional and dysfunctional) have limited transit options and getting to a food bank during a this snow situation may be difficult or impossible.

The best answer is to proactively support these backpack programs, which typically send home extra food (granola-bar-type-things) over three-day weekends or if they think there will be a snow day.

Most of these backpack programs proactively work to avoid stigma, for example by secretly slipping the food in kids' backpacks during the day when the other kids can't see -- like when the class is at recess -- or providing food packages to every kid, but with just a few things in them for some kids and a LOT of things in them for needy kids. I know that's a frequent concern of MeFites who themselves experienced stigmatizing child poverty programs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:00 PM on February 12, 2015 [23 favorites]


To give an idea of how truly crippling this storm is - I live in the middle of Boston proper, two blocks from a grocery store. I have not been able to get to it in weeks. Two blocks. Can't do it.

It's not that I can't walk there - I can... but not with the stroller for my 8mo old baby. I can easily wear the baby in a carrier, but then I can't carry the groceries home. Thankfully, there's grocery delivery and seriously, Gd bless those guys.

Think about that though - I can't get my stroller through *two blocks.* I've had to cancel two doctor's appointments in the past three weeks because we physically couldn't get there. Even IF the T was running, there's no way I could get a stroller on, and even IF I wore the baby instead, we might have to wait an hour (or more). I can handle an hour in sub freezing temps, my infant can not.

On top of this, my four year old has had EIGHT snow days from preschool. We're very, very lucky that I'm home with the baby anyway and haven't had to find backup childcare eight different times.

We're truly doing as well as anyone in the city and I haven't been *able* to go more than two blocks from my house in WEEKS and I don't know when I ever will again. There's an added layer of difficulty to having kids in the city and this is winter on Super Expert Boss Mode. Plenty of parents are truly struggling at this point and there's absolutely no end in sight.
posted by sonika at 3:00 PM on February 12, 2015 [15 favorites]


I can't imagine how much money it would take to really design a city that could handle this. It boggles the mind.

Well, what's crazy is that it is a large number, but the problem isn't money. The problem is who has the ear of the politicians in this era, and it's not big industrial concerns or construction companies the way it was in the first half of the 20th century. $5B to modernize the MBTA sounds like a bargain.

All of that is why it's not just a matter of "well, move your cars so they can plow!"

The approach to snow removal is going to have to change. I grew up in Minneapolis and lived in Boston (Brighton) from 2003-2006. Even with the reality of the layout of the city, which can't be changed, there are ways to turn a situation like this from "man, are people going to go hungry and lose their jobs?" to "several shitty weeks" the next time this happens.
posted by MillMan at 3:03 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd suggest taking parked cars off the streets in Boston,

This has been commented on several times but I need to add a profound HA HA HA, LOL, Best Joke Of The Thread. I need to upload some photos, there are streets lined with lumps of snow with a car somewhere underneath. Here's an example. Certain neighborhoods have space savers. Quite controversial.
posted by sammyo at 3:10 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Me: Space savers? What the heck is that? *clicks link* Ooooooohhhhhh, DIBS!

P.S. As someone born and raised in Buffalo and who has lived through some pretty major Chicago snowstorms, Bostonians have nothing but the utmost sympathy from me. And I LOVE big snows. But the fun wears off and then you realize it just makes life really difficult for everyone. With no breaks and no end in sight, I'd be "whiny" too.
posted by misskaz at 3:15 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are some trains (the actual physical trains) in the system that my mom used to ride as a girl. She's about to turn 70 and left the city in the late '60s.

Members of my family moved from the South Shore to Cape Cod to escape the punishing snow. Now Cape Cod, historically a low-snow area due to the ocean surrounding it, is getting as much snow as the South Shore did a few winters ago. It's brutal.

I remember the dire winter of 2003-4, the one that made my then-husband decide to move to California. That was a cakewalk compared to this, and it was the worst winter we'd seen in a long time.

With regards to the Blizzard of '78, forecasting at the time was not the science that it is now and there was also not the weather-related hysteria there is now. Harvey Leonard was the only one that predicted the blizzard would hit and it made his career. I have family who were trapped at their offices for several days; colleagues of theirs died stuck in the snow while driving home. The fact that people died trying to drive home is something that lives in people's memories and it's one thing that keeps people off the streets in blizzards nowadays.

The storm surge in that storm took out the homes of some of my relatives. Those same relatives rebuilt, and their homes are now literally coated in a thick layer of ice. They're very concerned about what will happen when the thaw comes.

There have been many storms with more snow than the Blizzard of '78 but they didn't have the storm surge and unpreparedness. The worst blizzard on record was February 17-18 2003. The storm started earlier than expected, but Monday February 17 was President's Day and nearly everyone had the day off anyway; it was a pretty lucky thing
posted by rednikki at 3:24 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Me: Space savers? What the heck is that? *clicks link* Ooooooohhhhhh, DIBS!

We just call them Parking Chairs.
posted by octothorpe at 3:25 PM on February 12, 2015


The National Weather Service in Taunton has issued a blizzard watch...which is in effect from Saturday evening through Sunday evening.

* Locations...east coastal Massachusetts.

* Hazard types...blizzard conditions...including heavy snow...poor visibilities and strong winds.

* Accumulations...snow accumulation of 8 to 14 inches.

* Timing...Saturday evening into Sunday evening.

* Impacts...late Saturday into Sunday blizzard conditions could make traveling difficult if not impossible. Blowing and drifting snow combined with strong winds may create problems for uncleared roofs.

* Winds...northwest 30 to 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph.

---------
This is terrible. I'm so sorry, you guys.
posted by rtha at 3:48 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh man, this story:

http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2015/02/05/the-mom-the-baby-and-the-bus-stop-barbara-howard

What was a young mother with a toddler doing at 1:00 a.m. at a bus stop on Brighton Avenue? That was what I asked myself early Wednesday morning as I headed home from work.

I worked late preparing Morning Edition for WBUR and was driving home, when I spotted a woman sitting in a bus shelter holding a sleeping child across her lap. I put my car into reverse, backed up, and lowered my passenger side window. I shouted to her: “Are you heading toward Oak Square? Because I’m going that way, and the buses are really slow because of the snow.” She said she was, and I offered her a ride.

I didn’t have a child’s car seat, but certainly this was safer than leaving her sitting on that bench with temperatures in the teens. She piled into the back seat with her sleeping daughter, who was dressed in snow boots and a pink parka. Over the engine, I could hear the girl softly snoring. I cranked up the heat, and we took off toward Brighton.

As we drove, the young mom told me that she had taken several buses that day. She said she works in food services at MIT, had bused to her mother’s Dorchester home after work to pick up her daughter, and had been on buses for two more hours. She said she was waiting for the number 57 bus for the final leg home.


I really hope someone in MIT admin with a conscience reads that and does something to help the essential staff that has to be there. The university can afford some damn hotel rooms for god's sake.
posted by longdaysjourney at 3:58 PM on February 12, 2015 [34 favorites]


For a mildly amusing snow-humor break, here is my friend's space saver on the job in Cambridge.

I moved away recently and really miss Boston, although I can't help feeling a little lucky at missing this snow-jackpot. I hope things improve soon - especially the T, it desperately needed funding to begin with. Hopefully this will convince the higher-ups that we really do need to spend money on it, although I think most people in the greater boston area know that already.
posted by ghostbikes at 4:03 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this is especially fun when you have to walk to work -- in the street, because people don't shovel their sidewalks. And making it even better? I'm part-time at my job, which means that if I don't go to work, I don't get paid. That includes all the days the library has closed due to the weather over the past month or so -- of those 4 paychecks, three of them have been cut in half, at least, which means we're not going to be able to pay our bills this month. The comments from some of my family who live in Florida about how nice and warm it is there, and how we must be having such fun building snowmen? Not so funny.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:07 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Personally, I rather hate the local culture around "space savers". I get the appeal of the idea that you have "earned" the right to essentially occupy public land by your labor of shoveling, but it is another example of the Tragedy of The Commons.

This is what I put up on my shoveled out parking spot. I am keeping my car in an emergency municipal lot for now (because I just bike to work), and am fine to see other cars go in there, but I've already gone out and ditched two different chairs that have gone into that space.
posted by bl1nk at 4:11 PM on February 12, 2015 [38 favorites]


also, I and a half dozen friends are setting up a Shovel Club to go and dig out some of the handicap spots that have been buried. Do folks have other suggestions where a volunteer shovel militia should apply their efforts?
posted by bl1nk at 4:12 PM on February 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Fire hydrants are a good idea, if you know where they are under the snow.

Mailboxes?

Walking paths that have gotten short shrift?
posted by Miko at 4:14 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


My heart goes out to all of you from here in Seattle. I was just wishing we'd get a good snow here like when I was a kid, instead of our drastically depleted snowpack, ski resorts filing for bankruptcy, and a probable drought this summer. But what you guys are dealing with is insane and catastrophic, and my thoughts are with you.
posted by skycrashesdown at 4:18 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


More on space savers. I'm west of Boston and it's been awful. My street has become a terrifying single-lane ice canyon that everyone flies down because if you meet an oncoming car, you've got to reverse all the back up the street and/or into a snow bank. Once you make it past that, the rest of the drive to work is scary because everyone now has to pull out halfway into oncoming traffic anytime they're turning, because you can't see over the snow mountains at corners and intersections.

And then at work, several of our entrances are blocked off because of falling ice chunks.

I just count myself really fortunate that I haven't been stuck with a 6.5 hour trip home via commuter rail, as happened to one of my friends, or had to deal with any childcare issues as schools continue to be closed but people are getting back to work (many of my friends).

At least I've been getting an insane upper body workout, what with having to dump all of the snow onto piles above my head everytime I dig out my car...
posted by TwoStride at 4:18 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm in Providence, not Boston, and therefore only have about half as much snow. But it is the worst. I work as an hourly employee in public schools and I have lost about $500 of pay due to snow days so far. The next pay check is going to be rough. Someone hit my car the other night when it was parked on the street and knocked the mirror off (I don't know if I can actually blame this on snow as the street is still plenty wide enough, but I'm feeling vindictive so I am going to). I don't have off street parking so during the 10 million parking bans they've declared I've had to pay for a garage and then slog through the snow home.

There is no Chicago style dibs in Providence because no one shovels out their spots they just park IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET (these streets are none too wide to begin with). I've gotten into about fifteen anger eyes matches with people idling in the middle of the street when I'm trying to get by.

On preview: bl1nk: Down here in Providence, the volunteer agency ServeRI has a list of people that are willing to shovel people out and they match it with a list of people who need to be shoveled out. Maybe see if there's a similar system in Boston?
posted by geegollygosh at 4:20 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


bl1nk, oftentimes the ends of the sidewalks at intersections (especially the handicap/stroller cut-outs) don't seem to get shoveled out. That would be insanely helpful for people!
posted by TwoStride at 4:21 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


bl1nk, you are a saint. my suggestion is: bus stops! it's amazing how bad they can get.

it also seems like you've found a way to obtain unlimited free lawn chairs! use them for justice.
posted by ghostbikes at 4:25 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Seattle, here. We're like Utah, with that unseasonably warm weather, but only half the amount of snowpack (39% average statewide, much lower in some places). So not only are our ski areas closed, but there may be a bit of a drought this year. We had massive late snow last spring, but the weather people say that's unlikely this year.

Boston, if we could get some of your snow in our mountains, I think we'd both be happy. Be careful out there!
posted by lhauser at 4:31 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wish there was a way to move all that snow from Beantown to the West Coast & let the ground out there filter the evil stuff out. *sigh* Hang in there you guys.
posted by yoga at 4:32 PM on February 12, 2015


I live in Ottawa. We remove our snow as well. Boston looks hellish and I'm not sure why people would think that it's not a pain in the ass to live in a place that is snowed in. Or that the locals are just bitching. It chips away at everyone and everything, creating a cascade of morass from which the populace can barely remove itself. Plus, depressing.
posted by One Hand Slowclapping at 4:33 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Uh, also, Boston folks--I'm working next week in Mattapan and driving up from Providence. Usually it's an easy drive--95 to 138 N and then a few jogs on local streets. Should I expect it to take twice as long or should that route mostly be okay? Since I don't actually have to drive too much in Boston proper, my fingers are crossed.
posted by geegollygosh at 4:46 PM on February 12, 2015


I was listening to the radio the other day and heard that Boston got six feet of snow in week.

I've lived my whole live in Montana from the mountains to the prairies, I own four-wheel drives, I've done more winter driving on worse roads than most people ever will. I've dealt with storms that dropped three feet in a day.

But six feet? Damn, that's a crippling amount.
posted by ITravelMontana at 4:48 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm working next week in Mattapan and driving up from Providence.

Which day(s)? There's another storm potentially coming in Wednesday(ish?).

Monday will be bad as that will be the plow-out day for the Saturday/Sunday blizzard. If you're coming Tuesday, the highway will probably be mostly OK plow-wise, but there will likely be heavy, heavy volume delays in the morning. The local roadways will be very bad and I would allow lots of time, especially if you're traveling inbound in the morning or outbound at night.

I'd also stick to a middle lane whenever possible because the leftmost and rightmost lanes can suddenly disappear under 3+ foot snowbanks.

Also, you may want to check with wherever you are working in advance to make sure there's parking available. Parking is... challenging... as many places can't plow out the usual number of spots.
posted by pie ninja at 4:56 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember the Blizzard of '78. There was a snowstorm in late January (the 22ish, if I recall), then the Blizzard, which was Febuary 6-8. There was a break in between to recover from the snowfall. This time, no. You have big snowfall, then a lot more on top of that.

Sending good thoughts to everyone up there.
posted by SillyShepherd at 5:01 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks Pie Ninja. The place thankfully has a parking lot. I should have clarified--I won't be driving in on days that are bad if there's another storm, I just wanted to know how much extra time I should leave on "normal" days coming in through Milton and southern Mattapan. They'll cancel if it's bad--yay, more lost income!
posted by geegollygosh at 5:03 PM on February 12, 2015


Good that you have a parking lot and don't have to drive on bad days! Bad about lost income. :-/

I'd suggest allowing around three times whatever time it typically takes you if you're heading inbound. If you were heading all the way in to Boston or hitting 93N I'd suggest longer, but the Mattapan line is still running (for now) and from what I've heard, there's less traffic there than in Quincy (where the Neponset River Bridge has been backed up over 2 hours deep in the mornings -- a bad morning before this would have been ~45 minutes).
posted by pie ninja at 5:10 PM on February 12, 2015


Hypatia: "Plus corgi-sized alcoves, for when my neighbor walks his dog and meets another person--the corgi gets tucked into the drift to allow others to pass"

Maybe it's how grim the rest of this thread has been, but I laughed for a good five minutes at this image. Maybe it's just imagining the resigned, reproachful corgi looks. Thanks for that.

I do admit to idly daydreaming that I was back in MA from TX, just so I wouldn't have to go into work tomorrow, but holy hell it was 79 degrees in Austin yesterday. We're going to DIE this summer.

Stay warm, corgis of Boston!
posted by theweasel at 5:30 PM on February 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


Just dropped in to mention living through the famed Blizzard of '78 during my Boston-area childhood. This seems like it's more snow, but '78 seems more devastating. Anyone here live through both? I'd be interested in hearing comparisons.

I did. And I am a weather nut who has followed Boston weather very closely my entire life. So a few things to emphasize first. Boston receives on average just 43 inches of snow over an entire season. Moreover, in a NORMAL Boston winter there are frequent thaws with rain that melt away the snow rapidly. Hence, in a NORMAL winter it is not a problem when the next big storm comes around. And remember, in roughly half the winters less than 43 inches of snow falls, and in some winters much less. So getting 80 inches in 3 weeks--with no thaw is a VERY BIG DEAL.

Now back to 1978. Here is what happened and most people even in Boston don't remember these critical details. There was actually a blizzard on about Jan 20th that year that dropped about 2 feet in the Boston area, breaking all sorts of records at the time. Then a week after that, a huge storm moved up through Ohio and western NY. That placed Boston on the warm rainy side of that storm. All of the snow was literally washed away in 24 hours. By the way, this same rain storm in Boston was a huge blizzard on the west/cold side of the storm in the Midwest. This Boston rain storm is called the Blizzard of 78 in the Midwest! So it gets confusing. OK...so all the previous snow was melted, and then a week later the Boston Blizzard of 1978 hit with 27 inches of snow. That was on Feb 6-7th. But here is an important detail about the rest of that winter. IT DID NOT SNOW AGAIN!!! It literally stopped snowing in Boston after the Blizzard of 1978, and the snow just melted in a very civil and controlled fashion over the next month or so. But.....I must say that the winds and coastal flooding/destruction from the Blizzard of 1978 have NOT been matched by any winter storm since that day.

Back to present day. There is now a blizzard warning up for Boston for Sat Night/Sunday. Another foot (if not more---I bet it will come out closer to 18 inches) will fall. And then another even jucier storm will hit on Wednesday. I think by the end of next week Boston will go from "this is a really bad inconvenience" to full on crisis mode.

And by the way----Arctic cold is about to invade all of the middle and eastern part of the country, and the long range forecast calls for colder than normal conditions to plague the Midwest and east and south into March. And this will mean snow and maybe ice storms down south. Watch for that next week.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:39 PM on February 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


I'm on Cape Cod, I've got a driveway (unpaved, fuck!) so I'm lucky compared to Boston and the surrounding areas, but the snow drifts blocking line of sight at corners and intersections are starting to give me straight up panic attacks. It's bad enough in the summer when it's just oldsters driving 3000 pound Buicks with a cataract and a half and shit drunk MMA t-shirt neck tattoo massholes driving 20 over the limit in donked F-250's, but as said above now it's everyone with AWD who thinks that means they can drive their usual speed in the snow with factory tires. I'm not a particularly nervous dude, but it's stressful out here.

If I don't flee this state to die in a hurricane on a tropical island like god intended, I'm going to get a small 4x4 pickup with some ground clearance, but I promise to continue to follow the safe winter driving practices my dad taught me, leave an extra 3 car lengths for braking, slow the fuck down, steer into the skid, flip off the tailgaters and so on. In conclusion: God save the Commonwealth and send sunshine, kitty litter, rock salt and sand.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


This fall we hired two new guys, one moved up from LA and another from SC. All through December and early January we were telling 'em "Boy, this is a pretty mild winter. You guys got off easy."

Poor guys. They enjoyed it at first.

I was a kid an 1978 and yes, that was BAD, but it was a single storm. It did shut the city down for a week or so and my dad narrowly escaped being one of the thousands of people stuck on Rt. 128. I have no memory of what the rest of that winter was like but this year has got to be worse. It's just one storm after another. We're getting another one on Sunday!

For some reason, even though there is no good reason for it and everything I do in my cubicle I do remotely, my boss is against us working from home. I've had to take three vacation days so far because I couldn't get in. I can afford it, after 20 years I have a lot of ET built up, but the newer guys are basically losing their summer vacations because of all this crap.

People telling other people to stop complaining about whatever severe weather they're currently having are some of the worst people.
posted by bondcliff at 5:49 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is this bright spot of local news: Ayn Rand Dead in Gloucester Snowstorm.
posted by Miko at 5:51 PM on February 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


Also, this AskMe question, asked this November, justifies the existence of AskMe more than anything.

Can't wait for the follow-up.
posted by bondcliff at 5:54 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah fshgrl it's hilarious up here, all those old people stuck in their houses, all the people who can't get to work, people getting killed by snowplows.

Right. And this person is bitching about having to walk a block on a poorly shoveled sidewalk. That's not a major winter problem. Your roof falling in, is a problem.
posted by fshgrl at 5:54 PM on February 12, 2015


I want to add another meteorological perspective about winter in Boston. Of the total precipitation that Boston receives in winter, most of it (like 2/3 or even a bit more) NORMALLY falls as rain. The other 1/3, which works out to roughly 4 inches of precipitation falls as snow. So 4 inches of precipitation creates about 40 inches of snow in a normal winter. That is a snow:liquid ratio of 10:1, which is typical here. This kind of ratio produces a wet snow because normally snow storms in Boston are not especially cold, with the temperature not far from 32. But over the last few weeks, the storms have been very cold, with temperatures in the teens and 20's. This has produced a much drier snow with snow:liquid rations more like 20:1. This is called the "fluff factor". What this means is that in a normal winter storm that produces say 1 inch of total precipitation, about 10 inches of snow would fall. But in the storms over the past few weeks, that same 1 inch of precipitation is producing 20 inches of snow (the fluff factor). In other words, if it were warmer (normal), Boston would have gotten half the amount of snow from the same snow storm. There are climate scientists claiming that this anomalous snowfall is a result of unusually warm ocean water off the east coast (warm water would yield more moisture in the air and more precipitation). But meteorologists are pushing back against those claims because these storms have not yielded anything unusual as far as total precipitation is concerned. The huge amount of snow is due to 1) lots of storms and 2) cold temperatures creating the 20:1 fluff factor.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:55 PM on February 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


And this person is bitching about having to walk a block on a poorly shoveled sidewalk. That's not a major winter problem.

it's certainly a problem if you slip and fall, and break a bone, sprain an ankle , or injure your head. I haven't yet but I'm tense about it; my SIL managed to tear a tendon on the ice not long ago, and was laid up for a week plus by it. We have layers of ice, packed snow, damp snow, and more ice and there is almost nowhere with good footing. It's not a huge problem if you're able-bodied and have good shoes. It's a little bit of a problem if it's dark, you aren't seeing that well, you're hustling because you're in the middle of the street, you have little kids with you, etc. I wouldn't pooh-pooh the issue of having to walk on some pretty rough surfaces. A fall can be totally disastrous.

Things could always be worse, and they probably are worse for someone, but that doesn't mean they're not bad, or that it's all right to belittle people who are having trouble and feeling the stress.
posted by Miko at 5:59 PM on February 12, 2015 [33 favorites]


Thanks for the knowledgeable comments, Seymour_Zamboni.
posted by Miko at 6:00 PM on February 12, 2015


My brother is a firefighter in Brookline. Texts today:

Me: oh my god are old people starving and dropping like flies?
Him: Yes.

Most of what he does is EMS. He is not fucking kidding. This is a nightmare.
posted by tristeza at 6:12 PM on February 12, 2015 [21 favorites]


Yeah, snowy sidewalks are more than just annoying. Unless you have two working, strong legs you could be trapped in your house. I'm young and (somewhat) fit and I have trouble when there's only a narrow path of trampled snow when people refuse to shovel. Two years ago I fell and cracked the back of my head on the ground; luckily nothing damaged but if I were elderly or infirm I probably would have been in a bad way.

So yes, complaining about unshovelled sidewalks is not just being whiny. It's dangerous, especially when such a large proportion of our population relies on walking to commute and do all the other daily life tasks.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:22 PM on February 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


My brother is a firefighter in Brookline. Texts today:

Me: oh my god are old people starving and dropping like flies?
Him: Yes.

Most of what he does is EMS. He is not fucking kidding. This is a nightmare.


but it's not a real problem until the old people's roofs cave in on their corpses
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:23 PM on February 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


I know my remark about Minnesota lite was a bit off (and darn it I meant Montana, rawr). I knew it had snowed a hella amount but quantifying it (80" in 3 weeks!) is eye opening, even after looking at all my friend's pictures and posts.

I was thinking more about investment in infrastructure and the age/growth of the areas. I've done Boston and it's little streets. Until you start knocking stuff down to build more parking garages or closing streets to turn into green belts (and how do you decide!?) or doing a big-dig like project for both MTBA and to handle current and future deluge ... I keep thinking of the Alan Steele books that show the effects of global warming a bit on (and I think his estimate was conservative) where the Boston area is sub-tropical ...

Boston didn't have to really build for snow. It's really showing, though (food bank info, shoveling brigades, tristeza's post comment up there) ... This disaster is really showing how fragile our day to day paycheck to paycheck lives are and how easily it can be disrupted beyond an extended inconvenience.

I touristed through a post-storm area once. We were hosted well and set up to ride it out, and the storm was mildish, though there were areas without power for weeks afterward. We got off lucky, but the crush at the grocery stores after was tremendous. I went to grab a few things, though I guess I really didn't need them. Some EMTs in front of us were buying groceries to feed their crew and were short. Some of us in line pooled twenties to keep them from putting stuff back (their first idea till we stepped in ... someone cut them off at "Well, maybe we don't nee...").

Wish I could do more from here. Thanks for the links to the backpack programs, folks.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 6:26 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Lived through a dozen Boston winters and many more out in the Berkshires. My last winter in the South End 95-96 it seemed like we got clobbered every weekend for a while. Girlfriend's car got plowed in during the first big snow. She waited for it to melt a bit, but it just piled up more into a cargloo of epic proportions. Didn't drive at all for a month or two. And, this series of storms makes 95-96 look like nothing.

Don't get much snow living in Tokyo, but we get other things. And, the city infrastructure generally just keeps on working. People just take it for granted because it works so well. Takes money and people agreeing to supporting the stuff that makes life in a big city possible for everyone.
posted by Gotanda at 6:30 PM on February 12, 2015


You guys, I can reassure you that the corgi was fine. The first time it happened the snow was extremely powdery, and it just made a little huff as it was plopped into the snowbank. Then it was extracted, shook itself off, and continued jogging along. Now the alcoves are at ground level, so it only has to move horizontally.

No word on its reaction to local fire hydrants being mostly snow-covered.

Honestly, every dog I've seen out and about has seemed pretty happy, including the local mastiff, who now has a much longer timespan to bark at commuters since everything's slowed down, and a darling little terrier who was in my temporary custody while its master helped push a stuck car. (I offered to hold his dog's leash, because the terrier knew this job was VERY IMPORTANT but was unsure of how exactly it could assist.) One does see certain dogs who are not thrilled with their protective booties, but they are obviously keeping a dignified manner.

This video sums up the canine mood.
posted by Hypatia at 6:35 PM on February 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


The one thing that is driving me nuts in my own little personal bit of Boston is some of the neighbors down the street, who have taken to shoveling out their parking spaces into the middle of the street. Now I can almost understand that in some place like South Boston or the South End, where few people have yards and there's no place to put it, but every single residence on our street here in the boonies of Roslindale has a yard. Also, we're on a hill. So these people fill the street with snow, only this time no plow is coming, the top melts in the sun during the day and then at night it all freezes and turns the street into a skating rink that is impossible to pass unless you want to become airborne as you try to go down the hill.

The result: This morning, I was driving our daughter to her bus stop when I had to stop because our immediate neighbor was heading right at us (this is also one of those fabulous Boston streets that's officially two way, even though it's barely that even in the summer, let alone after six+ feet of snow). She'd been forced to turn around and head down the hill the other way, where, fortunately, only one or two people have taken to reapplying snow to the street. So after we maneuvered into somebody's coned-off space to let her by, we did the same thing.

That boat that foundered in the middle of downtown, though? Best thing ever.
posted by adamg at 6:37 PM on February 12, 2015


Does any city plow the sidewalks?

Boulder does along major routes, also the bike paths.

Meanwhile it is raining at Vail and Breckenridge and while we are above average on precip, our snowpack is dangerously low. You may laugh but the function of the snowpack is not just for the ski recreation economy - there are a LOT of people (ahem Las Vegas, Los Angeles...) who depend on the snowpack in the Central Rockies for water year round. If your water is not locked up in our snowpack and released slowly by melting, 3 things happen: water rationing, expensive produce, and fires.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:37 PM on February 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Can anybody recommend any good weather forecasting blogs/forums that discuss the predictions of the various models and such? I found this one which is actually pretty good, exactly what I'm looking for, but would enjoy additional recs...
posted by Perplexity at 6:37 PM on February 12, 2015


And this person is bitching about having to walk a block on a poorly shoveled sidewalk. That's not a major winter problem.

Oh my god. People can and regularly do wipe out on unshoveled sidewalks, even people in excellent shape. If you sprain an ankle - a relatively minor injury - and you normally get around town by walking, you are pretty much fucked. Temporarily fucked, but fucked all the same.

A block is a terribly long distance on a path that's narrow, uneven, and frozen solid in parts.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:38 PM on February 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


When he's not too busy preparing forecasts for the news (which seems to be the last couple of weeks), Matt Noyes at NECN gets fairly detailed with his discussions of the impending weather around here.

But if you really want to get into the weeds of Boston-area weather, the local NWS office's Forecaster's Discussion is wonderful.

It's been especially fun of late because NWS Taunton forecasters are local forecasters and local forecasters are fresh - and some are clearly enjoying their jobs. Before the first blizzard, after long paragraphs of dry, technical weather talk, all of a sudden the forecaster burst out with "IT'S BOMBOGENESIS BABY!" And until the most recent bulletin tonight, the discussion of the weekend blizzard included this line: "A COLD-HEARTED START INTO VALENTINES DAY."
posted by adamg at 6:47 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


And this person is bitching about having to walk a block on a poorly shoveled sidewalk. That's not a major winter problem.

I don't know, I feel like I narrowly miss running over about three kids a day who are walking to school in the street because the sidewalks aren't shoveled and the streets are about half of their normal width.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:54 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Try walking a block on an unshoveled, icy sidewalk while holding a squirming 10 month old baby without falling or dropping her on her head and then get back to me.

Super whiny, I guess.
posted by lydhre at 6:57 PM on February 12, 2015 [17 favorites]


Man, poor Bostonites. This seems really crazy. I have a good friend up there who is surviving fine (and I think can work from home) but is miserable from all the miserable-ness. I want to send her a care package to make life less miserable. How is mail/package delivery? Am I just making some mail carrier's life more miserable?
posted by aka burlap at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2015


But also, like, it's Boston. Why don't they have the infrastructure to deal with this?

Huh. Never seen those two words in the same paragraph before. Not trying to be snarky with this sentence, but I'm going to wager that you've never been to Boston and certainly never tried driving through that city even on a nice sunny day in June.

Boston and Philadelphia are the reason that other cities have the infrastructures they do. Built for horse drawn carriages and lacking significant overhaul, civil planners study both cities as examples of what not to do.

I like to imagine most civil planning meetings in this country in the past two centuries have begun with someone saying, "let's not let people build our city like that."
posted by dances with hamsters at 7:00 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


My sympathies, Bostonites. I'm in Milwaukee and I can offer you dry roads and hot cocoa if you want to visit.
posted by desjardins at 7:01 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does any city plow the sidewalks?

Madison, WI did a bit when I still lived there as of a few years ago, but as far as I know it was just the downtown stretch of sidewalks leading from the state Capitol to the beginnings of the University. About a mile, I think? It was wonderful to see, though. Single-person bobcats did the scooping/removal followed by a fantastic little vehicle (painted like a cow) with a giant spinning brush on the front that scrubbed the rest off.
posted by theatro at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2015


Can anybody recommend any good weather forecasting blogs/forums that discuss the predictions of the various models and such?

Joe Bastardi is a highly skilled forecaster in my book (and, just so you know, an anti climate change crank). He said, weeks before the Boston snow blitz hit, and I quote "people in New England will be talking about the rest of this winter for the rest of their lives". Wow....was he ever correct. Anyway, he works for "WeatherBell" which is a private forecasting outfit. But he does a public video blog every Saturday in which he lays out his thinking about the models, global patterns, analog years for seasonal outlooks, etc. I look forward to it every Saturday.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


P.S. the little cow-patterned vehicle played a recorded voice saying, "MOOOO-ove over, please!"

P.P.S. Of course it did.
posted by theatro at 7:03 PM on February 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Two hours ago I noticed red flashing lights at the corner. Then I saw two firemen, one EMT and a cop walking towards my house. The next door neighbor had pressed her lifecall button. But the street is so narrow with snowbanks right now that emergency vehicles are not allowed to drive down it without first walking down to make sure the vehicles would not be trapped.

Fun, eh?

All is well with the neighbor now. And I'm in a good position to SSH my work in tomorrow if need be. As it is, my team (a Cambridge Kendall Square dotcom) can just barely make sure to be together once a day, as people stream in and out based on the vagaries of the MBTA. The cleaners, meanwhile, come in at the appointed time, clean at the appointed time, and leave at the appointed time, snow be damned. They're Central Americans, and consider the measure of a man to be his willingness to undertake discomfort for the benefit of his family. So there's no way they'll tell the truth about how they're coping with all this and getting in. But we can guess. So we're disinclined to bitch about our lot.
posted by ocschwar at 7:04 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


One interesting fact about Boston's development is that,unlike other old cities in this country, it never had a city - leveling fire. It was never given the chance to renew itself like Chicago, so it's largely the same layout it was prior to the Revolutionary War. Some parts, like the Back Bay, are new reclaimed land and you can see that in the grid pattern there. The rest is more or less original.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:06 PM on February 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Can someone explain to me how people are hit/killed by snowplows? I mean, surely they move really slowly and you must hear them coming, right? Sorry if I come across as ignorant, not familiar with snow at all, raised in Australia on the edge of the desert... My condolences to anyone living through this, by the way, it sounds horrific.
posted by Jubey at 7:13 PM on February 12, 2015


How is mail/package delivery? Am I just making some mail carrier's life more miserable?

I would say not great. Most of the days when it's been actively snowing, and generally for one day after while we're digging out, we just haven't been getting mail. I'm waiting on a couple packages ordered a while ago and have had to be pretty patient. Delivery is just not easy - everything is slower than normal.
posted by Miko at 7:16 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Snow plows in the city can move at least 25mph. Combined with people walking in the streets or trying to cross streets at intersections with eight foot high snow piles, it's easy to miss seeing them and react too slowly.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:17 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's snowing pretty hard right now, not predicted to accumulate to much, but will still make someone's day tomorrow even worse than it was. Is it terrible that as I walked out to my car to make sure the wipers were up, I couldn't help but look up and admire the pretty? It's just so stupid beautiful.

That said, if anyone knows someone in the Somerville area that needs any help - shoveling, someone to run to the store for them, a home cooked meal, anything to make the days coming up a little easier - please memail me and if I can lend a hand I will.
posted by danapiper at 7:18 PM on February 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Snowplows don't move that slowly and they are pretty much just enormous blind spots. (Lots of -- maybe most -- accidents happen when turning.) The drivers are very high up.
posted by jeather at 7:18 PM on February 12, 2015


surely they move really slowly

No, they don't. That's the first thing. They go at a pretty good clip.

I'm sure someone here knows a lot more about the plowing business than I do, but at least part of the deal is, we have some people who work for the city public works department and drive a form of official plow. Then we have contractors - people with other jobs and lives who moonlight as plow drivers. Those guys are not always the most conscientious and they get a little overexcited, IMO. Then, too, the city drivers just get exhausted and burnt out, since they aren't getting enough rest - any rest - lately. They're up all night, they're often blasting music in the cabs of the trucks, they're hopped up on Dunkin', and generally feeling pressured to get a lot done and move fast. They're extremely cavalier about backing up and other bad-sightline maneuvers and they expect everyone and everything to just get out of their way. Add to that the super narrow streets and really bad visibility with tall snow-mountains at the corners, and if a plow is coming fast, and you can't easily step back or climb over a pile or you slip and fall, you could easily end up in their path. And they're just moving too fast to stop, and the traction isn't great, either.
posted by Miko at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Can someone explain to me how people are hit/killed by snowplows?

The snow banks are over your head at crosswalks. You can hardly see cars coming. Since a snow plow is not actually louder than any other car, it's trivially easy to walk into the street (which is unavoidable if you want to cross it) and into any kind of vehicle, plow being most dangerous.

Said snowbanks also make it nearly impossible for cars to see while turning. So, you're a pedestrian walking in the street because you really have no other options, plow turns and didn't see you unt it's too late...
posted by sonika at 7:25 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I almost drove into a frontend loader moving snow today. It wasn't moving that fast, but I came around a corner that had the snow mountain it was building blocking my vision and whoops! plow!

You might be able to hear one if you're on foot, but no way to tell where exactly it is and, as mentioned above, you can't get out of its way.
posted by TwoStride at 7:27 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh I forgot one other thing - when there's a good amount of snow, cars and snowplows are actually quieter because the snow really muffles normal vehicle noise.
posted by Miko at 7:33 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


> One interesting fact about Boston's development is that,unlike other old cities in this country, it never had a city - leveling fire

Really?

Though I guess you are right about it not being city leveling. But an awful lot of modern Boston is landfill, so I the the pre-Revolutionary War layout for it would be "Ocean". (Here's an animated .gif with the full landfill history.)

But I'll agree that somehow the same pre-Revolutionary War mindset lives on. People expect things to be tightly packed together. Maybe if land is so scarce that you have to ship it in from Needham to fill you harbors, you're going to put as many structures on it as you can, and "waste" as little as you can on streets.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:37 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Meh. Frankly, if the rail lines didn't break in the snow, and if the city just closed the streets to all traffic except buses, the city of Boston would have coped with this snow just fine. I'll still take Boston over Cartesian Chicago any day.
posted by ocschwar at 7:42 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


They're up all night, they're often blasting music in the cabs of the trucks, they're hopped up on Dunkin' ...

This really should be a Jonathan Richman song. "Hopped up on Dunkin'" by itself practically paints a picture.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:43 PM on February 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


Another fun thing about the sidewalks: many, if not most, of the sidewalks in Boston proper are brick (HISTORIC! brick, the Beacon Hill Neighborhood Association would have you know). This means that the sidewalks are uneven even when completely clear and dry. Start piling slush and ice onto uneven, bumpy sidewalks...

In my neighborhood I walk in the street on the smaller side streets because it's a hell of a lot safer than wiping out and landing on that baby I'm carrying.
posted by sonika at 7:54 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


> So, you're a pedestrian walking in the street because you really have no other options

And you are wearing a coat with a hood, and also possibly a hat (because it is cold!)....even if you don't have earbuds in, it's going to be harder to hear things, and the hood will additionally mess with your peripheral vision.
posted by rtha at 7:58 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I co-sign this article.
posted by threeants at 8:01 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Like I can't even read the comments in this thread even though I'm interested to see what people have to say, because the past few weeks have been so wearying that I don't want to read about the T being terrible 8 hours before having to get back on it in what has become a vaguely Groundhog Day-esque unending farce.

Today the train I rode on went through multiple stations without letting passengers off because the driver didn't realize that our car's doors weren't opening. I honestly wouldn't be overly shocked at this point if I stepped onto the Red Line in the morning and it was the car from Snowpiercer with all the murder ax people.
posted by threeants at 8:06 PM on February 12, 2015 [40 favorites]


A history of snowplowing in Boston. The 1901 snapshot of packed snow in the street but clear sidewalks on Beacon St is particularly fascinating.
posted by andrewesque at 8:09 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess you don't need to read this evening's MBTA alert message for the Red Line, threeants.
Good luck.
posted by uosuaq at 8:10 PM on February 12, 2015


threeants, DO NOT accept any hardboiled eggs while you're on the T!
posted by TwoStride at 8:12 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah just eat those weird gelatinous protein food cubes...I'm sure they're fine.
posted by uosuaq at 8:16 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, this AskMe question, asked this November, justifies the existence of AskMe more than anything.

So we did, thank FSM, end up buying a gas snowblower, after much deliberation and reading of Consumer Reports. But we only got a mid-sized, single stage blower, which should've been enough for a "typical" snowfall.

Yeah.

I actually went in to work during the Groundhog's day storm, but left early because my husband was stuck in Chicago and I was going to have to deal with the snow by myself. By the time I got home, all trace of my having left the house, and any evidence of the path cleared from the previous storm, had totally disappeared. I managed to clear about half of the sidewalk on our corner lot before the snowblower just couldn't handle the amount of snow. Plus, it was running out of gas.

The extra gas was in the shed, which was totally buried behind 4+ feet of snow. I tried to get to it, but gave up when the snow reached waist-high.

Luckily, one of our neighbors has a huge snowblower and he was out right at the same time, and just cleared the rest of the sidewalk.

We finally had trash pickup this week, though, so that's something!
posted by DiscourseMarker at 8:26 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I lived in Boston for five years until 2005 and it was never this awful.
posted by Renoroc at 8:33 PM on February 12, 2015


So yes, complaining about unshovelled sidewalks is not just being whiny. It's dangerous, especially when such a large proportion of our population relies on walking to commute and do all the other daily life tasks.

Yup my mother's neighbor will be on a ventilator in an ICU for the most-likely very short remainder of his life due to a bad fall on unshoveled, unsalted sidewalks. My mother fell in the same place and was only spared his fate because she landed on her dog. (The dog is fine--it's a quite big and sturdy dog.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:40 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Coworkers and I were discussing it today - we literally cannot remember the last day it did not snow. Both because it has snowed today, yesterday, Tuesday, Monday, Sunday, and Saturday, but because it has snowed so many days in the past three weeks and so much that I just can't separate days by weather past five days ago.

So yeah, did it snow last Friday? Because I CAN'T REMEMBER ANY MORE.
posted by maryr at 8:44 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ordinarily, I would be in Maine right now, with many feet of snow on top of the firewood. The pictures where the streets are narrowed by snowbanks - it's so dangerous. In the Northeast, lots of people heat with oil, and good luck getting a big, fat oil truck down your street. Few people shovel sidewalks, and if you are at all handicapped, you're stuck in the house. I remember one year when my son had to walk to a friend's after school instead of the usual afterschool plan. The snowbanks were over his head. Cars are trying to manage narrow streets, ice, and how are they going to see my 2nd-grader?

Surprisingly, the complaining is about the physical hassles of dealing with 6 feet of solid stuff blocking roads, piling up on your roof, etc. But it's cold, blizzardy, slushy, you have to wear lots of extra clothes, your boots get destroyed by salt, your feet are seldom dry and warm, you lose gloves, trudging through snow is exhausting, and the cost of heat is absurd, so you never get really warm. Really, Boston deserves a cup of hot chocolate, and a shot of something heartening.
posted by theora55 at 8:49 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


more dibsing humor (not boston tho): Anti-Dibs Vigilante Clears Block, Creates Art Installation
posted by ghostbikes at 9:24 PM on February 12, 2015


Where are you, Keytar Bear? A city turns its lonely eyes to you.
posted by uosuaq at 9:32 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


When I saw Snowpiercer this late last year, I didn't expect it to be so relevent to my February.
posted by maryr at 10:00 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Apparently a Boston-based friend's garbage just got picked up today for the first time in like a month—a major relief. Anyway, after reading this thread, I feel like I understand the conditions he's working under a lot better. This sucks.
posted by limeonaire at 10:14 PM on February 12, 2015


I have a Twitter list of (mostly) New England meteorologists ...

This is snow siege, it's boggling to think there could be more. I'm west of Boston by about 45 minutes, adjoining the city of Worcester. We've had about 84 inches in the last three weeks (91 or 92 for the season) -- but we have a little more room to move than Boston. It's pretty damn bad here --- but poor, poor Boston.

I am so fortunate to work from my home. Yesterday, I went out to Trader Joe's to load up on storm provisions and I couldn't resist buying a ridiculous amount of flowers, which have made me inordinately happy. I have a new understanding of the term cabin fever.

Really, I have no serious complaints, I'm safe and warm, have plenty of food and internet access. My worries are for all the terrible problems that this is causing for so many others -- and I am pretty fearful of the damage that more storms could wreak.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:19 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Did the Red Sox southbound truck make it out of town this morning?
posted by scottymac at 10:23 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gonna be a stinky ol' town come the thaw.

I have never lived in any place where it snows. Oh, that once-in-a-century event that dusts and instantly melts, but as a regular winter event? Even with the photos linked here I can't imagine living through such an event.

All best wishes from Summer.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 10:24 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


A few weeks ago, in the before time, when I could see my lawn, I asked my husband to show me how to use the snowblower, since he would be in Arizona on business when the blizzard hit. The snowblower, that piece of crap, wouldn't start. My dad, a first year snowbird, used the videophone technology of Facetime to diagnose a faulty spark plug. The husband bravely treked to Lowe's, but the new spark plug was in vain, for the snow blower would not start. The husband fled to Phoenix, and I packed up the child, the dog, anything in the pantry that could be cooked on a gas range and my hand cranked flashlight/radio and fled to my parents' house, where a neighbor bravely vowed to take on the driveway. Lo, did I take 2 1/2 extra days off work before driving to Boston to spend the night in a airport hotel before a 5:05 AM flight to Myrtle Beach Thursday morning. Yea, my child and I flew to the warm land, enjoying a balmy 40 degrees, while someone plowed our driveway before my husband returned from his desert pilgrimage on Friday. Yet there was another storm that cancelled my Monday flight home, forcing us to spend another two days in the warm lands, a feat which surely broke our hearts. We eventually found our way back home, but the unending snow made it so that my daughter has only been to school 4 1/2 days in the month of February, and I have already used half of my PTO for the year. We have accepted that we live in the new Ice Age, and every day brings more snow. We have water, but more importantly bread and milk, and we have begun thinking of the two cats and one dog less as pets but as future sources of protein (KIDDING!). The ice dams are mighty and the icicles are mightier. Perhaps by June, the snow will melt, and we will emerge, blinking back the sunlight, into a world reborn.
posted by Ruki at 11:02 PM on February 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


The Anthropocene is shaping up to be one hell of a cene.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 11:46 PM on February 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yup my mother's neighbor will be on a ventilator in an ICU for the most-likely very short remainder of his life due to a bad fall on unshoveled, unsalted sidewalks. My mother fell in the same place and was only spared his fate because she landed on her dog. (The dog is fine--it's a quite big and sturdy dog.)

I live in Minneapolis, about 1/3 of a mile from the blue line light rail and thus walk a lot. I'm in a residential neighborhood with lots of terribly, terribly slippery sidewalks. A bad fall at my age could be life altering, and not in a good way. A couple of years ago I bought a pair of trekking poles. They are literally life-changing, and have increased my wintertime mobility and confidence ten-fold. I had earlier tried a few different pairs of poles and didn't like them, and then realized that I needed to spend more money for a better pair. The cheaper ones just weren't sturdy enough, and didn't feel secure. One less expensive pair of a top-name-brand failed at the adjustable locking mechanism and suddenly slipped and almost caused a fall. From then on, I spent the money and only bought poles that promised no-slips and have been extremely pleased with them.

They come with snow baskets that are supposed to make it easier to get around in snow. I haven't had to use these yet, and can't really say how well they work.

I use a generously sized Jansport backpack and refuse to buy pants that don't have pockets which is where I keep my keys, wallet and phone. This is all to keep my hands free to use my poles. The poles also have wrist straps, that ensure that you don't drop the poles and also support your wrists when using the poles. I gave up my car just a month ago, and haven't looked back.
posted by marsha56 at 4:04 AM on February 13, 2015 [11 favorites]


At least Snowpiercer has the rich-people party cars. And a manager.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:32 AM on February 13, 2015


Seymour Zamboni: Moreover, in a NORMAL Boston winter there are frequent thaws with rain that melt away the snow rapidly. Hence, in a NORMAL winter it is not a problem when the next big storm comes around.

This is important: most "snow removal" efforts in RI & eastern MA are based on the premise that the stuff just has to be moved out of the way for a while so it can melt. As a result, it's more like managing the snow than actually removing it. That philosophy fails us when the temps never actually climb before the next snow.
posted by wenestvedt at 5:14 AM on February 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I live in Minneapolis, about 1/3 of a mile from the blue line light rail and thus walk a lot. ... A couple of years ago I bought a pair of trekking poles. They are literally life-changing, and have increased my wintertime mobility and confidence ten-fold. ... They come with snow baskets that are supposed to make it easier to get around in snow. I haven't had to use these yet, and can't really say how well they work.
marsha56, I do a fair amount of backcountry winter hiking and the snow baskets are indeed quite useful for walking around soft, freshly fallen snow. In such conditions, your narrow, spear like poles will tend to plunge in fairly deep until they find some kind of hard surface to brace against. The baskets work like snowshoes in that they'll compress the snow as you press down and both make it easier to brace and less tiring to use. I encourage you to use them the next time that you're out in the middle of a snowfall and have some fresh powder mixed in with your drifts.

I have a pair myself and I usually bring one along when I'm not using my bike and walking to do my errands. The nice thing about having them be collapsible is that it's also easy to stow them over a courier bag or backpack whenever you get into a store/restaurant/nightclub/whatever.
posted by bl1nk at 5:42 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Both of the plow deaths I'm aware of actually happened in private parking lots -- one was a woman in her condo parking lot, and the other was a man who worked at Whole Foods and was walking through the parking lot there on his way home.

In both cases, the accidents involved private contractors, and took place while the snow was coming down and visibility was very poor. Also, pedestrians may be more defensive about plows when walking in the street, where plows are expected and run in predictable pathways. Plows clearing parking lots frequently stop, back up, and run at any angle they please.

There have been other accidents -- there have been a LOT of other accidents. I drove by a car on a snowbank facing the opposite direction on my way to work this morning (driver was fine, he was standing by the car with this expression on his face, like "What? How did my car land on a snowbank?").
posted by pie ninja at 5:43 AM on February 13, 2015


This is important: most "snow removal" efforts in RI & eastern MA are based on the premise that the stuff just has to be moved out of the way for a while so it can melt. As a result, it's more like managing the snow than actually removing it. That philosophy fails us when the temps never actually climb before the next snow.

This is a good observation. There is a definite difference in management between snow plowing/clearance and snow removal. I used to live about an hour north of here, and though there was a lot of snow every year, the management was quite different, and it never became this big a stress. I think you've nailed why - the underlying assumptions are different. In southern Maine/coastal NH, it's understood that you have to physically take the snow away, because it won't get warm enough to melt until winter is over. In the Boston area, it does seem as though the entire presumption is that plowing is enough of a solution because of course the snow will melt before long, so it won't be piling up. That presumption, of course, fails when it doesn't warm up. I couldn't believe how long it took them to get to actual snow removal (they did some removal on our street last night to make it wide enough for emergency vehicles, and last night was the first time I saw it happening). In ME/NH, snow removal was a given after every large storm - just part of the plan. I don't think it is here. They were just pushing the stuff around with plows, seemingly confused about why the piles weren't getting any smaller.
posted by Miko at 5:56 AM on February 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


Snowpiercer/MBTA mashup.
posted by fermezporte at 5:58 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


My heart goes out to all of you from here in Seattle. I was just wishing we'd get a good snow here like when I was a kid, instead of our drastically depleted snowpack, ski resorts filing for bankruptcy, and a probable drought this summer. But what you guys are dealing with is insane and catastrophic, and my thoughts are with you.

Yea, fuck. I both feel like a dick for wishing for snow now, and i'm also terrified what's coming if we had a 67 degree day in beginning of February.

I was looking through my photos and i was sledding last weekend in 2014. This is a weird year for weather all over the place so far.

Also some solidarity on transit breaking down in snow, and walking for ridiculous amounts of time to get to work in said snow. I've been there. Shown up at work smelling literally worse than i ever have any other time in my life, bundled in to all that crap.
posted by emptythought at 6:03 AM on February 13, 2015


Miko - In the Boston area, it does seem as though the entire presumption is that plowing is enough of a solution because of course the snow will melt before long, so it won't be piling up.

And it's worth noting that this is not an unreasonable presumption. The average daytime high for Boston in February is 38 degrees F, which is plenty warm to melt the snow on any surface that has been even cursorily cleared, and to seriously reduce the size of the piles. In order for this presumption to fail, we need to get a series of storms surrounded by days of significantly below average temperature, which just happens to be exactly what we've gotten in spades for the last three weeks.
posted by firechicago at 6:10 AM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I love that the MBTA mashup uses the recent footage of the passengers kicking in the windows on the red line train. For those of you not local, this happened shortly before the current horrendous spate of storms, right at the end of January. Something sparked under a train on the tracks, there was smoke, the lights went out in one car, the doors wouldn't open, and the emergency release wouldn't work. The passengers started to panic, with the DC incident/fire/death fresh in their minds, and the folks on the platform started to panic on their behalf.

Since this is Boston, the obvious solution to all involved was to immediately kick the living hell out of all the windows and drag everyone to safety.

Then the T got all snitty and said the passengers had all overreacted and they would have let them out, you know, eventually, and that it wasn't even a real fire as these things go, and wondered who was going to pay for the mess, while the passengers gave the T the middle finger in a response. About a week later the T grudgingly apologized for the incident.

Before. All this happened before the weather got bad.
posted by instead of three wishes at 6:31 AM on February 13, 2015 [38 favorites]


Does any city plow the sidewalks?

They do here in Dover, NH, though it's just the major streets and ones near schools.

But also, like, it's Boston. Why don't they have the infrastructure to deal with this?

Maybe it's age but I never understand how people get confused by this: every city has budget constraints so they allocate enough money to handle the average snowfall (plus a standard deviation or two assuming there's money for them). This is why an inch or two of snow down South results in a ton of accidents and why London has had such problems in recent winters.

How is mail/package delivery? Am I just making some mail carrier's life more miserable?

The dog and I see the mailman most days and he's been holding up just fine, though he's stopped delivery at one house where they only bothered to clear their back door since it opens onto the driveway and apparently the USPS motto does not cover trudging up invisible porch stairs through hip-deep snow. Not as impressed with our neighbor's paper boy who dropped the post-blizzard paper smack-dab in the middle of her yard where it's going to sit for a month or two.

The snow blower is starting to complain about the years of inattention and that makes me nervous about the two storms we're supposed to see in the next week. Guess I'd better hit the roofs again and at some point I need to dig out the storm drain or we're going to float away come March.
posted by yerfatma at 7:04 AM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


The smoke-filled Red Line car was the beginning of the end for Beverly Scott. After her spokesman issued a statement that there was no reason for passengers to kick in the windows, Gov. Baker said he was appalled by that answer. Then came the snow ...

Meanwhile, Mayor Walsh just issued a statement this morning to clarify his statement yesterday that the T might have to shut down this weekend because of the blizzard. Now he's saying he didn't mean to say he wants the T to shut, just that it's sucking so hard it might have to, but he really hopes it stays operating.
posted by adamg at 7:06 AM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I woke up this morning and the temperature outside was 6 degrees Fahrenheit. The forecast calls for 8 to 12 more inches of snow this weekend.

Just saying.
posted by alms at 7:20 AM on February 13, 2015


The poles also have wrist straps, that ensure that you don't drop the poles and also support your wrists when using the poles.

And the correct strap technique has the strap held against the pole using the web between thumb and forefinger, with the loop length adjusted to be snug against the back of the hand.

In essence, reach through the loop, rotate your wrist back and around to capture the tail of the strap into your thumb web, and grasp the pole.

This way, the pole is self-retrieving when released. A flick of the wrist brings it back into your grip.

A search for cross country ski pole grip might illustrate it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


adamg: ...NWS Taunton forecasters are local forecasters and local forecasters are fresh - and some are clearly enjoying their jobs.

That may well be my neighbor Frank, who is pretty buttoned-down but who loves his job. If you see a forecast note signed FN or FrankN, that's him; on FaceBook we squee about him. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2015


Our town has this 'See Click Fix' online/mobile issue reporting system and we've reached the point where polite notices of issues have evolved into howling for the blood of plow drivers who don't plow, mail carriers who don't deliver, recycling that has not been picked up, and sidewalks that have not been cleared. I'm seeing more and more vigilante threats being posted and deleted.

It'll be torches and snow shovels before long.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:11 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


dances with hamsters: Boston and Philadelphia are the reason that other cities have the infrastructures they do. Built for horse drawn carriages and lacking significant overhaul, civil planners study both cities as examples of what not to do.

Amen! In the early 1990s I worked in Back Bay (on St. James Ave. between Arlington and Berkeley). There was a project going on then to replace the sewer pipes. These new lines were only the third ones ever laid in the area; the first generation had been wooden troughs, and the second generation had last for like two hundred years.

Boston's "bones" are terrible!
posted by wenestvedt at 9:17 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have been thinking and reading so much about Boston's weather woes that just now I looked down into our garden, where there's a bunch of construction equipment sitting on the deck, and some sofa cushions (our neighbors are having some work done), and I thought "They should remember to take all that inside before the snow starts."
posted by rtha at 9:22 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


so... this is a ski forecasting blog for central Colorado, which you might think has zero relevance to the Boston discussion? Except for the part where the persistent pattern Joel is talking about is exactly what's wrong with East Coast weather.

The strong, deep, persistent western ridge / eastern trough is something climatologists have been talking about as a harbinger of climate change. Pretty much what's been happening over the past decade is that the "Aleutian Ridge" (winter high pressure) has been both deepening and shifting slightly further east to bring drought to California and persistent severe weather outbreaks to the East Coast.

Some of the dynamic that drives this ridge is Arctic warming, among other things. A very simplistic take on global weather patterns but it's a useful piece of climatology that's actually pretty well understood if I'm reading my NOAA climatologists' discussions correctly.
posted by lonefrontranger at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


The National Weather Service in Taunton has issued a blizzard watch

Wait, it's gotten so bad that the NWS is in the Taunton now?

"And I thought they smelled bad on the outside"
posted by radwolf76 at 10:37 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]




"Tauntaun," pronounced "tau'n,"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:01 AM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


My brother and his family are in more rural Massachusetts - right before the Cape; but they've still been kind of clobbered. Fortunately I've just learned that my brother has a snow blower, and my niece has so far only missed one day of kindergarten.

Still, I just ordered a couple of snow brick molds for the kids as a sort of antidote to cabin fever, just in case ("here, bro, send the kids out of the house to make an igloo!").
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:04 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


The transit system, in particular, has been underfunded for decades. The trains are breaking down because they are still running on DC motors, which can't deal with the cold and powdery snow. The number I've heard is $5B of investment needed. And we could do this. Gasoline prices are down by $2/gallon. If the state took back 50 cents of that, gasoline would still be at historically low prices and we'd have some money to invest in our failing transit system.

But unfortunately, the Democrats who control the legislature and the Republican who just became our governor have all decided that the most important statement to make in light of this state of emergency is that there will be "no new taxes". The governor goes out, calls the performance of the T "unacceptable" but then makes clear that he's not going to do anything about that $5B of underinvestment. It's insane.

Put Massachusetts as a whole further on the hook for more subsidizing of the MBTA?
You do realize large areas of the state are not served by the MBTA?
Most of these same areas are consistently shafted on transportation dollars (not to mention state spending in general).

No thanks. I'll pass on throwing more money at the mismanaged MBTA and receiving nothing in return but hack hires with bloated pension benefits.
posted by Consult The Oracle at 11:25 AM on February 13, 2015


> The strong, deep, persistent western ridge / eastern trough

Yeah, the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge can go jump in a lake already.
posted by rtha at 11:34 AM on February 13, 2015



Put Massachusetts as a whole further on the hook for more subsidizing of the MBTA?


Users of the MBTA subsidize drivers just by not driving.

This week we witnessed what happens when straphangers are told to drive to work. Cambridge was utterly paralyzed.

So, yes. A third of the MBTA's debt is for projects the MBTA would not have done if the MBTA had been allowed to operate autonomously. At minimum those bonds need to revert to Beacon Hill.

You do realize large areas of the state are not served by the MBTA?

You do realize that those areas get more roads money out of Boston than they put into Boston in tax money? Watch how you use the word "subsidize."
posted by ocschwar at 11:58 AM on February 13, 2015 [21 favorites]


Wait, it's gotten so bad that the NWS is in the Taunton now?
"And I thought they smelled bad on the outside"


Sounds like you're familiar with the Silver City's scent.
posted by yerfatma at 12:22 PM on February 13, 2015


Went out and raked the roofs in anticipation of more snow. Managed to fall into the waist-deep bank can first and lose my phone. I'm assuming I will find the phone via the snow blower and then really be screwed.
posted by yerfatma at 12:24 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Tauntaun," pronounced "tau'n,"
Would that make the residents Tau'nies?


Ridership info for MTBA in scorecard format.

37.3 million people rode the system in October 2014. That's a lot of cars off of the streets. 1.38 million people on average, weekdays.

Heck, the times I've been to Boston, I've never even rented a car. I've ridden the system as far out as Lowell and Braintree from the airport.

"Subsidize" away, IMO, speaking as a non-resident. But I'm generally fond of decent area transit no matter where I've lived where it wasn't extremely rural (okay, so ten miles to the grocery store and 250 to the airport might not be that rural).
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 12:25 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Tauntaun," pronounced "tau'n,"

Yeah, I didn't even get this joke until I reread it and remembered that technically Taunton has two T's instead of one plus a glottal stop.

You do realize large areas of the state are not served by the MBTA?

I almost never visit the Cape, but I still think the Sagamore Bridge ought to be kept up to code.
posted by maryr at 12:57 PM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


I have a pal who drives for UPS in the Boston/Brockton area. May god have mercy on his soul.
posted by FelliniBlank at 1:07 PM on February 13, 2015


You do realize large areas of the state are not served by the MBTA?

It's not a zero-sum game. Better public transportation for every part of the state can be had if the people want it.
posted by Miko at 1:26 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I almost never visit the Cape, but I still think the Sagamore Bridge ought to be kept up to code.

That's an issue for the Army Corps of Engineers, not the state. They're responsible for the canal and it's bridges.
posted by Consult The Oracle at 2:31 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, fine, I think we should keep the rotary paved. Better?
posted by maryr at 2:33 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]




Also, about those roads: the continued freeze and near-constant plowing has opened up craters everywhere. I'm already down one snow tire and $180 to replace it so far, and feeling like i actually got lucky there.
posted by TwoStride at 2:40 PM on February 13, 2015


Sounds kind of like the Toronto Blizzard or 1999. Most of a winter's snow in a week, without the intermediate thawing which usually clears things out. Growing snowbanks, cars parked out too far and blocking streetcar tracks, side streets impassible to ambulances... The mayor called in the army to help out and the rest of the country has never let us forget it—never mind that they don't have to deal with problems like electrified outdoor railyards. There's only so much you can do, even with 1000 pieces of snow removal equipment (including 300 sidewalk plows).
posted by maledictory at 3:03 PM on February 13, 2015


For those asking about sidewalk plowing:

In Portland, Maine, the City plows over 100 miles of sidewalks - most of it in the downtown core. Portland also operates very similarly to Montreal, with the large snow blowers and dump trucks driving the snow to lots where it can be dumped.. Montreal just has bigger equipment (much larger dump trucks) and, obviously, far more budget.

The other nice thing about Montreal is that they have a public works pickup truck with a flashing yellow light and an obnoxious siren drive down your street when it is about to had snow removal be performed.. You can then run out the door, warm your car up, and wait for the plows. As the plows approach from behind, you drive around the block, and pull up behind the plows, and park back in the same (now snow-less) spot. It works really well. In Portland, they call an 8 hour overnight parking ban, regardless if they even get around to clearing your street - which technically means you can get towed, ticketed, and pay huge fees when they didn't even need you to move.

That being said it's been pretty okay here in Portland. Some streets are narrow, but there are enough driveways where you can pull aside to let another car pass through, and 90% of the time the car headed towards me pulls over for me, people are pretty nice about it. I didn't even put snow tires on my front wheel drive car this year and there hasn't been a single moment this winter where I felt it was unsafe to travel.. if temps were higher with more melt/freeze (and therefor ICE) then I'd be having more trouble with my crappy all season tires.
posted by mbatch at 4:46 PM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


She left out the part where trying to keep the sidewalk shoveled takes 3 times as long as it normally does because all the snow piles are taller than me so I toss a shovelful up and half of it slides right back down and the other half blows all over my face.

posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 2:08 PM on February 12
Wow, that was Winnipeg for a good chunk of last year.. I empathize.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 5:17 PM on February 13, 2015


You do realize large areas of the state are not served by the MBTA?

This is what I'm always telling people, why would anyone ever choose to pass through Boston when you can just fly right into Deerfield International Airport or take Amtrak to the enormous terminal in Mashpee
posted by threeants at 5:31 PM on February 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


People seem to worry a lot about the salt contaminating the snow when they dump it into the bay. But isn't the bay already salt water? And all the other stuff, oil, trash doesn't that end up in the rivers that drain into the ocean anyway? It seems strange that it is so difficult to get permission to dump it.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:43 PM on February 13, 2015


It seems strange to worry about the dumped snow poisoning the bay, because when the snow finally melts, it's going to go into the storm sewers… which empty into the bay.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:11 PM on February 13, 2015


You do realize large areas of the state are not served by the MBTA?

Lol yeah what did Boston ever do for Massachusetts anyway?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:51 PM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


People seem to worry a lot about the salt contaminating the snow when they dump it into the bay. But isn't the bay already salt water?

I suspect the concentration of salt matters. I mean, dump a bucket of salt directly onto a fish, that's not quite the same thing as it happily swimming around in water that has salt as a tiny part of its makeup.

You're probably right in that some of the runoff ends up in the bay when it's all shoved into one location. But a lot probably also seeps into the ground first, and is filtered by the earth. And there is so much more stuff than rock salt in those piles of snow. I mean, the plows are indiscriminately picking up snow, salt, motor oil, road kill, ice melt chemicals that aren't rock salt, trash, trash, more trash, probably some shoveling implements and space savers, and a few things I am guessing I would rather not know about. Those objects aren't going to end up in the storm drains when the melt comes, they'll end up wherever they were dumped. Which I would prefer not be in the Bay, personally.
posted by instead of three wishes at 8:39 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, it's about concentration, and the way a sudden salt/oil/ sediment dump can cloud water, preventing sunlight from reaching the bottom, which can result in algae growth, or change its local salinity, all of which which can interfere with the reproduction of fish and shellfish, which are important to the economy in this area and the larger ecology of the Gulf of Maine and North Atlantic. It's not ideal to dump concentrated piles of salt and petroleum and sand and exhaust residue in small harbor areas that don't get flushed out readily by tides. I'm not the marine science expert on this, but I know enough to know it's not a hankie-twisting kind of delicacy behind this, but hard-won understanding of marine ecology.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


hope u guys r all feeling ammarouse(sp?) for valentine's week!!
posted by threeants at 9:36 PM on February 13, 2015


Dearest Boston,

It's been a long time since we talked. I hope that the family is well. However, I have to ask you a massive favor. I'm sorry to have to do this, but unfortunately, it's necessary. Could you send us some snow? Please? We'll take as much as humanely possible. Our ski resorts are closing down due to lack of snow and abnormally warm temperatures. Without our mountain snowpacks, this spring and summer may be completely miserable for everyone, as that's where our water comes from. We may even have a drought. And that would be bad, very bad indeed. Not to mention, snowboarders pouting because they can't do sick runs down a volcano is a sad sight.

So, some of that snow? Please? We'll give you the 60 degree days in February as a trade.

Sincerely, Seattle.

ps. We'll win the Super Bowl next year again just you wait and see. BEAST MODE
posted by spinifex23 at 1:07 AM on February 14, 2015


And it's about to happen again! The Valentine's Day blizzard of 1940.
posted by Melismata at 6:36 AM on February 14, 2015


More snow, deep cold: Wind chills could bottom out at minus-35 in some areas late Sunday and early Monday, with Boston looking at wind chills of around minus-25, Belk said.

Take care everyone. Stay safe. Try to stay sane.
posted by rtha at 7:10 AM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


As for the rest of the state not using the MBTA... I would love to see what it would cost to add more parking in Boston for upwards of a few million more cars. That would certainly lower the overall state transportation budget for sure!

This is the same kind of "I've got mine!" crap that drives me nuts about cutting any essential service that you are not personally using. Screw those T riders! They should all just buy a car and move to Worcester!
posted by sonika at 7:23 AM on February 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


Anyone out of towner who had tried to park near Fenway should appreciate the MBTA.
posted by maryr at 7:47 AM on February 14, 2015


This might be the most impressive space saver. (vine video)
posted by moonmilk at 3:33 PM on February 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm in Philadelphia right now, and ran into a family visiting from Boston who were excitedly taking a picture of a random street simply because it did not have snow on it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 PM on February 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Boston has now recorded its 3rd snowiest winter ever. And again, just to emphasize, up until Jan 24 it was one of the LEAST snowiest winters. In 3 weeks Boston went from basically nothing for the season (5 inches total) to the 3rd snowiest ever. Absolutely amazing.

I am on the far south coast of MA and when I woke this morning conditions were about as bad as I have ever seen them here. A real white-out/blizzard.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 5:29 AM on February 15, 2015


It is so so beautiful. I'm going to be so so sore tomorrow.
posted by sammyo at 8:15 AM on February 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Welp. Guess I'll go shovel out the dryer vent again.
posted by Adridne at 8:55 AM on February 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Marty Walsh seems to be expressing what many of us are feeling on Twitter: "I don't know what to say to anybody anymore. Hopefully it will stop eventually."
posted by peacheater at 8:55 AM on February 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Last night's snow seemed to be a lot stickier than the previous storms', building up on the trees and making it more likely they topple from the weight. Luckily, I think the 35 mph gusts are knocking most of it off. Always look on the bright side of life ....

Hope you all are surviving okay.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:01 AM on February 15, 2015


"Pretty soon at this rate."
posted by shortfuse at 9:54 AM on February 15, 2015


Well, we officially have water pouring into our windows from the walls. Thanks, ice dams.

Anyone remember the safeword?
posted by lydhre at 9:56 AM on February 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The snow finally got high enough to cover the dryer vent in the window in the *above ground* portion of our basement (the lower of the two windows in the picture, luckily).
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:53 AM on February 15, 2015


I've spent the last 2 hours trying to work up the fortitude to go dig out the car. But I'm convinced that my eyeballs will freeze and fall out.
posted by TwoStride at 11:01 AM on February 15, 2015


It's hard to believe, but the daffodils along my driveway and sidewalk are probably awake and poking their little green snouts up out of the ground under the five feet of snow covering them. I'll be tapping trees in just a couple of weeks.
posted by Camofrog at 11:34 AM on February 15, 2015


As the Super Bowl is now two weeks past, I'd like to take a moment to mention that it is currently 55 and pristinely sunny in Seattle today.
posted by wotsac at 2:52 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everytime someone goes out of their way to remind me the weather is nice in other places, my urge to kill rises.
posted by sonika at 3:56 PM on February 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's okay, the west coast has no water to speak of.
posted by The Whelk at 3:57 PM on February 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


My dad loves updating me several times a week about the Florida weather. I update him in return about how fucking boring Florida is.
posted by Camofrog at 4:07 PM on February 15, 2015


As the Super Bowl is now two weeks past, I'd like to take a moment to mention that it is currently 55 and pristinely sunny in Seattle today.

Piss off.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:53 PM on February 15, 2015


It's cute how folks in Florida brag about their weather, but I'll take infinite blizzards over neighbors that would vote for Rick Scott, thanks.
posted by amelioration at 5:06 PM on February 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


You do realize that those areas get more roads money out of Boston than they put into Boston in tax money? Watch how you use the word "subsidize."
Hardly.

From 2012 DOT statistical abstract:
Road VMT (Vehicle Miles Traveled) in Massachusetts ~56B
State road expenditures (net of Federal payments, tolls, and motor fuel taxes) ~2B
That means the state subsidy for roads (from the general fund) is less $0.04/passenger mile

On the other hand MBTA measured operating costs for its major modes (per-passenger mile):
Trolley Bus (Silver Line) -- $2.34
Bus -- $1.45
Light Rail (Green Line) -- $0.76
Heavy Rail (Red, Orange, Blue Lines) -- $0.52
Commuter Rail -- $0.34

Even given the MBTA fare recovery ratio of about 50%, it's obvious that the MBTA and its ridership is receiving a massive subsidy relative to road users.
posted by Consult The Oracle at 7:56 PM on February 15, 2015


While we're talking about funding the MBTA, they're in such bad shape that they're paying local union members to shovel the Red Line tomorrow. But they have to bring their own shovels. Because there aren't enough.

Can't we all agree the T should have enough money to send a guy to Home Depot to buy some shovels?!
posted by sonika at 8:09 PM on February 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Consult, in your discussion of "subsidy" you are comparing raw numbers invested, but you seem to be leaving out of the equation the relative contributions to state tax revenues made by the Boston metro and non-Boston-metro communities. In other words, are tax revenues generated by the metro Boston users of the MBTA, and the businesses they are commuting to work for and the communities they are commuting home to (and other transportation-related revenues like hotel and restaurant user taxes), generating more tax revenue to pay for their transport than the less densely populated, less economically generative communities in the rest of the state?

In other words, yes, the state may pay more in cash outright for the MBTA than for roads, but at the same time, it may be still be subsidizing the roads because of the economic activity generated by communities dependent on the MBTA relative to that generated by less economically productive parts of the state. This calculus isn't just about what comes out of the pot, but who's putting something back in.
posted by Miko at 8:27 PM on February 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


The thermometer has hit 0°F. It's like we've run out of Fahrenheits.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:48 PM on February 15, 2015


Consult, first off Miko's point is important. The best numbers I can find put the population in communities served by the T at 4.8 million, out of a total Massachusetts population of 6.7 million.

Secondly, I don't think passenger-miles are the best measure of who's subsidising who. The heaviest users of the T are also, by virtue of living in dense urban areas, usually the ones with the shortest commutes. If I pay $2.10 to ride the Red Line for three miles every morning, and you drive 20 miles on state roads for free, you're sure as hell not subsidizing my ride.
posted by firechicago at 4:18 AM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


sonika: "Screw those T riders! They should all just buy a car and move to Worcester!"

Anecdotally, my mother-in-law lives in Woostah, and she takes the train into Boston to work.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:47 AM on February 16, 2015


Damn, that's cold.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:40 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


so, I left town to visit my long distance girlfriend for Valentine's and came back to find that some of my neighbors who were irate at my policing a parking spot against space savers went ahead and shoveled snow into the empty spot.

I have plans tonight and tomorrow, but I plan on shoveling the entire spot out again on Wednesday or Thursday after the next storm and keeping it as a public spot. If anyone else is interested in helping, Memail me.
posted by bl1nk at 2:35 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Current MBTA Status

Bev Scott said it'll take 30 days to get the system back up to full operation - assuming we don't have another blizzard.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:41 PM on February 16, 2015


oh, and on the Valentine's note. You don't have to go all the way back to 1940. We actually had a snowstorm in Valentine's Day of 2008 (or maybe 2007?) I remember riding my bike home 14 miles from my job in Bedford and I stopped at Wilson Farms to buy a bouquet of roses that I stuck in the rear triangle of my bike, braced between the seat tube and my rear fender.

I had stopped at a red light in Arlington Heights, next to three teenage girls patiently waiting for the bus, and one of them looked at me and just said, "Mister, you're the sweetest crazy man I've ever seen."
posted by bl1nk at 2:57 PM on February 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Bev Scott said it'll take 30 days to get the system back up to full operation - assuming we don't have another blizzard.


Yeah, wow. Not blaming her, but that really really sucks. I take the red line from Porter to work, and it's actually not been half bad (comparatively speaking) but those of my colleagues using the aboveground Green line stops and the south side of the Red line have been really screwed. Everyone's been working from home/ taking three hours to get in when they absolutely need to, but I'm not sure how we're going to manage that for another month. And I realize that we're in an extremely privileged position where they give us a snow day off with pay if the weather gets really bad and there's always the option to work from home. I can't even begin to imagine what this is like for hourly workers who lose pay if they don't come in.

Seriously, I'm not even a citizen here, so I don't have much of a voice in the electoral process, but what can be done? It seems crazy to me that Boston is letting this huge advantage of having a great mass transit system wither away and die. Surely funding the MBTA is something the people and businesses of Massachusetts could rally behind?
posted by peacheater at 5:18 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Uggg. I take the commuter rail to Back Bay and then take the Orange Line a couple stops. Tomorrow I expect my train will be at least an hour late and the Orange Line won't be running past Back Bay. I'll either have to take a bus or walk to Ruggles, neither of which is a good option. Not looking forward to this.
posted by bondcliff at 7:08 PM on February 16, 2015


Seriously, I'm not even a citizen here, so I don't have much of a voice in the electoral process, but what can be done? It seems crazy to me that Boston is letting this huge advantage of having a great mass transit system wither away and die. Surely funding the MBTA is something the people and businesses of Massachusetts could rally behind?

Right? First nice-ish day we get in the coming weeks, someone should organize and get tens of thousands of bodies in the street marching in support of an MBTA that works. This state of affairs is damaging and untenable for everyone in the region except the true 1%.
posted by threeants at 8:01 PM on February 16, 2015


Who, I might add, will benefit mightily when the dust clears, after the T has been privatized and all the independent stores that went out of business because of the massive hit our economy is taking turn into ATM branches.
posted by threeants at 8:04 PM on February 16, 2015


While we're talking about funding the MBTA, they're in such bad shape that they're paying local union members to shovel the Red Line tomorrow. But they have to bring their own shovels. Because there aren't enough.

Serious question: why don't we have rail cars with, y'know, plows on them? Those have been around since trains were invented, no?

No, really, this is baffling; I'm obviously missing something here.
posted by Melismata at 7:21 AM on February 17, 2015


neither of which is a good option. Not looking forward to this.

No, not when it's 12°F like right now. It hit -3°F the other day.
posted by Melismata at 7:22 AM on February 17, 2015


so, I left town to visit my long distance girlfriend for Valentine's and came back to find that some of my neighbors who were irate at my policing a parking spot against space savers went ahead and shoveled snow into the empty spot.

bl1nk, I don't know your neighbors, but it may not be irritation. It could easily be neighbors who looked around and said "Oh, thank god, somewhere new to put this shit!" I know I've been shoveling snow from our sidewalks that has dribbled over to the cars parked on the street. This is not spite on my part. There is simply no room left on the lawn and I get FINED if I don't get the snow off the sidewalks. There is nowhere to put stuff.
posted by maryr at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2015


First nice-ish day we get in the coming weeks, someone should organize and get tens of thousands of bodies in the street marching in support of an MBTA that works.

We have that already, threeants. Have you seen the lines for the Orange line shuttles?
posted by maryr at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2015


Serious question: why don't we have rail cars with, y'know, plows on them? Those have been around since trains were invented, no?

You clearly haven't watched Thomas the Tank. Those things never work right and the trains wind up getting involved in horseplay.
posted by yerfatma at 8:08 AM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I waited over 70 minutes in the cold and when a train finally did come it was too full to let us on. The next one wasn't coming for over an hour so I walked back to my car and texted my boss, basically telling him that I was working from home. I think he gets it now. So I'm working (and posting on MeFi) from home.

I have a co-worker who gets on two stops before me. He texted me and said "this train only has five cars on it and it's already full." For some reason i waited anyway, thinking maybe they'd find room.

What's funny is, even with all the canceled trains, the ones that do come still only have two conductors on them so on any train you can only get on at either end. Do they send the other conductors home? Do they get paid? Something isn't right.
posted by bondcliff at 8:35 AM on February 17, 2015


Okay, I have the world's most selfish question, here:

I will be in Boston for work (admin support for a ginormous conference) in mid-March. I'm also spending a couple of days just, you know, hanging out in Boston. I'll be pretty much in the city center, lodging-wise. I think that one day I'll probably go to Cambridge to do nothing but visit bookstores. The other day will be for museums and food.

First, just how difficult are things likely to be for conference-goers? I'll be a bit responsible for some logistics and I'm starting to worry.

Second, given the situation now and a month to get the T running again, just how difficult will it be to get to Cambridge and so on? I have only been to Boston once for about twenty hours, I was pretty tired and I remember nothing except a friend basically dragging me on and off different T routes (I loved the T, though!) and a long, long walk to a vegan restaurant.
posted by Frowner at 9:25 AM on February 17, 2015


First, just how difficult are things likely to be for conference-goers? I'll be a bit responsible for some logistics and I'm starting to worry.

A lot depends on what the weather is like between now and mid-March. Beverly Scott says that we should be back to normal running in 30 days or so, if there are no more blizzards. Cross your fingers and hope for a thaw before then.

It will also depend on where exactly your conference-goers are staying. Certain parts of town have not been too bad (for example, taking the Red Line from Porter to Park (my commute) has been relatively ok -- I've still needed to budget more time, but it hasn't been two hours waiting in the cold for a bus like other stories I've been hearing). Right now the side of the Red Line going south (beyond Andrew) is bad, the Green Line is bad beyond Kenmore, the Orange Line I'm not really sure, and the Commuter Rail has been terrible. But hopefully things will be better by mid-March.

Getting to Cambridge is not so bad from central Boston. I commute to Back Bay, so I take two stops from Arlington to Park on the Green Line and then Park to Porter on the Red Line. If you're staying near the center of Boston and taking the Red to Cambridge you should be fine. So I guess what I'm saying is the Cambridge-end is not so bad, it really depends where you're staying on the other end. Allston/Brighton for example seem to be in terrible shape, likewise Quincy.
posted by peacheater at 9:49 AM on February 17, 2015


Unless the trend of blizzard continues for another month, I think you'll be ok. By mid-March usually days are getting slightly warmer though we will still have an occasional snow storm. The T should be mostly up and running by then though expect some delays.

The snow banks right now are HUGE, so expect to be walking in slush and snow all through March. Bring some decent footwear.

Keep an eye on our weather. If we continue to have giant snow storms every week then just stay the hell out of the entire state because everything will be buried in snow and all the residents will have migrated to Florida.
posted by bondcliff at 9:50 AM on February 17, 2015


Come bearing gifts for the Sun God, for he has forsaken us. All is winter, now and forever. No warmth for the wicked. Where there was once life is now only white death. Snowy pestilence upon the land, never to be verdant again.

Abandon hope, for there is no escape! The birds have fled, the fields are fallow, and soon we must begin to consume each other for survival.

And bring comfortable boots.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:57 AM on February 17, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the Red Line between downtown and Cambridge is pretty okay right now, so if that's your general area you'll be fine. (Unless... are those tunnels prone to flooding? I honestly have no idea, but if so, oh fuck.)

March is chilly and sludgy even during non-ridiculous winters, so you won't go wrong with layers and some waterproof boots. Matt Noyes suggested earlier today that we're likely to break 40 degrees around the beginning of March, so expect a lot of grungy-ass snow piles. They probably won't impede foot traffic anymore by then, but they'll definitely still be around.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:02 AM on February 17, 2015


The Atlantic: What Record Breaking Snow Really Looks Like.
posted by bondcliff at 11:25 AM on February 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


MB(ecket)TA
posted by maryr at 12:04 PM on February 17, 2015 [7 favorites]


What Record Breaking Snow Really Looks Like.

I mentioned I was in Philadelphia this weekend; i was in a coffee shop overhearing some people talking about the cold, and joking about the Schulkill river icing over. I'd just seen a friend post some pictures of the East River icing over, so I called that up and showed them. Later I saw some icebergs on the Delaware River as I was heading home.

(The worst part of this weekend was that the heavy wind on Saturday night blew in one of the windows where I was staying, smashing glass all over the floor and leaving just a screen window between me and the world. I had to drag my AirBnB host over for a 2 am repair. Fun.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on February 17, 2015


I think that one day I'll probably go to Cambridge to do nothing but visit bookstores. The other day will be for museums and food.

where is the day for meeting mefites
posted by threeants at 6:54 PM on February 17, 2015 [5 favorites]


Mayor Walsh reminds you to please not jump out of windows.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:11 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


maryr: "I don't know your neighbors, but it may not be irritation. It could easily be neighbors who looked around and said "Oh, thank god, somewhere new to put this shit!" I know I've been shoveling snow from our sidewalks that has dribbled over to the cars parked on the street. This is not spite on my part. There is simply no room left on the lawn and I get FINED if I don't get the snow off the sidewalks. There is nowhere to put stuff."

I appreciate your forbearance, but I actually came home from my Valentine's trip and saw the neighbor whose space saver that I evicted from the spot that I shoveled out actually putting the finishing touches on the van sized mound of snow that they have moved from another snow pile and into that parking spot. They were literally filling that spot with spite in the form of snow.

I could have had it out with them on the street, but am choosing instead to revisit that spot tomorrow and dig it out with four other friends and reinstituting the public space policy for that spot. We have a spacious back yard in the apartment building that can be used for the excess.
posted by bl1nk at 8:44 PM on February 18, 2015 [3 favorites]


You are hardcore is what you are. Respect.
posted by rtha at 9:44 PM on February 18, 2015


And here is another link with info about the MBTA fleet of trains -- this one showing how many trains on each line were out of service as of Tuesday.

DESPAIR.

I can't even imagine what will happen if we really get an ice storm this Sunday.
posted by instead of three wishes at 5:58 AM on February 19, 2015




bl1nk - I am sorry to hear your neighbors are such spiteful morons. Spite sounds like so much work!
posted by maryr at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2015


Way late, but regarding the plowing of sidewalks, here's Portsmouth, NH: "Our City has 50 miles of sidewalk. To clear one mile of snow, a sidewalk tractor takes around 8 hours."
posted by yerfatma at 8:17 AM on February 20, 2015


Our City has 50 miles of sidewalk. To clear one mile of snow, a sidewalk tractor takes around 8 hours.

[insert local snark about those rich folks in the South End here]
posted by Miko at 12:58 PM on February 20, 2015


[or maybe something about a parking garage]
posted by Miko at 1:04 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


this bit of crowdsourced fun got posted by our local bike shop owner this morning (he's from Boston originally). lolz.
posted by lonefrontranger at 7:22 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you guys still alive? Its been a few days since someone has commented.
posted by curious nu at 7:20 PM on February 24, 2015


The snow has abated but it's deep freeze chill.
posted by Miko at 7:25 PM on February 24, 2015


Logan Airport just passed 100" of snow for the season. 5.8" more and we pass the all-time-recorded record.

So, yeah, no new dumps to the city proper or areas north and west. South Shore still getting quite a bit of snow, poor souls. Not much to say except that it's cold and the snow isn't pretty anymore.
posted by maryr at 8:55 AM on February 25, 2015


I spent a total of 4 1/2 hours commuting on Monday. 2 hours in, 2 1/2 home. I live 18 miles from work. My friend flew from Portland, OR to San Jose, CA the same day and it didn't take nearly as long as it took me to go those 18 miles.

I'd say I'm looking forward to spring but there will still be a lot of snow on the ground and it's looking like we'll still have temperatures closer than usual. I think I'd like to jump forward to mid-spring.
posted by bondcliff at 12:47 PM on February 25, 2015


I think I'd like to jump forward to mid-spring.

I'm ok with just fast-forwarding to July.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:51 PM on February 26, 2015


I'm ok with just fast-forwarding to July.

But then next winter would only be four months away.
posted by Miko at 4:02 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


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