The Mother of all Snowstorms Followed by the Mother of all Snowstorms

Known here as the “Snowmageddon”

A week before Christmas we got 18
inches of snow, an all time record for the month of December. It messed up a
lot of Christmas parties. Most of the snow had melted by January 30 as I packed
for the quarterly Board meeting of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority.
However, another storm that night canceled my Cayman flight and I arrived a day
late in Grand Cayman, missing two subcommittee meetings.

I returned home from Cayman
Thursday evening (Feb 4) to the news that we were expecting the mother of all
snowstorms starting the next day. Friday I called our neighbor and friend Susan
Fiester and told her that we were canceling our plans to meet her in New York
City Saturday to see David Mamet play “Race.”

When I got up around 3:00am
Saturday to visit the bathroom—something older people do—I noticed that the
electricity was off and it was getting chilly in the house. By the time the
snow stopped falling Saturday evening 28 inches had fallen in our area (32
inches were recorded at Dulles Airport across the Potomac in Virginia). These
occasional power outages generally don’t last more than a few hours, but by
Saturday evening power had not been restored and the temperature in the house
continued to fall.

Certain that the power would come
on “any time soon,” we nonetheless buttoned up the beach room, lit a fire in
its fireplace, and moved in. For dinner Ito heated up in the fireplace the beef
chilly he had prepared the day before. We dug out thermal underwear and dragged
down two big feather comforters, played a game of chess, and spent the night on
the sofa and the fold out bed feeding logs to the fire. With no regular
telephone/internet access to the outside world, my Blackberry became a
psychological and practical lifeline. Our neighborhood association President
and other neighbors kept us all up to date on any and all developments (or lack
there of). I husbanded my Blackberry’s battery carefully—“text or email only
please.” One bit of news was that some trees had fallen across our street
further down the hill.

With daybreak we were still without
power and our street, which is the access to and from the outside world for our
community of 64 homes, had not yet been plowed. Susan called from New York,
which had received no snow, and asked if Ito could walk up to her house to
check if her generator had turned on properly and invited us to move in with
her if we still didn’t have power when she returned that evening. On Ito’s way
back from Susan’s, our next-door neighbor Martin grabbed him to join a few
chainsaw-armed neighbors heading down the hill to remove the fallen trees from
the road so that it could be plowed.

As the sun set and we lit the
candles we decided to stick it out another night, certain that the power would
be restored soon. Ito made lentil soap over the fireplace fire. This campfire
routine in our family room was less “special” the second time around, but the
soup tasted good. I read Niall Ferguson’s “The Ascent of Money,” a very
disappointing book, by candlelight and thought of Abraham Lincoln. By morning
(Monday) the huge stack of firewood in the garage that I had expected to last
all winter was down to a dozen logs and we moved to Susan’s. Not only was her
home warm, a very welcomed change for us, but it was also a beautiful sunny
day. The neighborhood association hired someone to plow our streets as the
county plows had given up when they encountered the fallen trees the day
before, so at last we were able to get out if we needed to. We decided to have
dinner in Potomac Village at Renato’s. Our friend Ken walked over from his
cousin’s house near by and joined us. The four of us enjoyed a wonderful
dinner, two bottle of wine, and several hours of Internet access via Starbuck’s
wifi next door until the waiter politely informed us that they were closing.

Tuesday we went grocery shopping to
stock up for the next storm expected to start that evening and dump another
8-12 inches on us. Many of the shelves in Safeway were almost bare. Fearing
they might not get to the remaining items first, some people behaved rudely. It
was quite shocking really. Those waiting in the long checkout lines could
afford to be and were generally more relaxed and philosophical about the
situation. While there we started getting emails from neighbors that their
power had been restored. Hallelujah. We returned home and set the thermostat at
76 degrees.

The storm has had interesting
consequences for our neighborhood. Its members are decent people whose lives
generally revolve around work activities and circles outside our neighborhood.
The cell phone communications brought us closer together, foreshadowing an even
nicer Christmas/Hanukkah/Ramadan/Kwanzaa neighborhood association party next
year. Susan advertised to everyone in the neighborhood via email that she had a
generator and anyone was welcome to stop by and warm up and charge their cell
phones. At the other end of the spectrum, a neighbor at the far end of the main
street who is home alone during these storms had the following conversation
with her neighbor when they walked their dog past her as she shoveled the snow
off her driveway. “You look cold” they said. “I am cold, very cold,” she said,
“I have no heat in the house, not even a fireplace.” “Oh,… we have a generator
and are nice and warm.” Period! End of conversation!! Our friend at the far end
of the street understands that she did not pay twenty to thirty thousand
dollars for a generator while her neighbor did. She understands that our
choices do and need to have consequences. But the inhumanity of her neighbors’
words and attitude shocked her. I know of no magic wisdom or solution for this
or hundreds of similar situations. It is quite proper that they are left to the
individual encounters of our and other neighborhoods, however. They find their
resolutions, if at all, in cultural and moral training and understanding
without which our neighborhoods and communities will be very unpleasant places.

The next storm started slowly on
schedule Tuesday evening and continued all day Wednesday (today) dumping
another 10 inches on us but this time with gusting winds. But the snow is
almost over now and I am hoping that no more trees will fall on power lines, or
roads, or my roof, which is now holding up three feet of snow. So perhaps it is
over. If you never hear from me I again I was wrong.

Author: Warren Coats

I specialize in advising central banks on monetary policy and the development of the capacity to formulate and implement monetary policy.  I joined the International Monetary Fund in 1975 from which I retired in 2003 as Assistant Director of the Monetary and Financial Systems Department. While at the IMF I led or participated in missions to the central banks of over twenty countries (including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Serbia, Turkey, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Zimbabwe) and was seconded as a visiting economist to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (1979-80), and to the World Bank's World Development Report team in 1989.  After retirement from the IMF I was a member of the Board of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority from 2003-10 and of the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review from 2010-2017.  Prior to joining the IMF I was Assistant Prof of Economics at UVa from 1970-75.  I am currently a fellow of Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise.  In March 2019 Central Banking Journal awarded me for my “Outstanding Contribution for Capacity Building.”  My recent books are One Currency for Bosnia: Creating the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina; My Travels in the Former Soviet Union; My Travels to Afghanistan; My Travels to Jerusalem; and My Travels to Baghdad. I have a BA in Economics from the UC Berkeley and a PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. My dissertation committee was chaired by Milton Friedman and included Robert J. Gordon.

One thought on “Snowmageddon”

  1. Oh my goodness Warren, what a story. It reminds me a little of Tahoe and Idaho (Utah is 5 – 6 degrees warmer than Idaho and much less wind but 5 – 6 degrees makes a significant difference). "you look cold, we are warm". That is amazing, and so disappointing. By contrast I live in a most amazing village, or so it is called, 54 condo’s you and I would have called duplexes years ago, but a sense of community that I have never before experienced. When I was "house hunting" a couple of years ago I knew when I drove through the entrance gate that I was "home". This has been the most amazing experience, people are genuinly concerned for each other, I have never felt safer or more at peace. My neighbor, a widow my age, who lives three doors to my north has ALS (Lew Gerichs -no idea how too spell that ), a horrible, ravaging decease that will leave her with no real functioning part of her externl body but her eyes. The women in the neighborhood have formed a team, many taking an assigned shift, three year old Aaron and I take two hours each Monday morning (that is about all he can handle) and tube feed , and help dress and care for her. She is the most delightful, uplifting person I have ever experienced, serving her is a joy. I do not tell you this to take any kind of credit at all, but to observe there are indeed differences, and to wonder what the difference is. As I said, this is a new experience for me, and one I am cherishing. Thank you for sharing your tale. You may be interested in knowing my first husband, Morrie Lemke, died early Thursday morning of a rare form of Liver Cancer. I have shed many tears over his pain and suffering, his wife is very kind to me, and I feel you will understand when I say I have a deep love for him. It was time for him to go, our children had all been there to spend time with them, now they will return for the services, I will not go, I will stay here and care for the children. Time does march on. You too stay warm my dear friend and cousin, thank you for including me. Love, Diana

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