It’s a marshmallow day in the winter…

Well, we survived The Blizzard of ’09.

Guests, especially those who visit in high summer and contemplate a quiet retreat here come winter, often ask how much snow we get. From a gardening standpoint, we’re Zone 7a, which means we our low temperature could be 0 degrees. Yet Southampton, with a coast on both sides (Atlantic on the south, Long Island Sound to the north), generally enjoys a relatively snow-free winter. Usually winter brings us a couple of storms that dump a 5″ powder-sugar pancake that melts within days. The more trecherous possibility is that, halfway through the snowmelt, the weather turns suddenly colder and freezes the remaining slush into ice, which can remain for weeks of clear, cold weather. But a white Christmas? It’s happened exactly once in the 17 years that Chris and I have been in the Hamptons.

So a snowstorm was forecast for last Saturday, pushing up the coast and tracking northeast. The news stations, always quick to try to make a weather event into Big News, started hyping it a few days in advance. Eastern Long Island could receive as much as a foot of snow, they warned, and with the winds forecast, it could become a blizzard with white out conditions.

Oh boy. We had four rooms of guests scheduled for arrival. One of the four cancelled; they were coming from Boston, and the possibility of being snowed in was a risk they couldn’t take. But everybody else arrived, and at that time they did we had a festive little dusting of snow (see the December picture to the left). But soon snow was falling steadily, and Santa’s planned visit to the Southampton Chamber of Commerce wasn’t getting a lot of traffic. As the snow continued to worsen, shops and even restaurants began to close. Still, the fire was cozy and crackling in our living room, and we made sure our guests had dinner reservations close by.

Sunday morning we woke up to two feet of snow, not counting the drifts — a record for the area. (Take a look at this picture here, then scroll down the page and contrast it with the shot of the same area, labeled July 2009.) At seven AM, while snow continued to fall, we began to clear what we could. I shoveled the front stairs while Chris fired up his snowblower (the first time in three years he’d been able to use it) and cut a path to the back gate and out into the car park. Our neighbor Perry Delalio, who owns the stone and asphalt company down the street, was kind enough to bring his bulldozer round to plow the driveway enough to be able to drive the cars out. But we had the guests’ three cars, not to mention our two, to dig out, which had to be done by hand. And news stations were reporting that Southampton was considered a snow emergency — even the plows were getting stuck. We might all be snowbound here.

I went back inside to prepare breakfast, and as I did, down the stairs came Jim and Norman, two of our guests, pulling on gloves and hats and carrying snow shovels. Bless their hearts, they were not only prepared to help, they had brought snow shovels WITH them! (Jim even had snow chains in his truck!) And for the next hour or so until breakfast, and for an hour or so afterwards Chris and the guys and even some of the gals all worked to free the cars. It was such a great example of the spirit of the holidays.

Our third set of guests were a lovely young couple originally from Arizona, for whom this was not only their first winter on the East Coast, but their first snowstorm. They were scheduled to fly back the following day to Phoenix for the holidays, where I’m sure our blizzard will be a great story!

The weather has remained at freezing point the past two days, so little snow has melted, though at least now the roads have all been plowed to a greater or lesser extent. The weather report threatens more precip for Christmas Day, though chances are it will be rain, making ice sculpture out of our snow piles. But I doubt it will wash much of the snow away, so we’ll have a white Christmas after all.

So as for us, we’re going to enjoy the view from the window with a cup of hot chocolate and Christmas music playing in the background.

Wishing everyone all the blessings of the season, the love of family near and far, and a happy, healthy, and safe New Year!!

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