Snow! in New York City


Columbus Circle in the snow

Here in New York, I can never quite tell what the weather’s doing outside the apartment. Daytime is a light shade of gray, and night is a darker one. I can’t tell how cold it is outside, either, so a walk is always a surprise. Often, I have to return to the apartment to shed or add layers if I’m going out for the day.

The weather here doesn’t bluster and it doesn’t blow. And without a lot of big trees, even a hurricane packs a muted punch. Nor have I seen a real downpour yet; in fact, I can’t really tell when it’s raining. There’s no roof to drum on and there’s no earth to smell wet.

Last Saturday, it snowed for the first time since a freak storm on Halloween. Fluffy white flakes floated past the window, and windowsills across the alley were frosted with white.

Now, I’m used to snow in Michigan. Specifically, I’m used to snow in West Michigan, which is a different breed of snow altogether. Wind and weather sweep across the Big Lake (Michigan) from the west and dump their load of water on the first land available. This is called the “lake effect,” and it is not to be trifled with. I’ve woken up in the morning to find my car completely buried with only the twisted stick of the antenna to locate the cadaver.

Lake effect snow in West Michigan

Honestly, I miss the snow. So I was happy to sample it in New York City. Here are my observations.

First, it’s real snow–it sticks to the ground and mounds in slushy layers on the street. Boots are a good idea, but maybe not those fancy riding boots all the fashionistas have been wearing since October. Second, New York City drivers don’t go crazy in the snow. Granted, they are mildly crazy in any weather, but they don’t go around slamming on their brakes and sliding into things. They take the snow in stride with their usual homicidal ferocity.

New Yorker with an umbrella in the snow.

Third, New Yorkers use umbrellas in the snow. This would be very weird in the Midwest where we like to go uncovered. We like snow on our heads and faces. We like to be blinded by snow. I don’t think it would ever occur to us that snow is the same stuff as rain and could be managed similarly. Were you to walk around with an umbrella on a snowy day in Michigan, you would be a dorkish curiosity.

Finally, New York has no use for a dedicated fleet of snowplows. The city doesn’t have our sleek, fast behemoths with two blades and a huge bed for salt. I’ve been buried under a tidal wave of slush when those babies scream down the street. In New York, they throw some chains and a plow on a garbage truck and call it good. This may seem like trying to remove a splinter with a fork, but it works.

garbage truck masquerading as a snowplow

Overall, the city is lovely in the snow, although I’d liked to have to see more of it. Today, the thermometer kissed 50 degrees, and all the snow is gone.  Still, I hear it’s been warm in Michigan, too, and there is nothing sorrier than the bare-assed, cold and cloudy Midwest without a good foot or two of snow.

A garbage truck with chains is still a garbage truck








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3 Responses to Snow! in New York City

  1. jean selby 31 January, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Some of your tale reminds me of my chiildhood in Northern MI. We put brooms on our cars to inform people we were going to meet at crossroads that we were there. Roads were only plowed to one lane. Whoever was closest backed up to the nearest cross road.
    Also, don’t you remember having to have your Halloween costume big enough to accomodate a winter coat?

  2. Kate Convissor 25 January, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    I’ve heard that this year is a dud for snow. And I’m really enjoying being in the city. Not too sad that it’s a warm year, either, cuz sometimes I’m out for hours on the weekend. I about froze last Saturday.

  3. Marcia Davis 25 January, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    I think the reason we don’t use umbrellas in West Michigan is because of the wind! Even during a rainstorm, I’ve seen many an umbrella flip inside-out. It would just never work here but, I agree, we also love the snow on our faces!

    You’re not missing anything here this year, Kate. I’ve only been skiing once, about two weeks ago. It was actually the most beautiful cross-country ski day I’ve ever had: temps were in the 20’s, the snow was piled on the trees because it was a wet snow and we had no wind. Gorgeous and peaceful. But it’s all gone. If I had to be somewhere in the winter without snow, I’d rather be in NYC!