NYC’s Magical Snow Day

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina

Johna exploring a snow fort in Central Park (photo by Vlad)

By rights, New York City should still be digging out from the blizzard that was to be “historic, catastrophic”—except that it wasn’t.

The storm was predicted to bury New York in up to thirty inches of snow. In anticipation, the Mayor and the Governor declared a state of emergency, shut down the subway system, and banned all vehicles (including taxis and delivery bicycles) on the grounds that stalled vehicles would impede emergency efforts.

And then the blizzard didn’t happen. True, Long Island got a couple of feet of snow. And coastal New England, including Boston, got hammered.

But here in New York, we awoke to a mere eight inches of snow in Central Park… and a government-mandated, universally observed, snow day.

It was great!

Normal life just stopped for about 30 hours. We all walked through silent streets, past shuttered shop windows. The only sound was the cacophony of children playing—but it was plenty loud. You could hear the happy noise of sledders from blocks away.

Sledding in Carl Schurz ParkSledding on E 91st St

The city itself was almost childlike. Asleep in the snow and sunshine, it had the angelic appeal of a child asleep after a day of rambunctious mischief. And like worn-out parents, we took a look at that sleeping creature and remembered all over again how much we loved it.

There was plenty of finger-pointing and recriminations when the blizzard failed to materialize. Libertarians accused government officials of fostering a “nanny state”. And capitalists grumbled about the billions of dollars wasted during NYC’s enforced time-out.

But although I consider myself in some respects both a libertarian and a capitalist, I thought the snow day was an excellent idea.

Entirely apart from the fact that the best available predictions fully justified the decision, having an enforced pause in the middle of the week was delightful.  It made me think about the bad old days of Sunday blue laws—and a little part of me wished they’d come back.

True, if you’re ill and can’t make it to the hospital, I can understand the frustration of an unnecessary shutdown. One of my friends was frantic at her inability to catch a flight to her mother, who had been suddenly hospitalized in another state. So I do get it.

Warm clothing set out in Ruppert ParkFree for the taking...

But for the rest of us, having an enforced vacation from commerce and the hassle of day-to-day life was  lovely and refreshing. With nothing else to do, we made salmon with vegetables in cream sauce. We walked in the snow. And most of all, during its time-out, we took the time to appreciate the charm of the great city we live in.

A snowball-making machine!

46 responses to “NYC’s Magical Snow Day

  1. Looks like you had a lot of fun.
    Stay warm,
    Pit

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  2. I remember 40 inch snows in upstate NY and 10 foot drifts in Fairbanks, AK. Brutal along with the cold of about -65.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      I’ve never been to Alaska, but I went to grad school in upstate NY (U of Rochester). Loved the snow–I used to cross-country ski to the lab! Alas, the skis are long gone…

      Like

  3. We got buried. I had hoped we would be at the edge of the storm, escaping with a mere foot and a half, but it was almost 3 feet and there’s another foot or more on the way. I’d swap for our 8″ and a snow day any old time :-) 8″ is just the right amount for winter games. Three feet is the beginning of a hard — if short — winter.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      And I you, Marilyn!! I was really looking forward to the blizzard, and was disappointed it didn’t hit. But you’re right, 8″ was just about perfect…. hope your winter indeed stays short and doesn’t try to extend itself into May, as has happened some years!!

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  4. Snow days are fabulous. We get them for kids here at least 3-5 times a winter, when the predicted snow or freezing rain makes roads too dangerous. It’s like someone took an eraser to the must do list and gave us a fresh day to play. This was a wonderful read, Johna.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thank you! We haven’t had a true “snow day” in NYC for four years, since the big snow of December 2010 (which I remember because I was scheduled to move on that day). Wish we did it more often…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, do I agree with your comments. Here in Spain, the stores, malls etc are all closed on Sunday. Not blue laws just labor laws, Many don’t agree but I think that if you can’t buy it Monday thru Saturday you really don’t need it. We need laws to protect us from everything, even shopping!

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      When I was 20 I thought blue laws were the stupidest thing ever invented, a holdover from our superstitious past. These days… I miss them!
      Here’s a crazy idea: Can you imagine if we turned off the Internet once or twice a year? An official, formal, “disconnect and go play outside” day? I mean, sure, we can do it individually, but what would happen if we all agreed to disconnect at once? The mind boggles…

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  6. What fun. For once a citizen can say thank you to the politicians. LOL We shoveled out of 31″ on Tuesday and then added another 5″ yesterday. Monday may bring us up to a foot more. I like your day better. :-)

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      It is true that as an apartment-dweller, snow shoveling isn’t in my job description! I don’t mind it as a physical exercise, but I mind the concept of it (yet another chore I have to do whose timing is non-negotiable). So, yeah, I liked my day better… but I still wish I had your snow!!

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  7. I have no objection to snow days. I love them in fact. Had a great time after the mild little snow. But I think the weather should call them not politicians. First time in 135 years they shut the SUBway for snow? I think the last x amount of governors and mayors were right. CYA is no way to govern.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      I would have agreed with you until it actually happened, Robert.

      I actually think NYC needs MORE practice, not less, in having a controlled shutdown of the infrastructure. It’s best practice in the tech industry (where I work) to run controlled tests of disaster-recovery systems quarterly–if you do it when you don’t need to, it raises the probability that kinks will be worked out so that when you DO need it, it works.

      Having lived through Irene and Sandy, I think there’s a lot to be said for having a once-a-year shutdown of all systems, whether needed or not. That will enable us to troubleshoot the issues and make sure when it’s truly needed, things work!

      All that said… they really could have left the delivery guys on bikes do their thing. Not like a stranded bike is a major traffic hazard—you just pick it up and toss it on the sidewalk!`

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    • Hi, Robert,

      I am not sure I agree. The response was to the amount of snow predicted to fall some hours into the future, not to the amount that had already fallen or was falling. If you wait for the latter to respond, you will be too late, because it takes some hours to actually respond. (Whether the response, such as shutting the subway, was the right kind of response is a different question.) And since the amount of snow credibly predicted was huge, it wasn’t an over-reaction. The weather did call it in this case.

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  8. This sounds magical! We had 3 snow days last year–here in Florida! It was some freak snow/ice storm that closed bridges and roads. Did not hold quite the same magic that a snow day in NY does, though.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Ah, but you have your own magic in Florida! Summer thunderstorms so intense you have to pull over… double rainbows… and of course, hurricanes!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Woo Hoo ! Bonus snow day. how lucky are you. And the fence of coats, what an amazing warm gesture that is.

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  10. Truely beautiful. And at least people had the opportunity to enjoy its beauty.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      We did! And everyone was in a fabulous mood—even the guys who had to shovel (maybe because there was so much less to shovel than they’d feared).

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was hoping you or Vlad would post some pictures, and you did! Thanks for all the fun images and reflections on how lovely it is to have a day off with only enough snow to play in, not be overwhelmed.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Thanks! Vlad has a bunch more pictures, but they’re mostly artistic studies… I’m sure we’ll be posting them downstream, perhaps in response to a photo challenge. I was the one walking around taking pictures of cute kids sledding :-)

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  12. forecasts and predictions — all the same, best guess and that’s weather. I think large cities should declare a snow day, a spring day, a summer day and a fall day just for fun. Plan it and do it.
    Love the pics and happy snow day!

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Great idea! How about a citywide shutdown for solstice and the equinoxes? It would never fly, of course, but can you imagine the fun?

      And thanks, and thanks for posting!

      Like

  13. Loved that snowball making machine! There was quite a bit of ammo lined up on that ledge.

    Nancy

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  14. No matter what the situation, there are always those who criticize and complain. It looks like everyone else took advantage of a beautiful sunny day and had fun on their own! How refreshing – and I’ll bet they will long remember the day!

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      We did, Marilyn! I wish the photos could have captured the sound of the children playing–you could literally hear the squeals and laughter from blocks away! Partly because they were so noisy… but mostly because the normal ambient noise was totally gone. What a treat!

      Hope your shoveling has gone well and you’re prepared for the new onslaught…

      Like

  15. Richard Weinberg

    East 91st street is a great place to watch kids sledding down the hill without those icky things on roads called cars. A nice mini park.

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      HI Richard,
      Indeed! That’s where the 3rd photo was taken—I love that street in general, because it really is a space away from the urban bustle.

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  16. glad that the prediction didn’t materialize and double glad that NYC took a break even for once. looked like you all had fun! :)

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    • Johna Till Johnson

      Hi Lola, we did!! Though I’m not sure I’d call it a “break”–I really wish we’d gotten that couple of feet of snow. But maybe that’s just me—my friends in Boston aren’t really loving it right now….

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  17. Glad you enjoyed your snow day!

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  18. how delightful is this! :)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m glad you had that enforced time out. Your appreciation comes through loud & clear. Thanks for the reminder of the best part of snowy days.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Love it! Only wish we lived a sleddable distance from you guys. Bundle up, and see you soon :) Jean & Alex

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  21. I love a good snow day! Such nice pictures of snow in the city. I really love that first one. And predicting weather is not an exact science, so people need to get over it. That same sort of criticism goes on down here in Virginia. If a school system doesn’t close, everyone complains. If it does close, everyone complains. We haven’t had any “emergency” days yet, where everything shuts down.

    Our son lives in Boston. They do a lot of shoveling.

    I loved Blue Laws. It was disappointing when they became history.

    Keep warm!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Johna Till Johnson

      Yes, exactly. It’s not an exact science, and often small shifts have big consequences. I’d rather a safe and ordered shutdown than a chaotic emergency.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Did you make all those snowballs in the bottom shot? As a fellow northerner I am impressed.

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