Across the country, Buffalo is known for a few things: chicken wings, a football team that has lost four consecutive Super Bowls, and being a cold and snowy place. It’s true, we happily claim our city as the home of the chicken wing, we love Buffalo Bills, and we’re proud to brave the harsh winter weather. Those of us on the inside call Buffalo the City of Good Neighbors and use slogans like “My City Smells Like Cheerios” and “Speaking Proudly.”
I’ve experienced many snowstorms, including the so-called Snowvember of 2014. in November. in 2014 the biggest concern was not the snow. It was the smell of gas in our basement that worried us. We stayed with friends across the street who generously offered to take us in while the gas company employee found the leak coming from outside our house and was able to fix the problem.
We were recently warned that another serious storm was on the way. With the warning, it’s time for the storm preparation ritual. We made sure we shopped for plenty of food, bought wine and beer, bought gas for the snow blower, and secured other important items like ice melt. On November 17, the night before the storm, local news reported a man who was preparing by buying an abundance of beer, saying, “You never know what’s coming. We are about to get snowed in and I want to be ready for the football game.
On November 18th, as the snow began to fall at a rapid pace, Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” came to mind, a song with the lyrics “Here I go again on my own, walking the only way that I walk.” I’ve ever known how to drift, I was born to walk alone.
As the title of this blog post suggests, I tweaked the lyrics to reflect one of my favorite sociological values, the idea of interdependence. We weather these snowstorms together, not alone. We depend on our families and neighbors. The snow blower is a sight for sore eyes (and sore hands from shoveling).
Above is a snowplow in front of our house operated by a city employee. It is a coordinated snow removal effort by local municipalities, the county, New York State and the federal government. It’s a huge effort to transport snow and requires enormous skill. My friend Chris, an Erie County employee, worked sixteen-hour days five days in a row helping clear roads throughout the region.
It was a team effort as a family to clear the snow from our driveway and then clear the cars. As you can see, there was a lot of work.
We showed our civic pride by making sure our Let’s Go Buffalo sign was visible.
So much snow piled up in front of our house that one of our kids was able to climb a snow mountain.
After the streets were plowed, we walked around the neighborhood and I was struck by the sight of a man shoveling snow from the roof.
The massive amount of snow has caused roofs to collapse, including the bowling alley, which will need to be demolished.
We were glued to the local news, watching updates on travel bans and weather forecasts. Friends and relatives from other states checked in with us, which boosted our morale. Friends who lived just 40 minutes away but weren’t affected by the severe storm teased us about how little snow they got.
But one of these friends soon admitted that he felt like he had missed out on the experience. A storm of this magnitude is challenging and stressful, but the sense of community of going through something together builds pride in place and creates a collective identity of citizens strong enough to survive the harsh weather. On Sunday, November 20th, the worst of the storm passed so we were able to rest and watch the Bills game.
Originally scheduled as a home game, it had to be moved from Orchard Park (where 80 inches of snow fell) to Detroit Lions Stadium. Many fans shared stories of the collective effort it takes to help players clear snow-covered driveways. During the game, one of the broadcasters mentioned the neighbors who helped quarterback Josh Allen out of the driveway. One of those neighbors will be remembered for his colorful name Squirrel Winter. The squirrel instantly became a part of Buffalo history, and of course there was merchandise to commemorate the event.
As I write this, it hasn’t snowed for two days and both days the sun has been shining beautifully, helping to slowly melt the snow. A brutal snowstorm is a lot for a community to endure, but it binds us together, and I’m very lucky I didn’t have to experience it myself.
Photos courtesy of the author
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