From the Heart of the Bombogenesis

Before I dive into what “living through a Bombogenic event” felt like, allow me to begin by saying that as of this morning I failed at one of my three New Year Resolutions.  If you’re curious about which one that might be, keep reading and see if you can figure it out, or click the link to the post where I laid them out.

I’m not proud of my failure in resolve and will power this morning, but I do at least have an excuse that (to me) feels less like an excuse and more like an explanation.  I and my family spent the day dealing with a Really Freaking Big Snow Storm.  Not blizzard of ’78 big.  I’m not making a boast that ridiculous.  I get to call it Really Freaking Big because of how it pitched my life sideways and what that felt like.


How Do You Stay Warm in a House with No Insulation?

Our house was built in the 1950’s on land that was part of a government veterans program post WW2 in which veterans were sold land for $1.00/acre.  The program was a “Hey, thanks for doing that dangerous, deadly, horribly traumatizing thing for not just your own country’s citizens but for everyone pretty much everywhere” gift from US taxpayers.  That was awesome, but in the 1950’s, insulation just wasn’t… good. 

Imagine insulating a house by laying a piece of cotton felt between the studs and joists and then gluing a piece of aluminum foil to it.  That’s about what we’ve got.  The result is, heat bleeds out of our house at a prodigious rate. 

We usually deal with this inconvenience by keeping our thermostat set to 55˚F,  except for first thing in the morning when we indulge in a toasty 63˚F while everyone’s getting ready for school and work.  Not so, when the Bombogenesis struck.

The temperature over the past two weeks has been abysmally cold.  This morning, I heard a news reporter crow like a rooster that Boston was officially colder than Bismarck, North Dakota.  Also, at what point did “who’s colder” become a thing to compete over?  Anyway, we’re talking a two week period where temps regularly dipped or flat out stayed in the single digits.  If you’re someone who lives where that’s a regular occurrence and you’re scoffing, I’d ask you to pause for a moment.  Weather that cold is not a typical thing on the eastern coast of Massachusetts.  Many homes (mine included) weren’t architecturally designed for such conditions.  Freezing and bursting pipes is a genuine threat.  The easiest way to avoid that happening is to crank the heat in your home.

Our heat-leaking home has had its thermostat set to 65˚F night and day for the past seven days. 


What To Do With All That Snow And Nowhere To Put It?

Yesterday, ten inches of snow fell on us.  It may have been more or less than that, but the wind was blowing so hard that there are bare spots in some places and giant snow drifts in other places.  Point is, a LOT of snow.

I and the kids got a snow day, which we were all pretty stoked about.

All of Thursday, we listened to the wind roar through the trees around our house and slam itself against our northern face.  We stood at our picture window and watched it drive sheets of snow almost parallel to the ground, so thick there were moments when we lost sight of the neighbor’s house across the street. 

We stayed inside and sipped cocoa.  I did some writing.  The kids spent way too much time playing video games.  My beloved got down into the studio and did some photographating.  We cooked dinner and ate as a family and counted our blessings for being fortunate enough to have a warm home and plenty of food and electricity.

But today was (and I’ll get to the “was” thing in a moment) supposed to be my first day of my fourth and (almost) final nine-day-long, on-campus residency for Lesley University’s Low Residency Masters in Creative Writing program.  Which meant we needed to get the cars dug out so I had a way to get to the train station this morning, because even if I wanted to walk the mile and a quarter to the train station, the sidewalks wouldn’t be dug out.  No way I was going to walk the narrow, snow-plowed streets.  I’d get creamed.

The photo really doesn’t do it justice. We also had to shovel our way down our front steps to even get to the cars.

So, after dinner, we ALL suited up and headed outside, shovels in hand and began the two-hour-long torture session of shoveling during the Bombogenesis.  Odin, let me tell you, snowflakes sting like [insert preferred curse word here] when they’re pelting your face at 50 mph… in the dark… in single digit temperatures.  I don’t usually post photos online of the areas in or around my house, but I think it will help give context to the volume of snow that we had to move and where we had to put it.

By the time we were done, I was done.  Toast.  Not physically sore, no.  More like numb and flacid, as if my muscles had been replaced by jelly.  I was moving slow, and it was an effort.

When the 5am alarm sounded this morning, my beloved (cut from a stronger cloth than I) rose to do our morning workout routine.  I did not.  I slept until 7am, when I was woken by the sound of the porch door being wrestled/slammed shut and someone stamping snow of their boots on the porch.  Then the kitchen door opening and closing.

I went downstairs and learned that, during the night, plows had come by and undone most of what we’d shoveled the night before.  And by undone, I mean they put back the 3′ high by 5′ wide mound of wet, grimy street snow that had blocked our driveway entrance.  Instead of waking me and asking/demanding I help dig back out, my better half simply suited up and took care of things so that I could sleep in.  Because today was my first day of residency, and it was going to be a long day for me.  I know, I am blessed!!

But the Bombogenesis wasn’t finished with us yet.


No Insulation Plus A Ton of Snow Equals Ice Dams

As I grabbed my cup of coffee, sipped it, and strolled past our bathroom on the way to waking up my oldest child to let them know that their school had been cancelled for a second day, I glanced out the bathroom window and beheld an icicle as thick around as a grown man’s thigh streaming down glass like a frozen mountain stream.

Oh. My. God.

No one ever went out yesterday with the roof rake!  Not once did it occur to me that with the heat up so high, all day long, the snow landing on the roof was melting, dripping into the metal gutter that was the same temperature as the air (9˚F) and freezing.  We probably had an ice dam the size of Fort Peck sitting on our back roof.

I chugged my coffeed, and together I and my beloved suited back up and went back outside to deal with all the digging out we didn’t do last night.  Luckily what at first appeared to be the mother of all ice dams ended up being a gigantic cornice of wind-compressed snow.  We easily knocked off and then raked off the rest of the roof.  Thankfully, it didn’t have a lot of snow on it because the wind was so fierce during the Bombogenesis.  We shovelled a path to the basement door and cleared that out, then dug our way over to our dryer vent and cleared that out, then dug a path out to the middle of the yard so that our medium sized mutt could have a place to do his business without freezing his wiener off in snow up to his shoulders.

I may have slept in this morning, but I still got my workout in.  Thanks mother nature. 

Okay, potential ice dam crisis averted.  I still had just over two hours before I had to catch a train into Cambridge for my first seminar of my Residency.  How I was going to muster the physical energy needed to pick up a pen and write with it, I wasn’t sure, but I was ready.  In fact, I was excited.


At Least I Had Residency To Look Forward To

Pretty much since December 1st, I’ve been counting down the days until my (almost) final residency.  I’ve made some incredible friends through this program.  They are spread out all over the country: Texas, Las Vegas, Seattle, Georgia, West Virginia, New York City. I get to see them face-to-face just twice a year for nine days during residency.  For that reason alone, I’ve been looking forward to today.  But, the program is so much more than that.  The instructors, the seminars, the intensity of the learning process, the raw energy of being surrounded by other writers equally passionate about creative writing as I am?  It’s intoxicating.  It’s exhilarating.  It’s nerdy writing camp for grown-up’s and it’s awesome!!

About a half hour before my train was scheduled to depart, I got an email from the director of my program stating that, because so many of the residency students and professors’ flights had been cancelled or delayed, today’s residency program had been cancelled.  We’ll be jumping into Saturday classes on time tomorrow.

Well, Sugar Honey Iced Tea.  That certainly does suck eggs.  Glad I thought to check my email on last time before I took off.  

Guess I’ll have to wait one extra day to see my friends again and experience the joy that is living, breathing, and eating all things devoted to the art and craft of creative writing.  I still can’t wait.

In the meantime, since I feel I just need a few hours to recover myself, physically from lifting and throwing 15 to 25 lb loads of snow over and over again for a total of four of the past twenty-four hours, I thought I’d set up camp on my couch and blog about what it was like at my house during the Bombogenesis.

And by the way, please don’t be fooled by that term or by the giddy meteorologists dancing around up on top of big piles of snow singing the word at you.  This Bombogenesis was just a typical New England Nor’easter with lower than typical temperatures.  New Englanders are used to crazy and sometimes difficult to deal with weather.  We deal with it.

Did the Beast of Bombogenesis impact you?  Tell me about it in the comments.


  1. kimberly

    the year will only get better, Katherine! so many reminders in your blog of when i lived in State College, Pennsylvania (after decades in Florida) during autumn/winter and historical snowfalls…i always thought even in the (literally) dark days it was great to be a writer, otherwise i don’t know how i would ever maintain sanity. Spring is just around the corner :>

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    Thanks for stopping by, Steph. It was SO exhausting. I stay warm with long underwear, lots of layers, and rice socks that I heat in the microwave. And tea. Lots of tea. Are you coming to graduation this semester?

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