March 19, 2017

The Historic Snows of the Ides of Mid-March

 Historic Snowstorm of March 14, 2017 - 26 Inches in 24 Hours in Upstate New York

The weather prognosticators gave us all plenty of warning...a mega winter storm was coming our way. A classic Nor'easter, meaning the winds circulated counterclockwise off the Atlantic coast, spreading their snowy bounty inland across the Northeastern US (the Mid-Atlantic, New York and New England), and in historic quantities in some areas.

It snowed non-stop from about 4am on Tuesday, March 14 (one day before the legendary "Ides of March") until sometime 24 hours later (on the very Ides themselves). My corner of the region went from literally no snow on the ground whatsoever for the past month or so to an epic amount, with the accumulation logging the most snow to fall in the immediate area of upstate New York in March...ever...26 inches in 24 hours. Areas in the Adirondacks to the north got upwards of 30-plus inches. That's a LOT of snow in just one day.

There were some consolations in all of this white stuff...first, the snow was constant but not heavy, it was like a light, white mist...literally a snow shower for 24 hours. None of that big, white cotton-ball-like heavy stuff laden with moisture. This was white powdery stuff. Great for skiing, if you're into that sort of thing.

One couldn't avoid the memo that the weather media was circulating well in advance. Don't got out on the roads if you could avoid it. Driving was treacherous and unless absolutely necessary, was best avoided until the snows ended. No problem at my end. I was more than happy to stay home, do some things around the house, roast a chicken, and eventually make my way out to clear the driveway before the volume would totally overwhelm my already behemoth snowblower. (Don't let anyone tell you that wrestling with a massive hunk of motorized metal that weighs about 250 pounds isn't pretty serious exercise. It's not for the faint of heart. I've ridden fairly large horses that were easier to maneuver!)

Did I mention chicken? Oh, yes, I picked one up on sale at the grocery on Monday since I knew I'd be stuck inside the next day and thought it was the perfect comfort food for a mid-March snowstorm. There's little about chicken, whether one I roast myself or one I buy already rotisserie cooked from the grocery store (my favorite), that goes to waste in my kitchen. I'll stuff the bird loosely with a chopped up onion, and, if I have some, add apple, fresh herbs, or whatever else strikes me.

 Snow Day Roast Chicken

Once roasted, I'll make an array of things with the left overs from salad, chicken stock and soup - whether classic chicken noodle or an Italian version with some sort of fun pasta and topped with grated cheese - to reducing the drippings to make a gravy base. Any leftovers of those by-products I'll put in containers (labeled and dated, of course) and freeze for another use later.  As I said, nothing goes to waste if I can help it.

From the last rotisserie chicken I bought pre-cooked recently, I made stock, strained it and put it right back in the pot to use it as the cooking liquid for cubed red potatoes. They, in turn,  became the base for a favorite rich, rustic curried potato and onion cream soup that is finished with evaporated milk and seasoned with basil and topped with chopped bacon. It has been a no-fail, go-to fall and winter soup for me for 40 years and I think it originally came from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine recipe in the early 1970s that a friend had made for a lunch we had together. It was wonderful, and my first conscious experience with curry - and the rest, as they say, was culinary history for me. I've never stopped making it since and I do it all "by feel" without a recipe...don't need one at this point.

The other major consolation of this mid-March snowstorm is just's mid-March. The temperatures were unusually warm in February, and while we've had some bitterly cold, January-like days since the storm, the sun in March is that much warmer than it is in the dead of winter, so the snows of March 14 have been quick to start melting.

We also have some pretty solid snow clearing capability here in the Northeast - it's a science that we have pretty much perfected over the past seven decades or so (and, I must add, puts most southern states' efforts to shame when they get an aberrational dusting or glazing). Our main roads were down to bare pavement 24 hours after the storm ended, and the local roads were well on their way to cleared, too. (You wonder why our taxes are so high in the Northeast compared to much of the rest of the U.S., well, there's a bit of part of your answer. It's not cheap to keep the many miles of roads and highways clear of the white and icy stuff when it hits here as predictably as it does, but where would we be if we couldn't get that done? It's essential for safety and for commerce to continue uninterrupted, and part of the price we pay for living here in the "Great Northeast.")

We've lost about half - or a full foot - of the original accumulation of almost a week ago just due to the wonderful, warm, melting effects of the sun, which has been apparent every day since "snowmegeddon" on March 14. Love that! I'm thinking, barring any further colossal convergence of weather fronts blowing in from the northwest and the east, that this last foot could be nearly gone by this time next week. I certainly hope so, because, Spring will be here officially tomorrow...and it has been, in the words of Lennon and McCartney, a long, cold winter, but here comes the sun!

Come on in, Spring - we've been waiting for you!