Remembering Those In Need During Snowmageddon

Jan 24, 2016

Vienna DC snow
LOVE reigns in winter! photo by Heather Brent Gilbertson.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. ― Charles Dickens

How’s the weather where you are??  We just weathered through a record breaking blizzard here in D.C.   Snow totals have reached 35 inches west, north, and northwest of the Beltway, 24 inches inches inside the DC Beltway, and 20 inches south and southeast of the Beltway.  The deepest regional total was 42 inches (106.7 cm) at Glengarry, West Virginia.  This storm, named Snowzilla, ranks as the snowiest on record for Baltimore, second snowiest on record at Dulles, and is tied for fourth snowiest on record in D.C.  Much of the northeast coast is experiencing similar challenging conditions.

blizzard 2016
Playing in the blizzard in the front of our house last night

Fortunately, the snow has stopped.  The wind has subsided.  The sun is shining.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  I am in heaven.  Well, except for the fact that we are snowed in.

blizzard 2016 backyard vienna
Somewhere under all of that snow is our backyard


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Somewhere under that snow is the road out of here.

 The Downside to Endless Snow Drifts

I love snow.  Let me rephrase that: I absolutely adore everything about snow.  Whether it’s listening to the silent snowfall, or shredding the slopes on a board,  snow is heaven to me!   To many people, snow really is beautiful, but it can also be  a major pain in the butt. Not everyone enjoys a deluge of snow as much as Tian Tian the panda bear. Snowstorms and blizzards like this one can bring everything to a screeching halt.

A major winter storm like this can affect communities well beyond a few nights of blustery wind and snowfall.  People can become trapped at home without utilities or other services.  Winter storms make driving and walking at best, extremely hazardous, and at worst, impossible.  The aftermath of a blizzard can have an impact on a community or days, weeks, or even months. 

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Our snow covered cul-de-sac (There’s a street under there somewhere.)

Digging Out From Under the Snow

Thankfully the area where we live is on a major underground electric grid so we never lost power, but millions of other families in the nation did.   We are very grateful that the only concern our family has today is to DIG OUT!   So today (and tomorrow, and the next, and the next day) we will be shoveling out from the massive amounts of snow we received for the past 3 days.  We have to do it quickly before the sun melts the snow and turns it into treacherous ice as the temps drop again at night.

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Just clearing our front porch and sidewalk took hours!

Clearing the tons of snow is back breaking work, for even people who are in really great shape.  This necessary clean up work is impossible for the elderly, sick, or multi-challenged folks.   That’s why I am taking a break from “back porch snow clearing duty” to write this quick post to you.  There are countless people and pets that need assistance from their neighbors.  My hope is that this will be a reminder of that fact, and maybe give you a few ideas of how you can help!

A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. ― Steve Maraboli

Be Aware of Your Neighbors and the Elderly 

One in six Americans over the age of 60 faces the threat of hunger.  A blizzard can be particularly precarious for this demographic, since they’re at a high risk for developing hypothermia and frostbite as many struggle to leave their home.  But as Conscious Companions, we can be of service to our neighbors and their needs!   We can check in with elderly neighbors or other housebound people to ensure they have supplies (food, medicine, pet food, litter, etc.).   We can keep in touch with them as the snow-filled days go by.

One drop-in is not enough.  Continue to check on them.  They may have forgotten something they really need, or a need may arise after you’ve initially stopped by after the storm.  This is vitally important as the most vulnerable in our community could be impacted the most by this blizzard.


Come Together As a Community 

One of the best ways to make sure that walkways and well-traveled paths in your area are cleared of snow is to work as a community, and to plan in advance.  Reach out to your neighbors and talk about who is able to pitch in to help everyone.  Here are a few things to consider when working out your snow removal plans:

  • What areas are priority for clearing to keep your neighborhood and residents safe?
  • Volunteer to use/share equipment you may have such as small snow blowers for a community removal effort
  • Shovel snow into the yard instead of into the street to minimize the problem of the snowplow covering your driveway with snow after you’ve just shoveled it (though with these predicted snow amounts, expect the end of your driveway to be covered a couple of times over).
  • Do some neighbors need assistance in clearing their walkways (due to age, health conditions, disability, etc.)?
  • Consider your health condition. If there is any reason that shoveling snow might be dangerous for you, such as a heart condition, consult your doctor before shoveling.
  • If neighbors are on vacation (lucky them!), can someone chip in and help out so the whole community is safe?
  • Keep the openings of storm drains clear of snow and debris to help alleviate potential flooding.
  • Make sure that all parking spots identified as accessible parking spaces for people with disabilities are cleared of snow.

The state and the county do not clear snow and ice from public walkways (sidewalks and trails).  While not legally obligated, residents and businesses are asked to help keep sidewalks safe, and check on their neighbors.

Don’t assume that your neighbors are fine. Go over and make sure they are.

And remember:  Not all post-storm relief and help has to come in the form of snow shoveling, warm clothes, blankets, or food.   Some folks just want a friend by their side. In fact, one of our elderly neighbors is someone who prefers relief in the form of a friend.


Our wonderful landlord was up day and night, using his snowblower to stay ahead of the massive snowfall to clear the sidewalks around our neighborhood


Relief In a Fur Coat

Several of our elderly neighbors live alone.  Some have family that came to weather the storm with them, and some weathered the storm alone.  One neighbor in particular lives alone.   She recently lost her beloved cat of 20 years while she was in the hospital battling cancer.  When she got out of the hospital her beloved feline companion passed away.  Clearly this elderly woman was devastated and heartbroken.  But once I heard about her loss, I was inspired to help heal her broken heart.

This help came in the form of a black cat.

Mr. Beaux, our amiable senior cat, became somewhat of a therapy cat for our elderly neighbor, Miss Liz.  One day she met Beaux while I was outside getting the mail.  Beaux was just outside for a bit with me, eating some fresh grass.  She fell in love with him right away, and he tolerated her hugs and squeezes; a first for Beaux with total strangers.

I felt there was something special between them right away.

I began to bring Mr. Beaux over to her house so they could have quality time together.  She would call me when he was ready to come home, and I would go and get him. This has now become a daily event, and the two of them have formed such a beautiful bond.  Now Beaux asks to go out so he can go see his “lady friend”.

Since Beaux is an indoor kitty, I will escort him over there.  Then he walks home with me after they have their morning or afternoon time together.  My husband and I giggle every day at the thought of Mr. Beaux having a friendly feline affair with our elderly neighbor.  But this interspecies friendship is more than that.

This companionship helped someone in need.

Before the blizzard hit we checked on Miss Liz and gave her what she needed.  After the blizzard passed we knew what Miss Liz needed: companionship from her favorite black cat.  Helping neighbors _pets_elderly_blizzard 2016

So we brought Mr. Beaux over to Miss Liz.

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Beaux and Miss Liz were beyond happy to see one another after 3 days apart.

Miss Liz was doing well.  She had all the food, medical needs, and warmth she needed for today, but what she really needed was a friend to talk to, and to be by her side.  Mr. Beaux and Miss Liz’s friendship are just one example of what can heal and help someone in need, during many of life’s storms.  We are all very grateful for that.




Was your family affected by Winter Storm Jonas? How have you manged to weather the storm?  Are there any neighbors near you who might need your help? While you are thinking of what to do today, think about how you can help.

Conscious Companion

I don’t want to live in the kind of world where we don’t look out for each other. Not just the people that are close to us, but anybody who needs a helping hand. I cant change the way anybody else thinks, or what they choose to do, but I can do my bit. ― Charles de Lint



Recommended Reading:

Be RedCrossReady-Winter Storm Safety Checklist

Not all homeless people able to reach shelter during snowstorm

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