Embracing the Bomb Cyclone

Much to the chagrin of most of my friends in New England, I love a good snowstorm. Seeing those first flakes start falling from a steely sky makes me feel like a giddy 5 year old, even at the ripe old age of 63. Granted, I’m staying in a place where there’s a generator to ensure that I still have heat and lights if the power goes out, and my landlord plows out the long driveway on the property.

Therefore, I don’t have to worry about being unable to take a hot shower or fix a hot meal, and I don’t have to risk a massive heart attack shoveling a ton of heavy wet snow, perhaps two or three times during a really big storm. So, I do understand my friends’ bitterness when we hear that a big blizzard is on the way. Still, it IS winter, this IS New England, and we hadn’t experienced a significant snowstorm so far this season, so when the weather forecast predicted a foot or two of snow for Saturday, January 29, I couldn’t hide my absolute glee.

A spectacular sunset with storm clouds moving in from the west… snow is coming!

Perhaps it’s also the media’s fault that people seem unable to enjoy a good old-fashioned blizzard these days. Until a few years ago, we’d hear the weather report, and if it said we were in for snow, we might have put some gas in the car, picked up some bread and milk at the store, and taken it all in stride. But these days every storm is taken as a sign of the coming apocalypse. New England has always experienced the occasional “nor’easter” (pronounced NAW-EASTAH, of course), a major storm that impacts the coast with heavy winds that blow in from the northeast, bringing high tides, powerful waves and a lot of either snow or rain. But in the past few years the media have been warning us of an incoming “bomb cyclone”, which is described as a winter hurricane that causes rapid atmospheric pressure drops and hurricane force winds and gusts. There is some ambiguity as to what the actual differences are between a nor’easter and a bomb cyclone, but a nor’easter makes me think of battening down the hatches, heating up some soup or hot chocolate and sitting by the fireplace. A bomb cyclone invokes images of mass panic, hoarding at the grocery store, and sitting in one’s bomb cyclone shelter while contemplating the purchase of a Toyota Prius in a feeble attempt to reverse global climate change. Whatever new name there is for it, it’s snow, folks. Keep calm and build a snowman!

Most older New Englanders still reminisce about the famous “Blizzard of ‘78”, an early February storm that dumped 27 inches of snow on southern New England. I have extremely vivid memories of the storm; I was at my university, classes got canceled mid-day as the snow piled up rapidly. Worried that I might not be able to make it home to my apartment 20 miles away, I accepted an invitation from a classmate to go to her place, which was much closer to campus, and ride out the storm there with her and her mother. When I look back at all my life decisions, that was one I would have changed if I could go back in time. Let me just say that you never really know how odd anyone is till you are snowed in with them for two days with no electricity, and I was so uncomfortable that regardless of any obstacle, I was determined to get away. Because these folks lived on a side street that hadn’t been plowed, I had to excavate my car from three to four foot-high snow drifts, and then dig a path down the block wide enough to allow my car to make it to the first major street that had been cleared. I was not exactly a fit or athletic young man, but I worked like my sanity depended on it (perhaps it actually DID) to make my escape. It took me the better part of an afternoon to clear that path, and although there was a statewide ban on driving for three days after the storm, I cautiously navigated the snowy streets trying to avoid police cars. I sighed with relief when I reached the well-plowed interstate and successfully reached the blessed silence of my tiny studio apartment, with only mild symptoms of PTSD to show for the experience.

But I digress. This blizzard/nor’easter/bomb cyclone was a whole different ballgame. I sat in my comfy Lazy Boy recliner watching the snow swirl and listening to the wind howl outside. I made pancakes, binge-watched some TV shows, and played endless games of Words with Friends on Facebook. At around 10:00 AM I ventured out to clean some of the snow off my car, even though we were only a few hours into a storm that was to rage all day long.

Later in the afternoon I went out again and took a very strenuous walk, as by now the snow was 15 or 16 inches deep with a lot of drifts. Every step was an effort. To get from the driveway into the road, which had been somewhat cleared, I had to get past huge piles of plowed snow, sinking hip-deep into the cold, wet mess, causing me to fall down and momentarily wonder whether I could get the strength and leverage to get back up. At this point, snow was coming down at the rate of two or three inches per hour. The way the wind was gusting and blowing the snow around, I pictured myself just being buried in a drift as night descended and not being found until the spring thaw. Yes, I have a vivid imagination. But soon I was back on my feet, walking the road a bit and taking some photos before retreating to my cozy apartment and making some chocolate chip cookies. Yes, indeed, a much more pleasant experience than the blizzard of ’78!

In all we received 22 inches of snow here in Little Compton, Rhode Island, with closer to 30 inches along the northeastern coast of Massachusetts between Plymouth and Boston. The next morning was cold, only reaching 25 degrees or so by mid-day, but the sun was shining, and the blue skies set off the snowy landscapes beautifully. My landlord had plowed the driveway, allowing me to get out to the road, and so after breakfast I set out for an 80-mile-long drive through a dozen small towns in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts to take photos. It was spectacular; because of the freezing temperatures, snow and ice clung to tree branches and bushes and didn’t melt, so everything sparkled in the sunlight. It was a fantastic day.

In defiance of the typical “snowbird” pattern, I will be leaving New England in mid-March for Florida, and while I am looking forward to a couple of months spent on her warm, sun-kissed beaches, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss the cold, crisp winter days here in New England. After living so much of my adult life in San Francisco, California, where the “change of seasons” means fog vs. no fog, drought and fire vs. floods and mudslides, it’s been great to get back to my New England roots and enjoy the whole gamut of what the seasons have to offer. Fall will still always be my favorite time of year, especially in New England, but there’s nothing like a well-placed bomb cyclone to bring a smile to my face!

12 thoughts on “Embracing the Bomb Cyclone

  1. Gosh I was so sorry to read that you too had Ann”odd” experience with people with whom you were previously very close! After my terrible experience with my now ex-friends I feel very sad because the break struck me as egregious and uncalled for. In your case because it was a female friend and her mother (in that very strange land of New England) G-d knows what expectations or invisible red lines were involved. And I am not picking your brain for details because it was no doubt very painful and hurtful!

    This reminds me of when I used to read my fighter pilot father’s Survival Handbook from a mandatory Advanced Individual Training course he had to take. Some of its recommendations for behavior among desert or jungle tribes were almost hilarious to read “when in the presence of the Sheikh of a Bedouin tribe it is not advisable to break wind.” “When in the presence of desert Arabs it is advisable to give coins as charity to tribal members: but do not cast the coin at the man’s feet as this is a mortal insult.” But then totally different recommendations for Mongol tribesmen: “If a Mongol woman propositions you do not express shock or disgust as the double standard is unknown to them.” But no advice on how to handle the unhappy kucolded Mongol hubby.

    A Costa Rican who knows a lot of expat Gringos told me that they are a group of some of the oddest ducks he has ever come across. I have made some other expat Gringo friends by Internet. My sincere hope is that when I have attained some fluency in Spanish to make more friends among the local native population.

    If Professor Hahibullah Abdusamadov’s climatological claims are correct Costa Rica may be in for snowy weather at least near its mountain tops. The gentleman is the top Astrophysicist is Russia and is a complete climate change contrarian based in his study of solar cycles.

    Hope the Day After Tomorrow for you is sunnier and warmer!


    On Fri, Feb 4, 2022 at 8:18 PM MATT: AT HOME IN THE WORLD wrote:

    > mattathomeintheworld posted: ” Much to the chagrin of most of my friends > in New England, I love a good snowstorm. Seeing those first flakes start > falling from a steely sky makes me feel like a giddy 5 year old, even at > the ripe old age of 63. The Bomb Cyclone (Nor’easter) hits Rho” >


    1. Hi Shaun, it took me a minute to figure out what you were talking about regarding painful memories. The woman and her mom that I mentioned in the blog post were not close friends of mine; I’d probably been to dinner at their house a couple times was in a few of the same classes with the daughter. I do think she was in college searching for a husband, and there was a bit of that vibe going on when I was stranded at their house. Bur I don’t look back on the experience with any sadness… it was actually funny and absurd. I am however sorry that you were hurt by people you thought were friends. I certainly can relate to that. Thanks for reading!


  2. Hi, Matt — I’m glad you are enjoying your retirement so much. (Also, what Fountain of Youth are you drinking from? You look just like you did when you were 27!) Meanwhile, I still feel like I’m 18, and I’m just getting started. Working on two books right now and have a CD (with booklet notes by me) about to be released. Thanks for keeping us aware of your many adventures and here’s wishing you happy travels!


    1. Happy New Year, Randy! As for the fountain of youth, why do you think I spend so much time in Florida. I had a tip from Ponce de Leon… However, the gray in my beard is showing that the fountain can only do so much! 🙂 Good luck with all your projects. That is exciting!


  3. Thanks for sharing your love of seasons! Stay well and safe!

    On Fri, Feb 4, 2022 at 7:18 PM MATT: AT HOME IN THE WORLD wrote:

    > mattathomeintheworld posted: ” Much to the chagrin of most of my friends > in New England, I love a good snowstorm. Seeing those first flakes start > falling from a steely sky makes me feel like a giddy 5 year old, even at > the ripe old age of 63. The Bomb Cyclone (Nor’easter) hits Rho” >


  4. Matt, your writing is getting more mesmerizing, that is for sure. i started to shiver when you described going out to your car in the morning to clear off some snow. Plus, i totally sympathize that at some point a bomb cyclone is mostly unnecessary theatre. a good Nor’easter is plenty to feed the human imagination and a weather lover’s soul. and, i don’t think that a really good rainstorm in California, which are getting way too rare, needs to be referred to as an Atmospheric River, as a way of agrandizing weather reporting and insuring headlines and spreading anxiety.
    glad to know you are savoring your life experiences as you have always been so amazing at doing. Until we meet again, keep on keeping on and updating us all as to your experience of your experiences.
    sincerely, peter and gwenny


    1. Thanks Peter, and as always, it’s good to hear from you! Are you in Florida now? I will be thinking of you this week: I have a dentist appointment to fill two small cavities and it took me forever to find a dentist who will use nitrous! Some things change, but I am still the dental phobic who walked into your office 30 years ago! 🙂


      1. Matt,
        we are not in Florida, actually, at this moment we are in Kona Hawaii for a few days. I would be great fun to overlap in Florida someday, so I will follow your blog to see when you will be down there and see if we can make a visit. as I think I mentioned, Gwenny’s sister lives in Niceville (essentially the same as Destin) so we could visit at any time.
        see you eventually. good luck with the dentist. let me know his name and I will send him my book on dental pharmacology as a thank you for taking good care of you.
        peter j.


  5. My new dentist is Eugene Nichols in Foxborough, MA I will be in Panama City Beach, an hour or so from Niceville from about March 29 to the end of April, then Ormond Beach near Daytona for May. Let me know if you are down that way!


    1. Hey there. It was great to have some company over dinner! Hope you check out some of my stories about Italy, Greece, Iceland and the Manatees! If you follow me, then you will get an update when I publish anything new. Keep in touch!


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