Storm Chasers

Storm Chasers

Like the movie, Juno the storm (a.k.a. Colbie) ended up delivering a more wholesome message than observers predicted.

Powdery, wispy and drifting around, snow ranged between 6” and 15” in downtown New Haven. By early afternoon yesterday, most streets and sidewalks downtown were eminently passable. But estimates in the lead-up were much, much worse, up to 36”, prompting most businesses to close and convincing most people to choose a warm place to hunker down for the day.

If you were one of them, here’s some stuff you missed:

Architectural bling. Fresh snowfall catches in ridges, grooves, crevices, corners—until it melts or blows away, anyway. Some buildings look neat and uniform after a blizzard; others get that windswept look, like they just don’t care. Today the Yale University Art Gallery had racing stripes, thin lines of snow snagging atop the long, flat, grey outcroppings of its western Chapel-facing facade (pictured second). Across the street from each other, the letters of the Hull’s (pictured third) and Thai Taste signs were handsomely coifed in white. Prominent icicles that’d formed off the slanted glass roofs of Bangkok Gardens and Book Trader Cafe were already melting by afternoon; a sheet of them crashed down from the edge of Book Trader’s roof at about 2 p.m.

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Storm troopers. The vast majority of downtown storefronts were closed; many of them posted notes citing the weather (including my personal favorite, pictured first). But a relative handful dug deep and opened for regular hours. Falafel joint Mamoun’s was open like it always is—“365 days a year,” the front door promises. The Wine Thief also keeps to its regular hours during extreme weather events, according to Janine Sacco, the shop’s wine buyer. “We stay open because the owner likes to think of us as a beacon in the storm.” Other beacons today were Yorkside (pizza), JoJo’s (coffee), Est Est Est (pizza), Chap’s (falafel), Starbucks, College Wine, Marco Polo (pizza), Elm City Market (grocery), Tikkaway (Indian food), Mediterranea (Middle Eastern and Italian food), Koffee? (indeed), a trio of Irish bars (O’Tooles , Christy’s and Anna Liffey’s), a duo of Chinese restaurants (Great Wall and Chao) and a smattering of convenience stores along the way.

Also, a shout-out is due a neon-clad little girl, maybe seven or eight years old, who helped her dad shovel the sidewalk in front of the Christian Science Reading Room on Chapel.

Sounds of silence. In most places, foot traffic was fractional, plows were occasional and non-plows were rarer still. So you could hear the city in a different way than usual. The low whirs and buzzings of New Haven’s bones—its solid infrastructure—could be heard here and there. Meanwhile, not having to compete with the usual human din, you could pay more attention to the pitch and timbre of the wind as it channeled its way through openings and around obstacles. It was like hearing, not seeing, the city’s contours.

Muscle memory. As in, remembering muscles you forgot you had. Walking in snow bends and bows the feet, ankles and legs. Shoveling it twists and pulls the hands, wrists, arms and torso. A hundred little pieces of you that are used to a standard set of motions get stretched and worked like you’re a box of rubber bands in the hands of a curious toddler. It hurts, but it hurts good.

Sweet relief. The feeling of giving a well-earned rest to aching feet, ankles and legs is sublime. So is getting warm inside after a long day out in the cold. Sure, relief can be plentiful while staying inside on a day like this—when the show you’re binge-watching on Netflix turns out to be as good as you’d hoped, or when you get a big word during a fireside bout of Scrabble—but it’s just not the same.

Next time there’s a storm, try scrabbling around outside for a bit, too, and see what you come up with.

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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