Nfld. & Labrador

Snowmageddon: Revisiting a snowfall like no other through a child's eye

One year after the blizzard of all blizzards, contributor Jenn Thornhill Verma looks back on Snowmageddon in poetry.

'Dedicated to all children, including those at heart, who love snow, before they have to shovel it'

Jenn Thornhill Verma is a writer and expat Newfoundlander living in Ottawa. (Submitted by Jenn Thornhill Verma)

Fresh snowfall is a tactile experience for a toddler.

It's a lick in the sky, trying to taste snowflakes on the tip of your tongue. It's confetti, falling apart into slivers and specks once your loosely packed snowball becomes airborne. It's a comfy seat, providing a customized landing cushion every time you flop into the fluffy stuff.

It was with that lens I watched the giant snow fall and great winds gust on eastern Newfoundland last January.

Only a couple of months earlier, my family had stayed in a house in the Battery overlooking St. John's harbour. We had celebrated my daughter's second birthday there in the company of family and friends. As she blew out her candles, a St. John's special of rain, drizzle and fog brewed outside.

Last January, watching from our home in Ottawa (where we were lying low due to frostbite and blowing-snow warnings), the weather brewing back home looked to be a lifetime supply for sledding, snowmen and snow forts.

But it was a serious snowstorm to be sure. "Snowmageddon," as people called it, was a blizzard that packed a punch with its 76 centimetres of snow, and sustained winds of 130 km/h.

Snowmageddon, the storm that many people will remember for the rest of their lives, inspired these drawings. (Submitted by Jenn Thornhill Verma)

The weather walloped parts of the province, shutting down power, highways and St. John's International Airport. Clearing the snow and rescuing snowbound residents even required calling in the Canadian Armed Forces.

And yet, as serious as Snowmageddon was, it lit my own childlike imagination. I'm sure I wasn't alone in that experience. Watching the stream of photos, videos and stories pouring in on social media, each anecdote seemed to blow the previous out of the snow.

Five months pregnant with twins at the time, I was particularly taken with the news of a baby born at the height of the storm. Aptly, the baby's last name was Snow. Baby Snow, how perfect.

Pair real-life events like that with my own steady reading diet of children's literature (thanks again to my toddler), I was inspired to pen a children's story.

A year later, as we've settled in for another Canadian winter in January, it's the pandemic, not the weather that keeps us close to home.

Just as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians saw their way clear of Snowmageddon, so too will we see our way clear of this pandemic.

As we inch closer to that point, I hope this poem lifts your spirits the way watching Newfoundlanders respond to Snowmageddon lifted mine.

Dedicated to all children, including those at heart, who love snow, before they have to shovel it.

Snowmageddon: A Snowfall Like No Other in St. John's

Did you ever see the snow, have no place to go?

A fluffy patchwork quilt that grows and grows and grows.

It blankets all the sidewalks, the lampposts, streets and cars.

"It's still snowing out there," Papa shouts, "today, we won't go far!"

"We're snowed in," Mama says, a wall of snow blocks our door.

The radio-man announces closed roads, schools and stores.

"Good thing we stocked up," says Papa, "before the storm had passed."

'"We're snowed in," Mama says, a wall of snow blocks our door. The radio-man announces closed roads, schools and stores.' (Submitted by Jenn Thornhill Verma)

"We'll make do," says Mama, "But my fresh-baked bread won't last!"

Our kitty cat, Sir Purrsalot, loves wood-burning heat.

Mama lights some candles, while the fire warms our feet.

Not everyone's so lucky to have heat, food or lights.

Papa calls the neighbours to see if everyone's alright.

"Best kind," I hear Ms. Marshall say, she lives a few doors down.

Her power is still working, so we're welcome to come 'round.

'People had to leave their homes up over on the hill. An avalanche broke through a house, now their living room is filled!' (Submitted by Jenn Thornhill Verma)

Outside, I spot a moose, strutting down our street.

Some adults light a campfire, it's their mid-snowstorm retreat.

We hear a couple rode snowmobile to hospital in a hurry.

They're expecting a new baby in all these falling flurries.

People had to leave their homes up over on the hill.

An avalanche broke through a house, now their living room is filled!

'Today, I saw a snowboarder enjoying the fresh powder. People are sick of being stuck inside, so the streets have gotten louder.' (Submitted by Jenn Thornhill Verma)

When the snow finally stops, people say it's been the worst.

I can't believe the piles. I want to jump in them feet-first.

The adults are all whining, but the kids think it's a blast.

Snow forts and hills for sliding! "Look out, I'm coming in fast!"

Today, I saw a snowboarder enjoying the fresh powder.

People are sick of being stuck inside, so the streets have gotten louder.

I learn shovelling is hard work and my tiny shovel is no match.

'We walk downtown, all bundled up, still in disbelief.' (Submitted by Jenn Thornhill Verma)

There are rows and rows of sky-high mounds, and I've only cleared a patch.

Who knew we'd love the snowplows sweeping back and forth through town?

Everyone starts cheering when they hear their familiar sound.

Good thing the army has arrived to help us clear the mess!

They swing their shovels, moving snow, giving adults a brief rest.

Now the snow is clear, the sun is out and the city sighs relief.

We walk downtown, all bundled up, still in disbelief.

LISTEN | Jenn Thornhill Verma arranged for this recording of her story. Lend an ear!

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jenn Thornhill Verma is a writer and expat Newfoundlander living in Ottawa.

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