So if you’re up on the news, you may have heard that there’s currently (or was very recently) a huge snowstorm in Chicago, which ended up cancelling about a billion flights at O’Hare. Of course, even though there’s somewhere around eight inches of snow, classes are still in session (which really sucks for anyone who flew out for turkey day weekend). Considering I’ve had to go to class in subzero weather before, the lack of snow days isn’t a surprise.
But the amount of snow had me thinking about the last really significant blizzard, aka that one in February 2011, aka Snowpocalypse. It’s really funny to me that you can look up the phrase “snowpocalypse” and get actual results about the 2011 blizzard, though obviously “snowpocalypse chicago” gets you a lot more relevant results. Apparently it was a significant enough event that it has a Wikipedia page. That shouldn’t surprise me, but Snowpocalypse didn’t feel like a “historical event” sort of deal so much as some localized phenomena that everyone who was in the area remembers. It’s the kind of thing where if you talk to someone from Chicago and ask them about Snowpocalypse, they go, “oh yeah!” and if you ask someone from somewhere else they go, “what?”
Obviously I have no idea if that’s the case, that’s just how it feels to me. But a lot of people have a Snowpocalypse story and I’m in a snowy mood, so I’ll talk about mine.
The thing about remembering stuff is that it’s hard to ever remember dates. Time in the memory doesn’t exist in a calendar so much as it exists in discrete events. I bring this up because the only reason I can remember what year Snowpocalypse actually occurred is because I remember what year of high school I was in when it happened. I remember it took place on a Tuesday-Wednesday because the school I went to had a bit of a weird schedule on Wednesdays, so we joked that it was unfair that the snow got us off Wednesday when we basically got it off anyways, but I couldn’t tell you offhand that it happened in February or that it happened on the 1st-2nd–I had to look that up to find that out.
I bring this up because Snowpocalypse, to me, is really closely attached to the experience I had in high school. I’ve mentioned it before, but I went to a boarding school for high school, so there were residence halls and weird schedules and a lot of spending time with friends at hours I didn’t back in middle school. I think it was good for me, partially because the independence was really freeing, as well as the privacy–growing up, my parents were always on me for my grades and assignments, so being physically away from them for most of the week was refreshing.
I remember spending Tuesday night in the common room and doing…something. Maybe animation. Probably Flash games. There was a little window that was pretty high up where I could see all the snow coming down, to the point that there was lightning. That was cool to me–even living in the Chicago area, I’d never seen thundersnow before.
Then the power went down. All the lights went down (and the internet, too), and the emergency lights went up, and the resident counselors (aka the local adults) went through each of the wings of the hall with megaphones to get people out of their rooms. I can’t remember what they said, exactly, but they were worried about what would happen overnight with all the snow and the power out.
So everyone had to move their mattress out into the hallway. It had something to do with the heat going down, or that it could go down, but the important thing is that everyone had to drag their mattress out of their room and into the hallway, meaning that there were twenty-something people sleeping in the hallway. We also had to take all of our stuff off of the ground in our rooms in case the cold made the pipes burst overnight (they didn’t, but we were worried).
I definitely remember I was animating for a while at this point, out in the hallway with emergency lights and all the mattresses in a row and everyone in jimjams like the world’s worst slumber party. The lights were all down and there was no power, but my laptop still had battery. I can’t say what I was working on, because I know I still really sucked at animation in early 2011.
I didn’t have any problem sleeping that night, but I had at least two blankets and I sometimes like to sleep on the floor anyways, so sleeping on a mattress in the hallway was fun. I guess most people slept fine, too, because I didn’t get woken up in the middle of the night.
I did, however, get woken up at six or seven in the morning because someone’s alarm went off and they didn’t turn it off. At that point, it was bright again, so I decided to actually get up. The little window was pretty much covered in snow and the outside doors were backed up with at least a foot of snow–I didn’t actually leave the building until that evening for dinner. I don’t remember what I actually did on that snow day, besides staying in. I probably spent most of it doing homework or sleeping or playing games, as you do when you’re in high school.
I heard later on that other residence halls didn’t have the same experience we did. Apparently some halls didn’t have their power go down at all, and they definitely didn’t have to move their mattresses into the hall for the night.
The snow got cleared out well enough for us to go back to class on Thursday, and everyone got to talk about how they survived Snowpocalypse after that.