Surviving Snowstorm Nemo in New York and Boston

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I was visiting my sister in New York last week when I got an urgent call from my dad.  “You better not come back on Friday like you planned,” he said.  “We’re getting a snowstorm.  And this is going to be a BIG one.”

Big was right.  Soon we would be hit by Storm Nemo, one of the fiercest snowstorms to hit the Northeast US in recent memory, and definitely the fiercest one named after everyone’s favorite adorable clownfish.

Knowing how bad the roads would get, I elected to stay in New York a few days longer than planned.  By Friday afternoon, the flakes were falling in earnest, and I settled into my sister’s Harlem apartment with a cup of tea and a perfect view.  I wouldn’t have to move for days!

Until I got a text from Sarah telling me to meet her at Mel’s Burger Bar, more than 40 blocks away.

Go out in that snow?  Insane!  Though I did owe her and her boyfriend Zack a meal.  I headed out — and realized the conditions were perfect for getting photos of her neighborhood’s beautiful architecture in the snow.

It’s actually been a while since I’ve been in the middle of a proper snowstorm.  Growing up in Massachusetts, we usually faced around four to six major snowstorms most winters, not counting flurries. But last year, there was hardly any snow, and the year before, I was spending the winter in hot and sunny Southeast Asia.

The next morning, the weather in New York couldn’t have been more beautiful — there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  There is nothing like a bright blue sky serving as a backdrop for a fresh snowfall!

Most of the streets were already clear, as were the sidewalks.

Convent Garden, a pretty Victorian-style enclave between the streets, looked especially nice underneath a fresh coating of snow.

Kids were playing in the parks, snowball fights out in full force!

A jaunty snowperson held court outside the Soup & Salad.

And my favorite picture of all:

So beautiful.  Red brownstones, blue sky, so much snow — this is Manhattan at its most beautiful!

But still, this snow was nothing compared to what Massachusetts got.  While about 12 inches fell in Manhattan, Boston got well over double that.

What made Nemo especially notable was that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick issued an executive order prohibiting travel on the roads.  If you were out driving, and weren’t emergency services, road works, or media, you could be fined $500 and face a year in jail.  This is the first time any order like this has been issued in my lifetime.

At first I thought the driving ban was excessive at best, absolutely ridiculous at worst, even though they said they wouldn’t actually be fining or arresting anyone.  Predictably, Bay State conservatives and libertarians were even more up in arms about big government than usual.

But you know what?  This driving ban was incredibly smart.  The roads were clear.  Nobody was charged.  And I realized that the people most likely to be driving in a major snowstorm like this are low-wage workers who can’t afford to miss work.  Places like Wal-Mart would never dream of closing without an executive order from the governor.

Compare that to New York State, where hundreds of people were stranded on the Long Island Expressway. Cars were buried.  People were trapped in their cars overnight.

No question — this driving ban saved lives, and saved Massachusetts a lot of money.  Well played, Governor.

Take a look at my dad’s backyard:


See the treehouse?  That shows you just how much fell.

As for the patio:

I think it’s safe to say my dad won’t be grilling anytime soon.

All things considered, this storm wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  There had been no snow on the ground, and it’s always the worst when new snow piles up on top of old snow.  Temperatures are expected to be above freezing for the rest of the week, so hopefully some of this will melt soon.

READ MORE: Where to Stay in Boston

40+ Things To Do In Boston At Night

Ever been in a big snowstorm?

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32 thoughts on “Surviving Snowstorm Nemo in New York and Boston”

  1. I’m glad you’re doing OK! I’ve never lived in places that have had really dramatic weather regularly, but even then there were some times in Portland (the west coast one) where the roads have been closed in similar conditions.

    Of course, in London around two inches qualifies as a ‘blizzard’, so I’ve forgotten a little what it’s like to experience weather like that – thank you for the photos, they’re gorgeous!

  2. The Blizzard of ’78 was incredible! Not only because of the snow storm, but because of the way my town was affected. Scituate lost many homes out to sea and has since rebuilt them on stilts. The coverage of Nemo shows the water ripping through the streets of Scituate once again, only this time with less damage since the homes were more prepared. We had no school for three weeks back then as the roof to our middle school caved in. We then had to share the high school and go to school in “flex” hours – not ideal. We also had a ton of snow days to make up at the end, but fortunately not the whole three weeks’ worth!
    Many families lost everything and I remember feeling so badly for them. It was unsettling to hear the personal stories of my classmates and it made me respect the power of the ocean even more.
    I must say, however, I enjoyed this storm from afar. The beautiful photos of the aftermath were neat!
    Shoveling snow is thankfully a thing of my past. I more enjoy going skiing for a vacation and not having to dig my car out and drive it with the windows fogged over and icy.
    I think next year you should come home in the summa – when the weather is nicer and the beaches can be enjoyed, not feared.
    Happy travels,

  3. I really miss playing in the snow. The cold I dont miss at all, but when there is snow, and I can act like i’m 2, the cold doesn’t bother me.

    And this is the PERFECT time to do some grilling. Winter snowstorm grilling is the best, because there is no way not to be totally ridiculous about it. Some beer, some friends, and some BBQ. It’s awesome! 🙂

  4. January-March of 2011 in Boston was just absolutely miserable. A foot of snow, every Tuesday or Wednesday, for nearly two months. I was glad to be in Turkey instead of Boston for this snow storm, though seeing pictures of my friends trudging through Central Square to go to bars in the middle of the blizzard made me a little nostalgic!

  5. Crazy! I’ve been living in the American south for 10 years now (not really by choice – my husband is in the Air Force), and one thing I do not miss about living in Minnesota and Nebraska, my home states, is the snow and frigid temperatures. I will take our hot, humid summers any day over that craziness!

  6. I love your photos, as always, but these are particularly fantastic!

    I’m off to Boston in two weeks, then down to NYC, so it looks like I timed it well 🙂

    I’ve been in Boston a couple of times just after serious snow and once in Chicago when I flew in just after 15 inches fell in a day, but I’ve never actually been there when the snow arrives…


  7. The photos look so pretty! I almost want to play in the snow, even though I hate the winter and we have been avoiding it for the last three years now 🙂 The snowstorms in the U.S. amaze me – in Germany we barely get that much snow.

  8. I’m so glad that I’ve came across your blog! I’ve booked a vacation for next week to Boston and New York (From Canada). Do you think I should be keeping it ? I’ve been trying to find updates on the weather forecast for the snowstorm, but have only found numerous of news articles on how miserable Snowstorm Nemo is:(

  9. I’m glad they did the ban. You would either have people with horrible employers out there driving or idiots who really feel the need to go out on a weekend. Copley mall was open! My roommate had to work Friday til noon and if it wasn’t for the T not running, they would have tried to force her to come in the other days. Sometimes you need a little government mandate to keep evil corporations from disregarding the safety of their employees. Plus it was nice, it forced people to actually spend time with their families, or watch TV.

  10. It’s so incredible the way snow can make everything look like a beautiful ice kingdom!
    My Brother lives in NY and I knew nothing about this! I better check they haven’t been snowed under :-/

  11. you were in harlem all weekend!?!?! i work there and am there EVERY SINGLE DAY! well, every day except the weekend! so crazy, such a small world! would have loved to meet up! maybe next time!

  12. While I’m very glad you’re ok and if I had such lovely photos of NYC in the snow I would want to share them too – I just really don’t see what the fuss was about. It’s just a snowstorm. Not to go all Canadian on you, but we don’t close roads or overload the news with footage from the storm. Life goes on as it normally would – things just take a little while longer to get done. And this is not directed specifically towards you, but to all the people who go overboard at the thought of a snowstorm. I mean, c’mon, this is N.E. America. What’d’you expect?

    But kudos for the nice photos. 😉

    1. Oh, honestly, it actually varies enormously in the northeast US. In Vermont, the roads are clear the moment the first flake falls. It gets progressively worse the further south you go. Even in Philadelphia, they have no idea what to do.

      This one was BIG, though. Exceptionally big for the region.

  13. First of all – I LOVE these photos!

    Secondly – Im an Aussie so I have never experienced snow like this (or ever until we went to NYC about 5 years ago). I can understand why some people complain about snow but I think its beautiful! Its just a shame I hate the cold!

    Lastly – Ive been following you for about 18 months and love reading your posts and seeing your photos! You inspired us a lot during our dreaming/planning stages (and even now while on the road – 12 months so far) for our full time travels… So thank you for that 🙂

  14. I was holed up in Rhode Island waiting Nemo out as well. I think we got almost two feet of snow down here, and some pretty severe wind. Your pictures are beautiful; I didn’t get any pictures nearly as nice.

  15. The perks living in California is no snow storms! However, I think it’s an experience to be caught in one and had to stay in my apartment and just chill. That would be nice =)

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