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Philip Maramba: Snowed in, blissed out in the Blizzard of ’93

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - I think I'm part of a crazed minority that loves winter in all its frigid, snow-packed majesty.

Having grown up in Beckley in the 1970s, I have fond remembrances of the winters of 1977 and '78, seasons so full of awesomeness that we lost day upon day of schooling and even had to have a neighbor bring in a backhoe to clear off our street because the city couldn't reach us.

This year? Meh. Once Superstorm Sandy blew over, we had enough snow for my boy and me to make a couple of snowmen, but not much else.

Whenever we have mild winters like this one, I always console myself come March that there's still the chance that the Big One could hit.

And it's all because of the Blizzard of '93.

My brother flew up from Florida that March to celebrate my parents' 30th anniversary and arrived Friday. The airline didn't get his suitcase to Charleston and said they would bring it to Beckley in time for the party the next day.

Then the snow started falling. Suddenly, the dude living the good life in the Sunshine State was part of a Saturday shift shoveling what seemed like six inches of snow every hour.

By about midday, it became apparent that no one was going anywhere.

We had a pair of miniature schnauzers that needed to make their regular rounds. We were running out of places to take them.

As the drifts went knee-, thigh- and then waist-high, we had to blaze paths that the little critters could follow. And even then, they had to do this odd hopping motion, kind of like furry, land-locked dolphins, making their way through the deep snow.  We had fun tossing them into four-foot banks and watching them disappear with a poof.

I was exuberant. After some fairly nondescript seasons during the '80s, this was winter the way I remembered it - blitzed out and paralyzing.

But the thing I remember most about the whole event was the quiet.

Our house isn't far from the West Virginia Turnpike, as the crow flies, so there was always a steady, distant din of traffic. I remember listening to it on summer nights when we'd sleep with the windows open.

The governor had ordered the highways closed on Saturday. That night, as I walked the dogs, I was struck by the perfect quiet of the evening.

Three feet of powder makes for amazing sound dampening. With the sonic void created by the stilled Turnpike, I could hear everything. My footfalls compacting the snow. Flakes landing on my nylon parka. My dogs panting and the sound of their tags in staggered staccato rhythms as they alternately bounded forth and stopped.

It was awe-inspiring. All the things of man and civilization brought to a standstill in one day.

Maybe that's what I like about this season. When nature makes its presence felt during warm weather months, it is usually violent and catastrophic.

Winter, while frightfully powerful in its own way, also seems cover us in a white blanket and tell us, in the mad rush of our everyday hurly-burly, "Chill out."

Contact writer Philip Maramba at or 304-348-1248.



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