Monday, February 7, 2011


Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column each Thursday in the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Unfortunately for everyone the Morrill Memorial Library has been closed several days this winter. While we make every attempt to stay open on snowy days we sometimes close in the best interest of our patrons and our staff. Icy roads or quickly-accumulating snow are two conditions which make for this determination because it simply isn’t always possible to keep our parking lot and walks safe.

Believe it or not, the online “know-it-all” Wikipedia already lists this month’s recent storm on February 2 as “The Ground Hog Day Blizzard of 2011”. The storm affected five provinces of Canada, a huge chunk of the United States and Northern Mexico.

By definition a blizzard is a snow storm with high winds and diminished visibility lasting three hours or more. Definitions aside, we know that a blizzard is a storm that cripples our snowplowing capabilities or the ability of the buses to get to school. It’s the kind of snow that causes a nightmare of a commute and one that takes hours to creep a few miles.

Besides their devastating effects, these mega-storms can be lucrative for snow blower sales, for handyman work and for the chiropractic business. They also make headlines, baby booms and good stories.

And so, February 2 was a snow day for both me and my 12-year old grandson. It was a perfect day to introduce Colin to one of my favorite movies, Ground Hog Day. That movie never ceases to make me smile and chuckle, to believe in romance and to marvel in brilliance of actor Bill Murray.

Screenwriters aren’t the only talented writers who use blizzards to their best advantage. Journalist-turned bestselling author Jon Katz included one is his story about a dog in “Rose in a Storm” (2010). Rose is a hard-working sheep dog who, in the midst of an epic blizzard, helps save a farm and every creature that lives there.

Another bestselling author, Richard Paul Evans, set his latest book, “Promise Me”, in the middle of a Christmas Day blizzard. He included all the elements – a widow, a sick child and the perfect stranger she runs into in a 7-eleven in the midst of a raging winter storm. These essentials also converge in Barbara Delinsky’s 2010 novel “Montana Man.” Single mom, infant daughter, handsome stranger. And a blizzard, of course.

It seems romance abounds in the middle of blizzards. In “Winter Lodge” by Susan Wiggs, Jenny Majesky is trapped with the local police chief in the middle of a crippling snowstorm. In “Chill Factor” Lilly Martin is stuck in a remote cabin with a handsome stranger unable to leave. Author Sandra Brown sets a scene where roads are impassable and Lilly has nowhere to go but spend time with the handsome stranger. Why the problem? He is the primary suspect in the disappearance of five local women.

Diana Palmer includes two stories in “The Winter Man.” In one of them, “Sutton’s Way”, we find a single dad, a beautiful city woman and a ranch. Oh yes, and the blizzard.

If you are looking for a realistic story, however, you can find one quite comical one in Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” in which the author writes of his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail. One humorous chapter recounts the time when Bryson got caught hiking in a blizzard with his friend Katz. After the storm they woke to “the kind of stillness that makes you sit up and take your bearings.”

In “Ten Hours Until Dawn: the True Story of a Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do”, local author and Franklin resident Michael Tougias details the story of that small boat and its crew during the 1978 blizzard that assaulted the Massachusetts coast. Tougias reports the tragedy and the failed mission of the Can Do to assist two other boats. It sank only miles from the shore.

I was living in California at the time of the Massachusetts Blizzard of 1978 but I feel as if I lived through it due to the stories of my family and friends living here. Recollections of peaceful walks down the middle of the streets, cars abandoned on Route 128, high tides and pounding surf made memories for several generations of New Englanders. Michael Dukakis wrote the introduction to Alan R. Earl’s “Greater Boston’s Blizzard of 1978”. The book is illustrated with over 200 photographs and readers can relive the storm or experience it for the first time.

The Boston Globe published “Great New England Storms of the 20th Century”, edited by Janice Page. The book not only includes the infamous blizzard of ’78 but also the 1938 hurricane, devastating floods of 1936 and the “Perfect Storm” of 1991.

Larry B. Pletcher writes of the blizzard of 1888 which occurred nearly a century earlier before the one in 1978. Pletcher writes about other disasters such as Lizzy Borden, the Curse of the Bambino and the Cocoanut Grove Fire in his book, “It Happened in Massachusetts”.

Several more very complete accounts have been written about the 1888 blizzard commonly referred to as the School Children’s Blizzard. “Blizzard! The 1888 Whiteout” by Jacqueline A. Ball is one of them. Another is “Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America” by Jim Murphy. Murphy is the author of other wonderful books for middle-school readers such as “The Great Fire”. “American Epidemic”, “The Boys’ War”, and the “Long Road to Gettysburg, I often suggest reading non-fiction written for younger audiences and Murphy’s books are fine examples.

An adult version of the epic tragedy is “The Schoolchildren’s Blizzard” by Donald B. Lemke. This devastating prairie snowstorm killed hundreds of newly-arrived settlers in the western plains among them children who had walked to school that morning of January 12, 1888 without coats and gloves because the weather was very mild. Without much warning the storm approached and the rest, as they say, is the history of the deadliest blizzard to hit the American heartland.

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog for these titles or for placing requests for books, please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,