Rhode Islanders Dig Out, Warm Up

Jan 3, 2014

A snow plow clears streets in Cranston.
Credit Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

The first snowstorm of 2014 may not have delivered all the snow we expected. But it has delivered the searing cold.  

Here's how Ocean Staters are digging out and staying warm.

Paul Caminero spent the morning shoveling snow in downtown Providence. But staying outside this long, in this kind of cold? That required some preparation.

“I’ve basically thrown on everything I can,” laughed Caminero. “I’ve got on two pairs of pants, gloves, North Face jacket, hoodie.”

That’s smart. Because frostbite can set in as quickly as a half an hour if the wind chill is well below zero. Even easier if you’re not bundled up or your circulation is poor. How else to cope? Stay in. Crank the thermostat enough to stay warm, no matter the extra cost, says the Red Cross’ Paul Shipman. Especially the elderly.

“Everybody is watching their budgets and we tend to keep the thermostat as low as we think is comfortable,” said Shipman. “But if you’re not moving around a lot, if you’re not properly dressed, hypothermia is possible in the home as well.”

But frostbite and hypothermia haven’t been the only dangers during this storm. Emergency rooms at the Miriam, Rhode Island, and Hasbro Children’s hospitals have seen more than 30 slip-and-fall injuries, seven shovel-related back injuries, and four heart attacks.

What’s more, driving has been a little treacherous, but Rhode Island Department of Transportation spokeswoman Rose Amoros says armies of plows will keep scouring the streets.

“So we’ll have crews out today making sure we can get a good clean sweep, and get down to blacktop on all the roads,” Amoros said. “And now with the sun out helping to warm up the roads, hopefully that will assist as well.”

Alas…most of us don’t have our own personal driveway shovelers. Not even Governor Lincoln Chafee.

“Of course, I was out this morning and shoveled the walk, but the paper person had already tromped through it. They beat me, got to give them credit, they tromped through the snow and got my paper before I was able to shovel,” said Chafee.

But unlike the rest of us, the governor probably isn’t scraping the ice off of his own windshield. That’s why Scott Carmichael of West Warwick stopped at a Home Depot in Providence.

“Bought some de-icer for the windshield for the car,” said Carmichael, “and I bought a snow shovel earlier from Home Depot. This is my second time out here.”

Paul Fournier didn’t have to worry about scraping the ice off his car. He was waiting for a RIPTA bus Friday morning in downtown Providence. To him, this storm was much ado about nothing.

“I’m from Boston,” Fournier said. “I’ve lived there the last 20 years, so. I was there for the blizzard of ’78, the blizzard of ’98, so this ain’t nothing to me!”

Compared to those whoppers, the first storm of 2014 might, perhaps, pale. But consider this: the temperature will dip to near record lows. Winds could still gust up to 20 miles an hour, chilling us down to -15 below or more. So, bundle up!

(Music: Kevin Bryce, A Glorious Winter)