It’s winter time in a summer town. If you ever questioned the heart of the community or wondered if the greater Ocean City area is a great place to call home, the answers were evident Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 7).
It was the day of the “big dig” after some of us longtime locals saw more snow than we remember hitting Worcester County and the entire state of Maryland. The roads were icy and dangerous. Many area residents were without power for hours. It was a historical event for those in not only this state, but others throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
The blizzard of 2010 grabbed national headlines and created panic and widespread pandemonium. When you consider travel plans, work, schools, and other things in people’s lives this snow storm affected, using the words “panic” and “pandemonium” is not overkill. This winter, which really kicked off back in December when snow blanketed the area, I’ve seen a community in need come together, join hands, and struggle through weather we just aren’t used to. Hopefully people look back on this and remember that even though it was tough on this city by the sea known more for funnel cakes, the beach and Boardwalk, we stopped for a second, enjoyed the chaos and had a little fun during what most would call the forgotten months in Ocean City.
This community time and time again steps up and lends a hand to those neighbors in need. I personally saw many examples of this over the weekend. Strangers were helping push vehicles to freedom, residents unprovoked shoveled others’ driveways and steps for safe travels, and the smiles and waves shared between people in the area in the storms aftermath gave me a restored sense of pride in the place I have called home my entire 28 years. My birthday was Saturday, Feb. 6. It was one I obviously will never forget.
I walked down the Boardwalk Sunday morning. I could stroll down the famous promenade with my eyes closed and recall the sounds, smells, and shops at each corner, and it was somewhat surreal. Knowing that eight million people visit Ocean City throughout the year and about 8,000 calls the town home, the Boardwalk in the winter is an oddity that always puts that statistic in perspective to me. I can feel how crowded and hectic it is in the summer. The winter is a different story.
I love the Boardwalk in the winter. Not as much so in the summer. I find my mood relaxed and reflective in the calm of the winter boards. I treasure a family tradition of strolling to the wooden planks each time a sunny, warm day broke out in typically dreary February or March. That’s the feeling I had on Sunday morning. It was extremely sunny, but the temperature and snow confirmed we were still under winter wonderland status. I guess people needed to get out of the house. They slowly arose and after days of snow terror needed to get out of the house for at least a little.
The famous Boardwalk actually was busy, by winter standards. It’s like the immediate time after a natural disaster. Not to compare this snow storm to a major, horrific event, because that is entirely not my intention, but people after a shared, rare event like 9/11 usually seem nicer, friendlier. That’s what was in the air last weekend to a lesser extent, of course.
The storm appeared over, people left the house, and the shared experience made us closer as a community, at least for 48 to 72 hours anyway. I know a lot of people leave or schedule vacations in the winter, but those still here this year were rewarded with a rare treat. When the weather gets cold, less people are outside enjoying the scenic Eastern Shore, and it’s hard to keep your head up and stay upbeat at times in the low season. But, I saw a restored and united community during these snowy days. Neighbors were joining forces. Emergency personnel stepped up. And most residents wisely stayed inside, took a deep breath, and hopefully found a minute to rest from their worries, large or small.
In the end, it’s not about the abnormal amounts of snow that dumped on the area, but maybe it’s just what an area many believe sits idle twiddling its thumbs until summer needed to realize how fortunate the people that call this area home are to live and work in such a great place.
But what do I know? I let two young men borrow a shovel to dig what I thought was their car out of the ice, only to find out it was someone else’s car and they were being paid to remove the ice and snow from the vehicle. At least the compact automobile belonged to an elderly woman who would have likely been without her car for a few days without their help. So, I didn’t mind making a small neighborly contribution, though I could have used the extra few bucks.
(The writer is a former staff writer for The Dispatch.)