When piles of snow from Winter Storm Nemo blocked the vents on Jessica Bergman’s Willow Street home, shutting off her heat Monday, David Streever and an emergency shovel team swung into action.
The rescue team assembled Monday morning, as the Winter Storm Nemo aftermath entered a treacherous phase of rain and ice.
“One of our neighbors is snowed in,” wrote Streever on Facebook around 10 a.m. Monday. “Her heat vents were covered by the neighbors’ driveway cleaning service. Their house is at 49 [degrees]!!!! and the heat won’t turn on. Can you lend a shoveling hand?”
“On my way,” wrote neighbor Katy MacRae.
“I’ll be over as soon as I suit up,” wrote Justin Haaheim.
A crew of neighbors showed up with shovels to Bergman’s house. Two hours later, she wrote in with “A HUGE thank you” to the crew “for fixing my heat!”
The response in East Rock was indicative of a trend around town: Neighbors are taking it upon themselves to help each other out. Despite the problems caused by the blizzard and the continuing difficulties with clearing out 34 inches of snow, people from Edgewood to East Rock to the Hill reported an unleashed sense of community. At least until it started raining Monday, kids were playing in the streets, neighbors were giving each other ATV rides and pushing cars out of snow traps, and people stranded from work or play elsewhere in town improvised community gatherings. Including possibly the first-ever New Haven “snow couch” happy hour.
At a press conference in Newhallville Monday, Police Chief Dean Esserman repeatedly thanked neighbors across town for helping each other out since the storm—and for pushing free marooned cop cruisers (as well as Esserman’s own vehicle on Sunday).
In the Hill, 20 neighbors teamed up to clear out parts of Truman Street and King Place in the absence of city plows. In Dwight, neighbors cleared horseshoe-shaped University Place by “people power,” according to SeeClickFix, the online problem-solving site that some have turned to for informal storm response.
Over the weekend, East Rock neighbors formed various “shovel brigades.” One, convened by Alderman Justin Elicker, met Sunday morning at Lulu’s coffee shop. Alderwoman Jessica Holmes convened another. So did Ben Berkowitz (founder of SeeClickFix and a neighborhood activist).
Berkowitz and J.R. Logan spent a good part of the day walking the streets of East Rock as “blockheads” (pictured), with shovels tucked behind their heads, inside their hooded sweatshirts, offering help to neighbors.
They combined muscle with a group of volunteer shovelers in SoHu (the neighborhood south of Humphrey). Together, they uncovered Paul Broniek’s pickup truck and then the car of another neighbor whose husband passed away unexpectedly last month, according to SoHu block watch leader Lisa Siedlarz.
After their work was done, East Rockers found new ways to celebrate.
When Archie Moore’s was closed Saturday, Goatville neighbors moved happy hour ... to the snow bank at Canner and Anderson. There, architect Dave Coon built a “snow couch.” He invited neighbors over to gather around a grill for hot dogs, hot chocolate, and bourbon mixed with fresh snow.
Tanya Wiedeking, who attended Coon’s happy hour Saturday, got inspired to build her own “snow couch” on Avon Street.
“Dave started a movement,” she said.
Wiedeking hosted a happy hour Sunday with mulled wine.
Good cheer continued throughout the weekend. Orange Street, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, turned into a grand pedestrian promenade beginning Friday night, when people streamed into the streets to romp in the snow. Past midnight, people were walking around in snowshoes and hiking boots, some with open beers. One man puffed on a celebratory cigar.
In the daytime, families passed through with dogs and sleds. Strangers who might usually not acknowledge each other stopped to chat.
Saturday, East Rockers packed down paths in the middle of unplowed streets with snow boots, sleds and skis.
Some played football in the street…
... and jumped in banks of snow.
Click here for more of Haaheim’s Nemo photos. And tell us about your own neighborhood community response to the storm in the comments section below.