How do you get through a New England winter? Our readers weigh in

Cars and trucks stranded and abandoned in deep snow along Route 128 in Dedham are seen on Feb. 9, 1978. (AP)
Cars and trucks stranded and abandoned in deep snow along Route 128 in Dedham are seen on Feb. 9, 1978. (AP)

New Englanders in the winter: Some of us think we're hardy warriors with armor forged of snow and ice, staring in the teeth of Old Man Winter and laughing at his bluster. Others may say we're a bunch of lily-livered cowards so fixated on bread and milk that Universal Hub, the sine qua non of Boston websites, created a weather forecasting page based on French toast.

Maybe we're a little of both.

Looting the Market Basket bread aisle isn't the only arrow in your blizzard-fighting quiver, however. We asked our thoughtful, well-informed and generous readers for their tips on getting through a New England winter. They offered plenty of answers, which fell into some specific categories:

What not to do: get drunk

The most popular reader response was to uncork a bottle or two, but it's not good advice. We get it; you feel warm and snuggly when you come in from the cold and have a hot toddy or a glass of bold red wine. But you aren't actually getting warmer from drinking alcohol; your body is sending more blood to your extremities. Which means your core temperature may even drop a bit, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

You're also more likely to make bad choices when you're soused, which is particularly unhelpful when it's below freezing outside. Lastly, alcohol is a diuretic, which is fancy doctor talk for "makes you have to pee a lot." It'll dehydrate you, which is always bad — especially in cold weather.

Dressing for winter: the Ralphie-Randy conundrum

The next most common tip from our readers was to dress warmly. Which, like, yeah, of course. But when the question of how to dress warmly comes up, New Englanders split into two warring factions, best exemplified by the brothers in A Christmas Story.

There are the Randys, who bundle up in the thickest, warmest outerwear they can find:

Then there are the Ralphies, who layer up to combat the cold (and bullies, spoiler alert):

So who's right? Sorry, Randy, but layers are the way to go, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's extreme cold safety tips:

Dress in several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing instead of a single heavy layer. Outer garments should be tightly woven and water repellent. Wear a hat, mittens (not gloves), and sturdy waterproof boots to protect your arms, legs, hands and feet. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs.

As one reader noted, layering is for legs, too. A good pair of long johns will seem silly until you find yourself outside shoveling for three hours.

The drastic option: 'Leave town!'

Yes, that's an actual quote from one of our readers. Several people, in fact, said the only real option is to turn onto I-95 and not turn off until you spot Mickey Mouse.

The less drastic option: winterize your home

Running away to Florida isn't a financially sound option for everyone, and for some folks just making rent every month is a challenge. Add to that the sometimes astronomical cost of heating a home in New England, and money can get really tight.

Fortunately, you can apply for fuel assistance through local agencies, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Start by finding the service provider in your area.

There are also other ways to keep your place warm, like winterizing drafty windows, getting your furnace cleaned and making one of those fabric snakes that sit along the bottom of your doors. Download the DHCD cold relief brochure for more tips and tricks for your home.

The state has other comprehensive winter checklists as well, for home and car kits, driving, pet safety, and family emergency planning.

A mindset shift: you could always be an optimist

Finally, a contingent of readers refused to give in to the implied pessimism of "getting through" winter and implored us to shine a little light on the darkest days of the year. Readers recommended getting outside to try snowshoeing, ice skating, skiing and bird watching (yes, there are winter birds in the area, not to be confused with the above-mentioned snowbirds, who winged it to Florida).

There was also one indoor suggestion: Eating short ribs at a dinner party. That's oddly specific, but we're waiting for our invitation.

This article was originally published on December 17, 2019.


Headshot of Roberto Scalese

Roberto Scalese Senior Editor, Digital
Roberto Scalese is a senior editor for digital.



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