A lake-effect snowstorm is not a good time to walk a dog, especially in a dress.
But the Saturday evening blizzard didn’t stop a couple of dog lovers from caring for their pets outside the Duluth Holiday Inn Saturday night.
A woman and a friend stood on a concrete plaza somewhere behind the hotel. Both were leashed to small dogs. The plaza was dark, illuminated by a single street lamp. Both wore useless light coats to protect against the freezing temperatures. Gale force winds laced with snow blew the woman’s dress around a like a ship sail. She clutched the leash as her dog leaped into a snow bank. If the dog barked, I couldn’t hear it over the howling storm.
“They’re at the same wedding I’m at,” said a man walking nearby. He was dressed more sensibly, in a hood brown denim jacket. I couldn’t see what he was wearing on his feet because the snow was almost knee deep.
Jen and I were leaving a Soul Food dinner hosted in the hotel banquet room by the University of Minnesota Duluth Black Student Association. Our truck was parked somewhere down the street.
“I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never been out in a lake-effect storm like this,” said the man. He was from Hibbing, about 90 minutes north of Lake Superior. They get big storms up there too, but not lake-effect.
We crossed a steep avenue covered in snow. There had been no traffic in this area for a while. No tire ruts in the snow pack. Nothing parked at the curb. Steam bellowed out of two candy cane shaped pipes on a corner. A “don’t walk” sign blinked its message.
“A couple of hours ago, there was nothing, just a little wind,” said the man. “Now we come out and we have lake-effect snow. Look at this, now we have a storm that’s hazardous, even deadly.”
Jen and I found our truck a few steps from the corner. I leaped an icy snow bank. Jen stopped to photograph her snowy boots. I started the truck and brushed off the hood, then the windshield. We needed to make a grocery stop for provisions before we headed home.
The man from Hibbing kept walking down the snow-covered sidewalk. He lowered his hooded head and marched on away from the hotel. Away from the wedding celebration. Away from the two people with dogs.
“Keep warm,” I said.
I hope he made it back.