A Simple Guide to Surviving Winter in the Jersey Suburbs

New to NJ? Welcome. Get ready for a (mostly) wonderful winter.

jersey suburbs
Illustration by Robert Neubecker

If you escaped to New Jersey from the city because of the pandemic, congratulations on surviving our hot, sticky summer. You may still be battling the army of crickets that found its way into your house at summer’s end (lo, so many crickets), but it’s time to get ready for winter. The Farmer’s Almanac says it will be cold and snowy here, with a blizzard in February. Of course, that publication is not always right. But if it is, we’re resilient here in the Garden State. However, you might need a few tips to make the season easier.

If you haven’t already done so, you probably need to buy a snowblower—unless you plan to hire someone to clear your driveway and walk. Remember: The bigger snowblowers clean a wider path but are harder to push and more difficult to store. And God forbid they ever break down and you have to bring them to the shop. They’re impossibly heavy and ungainly to fit in your vehicle, even that humongous SUV you just bought.

[RELATED: A Snowblower’s Lament: Bidding Farewell to an Era Bygone]

You might also want to purchase a portable generator. I could give you the names of a few towns that have been without power for several days at a time in recent years, but I don’t want to worry you. Most folks in those towns think it won’t happen again, anyway.

You’ll definitely need ice melt for the sidewalk. Good luck figuring out which type does the best job on the ice without doing a number on your concrete. (Right about now, you’re probably missing your building super or staff.)

Don’t forget to store the garden hose and get out the snow shovels. If this is your first time using a fireplace, I suggest watching a YouTube video on fireplace safety. And don’t you dare start a fire without having the chimney checked and cleaned.

If you didn’t grow up in the city, know that most of our towns are traditional suburban enclaves like you might remember. After the first snow, kids can’t wait to go outside to build a snowman or a snowwoman. (We haven’t had snow here in a couple of years, so the technique might be foreign to some of the young ones.) Many towns and parks have wonderful hills for sledding. Your kids’ Covid face masks will fit nicely under their scarves and neck gaiters.

Some of our wildlife is active in winter. You’ll likely see deer and foxes hunting for food, and tracks from who-knows-what-all in the snow. Most lead to your trash cans. Keep them tightly covered to avoid close encounters.

If the temperature dips low enough when it rains, get ready for some of the most beautiful ice-coated trees you’ve ever seen. They’re especially stunning in the morning sunlight—until the branches start to break off and take out your power line, cable or both.

Just when you think you’ve had enough of winter, a few crocuses may pop up and let you know that spring is near. Right about then, the bears will wake up and may invade your town looking for food. If you’ve got your cable back, you might even see them on TV that night.

Pat Olsen, who writes from her Tinton Falls home, likes winter for a day or two.
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