Sixty-three years ago, the state’s snowfall had exceeded that of any year in the history of Massachusetts, and former Boston Mayor James Curly wasn’t prepared. In honor of winter storm Nemo, a Slice of MIT dug up correspondence between Curly and then MIT President Karl Compton. Let’s just say, Curly was desperate. He wrote:
I am very desirous that the Institute of Technology have a competent group of engineers make an immediate study as to ways and means of removing the huge accumulation not only in Boston, but throughout the entire state, whether it be by the use of flame throwers or chemicals or otherwise, so that we may have a gradual disposal when it starts to melt rather than having disastrous floods as a consequence of its melting with great property damage and with injury to the public.
MIT Facilities Director John DiFava reassured the Slice the Institute hasn’t heard from the Mayor’s office yet, but who knows what Menino could have up his sleeve if the city receives the two to two-and-a-half feet of snow being predicted.
“At this point, it’s not necessarily the clearing it away, it’s the getting rid of it,” DiFava told the Slice, referring to the most inconvenient issue of heavy snowfall. “When the snow first starts to come you plow it out of the way, but as it builds and doesn’t melt you start to lose space. It starts to fill in and the streets get smaller and the walkways get smaller, and then you’re faced with trucking it out.”
What we will be sure to see hit the streets, however, is salt.
Compton did draft a response to Curley in 1948, writing, “The use of flame throwers to dissipate snow would be neither practicable nor efficient.” His suggestion? Try salt.
As Compton put it, salt “would work well but could corrode the underside of automobiles.” Yet, after research, he said, “only the salt method appears to be an economical alternative to the present method of snow removal.”
Well, we’re certainly going to need the salt. A “Blizzard Watch” was put into effect for New England on Wednesday, and accumulation is expected to be “swift, heavy and dangerous.” Local colleges have already cancelled classes, including MIT, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced the MBTA and Commuter Rail would be shut down at 3:30 p.m.
So, start sprinkling your sideways now. And instead of whipping out any flamethrowers, why not just visit a restaurant with a fireplace to keep you warm?
Here’s a look at the letters between Curly and Compton, courtesy of the Slice.