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The year's first big snowstorm brings challenges, memories, and surprises to Granite Staters old and new

Nicky Dorati and her cat Fernie at Livingston Park in Manchester.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Nicky Dorati and her cat Fernie at Livingston Park in Manchester.

As the snow began falling overnight Saturday, Nicole Miner took shelter in her car in Manchester, as she does most nights.

"It was alright," she said, softly.

While some might have good memories of snow days from their youth, that isn't the case for her. Shivering, on Sunday she headed to a local warming station to charge her phone and use the restroom.

Miner, who speaks softly and has an endearing smile, was one of more than a dozen people huddled at 1269 Cafe's door Sunday afternoon during this weekend's winter storm.

Steve Miller, from New Boston, said he was thankful to be able to sleep in a chair at the warming station. He said he used to camp in the woods and remembers once waking up to a foot of snow. This year, though, he doesn’t have a tent or a sleeping bag for cold weather.

Miner was thinking of heading to Manchester’s new engagement center on Sunday. Both said others have told them there is good support being offered there.

The snow poses a big public health risk for people who don’t have a warm place to sleep at night. But Miller said the heavy rain New Hampshire has been experiencing lately makes his life even more difficult.

“I had to walk for a half hour to work, so in the pouring rain you are soaked from hair to toes, nothing is dry,” he said. “I would rather snow, it doesn’t really stick to you.”

Being outside in a storm is challenging, but Miller smiles as he says he does have good and fun memories of New England’s winters, particularly one time when he hiked, camped, and snowboarded for five days at Attitash Bear Peak.

“I miss being out camping and just free,” he said.

Ibrahima Sy, front right, and Isa Kumari, top right, enjoy the snow with friends at a park in Union St, in Manchester.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Ibrahima Sy, front right, and Isa Kumari, top right, enjoy the snow with friends at a park on Union Street in Manchester.

Elsewhere on Union Street, close to Manchester’s downtown, a group of men had the opportunity to capture unforgettable memories of a snowy winter for the first time.

Ibrahima Sy, from Mauritania, has been living in New Hampshire since last year along with four other men. He calls them his brothers, even though they are not related. They are asylum seekers from several different countries in Africa who said they had to cross multiple borders — through Ecuador and Mexico — before arriving in the U.S., facing racism and discrimination along the way.

This weekend’s snow storm was a treat, they said. Watching their neighborhood park completely covered by untouched snow made them as happy as little kids.

“It is very cold, it’s very nice, very nice,” Sy said. “This is my first time seeing [snow].”

As they dipped their feet playfully in the snow, Isa Kusumari climbed on top of a playground — taking a lot of pictures and selfies along the way. Later, he would send them friends and family in Senegal who had never seen the snow. The pictures are like postcards of the little things that make their new life in New Hampshire exciting, he said.

Shana Lafortune and her husband Mike went to Livingston Park in Manchester on Sunday looking to exercise. "We are not really winter people," Mike said. The fresh snow reminds them of their childhood, building forts and plying outside.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Shana Lafortune and her husband, Mike, went to Livingston Park in Manchester on Sunday looking to exercise. "We are not really winter people," Mike said. They said the fresh snow reminds them of their childhood, building forts and playing outside.

Someone else who couldn't hide his enthusiasm was Fernie, a young cat who rolled around the snow for the first time on a local trail in Manchester this Sunday. He dipped his paws and carried home some snow on his whiskers. At times, the brave cat tried to wander away as his owner, Nicky Dorati, ran behind him. Dorati said they have been training for six months for that moment.

“He is becoming a big boy,” she said.

A local college student, Dorati said she remembers how snowstorms wiped out electricity when she was nine years old. As a child, she said she enjoyed not going to school and is worried kids won’t be able to experience that almost dreamy time of the year.

“It is upsetting, seeing how global warming is going to cause all this beautiful snow to essentially melt away,” she said. She hopes that won’t happen.

In the meantime, Dorati is planning more trips with Fernie this winter. She really believes that they both are truly adventurers.

Bill Arsenault is a Manchester resident who walks three miles and a half every day regardless of the weather. For him, movement and an agile mind are important. Snowy days like Sunday remind him how one should be careful and go slowly in life. On his walks, he gets lost in the many stories of the books he has read. "I would be empty in a day without this walk," he said.
Gabriela Lozada
/
NHPR
Bill Arsenault, of Manchester, said he walks three and a half miles every day, regardless of the weather. For him, movement and an agile mind are important. Snowy days like Sunday remind him how one should be careful and go slowly in life. On his walks, he gets lost in the many stories of the books he has read. "I would be empty in a day without this walk," he said.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.