Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stressed service to others, among many other things, so on my day off, to honor that, I took it upon myself to grab a snow shovel and help Pittsburgh dig out from a 7" snowfall that occurred overnight.
I had ideas of biking into town, but opted not to, mostly because I wanted to turn in a proper snow gauge reading from 7am, and leaving earlier would interfere with that plan. I wasn't on a schedule, though, so leaving at 7:40 was just fine. Carrying a snow shovel on a bike would have been adding that much more difficulty, and walking in 7" of snow was difficult enough.
The real motive for the trip, however, was that Sarah wanted me to find her an N95 or KN95 mask, in preparation for her trip downtown later in the week for jury duty. I had four offers for help with this, but went with the friend who lives off of Wilkins Ave in Squirrel Hill. The trek at hand, then, was to get to friend's house, pick up masks, and return home. All else was up to me.
Part 1: McCandless morning
I took the house's better shovel. If you recall my Christmas 2020 post, I prefer to use a flimsy old plastic shovel for most snow clearing around the house and driveway, but for bigger jobs, a newer, much sturdier shovel. That in hand, I hoofed it the most of a mile to McKnight Road. I made no attempt to clear anything on the way there. Once I got to McKnight, I made quick work of the remaining snow in the bus shelter on MKnight at Perrymont. Indeed, it looked like there's a heater under the cement slab, as it was clear and dry, whereas everything around it had either the 7" from overnight, or a ton of half-frozen slush. In any event, I shoveled a notch out to the driving path, a path back to the bottom of the Perrymont sidewalk, and the not-a-sidewalk along McKnight down to Perrymont.
With that done, I traveled a hundred yards south to the bus stop at Malibran, in front of the gas station. There, I cut a notch in the snowbank at the edge of the parking lot, and shoveled a path down to the bus stop sign.
McKnight at Perrymont bus shelter
McKnight at Malibran, path from gas station to bus stop
Part 2: Downtown morning
I exited the 12 at the first stop downtown, 9th and Penn. There used to be a pizza shop here, and the proprietor was pretty good about clearing the sidewalk. But shop and building are gone, so I knew nobody would clear this. As I exited the bus, I shoveled a brief notch in the snowbank so I could get off, which was used precisely one second later by someone waiting to get on. I proceeded to shovel about 50 feet of sidewalk between shelter and the actual stop, and cut a second notch where a following bus might stop to discharge passengers.
9th Street at Penn Ave, bus shelter and 50 feet of sidewalk near the stop
My primary purpose in coming downtown was to clear the sidewalk in front of what once was the Smithfield Café, between 7th Ave and Strawberry Way. This never gets shoveled, so after one day and a frigid night, this becomes 100 feet of unwalkable ice rink. So I got to it, clearing one shovel width from the parking garage down to the first storefront that looked occupied. This took some work, as it was already getting pretty packed down. I managed to get a second shovel width for most of that length, as well. I took some care not to make much noise around the homeless people's tent set up in one abandoned storefront. As it had gotten down in single digits overnight, I wondered how they were faring, but did not inquire. Anyway, when I was done, I stopped in at my office to thaw and dry out. Also got some actual work done and a bite to eat from the small self-serve cafeteria downstairs.
Smithfield Street in front of the closed former Smithfield Café
Part 3: Downtown noon
I had a reason to come into the city, and a rough time when I was expected at that spot. Around noon, I packed up my gear and started to head east. Before I crossed Fifth Ave, I took a moment to cut out a notch in the snowbank where the 67 Monroeville and some other routes stop, outside 3-PNC. Along came my 71D, so shovel in hand, I boarded and headed for Negley Avenue.
Fifth Ave inbound bus stop between Wood and Market Streets
Then caught an outbound 71D bus to get to SqHill/Shadyside
Part 4: Squirrel Hill
Attempted a bit of the South Negley sidewalk but it was too much
Shoveled sidewalk in front of a couple houses on Wightman St
Helped a man on Fair Oaks who was shoveling
The 5Av/Negley stop was similarly a hip-high snowbank bordered by a yard of slush on the street side, and packed snow on the sidewalk. As I did with 9th and Penn, I backed up to where a second bus might open its doors, and cut a notch there, as well as where the rear door of the front bus would be, and the front door. Also cleared the sidewalk that entire length, all the way down to the intersection.
Fifth Ave at Negley, sidewalk from the rear of where buses stop up to the corner
South Negley Ave has an enormous hill off of Fifth, and while I ascended the sidewalk, I watched two cars attempt it. One bailed early, one later, when they realized they were not going to make it to the top. A minute later, a four-wheel drive pickup flew up the hill like it was a drizzly evening in June. I attempted to clear a bit of sidewalk in an area where there was no homeowner to clear the walk, but it was too much, and I was barely on time.
Up Negley, over Dunmoyle, down Wightman, over Fair Oaks, a bit of Wilkins, and left onto Beeler, and the purpose of my mission was accomplished. On the way, I improved a couple of sidewalks where someone had made an honest attempt to clear a walk but gave up, and also helped another man clearing his walk. Did this a couple places on Beeler, too.
Part 5: Oakland before late lunch
The most fun scene I saw all day was four college girls hauling snow from the sidewalk and nearby street into their driveway, and packing it down. They were building a ski jump! Their driveway was just long enough and steep enough that they could get up a bit of momentum, and with their little snow bump, gain a bit of air for a split second. They were having a grand time, and so was I, watching them as I cleared off a sidewalk I otherwise had no interest in. Sorry, no photo.
Shoveled sidewalk in front of a house on Beeler where someone had started but not finished shoveling
Here is where my snow-cleaning project got serious:
- Helped a man shoveling on Beeler at the corner with Forbes
- Shoveled out the crossing on both sides of Forbes at Beeler
- Shoveled out a bus stop on Forbes next to the CMU parking garage
- Cleaned up the crossing across from the end of Craig St by Carnegie Museum
- Crossed Forbes, cleaned out a slot to get to the Forbes at Craig inbound bus stop
- Cleaned out slots by the double bus shelters on the outbound side of Forbes by Carnegie Museum
While digging out a slot by the shelters, I found a CMU student's ID card in a snowbank. She probably dropped it in the snow getting off the bus. It took maybe a minute to find her on Facebook, and a minute later I contacted her on Messenger to get it back to her, and she replied right away. Thinking she would run right over, I said I'd be in the Subway having lunch, and to just look for a snow shovel once she got inside. As it turned out, she couldn't get away right then, so I ended up taking the ID to the CMU campus police station on Filmore. I figured that was the safest way to get it back to her without waiting until evening to leave Oakland.
Part 6: Oakland after late lunch
After leaving the Subway restaurant on Craig, I again went into shoveling overdrive:
- Cleaned up a bit of sidewalk in front of a closed store
- Cleaned up the crossings on Filmore and Dithridge, both southbound and westbound (both sides)
- Cut a notch in the snowbank on Bellefield at Filmore
- Cleaned up the crossing on the other side of Bellefield across from Filmore
- Removed snowbank at Fifth Ave at Bellefield, outbound stop
- Cleaned up pedestrian crossing at Fifth and Tennyson, cathedral side
- Cleaned up pedestrian crossing at Fifth an Thackeray, same side
Then caught a 67 Monroeville downtown and thawed out at office for 2nd time
Part 7: Downtown afternoon
Before I left the city for the day, one more stint at making downtown more walkable:
- Cut notch and cleaned up outbound Liberty at Sixth Ave stop
- Removed major slush buildup across Sixth Ave at Liberty, three places:
- 1 - Before trying to cross Sixth
- 2 - By the island in the middle of Sixth
- 3 - Once getting across, next to the T station
- Cut notch and cleaned up pedestrian crossing of Liberty toward 7th St
- Cleaned slush out of the way on both sides of crossing Wood Street at Liberty
- Cut notch and cleaned up pedestrian crossing of Liberty across from Tito Way
- Cleaned path across the end of Strawberry Way
Then caught a 12 McKnight to head home. It was getting too late to get photos by this point.
Part 8: McCandless afternoon
One more little effort before I hiked Perrymont to thaw out, get a shower and eat dinner:
- Cleaned up the first spot of the day, the approach to the Perrymont bus shelter
- Started to clean the sidewalk on the north side of Perrymont but it was too much
All told, I did at least 30 spots in one form or another. Shoveling notches in snowbanks, clearing sidewalks, or removing snow from sidewalks. Would that 50 more people did what I did! Not expecting money or even a gift, just doing good for neighbors, friends, co-workers and total strangers. We're all here and we all need to get around safely.
- Continued home