While a fierce winter storm blasted much of the U.S. Northeast with steady snow and a messy mix of sleet and freezing rain Tuesday — forcing schools to close, causing power outages and canceling flights — Southwest Florida’s transplants and visitors from the affected region kept cool about the storm back home.
Tim and Mary Harrington strolled along the Naples Pier on Tuesday afternoon, watching the forceful waves crash against the Pier’s pillars. They said their home in Somers, Connecticut, was in the capable hands of their adult children.
“Our kids are up home,” Mary Harrington, 59, said. “They’re old enough to take care of the house.
"They have heat, they have a generator, they have gasoline to run it if they lose power," she said. "So we’re not worried.
"It is a pretty good-size storm now. It’s late in the season to have it. We had such a mild winter that this is like payback.”
But the worst that could happen, Mary Harrington joked, is that her children’s online streaming options might be compromised.
“We are not on the shore,” she said. “If we were on the shore, we had storm surge like here, then we would be worried.
"We are in between Hartford and Springfield. We’re way in, and worst that can happen is they lose power and they plug in the generator and they can’t watch Netflix. Because they have to use the freezer first and the heat. So Netflix is out.”
But with an expected 12 to 18 inches of snow, their children were being kept busy by the nor’easter, the couple said.
“They’re shoveling every three hours because we don’t have a plow,” Mary Harrington said. “We have to shovel our driveway.”
Meanwhile, the only shoveling that children at the Naples beach were doing Tuesday was moving sand back and forth while their parents enjoyed the mild March sun.
For Evan Ardente, of Providence, Rhode Island, the yearly visit to his mother, who lives in Pelican Bay, came just in time to avoid the winter storm back home.
And so Ardente, accompanied by his wife, Heather, watched his 9-year-old son, Blake, race up and down the beach, while a few surfers deftly navigated the rolling green waves.
The couple weren't worried about the home they left behind for a few days, even though Providence on Tuesday had rain turning into snow and a wind chill of 21 degrees.
“Would you be? I’m watching the surf come in,” Evan Ardente, 55, said with a big smile. “I’m absolutely content.”
And while friends and family back home were busy clearing driveways and cranking the heat, the Ardentes soaked in the sun and sent them pictures of the beach without a hint of guilt.
“My heart bleeds,” Evan Ardente joked. “Not one bit.”
Others felt a little bad that they had traded in temperatures in the low teens for 70-degree weather at just the right moment.
“When we left Massachusetts, it was 12 degrees,” Fred Houston, 60, said. “And it’s windy. So the wind chill was down around zero.”
Houston, who was visiting Naples with his daughter Mary, 20, for a few days, said New Englanders lined up at grocery stores and packed restaurants Monday in anticipation of the blizzard.
“There was a massive run on the grocery stores yesterday,” Houston said. “We work for a restaurant company; the restaurants were very busy yesterday. We can’t figure out why, but we think people were getting out yesterday because they weren’t going to be able to get out today.”
And with the Florida sun smiling down on the Pier — which closed Tuesday due to whistling winds — and the storm howling through New England, Houston felt bad for his wife, who hunkered down at their North Attleborough home with his other daughter, who is still in school.
But just a bit.
“I feel guilty that my wife is alone — not alone, but with my other daughter,” he said. “I do feel guilty, but not enough to get on a plane and go back.”
If you want to know how much snow Winter Storm Stella has dumped on New York, you just need to look at the toys on Ron Murphy's back porch. USA TODAY