And on the 12th day, as the ice turned again to water and the snow slowly shrank into the shadows, the people stuck their blinking faces into the sunlight to ask: “Is it over?”
The winter sun only slowly warmed Saturday’s air, and so people came only slowly to the parks and the streets, but come they did, and the city back to life with them.
The trash trucks rolled, the power flickered back in the last darkened homes, nonprofits tended to those isolated by the storms, and the bar crowds checked in for celebratory daytime drinks.
In Fred Fletcher Park, four teenage boys shook off the haze of video games and television that came with the never-ending snow day. Their guardians had dropped them off for a two-on-two lacrosse game, a way to get ready for the real games that should start sooner or later.
“The season was supposed to start two weeks ago,” said Vance Brice, 16, padded gloves and stick in hand.
“It feels good. It sucks to be stuck inside,” said Wells Barefoot, 16.
Some strange things had happened in the brief winter of their mild discontent.
“I picked up chess,” said Luke Davis, 15, to some guffaws. Was he one of those weird hermits who played against himself, his friends asked. (No. He has siblings.)
The boys, all Broughton High School students, agreed that they could deal with another snow day, though they worried any more days off would mess up their scheduled vacations. Either way, they were pretty sure they were going back to school on Monday, and the National Weather Service would seem to agree.
The week ahead could include a hint of winter’s weather, with freezing rain possible on Saturday and Sunday nights, but the forecast showed little expected ice accumulation.
From there, the highs should stay above freezing, even nearing 70 on Wednesday, according to forecasters.
The weekend’s clear weather allowed Raleigh’s solid-waste crews to play catch-up, with residents reporting on social media that their bins had finally left the curb after waits of two weeks or longer. The city expected to be caught up by Sunday, after which trash and recycling return to their normal schedules.
The last power outages also largely were repaired on Saturday morning. More than 200,000 Duke Energy customers in the Carolinas had been without power on Friday night and Saturday morning.
The weather also had disrupted less visible services. The nonprofit A Helping Hand has been scrambling to keep up its schedule of home visits to older adults and people with disabilities.
“The need is still there, for cooking meals, for making sure that people have groceries,” said Jennifer Ashley, the group’s executive director. The group serviced its clients’ most critical needs first – two of the group’s people were snowed in with a client – and now is getting its home-bound clients caught up on the rest of their errands and services.
Of course, it’s not quite over yet. The State Farmers Market’s selection on Saturday still was heavy on root vegetables and frost-nipped collards.
Outside the market shelter, William Wise hawked a trailer full of firewood. Sales were a little bit slower than last week, when people were preparing for an icy onslaught – but he was expecting new demand to rev up soon.
“Camping,” Wise said. “Spring.”
As winter fades – ahem, potentially fades – the region will still have its memories. Make that gigabytes and gigabytes of memories. The year’s worst weather once again inspired locals to post countless photos and videos to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Among the last weeks’ most prominent “snow-tographers” was Matt Robinson. Robinson, who owns a photography business centered on city skylines, was out in the thick of it with his camera and a remote-controlled aerial vehicle, also known as a “drone.”
His images and video of a snowy city, taken from the streets and skies alike, showed up on the news and The Weather Channel, not to mention his website.
“Mainly I try to get iconic views, if you can say that there are those in Raleigh,” he said. He’s looking for “what people would recognize, and then the aftermath.”
“People really like to see the city in a different way,” he said. His images are available at RaleighSkyline.com.