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Hawaii's magic beats a Buffalo snowstorm

Slogging home after yet another snowy drive from work the other day, I just had to escape and my mind drifted to a time when I avoided all this madness.

Hawaii's aloha spirit reached out and snatched my family from a blizzard, then sat us back down when it was all over. In fact, the National Guard was clearing the snow off our street when I got home. Here's how it went down:

We had a deal for 10 days in Hawaii in the dead of winter. On vacation eve, snow fell by the foot. The city was closed, the airport was closed. We sat glued to the Weather Channel and every local newscast, relieved when a brief break in the onslaught was forecast for vacation morn.

Up early and breathless with anxiety, we traipsed outside. No snow, but was the airport plowed? When we left the house, our flight hadn't been canceled. Baggage checked, we boarded the plane to Chicago, the first leg of the trip. And we sat, and we sat, until a voice came over the speaker.

"This is your captain speaking. I'm going down there to check that runway, make sure it's OK."

Out of the cockpit he went, down to the runway. When he returned, we were beyond breathless. "It's OK. We're going."

Hooray! And lucky. The airport closed within minutes. It was the one small window of escape in two days. As Western New Yorkers have learned recently to our great sorrow, flying in winter can be dangerous. But this day, as is true most days, the careful calculations of the flight crew and the airport crew were right. It was safe.

In Chicago, the flight was called and we were seated. There was no snow, but the temperature was 14 below. Every plane took longer than usual to get off the ground. We chewed our fingernails closer to the quick. After a long wait, finally, we were up in the air.

Destination: Honolulu. Hawaii lived up to its reputation. We swam and snorkeled, ate marvelous fish, watched whales off our hotel balcony and viewed the Big Island's volcano from a helicopter.

After midnight, when the French door to the balcony rattled, I'd rouse in my sleep, thinking it was snow whipping around. Nope, it was the surf!

When the news moved to scenes of Buffalo, we channel surfed. Like defiant teenagers, we resisted, procrastinated and avoided thinking about what faced us when we returned home.

But finally time ran out. Marching through the Honolulu International Airport dragging fresh pineapples for our snowbound friends, we had to know the truth. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin filled us in: 56 inches of snow over the 10-day period and the National Guard was called in. Not the worst we'd seen.

We knew what lay ahead of us: a car buried in the long-term lot, streets impassible and a driveway that hadn't seen a plow in days.

Please, let us think about sun, surf and whales just a little longer!

Indeed, it took Susan an hour to recognize the car and dig it free while I guarded the luggage. But when we drove home, the National Guard was not only on our street, but on our block! For the price of a few minutes' wait, the crews cleared a path to our door.

Our friends were grumpy about our good fortune, except for one who lived vicariously through us. "You go, girls," she said as she shoveled her driveway. The bubble burst when she saw pictures of us sitting on the balcony, swimming in the surf and eating that marvelous fish. "Now I hate you!"

But we still had sand between our toes and the magic of Hawaii in our hearts.

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