That's a word we've heard a lot in the past week as we dug out from three feet of snow that shut down much of Suffolk County, trapped people in their cars on major highways, and exposed a host of local government logjams that made clearing area roads seem much harder than locals ever thought it could be.
But as road crews pushed old plows to their limits against the snow, officials were very careful not to promise cleared, plowed or unblocked streets. Instead, they pledged "passable" roads just cleared enough to get a car down them. Often the clearing was one-car wide, and rather than plowed to the asphalt the roads were coated in a tamped down, slushy layer of snow that would make any front-wheel-drive commuter car's wheels spin.
In Suffolk, this lowered expectation was acceptable, since the bigger problem was the host of impassable roadways not touched by plows for days.
It's true that plow drivers worked grueling shifts after the storm, in equipment that wasn't up to the task. But time and again officials made sure not to promise anything more than passable in the early days after the blizzard.
That has us thinking. What if passable was the bar set by everybody? What if the St. James firefighters who found an elderly man about to be buried alive by snow, instead of shoveling a path in front of him for an hour and a half so he could make it home like they did, just walked behind him, tapped him on the shoulder every five minutes and said, "Hey there, you can do it?"
And when fire departments from across the region rushed to Route 347 in Lake Grove, where dozens of motorists had to spend the night in their cold and snowed-in cars, what if rescuers handed out lozenges and snow pants and pointed them in the direction home instead of digging them out of the cold and bringing them to warming shelters to shake off the ordeal?
What if instead of banding together and shoveling out their own unplowed streets so people could get out and go to work, neighbors decided to use that time to watch a few more episodes of Lost in their Netflix queues?
What if people only shoveled their own driveways?
The truth is, the spirit of Long Island in the wake of two hurricanes and a blizzard is anything but passable. While flaws in our infrastructure and municipal services have been exposed by the elements, our communities showed their hearts, rising against conventional wisdom that says the suburbs are all about me, me, me and instead made the safety and the recovery of their neighbors just as much of a priority as taking care of themselves.
These stories of community don't take the sting out of unplowed roads and powerless homes, but they do give us the hope to endure these disasters, and make the wait for relief so much more passable.
Below are a few more stories of those who showed great spirit through the blizzard. If you'd like to share a story about how the your community heroes helped you to endure the storms of the past year, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll display your tale on your hometown Patch.
- St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center Employee Walks to Work Through Blizzard
- Couple Braves Blizzard to Deliver 'Baby Nemo' at St. Catherine of Siena
- PHOTOS: Don't Forget to Feed Our Feathered Friends
- Commack Lanes Lends Space to Smithtown AMF After Roof Collapse
- Snow Stories: Stony Brook Family Makes It Through the Blizzard
- Resident's Twitter Account Looks for the Humor in Nemo
- Nesconset Chief: 20 Route 347 Motorists Brought to Safety
- Port Jefferson Station Photographer Finds Beauty in a Blizzard
- 100-Year-Old Weather Observer: Plenty of Winter Left for Another Blizzard
- PHOTOS: HarborFrost Lives Up to Its Name
- UPDATED: Woman Rescued from Sinking Boat in Springs
Henry Powderly is a regional editor for Patch.com covering Northern Suffolk County and the East End of Long Island. Follow him on Twitter at @HenryPowderly.