A harsh winter gust spread layers of slush across lawns and sidewalks, turned highways treacherous, and frosted statues with beards of white. But for many on Valentine's Day, the weather proved no match for the fiery power of love.
It did, however, make romance less convenient.
"Snow, sleet and ice can't keep love away," said Common Pleas Court Judge Barbara Joseph as she prepared to wed some of the approximately 40 couples who exchanged vows yesterday at the traditional Valentine's Day ceremonies at Philadelphia City Hall.
In West Chester, Christine Wildauer, owner of Lorgus Flower Shop, wasn't feeling the love as her staff scrambled to deliver more than 150 bouquets. Wildauer's carriers weren't always successful, hampered by slippery roads and workplace closings.
Wildauer's weather woes started on Tuesday, when she decided to play it safe and spend the night at her shop, sleeping when she could, to prepare for the convergence of ice and love. As her phones rang with last-minute orders, she had to send a driver to fetch a worker whose street gets frozen. Later, one of her vans was snowbound near Pocopson.
Many orders were destined for offices and other job sites where attendance was sparce. But Wildauer's suggestions that buyers redirect the flowers to their lovelies' homes were rebuffed like bad pickup lines.
"A lot of fellas still want it sent to the office, because they want people to realize what they spent," she said.
Despite a couple glitches, "almost everything is getting delivered," a relieved John Doyle, co-owner of John & Kira's, an artisan chocolate business in the Feltonville section of Philadelphia, said yesterday.
Doyle feared that the weather might ground UPS planes, essential to a business that does only 10 percent of its sales locally. Nearly half of all flights were halted in the morning, but Doyle averted a crisis by shipping a little earlier than usual.
At noon in Center City, the streets and sidewalks were covered in brown slush, the sky spit ice, and a bitter wind blew. That didn't stop couples from marrying at City Hall.
"Probably every one of the people here called us today," said Guy Sabelli, the city marriage license supervisor, as he looked out on a crowded courtroom. "But we're here and ready to go."
Groom James Speedwell was dazzling in a white suit, bowler and red vest. One thing - and one thing only - drove him through the snow to the side of his bride, Cora, he said: "Love."
Others echoed that thought as they prepared to exchange vows, for richer or poorer, in snow and in sleet. The ankle-deep soup was not enough to give brides or grooms cold feet, said Sabelli.
At Victoria's Secret in Center City, where determined customers perused silken teddies, the line at the cashier was 15 deep.
"Last-minute gifts," the manager said. "Mostly men."
Kris Formica of Doylestown headed out of the store and into the icy rain carrying a purchase for his girlfriend. "A nice little two-piece," he said with a smile. "Very sexy."
Not all restaurateurs were as optimistic about their prospects for the evening.
"It's a killer, to be honest with you," Jim Flanigan, head of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, said of the weather.
Flanigan was forced to close his Flanigan's Boathouse in Malvern - it's located in an office park, empty yesterday. He kept open his Conshohocken location and his Wooden Iron restaurant in Wayne, as both locations draw steady foot traffic.
"Valentine's Day is like Mother's Day," he said. "It's the second-biggest day of the year, and you don't get it back."
At some Center City restaurants, where reservations can be hard to get, the staffs said the Valentine's Day seatings were firm.
Le Bec-Fin was fully committed for dinner, said reservationist John O'Donnell. At Vetri, managing partner Jeff Benjamin said the 35-seat restaurant had a waiting list of 130.
In Exton, the Duling-Kurtz House and Country Inn had a few cancellations but took new reservations, too. "We've been surprised," said sales coordinator Claudia Caldwell.
At the other end of Chester County, Nick Farrell, owner of Sovana, an upscale Unionville bistro, was also in luck. Only a handful of 130 reservations were canceled, he said.
He had a theory as to why.
"Everyone out here drives a really nice SUV," Farrell said. "Snow's not a problem."