Maryland, where I live, recently got clobbered by two major snowstorms in less than a week. Snow records were broken in many places, and even a week after the second storm, there are city streets that haven’t been plowed (can’t be in some places) and the hard working road crews have run out of places to put snow.
Ordinarily I don’t mind a really good storm. I work at home and the larder is always well stocked, and being snowed in with nearest and dearest, both two and four-footed, is quite cozy as long as the electricity and internet are on.
This time, alas, we were scheduled to take our annual winter vacation from Saturday, February 6 through Saturday, February 13th—and the first big storm was scheduled to hit late Friday and go through Saturday.
I didn’t know this, being busy with revisions on my first YA novel, but on Wednesday afternoon before the storm, the Mayhem Consultant called to say he’d seen the weather forecast, and maybe could we leave Thursday, the next day?
I shrieked when I thought about everything that would have to be changed—airline tickets, cat care, car rental, a place to stay for two nights—but as soon as I clicked the revisions off to my YA editor, I hopped over to the airline site, and mercifully managed to find two tickets for Thursday evening that wouldn’t break the bank.
Escape in the nick of time!
I spent the next day rearranging everything else and throwing some clothes in a suitcase, and on Thursday evening off we went. Since the snow was starting on Friday, I thought of our escape as the next to the last train from Shanghai. <G> A flight attendant said that Southwest had already canceled all Baltimore flights for Saturday, and not a single flake of snow had yet fallen.
But the flakes started falling thick and heavy—and the crowd went wild! As we sat cozily in recliners in Florida, we got to watch The Weather Channel geeks going into orgasmic raptures about the oncoming snow. THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT!!!!!!!!!!!! (Above is Susan's picture of her back deck.)
Sadly, the weather geeks are running out of cool names for storm systems. Winter Wallop having been used in the past, this time they went for Winter Powerhouse, which we didn’t consider their best effort. For the second storm three days later, they went for February Fury, which is a little better.
Punsters everywhere were coming up with terms like Snowmagedden, Snowpocalypse, and Snoverkill. (That last was for the second storm, and indeed, it was overkill. <G>)
Weather as entertainment
All of this is part of our modern phenomenon of weather as entertainment. The Weather Channel epitomizes this. It has been called “MTV for senior citizens.” <G> It has made media stars of meteorologists like Jim Cantore, who has covered so many hurricanes that I understand he is called the “Angel of Death” along the southeastern coasts.
Weather has always been a major part of the human experience—life or death at most times in the past, and sometime even now, such as when a hurricane slams a vulnerable population.
Weather is what two people talk about if they are strangers but want to display benign intent. Where I grew up, comments like “Cold enough for you?” or “Hot enough for you?” depending on the weather, were a way to communicate without taciturn Yankees actually having to say much. <G> (The pictures of the deer were taken directly behind my house.)
Weather talk is also bonding. Back when I had a Real Job and worked in an office, serious weather produced all kinds of war stories when we got to work: “I never would have made it if I hadn’t gotten behind a salt truck!” “I got on the Beltway and my car immediately spun 180 degrees and almost hit the center wall. Thank heaven no other cars were coming!!!” (That last one happened to me once, and very hard on the nerves it was.)
Weather as a social function
This week in Baltimore, some blocks of people did joint shoveling sessions to clear their streets. Snow drifts were good places to stash a beer. Columnist Kathleen Parker talks about how snow makes men crave a really big shovel. <G>
These days, satellite forecasting has made the weather prediction business far, far more accurate than it used to be. If weather.com tells me that light snow will start falling about noon, I’ll probably be able to glance out the window at noon and see the first flakes. With two days warning of a blizzard, there is time for the local populace to clear the supermarket shelves of every loaf of bread and roll of toilet paper in town.
As weather events go, a big snowstorm is relatively benign, especially for those of us who don’t work in essential occupations like health care and public safety. Ice storms are a different matter. They break trees, bring down phone and power lines, and turn even short drives in white-knuckle terror if it’s necessary to go out. (The mountain scene above was taken from the cog railway that runs up Pike's Peak.)
Having grown up in the lake effect snow belt of Western New York, I always assumed that masses of snow all winter and drifts higher than my head were normal. Being raised with that kind of weather seems to imprint us with a certain appreciation of winter storms even if,as adults, we move to more moderate climes.
After the second storm last week, my brother (who lives outside of Washington, DC) cheerfully e-mailed that though the first storm dropped over 30”, it was very soft and gentle. But the second storm had winds and white outs that reminded him of our childhood home. It was a storm worthy of being called BLIZZARD! I realize that to most people this may sound more than a little perverse, but I understood perfectly. <G>
The pros of snow
Because snow and ice do have one terrific attribute: they’re beautiful. Walking in a snow storm is silent magic, particularly at night, when the whirling flakes catch every bit of life and make the world glow. Ice may be a dangerous nuisance, but after an ice storm, when every twig and pine needle is encased in crystal, the beauty is awesome. A really good snow storm can slow us down to nature’s pace for a few hours or days, and that’s good. (Picture to the left is behind my house.)
So—what snow stories do you have? Hair raising adventures, or a willingness to never see another flake again, ever? If you live in one of those parts of the world that know no snow, do you love to visit it? As a child, did you envy kids who could build snowmen? Share your snow tales!