Snowmageddon. Snowpocalypse. Snowzilla. What comes to mind when you hear these words? For us snow storm novices living in the Puget Sound area, this snowy vocabulary list exists only in headlines covering winter events east of the Cascades, somewhere in the Midwest or waaaaay over in the New England states. Up ‘til now.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we never wake up to a blanket of white fluff every now and then. We usually experience a snow shower or two every winter—something that might wreak havoc for commuters, businesses and schools for maybe one or two days. But then things warm up enough to make the snowy evidence all go away on its own. Up ‘til now.
Punxsutawney Phil owes us an explanation. Predicting an early spring for 2019, this season forecasting varmint could not have been more wrong. For us, it all began the very next day after his prediction…
“It’s snowing!” The afternoon of February 3 saw the first wave of flurries. By the next morning, we had a few inches of powder on the ground; too dry to make a decent snowball, but perfect for skiing. Or in my case, making snow angels. It was also just enough for the local schools to close. The neighbor kids and I had fun creating heavenly representations on my driveway.
As the week progressed, the temperature stayed below freezing, so the snow remained. Then came the updated weather forecast: more cold and snowy weather was on the way for week’s end—and well into the following week. Whaaaaat? Seriously? Should we stock up on stuff? I suppose… but first, let’s go sledding!
With the second storm’s accumulation adding a few more inches of snow to the ground, the entire block of neighbors—kids and adults alike—took to the local ad hoc sledding hill. The sunshine made an appearance too, adding to the beauty of the surrounding winter wonderland.
Do you know winter storms have names? I had no idea! But I soon became familiar with the effects of Winter Storm Lucian, February 3-4, Winter Storm Maya, February 7-8 and Winter Storm Nadia, February 11-12. All three of these snowy siblings took turns paying our lowlands a visit (and leaving something behind) before moving onto other regions.
While the sun dared to make an occasional appearance and the temperatures remained low, icicles and other frozen water features began to dot the rooflines and landscapes. Beautiful but dangerous, icy dagger-like formations and slippery street—and sidewalk—surfaces created challenges for anyone needing to be out-and-about.
Because heavy snow and ice are rare events for us, there’s not a lot of plowing equipment and deicer available to help keep people moving. So most of us hunkered down. Then things got crazy…
Trees—really-really-really tall cedar, fir and pine trees, along with several old, large deciduous trees, couldn’t take the excessive weight of the snow and began dropping branches—or simply falling down altogether. Power lines came down too, adding to the dangerous conditions. Local landscapes became unrecognizable. Events were cancelled. Many schools and businesses remained closed, or operated with whatever staff was available.
After the third snow storm finished gracing us with its presence, the temps stayed low. Realizing we were in it for the long haul, people began making more of an effort to return to normal routines.
The National Guard helped free people in East King County—the area hardest hit with snow. Plows finished up clearing the main roads and moved onto the side streets. Cars abandoned during one of the storms were being collected, power crews were reconnecting lines, and landscapers were removing downed trees and branches. And eventually the snow began to melt. Slowly…
Wacky weather has a funny way of uniting people. Everyone I encountered during my attempts to walk or drive through the icy-snowy-slushy piles of leftover weather shared a smile with me; many businesses were extra friendly and helpful. Like the city maintenance crew member who gave pedestrian me a ride passed a downed power line, or the mail carrier who had to deliver on foot (because the snow and ice was plowed 3’ high and wide in front of our mailbox).
Seattle is well known for its rainfall, but we haven’t seen much of it lately. And more would definitely help melt the lingering lovely towers of icy slush camping out on my neighborhood sidewalks. Oh well. All in good time, I suppose.
Neighbors helped neighbors and strangers helped strangers. The local newspapers have featured many heartwarming snowmageddon stories. It is nice to see crazy weather bringing out the best in people. I might even forgive Punxsutawney Phil. After all, he had a 50/50 chance… J ❄️