So yesterday I was going to post about getting our first snowfall of the year, but Buffalo’s kind of stolen those bragging rights. I know how they feel: almost ten years ago, Cleveland got hit with one hell of an early November storm. On a Thursday afternoon, it was 70 degrees Fahrenheit when a cold front slammed into the city, spawning three tornadoes and dropping the temperature to the freezing point in the space of about three hours. The winds off the lake brought sleet, then snow… four days of snow.
From the e-mail I sent to my “friends” list a few days later:
Things really picked up Saturday afternoon and evening, as I discovered when I made the mistake of trying to return to Cleveland that night— and let me tell you, the money I paid for anti-lock brakes and traction control was worth it, ten times over. I’d probably be dead or badly injured right now if it weren’t for one or the other of those systems. It was BAD out there.
By Tuesday, the snow depth in the University Circle area was roughly two feet— that’s average depth, not drift depth— and we’re not even in the Snow Belt. I understand they have about twice the amount of snow, but I haven’t ventured east to find out. To make things worse, this is heavy, wet, break-your-back-trying-to-shovel-it snow. Anyway, there are a lot of trees which the snow has simply snapped in half— and they still have their fall colors. I saw a maple tree the other day with brilliant red leaves peeking through a heavy blanket of snow. Weird. But very pretty, and more than a little fascinating.
[The snowstorms] were also thunderstorms. I’ve seen an occasional, rare flash of lightning during a heavy snowstorm maybe five other times in my life. In the course of one evening, I saw the sky light up twice that many times, and witnessed cloud-to-cloud lightning over Lake Erie, all while snow fell.
Lightning during a heavy snowstorm is an eerie thing— the entire sky lights up, and even the air around you seems to flash. Obviously, it’s the light being reflected by all those snowflakes, but for that instant, the entire world pulses white… or, if you’re truly lucky, an unearthly purple. It’s almost a moment of perfect beauty in the dark.
I still remember those flashes of light, soft and terrible and fading so much more slowly than usual, perhaps as the result of a full field-of-vision afterimage, and then the strangely altered roll of thunder. Can you even imagine what thunder filtered through a snow-muffled sky and landscape sounds like?