By current standards, the winter storm we’ve just weathered was pretty severe: two feet of snow blanketed our local environs in the course of 24 hours, give or take. I put a few pictures up on Flickr, for those who’d like to see some of the aftereffects. The broad nature of the storm meant that everyone got about the same snowfalls; lake effect seemed to play a minor or nonexistent role.
I’ve heard some people are comparing this storm to the Blizzard of ’77, and a few with a slightly better sense of proportion have recalled the storm that hit the area in November of 1996. Both strike me as rather specious comparisons. The ’77 storm was near to epic in scope and intensity, dropping four or five feet and stranding a whole lot of travelers. My paternal grandparents had dropped by to visit the day before it started and ended up staying several days longer than they’d planned; the snow on our roofed patio was three or four feet deep, and many drifts throughout our area were a dozen feet or more tall. For 1996, we had four or five days of constantly falling dense, wet snow, and tornadoes and thunderstorms to boot. This week’s storm mostly dumped the light fluffy snow you can clear away with a broom, assuming it’s not too deep.
The truth is that this week’s storm wouldn’t have been very remarkable twenty years ago. It might have been one of the heaviest individual falls of a given season, and certainly would have caused some problems, but it wouldn’t have triggered historical comparisons. I remember days with ambient air temperatures of -20°F (-29°C) and stiff winds, which drove the effective temperature down to -50°F (-45°C) or lower. I remember snow feet thick on the ground which stayed on for weeks. I remember tunneling through roadside snowbanks and building elaborate snowforts with the neighbor kids, snowy bus stops, sledding parties and ice skating.
Yeah, yeah, okay: “when I was your age…”. That’s not actually my point. What I’m trying to say is that for last couple of decades, we’ve had some very mild winters, and it made us complacent. I don’t own boots, because it’s literally been years since I needed them. I had cause to regret that as I cleared snow from our walks in my regular shoes. Thankfully, we do have access to a snow blower, so I didn’t have to shovel, but that didn’t stop the snow from getting into my shoes. Oh, that’s a cold feeling.
I stayed far away from any conventional media yesterday, mostly to spare myself the histrionics of local news forecasters and avoid the depressingly repetitive comment, “I guess so much for global warming, haw haw haw!”. There’s only so much moronity I can stomach in a day. Instead, we all stayed home (Carolyn’s preschool and Kat’s office both being closed, along with nearly everything else in the city) and played games, read books, and went outside for short periods to make snow angels, get cold-rosy cheeks, and eat a few mittenfuls of snow. Then we came back in to sip hot drinks in front of the fireplace.
People sometimes ask me why I stay in Cleveland when I could find work no matter where I moved. In response, I can only point out my window to the drifts of snow sparkling in today’s clear-sky sun and the bare brown trees that will, in a month or two, begin to bud green shoots and tiny flowers; the same trees that will be silhouetted against a lightning-torn sky and will roar as autumn winds rip through their branches and brilliant leaves.
While that is not the only reason I stay, I need no other.