It’s Beginning To Snow

Published 17 years, 8 months past

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?

Comments (6)

  1. I live in Kansas, I too know how weird it is to have a snowing thunderstorm…

  2. 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.

    Picture? Or perhaps, your hands were too frozen to pull out the camera?

  3. Thunderstorms of any kind of noteworthy intensity are relatively rare here in the UK, and I suspect that lends to my fascination with them. Earlier in the summer whilst I still lived in Cambridge we had a tremendous storm, lightning every five seconds or so for about five minutes. The rain lashed down and the road became a torrent.

    Now, you may know that us Brits just love talking about the weather, but I suspect that’s because it’s usually so mundane. When it finally does become more ‘extreme’ it’s quite worth enjoying, if it can be. One thing I’ve never seen, though, is lightning within a snowstorm. That is something I’d just love to experience one day.

  4. Kevin: sorry, no picture. That was from ten years ago, and I didn’t have my (large 35mm film) camera on me when I saw it. It’s a shame, as that’s an image I’d really like to have to show others. It’s very clear in my memory, but that doesn’t help anyone else, I suppose.

  5. I live in Buffalo. Man has it been a weird week. We are coming back strong and will need to plant lots of trees. Eric, if you are ever in the area let me know I would be honored to have a beer or two and give you a tour of a great American city. And for those of you who haven’t visited Western New York, it’s not just snow and poor performing NFL teams. Go Sabres!

  6. Ben: here around Oxford we get wonderful thunderstorms that go on all night long! Something to do with being stuck between two ranges of hills. (We’ve also had three tornados.)

    Sadly we don’t get snow anymore :-( (Global warming is ruining our lovely cold winters.)

    Eric: you have a wonderful way with words: have you ever considered writing fiction?

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