Winter Drifts

Published 17 years, 3 months past

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.

Comments (13)

  1. I remember the Blizzard of ’77 well; it was the week I started working on my first paper route. You might be surprised how many of my new customers were of the opinion that six feet of snow was no excuse for a late delivery of the Buffalo Evening News.

    Anyway, I am in agreement.I’ve had to adjust my expectations of what kind of gear I need to get through the winter, and not just because I now call Philadelphia home.

  2. 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.

    Aw man! I gotta move out of London. Also, get married :)

  3. I didn’t realize you could wax poetic sentiment like that. Cool. Very cool. And yeah, the beauty of seasons can be very underestimated when people just focus on the cold air and bad driving weather.

  4. Once you found a good thing you tend to stick to it regardless of the hottest summer days or the most snow driven ones.

    Its the days in between that makes it worthwhile.

  5. Hi Eric,

    I remember the Blizzard of ’77, but its the Blizzard of ’78 that really stayed with me all of these years. I grew up in Northwest Ohio and we were hit very hard. My mother who was pregnant with my younger brother was worried that she would go into labor during the storm. Luckily he waited a few weeks.

    As a fellow Clevelander, I agree that this was a nasty storm, but I would compare it more to the storm we had during Christmas of ’04. It immobilized the city for a day and a half, and then we were back to normal. It was nice to have the time off to spend Valentine’s day with my wife and daughter though.

    I like your words about the changing seasons. It is easy to forget nature’s beauty when your knee-deep in snow drifts digging out your car, but in the end, winter is truly a wonderful season. Like you I’ve posted some pics of the aftermath on Flickr.

  6. Yeah, my shovel broke in half at 7 in the morning yesterday…

    but overall it was a pretty good snow. makes me wish i was still in elementary school(:

  7. ps – very well said about Cleveland.

  8. I always enjoy someone who appreciates the changing seasons. That’s one of the main reasons why I don’t really consider moving away from Finland (except maybe to the northwest in the states).

    We’ve had mainly the opposite here. Our winter started out really mild (green grass in January), sparking lots of talk about global warming. Then we got a bit (too little if you ask me – and I shovel) of snow and a cold spell.

    However, the discussion about global warming hasn’t slowed down. Green grass in January shocks most Finns to the core…

  9. Isn’t the world an interesting place… being able to read (and see your pics) of your snow blanketed local environs in Cleveland, while here in Melbourne, Australia, it was a summery 37°C (98.6°F) today – hot and humid with afternoon thunderstorms (but no rain) – and a forecast of 38°C (100°F) for the next two days.
    No hot drinks and fireplaces for us, just hot days and bush fires instead…

  10. I’ve also found for light fluffy snow that my leaf blower works quite well! Being a former Clevelander myself (I lived on West 25th and Denison) and now residing in Wisconsin I am no stranger to either cold, lake effect snow, or some combination of the two, and what one goes through to remove it from your walks and doorways.

    Having heard you speak three times now I am not so surprised by your waxing poetic, and looking at the windows of my own house in Wisconsin I too can appreciate the essence of the beauty of nature that keeps you where you are.

    I am just glad to hear that all in the Meyer household survived the storm in fine fashion while maintaining some semblance of humor about the whole thing.

    Stay warm, tend the fire, drink lots of Cocoa and enjoy the time with the family… I have found that these times come all too seldom for my liking so I try to make the most out of them when they do happen.

  11. I moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta when I was in junior high school. That was some weather shock. In Georgia, when a single snowflake hits the ground the entire city grinds to a standstill. A few years ago we had a whole six inches in one day and that, apparently, constituted a blizzard. As a side effect, no one here can drive in snow. In fact, most are terrified to even try.

    Personally, I miss snow. I miss proper winter, sleds, boots, snow angels, white Christmases, snow forts, skating, snowball fights and all the rest. We simply don’t get that here. We do have a solid month of 100+ degree days in the summer and that I could do without.

    Now, ice storms, ice storms are something to be worried about but I think that’s a story for another time.

  12. Your memory of Cleveland winters in not supported by evidence. According to the National Weather Service, the winter of 2004-2005 was by far the snowiest winter on 40 years. The longest period of time below zero temperatures was in 1994. Snowfall totals in the last 4 decades in Cleveland look pretty similar to me, maybe even a little higher average the last 20 years.
    The reason I mention this is because I had similar memories of winters in Rochester, that I found were flawed when I looked back at the records. I think those periods of heavy snowfall stick with you when you are young.
    One thing I do know, we are much more efficient at snow removal than we were in the 60’s. There isn’t much that could happen here now that couldn’t be taken care of within 24 hours.

  13. Thanks for the data, Brian, but I didn’t grow up in Cleveland. Ohio, yes, but not Cleveland.

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