Valentine's Day weather

I don’t mean to make fun of the people in my new home, but the little snowfall we have had in the last couple of days has been entertaining to me. To listen to some locals, or to read the report in the Seattle Times, you’d think that we were experiencing a major blizzard. From the eyes of this former South Dakotan, we’ve had no crisis. I understand that they had some big problems in Portland, Oregon, where the snow was preceded by an ice storm that brought down power lines and caused tree branches to fall. Large numbers of people living without electricity, even if for only a couple of days, can be a big problem. Where we live, however, the snow fell gently beginning on Friday night and through the day yesterday. It is a bit difficult to tell exactly how much we had, because it rained yesterday afternoon and packed down the snow. I think we got about six inches or so here. There are some snow-packed streets in town, but the highway is clear.

You can tell, however, that the locals aren’t used to snow. Like the first snowfall in the autumn back in South Dakota, there are a few cars that fishtail at the intersections and a few that don’t get stopped at the stop sign. What is funny to me is that people seem to be challenged by the snow on the roof of their cars. Instead of simply clearing it off before they drive, they clear the windshield and then the first time they apply their brakes, a huge wet clump of snow slides from the roof onto the windshield, necessitating getting out of the car to clear the windshield. It seems quite obvious to me how to prevent such an occurrence, but I certainly witnessed it a lot.

Another challenge of snow for the locals is plowing. With one exception, we haven’t seen any parking lots that have been plowed. A very old city dump truck made an attempt at plowing the street in front of our house yesterday. The truck made one pass, with the plow set straight across the front of the truck so that the snow wasn’t being shoved off to one side, but rather sort of being pushed up the street. Maybe the plow was so old and so infrequently used that they couldn’t figure out how to get it working properly. The single pass in the middle of the street left big clumps of snow alongside the cleared path, making it difficult for cars to pass on the street. One way traffic was no problem. The exception to the unplowed parking lots was the United Methodist Church a block from our home. They rent out part of their parking lot to a local medical clinic and it was fully plowed.

Folks don’t seem to have snow shovels. When we left South Dakota, we sold our snow blower. And we left our good pusher shovel for the man who bought our house. I kept a fairly good plastic snow shovel. And we keep an aluminum grain scoop for lifting all sorts of things. That shovel is up at our son’s farm, but the plastic shovel was adequate to clear our driveway and walks. The temperatures have been warm, so even when it kept snowing, the snow would melt on the walks after I shoveled. Our house seems to be the only one in our neighborhood with everything shoveled out, however. It might have taken me 15 to 20 minutes the first time I shoveled and maybe 10 the second time, so the problem can’t be that people haven’t found the time to shovel on a holiday weekend. I’m wondering if they simply don’t have snow shovels.

Seattle residents were warned to stay at home and avoid travel. I guess we might have heeded the advice if we had lived in the city, but our daughter is visiting us and our son had the weekend off, as usual, so after we watched church online, we loaded up our grandson and some party supplies into our car and drove up to the farm. We didn’t encounter any bad roads. There was a small drift at the end of our son’s driveway, but it was no problem with our all wheel drive car. We didn’t drive our pickup, which has more ground clearance, and we didn’t need it, either. The Interstate highway was wet, but it is often wet around here. Travel wasn’t slowed at all.

The kids had a wonderful time playing in the snow. There is a pile of wood chips at the farm which made a good launch for a sled. Our youngest grandson loved being pulled around on the sled and trying to run in the heavy snow. It was perfect for making a snowman. We celebrated the birthdays of the past week and Valentine’s Day with a kid-friendly lunch of corn dogs and sandwiches for the adults. There were decorated cupcakes and ice cream for dessert and the birthday celebrants opened presents. Grandpa got a few pictures of all of the grandkids together and it was a fun outing. We were back at our house, where it was easy to pull into a shoveled driveway by about 4 in the afternoon.

The forecast calls for highs in the forties and rain for the next couple of days, so I don’t think there will be much snow left by the time folks head to work on Tuesday after the holiday weekend. Even the parking lots that weren’t plowed should be bare after a few hours of rain. It simply isn’t cold enough for the snow to linger. If it takes it a bit longer for some of the clumps left by the snow plow to melt, we won’t have any problems getting around. The snowman at the farm probably won’t be standing by this afternoon, and kids who attempt sledding today will probably come into the house covered in mud.

It was fun while it lasted. The local folks provided a bit of entertainment for those of use used to snow. The snow plow driver might have gained enough experience to figure out how to angle his plow by the end of the day.

From my point of view, if they wanted to report news of startling weather, they could do a story about the days when the sun shines and the sky is free of clouds. Those days don’t seem to be coming very often around here this winter. Anytime it stops raining the locals think that it is a sunny day, but we keep looking for a cloud-free sky.

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