Record-breaking But Not a Blizzard

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Early Tuesday morning March 23, 2016 the incessant beeping of one of our many carbon monoxide detectors woke me. The old-fashioned alarm clock on the dresser blinked “12:00,” the default position when power has been interrupted. Oh, no! Electricity off. I rose and looked out the upstairs bedroom window and was surprised (snow had been predicted but the almost balmy Monday belied any possibility that it might actually happen) by the patterns of the trees, trellis, and bird feeder in our backyard, created by snow already six or eight inches deep. I wandered the house trying to find the culprit beeping, the sound bouncing off the tile floors, misleading me to the detector’s location. Finally I was drawn to the master closet, where the beep stung my ears. I removed the detector, took out the battery, put it in a back room just in case it came alive again, and returned to bed. The power flickered on and off for another two hours, each time accompanied by the soft humming of the ancillary heating system signaling “I’m here!”

Full dawn revealed an ongoing downfall of snow, steady, soft, wet. Unlike snows in the depth of winter, which are delicate and dry, this stuff built up slowly and steadily, no end in sight. The roads were barren of traffic except for one mother pulling her two bundled children on a sled down the middle of the street. The neighbor boy’s igloo, which at nearly eight feet high had almost collapsed in Monday’s warmth, was hidden beneath the clean, pristine, new snow. No one was yet shoveling the sidewalks, the accumulation too steady to be able to make a dent in it.

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A meeting was cancelled, my colleague in Denver not daring to make the drive west. Meanwhile my car is stuck in our garage, the alley too deep to venture. I’ll be able to drive out today or tomorrow but driving back up the slightly-steep rutted way and make the sharp almost ninety-degree angle into the driveway will be a challenge. Yet I can’t park on the street until the snow melts–our road is not on the “list” for the city to clear unless an emergency. I’ll walk instead to downtown appointments today.

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The deep snow is a conundrum: the undeniable magic; the unexpected depth in now-spring; the photo opportunities; the silence of the community, most of us cocooned in our houses, not able or desirous of being outside, contrasts with the damage, delays and inconveniences: stores and offices closed; airports shut down and passengers delayed; branches of trees broken, falling on cars, blocking streams, pulling down power lines; the homeless cold and wet. Yet, still, nature is in charge denying us the freedom to come and go as we think we should be able to do.

The weather gurus tell us the snowfall was a record 16.4 inches in Boulder but it was not a blizzard–even though at times I couldn’t see beyond my hedge while the wind blew snow on trees and buildings heavily to the ground, near-misses as I walked around the neighborhood surveying the scene. Tell people with snow to shovel, buried cars to find, precious trees in shatters, no power to warm their houses or cook their meals that yesterday’s snow event was not a blizzard. “A dry, driving snow with high winds and intense cold” is one definition. We didn’t have intense cold (that will come during the next few days), and  the winds were not as high as we’ve experienced the past several weeks with wind gusts and blusters up to 70-80 miles per hour. But still, “March Blizzard” has a certain ring to it, an adage of the childhood poem, “March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” This year it may be reversed, the lion hiding in waiting until spring arrived.

Wednesday night’s waning full moon streamed light into my bedroom window, the snow’s reflection amplifying its brightness. And now this–sunshine on snow, magic yet again!

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