Okay, I’m ready for the winter storms to be over

Since the second week of December, we’ve been in a continuous cold snap. It’s been a ‘friendly’ kind of chill, easily tolerable; you just dress for it and it’s no problem. It’s when the weather turns harsh that it gets tough to take. You can always stand it for a day or two, because the latest storm will blow itself out. Most nights here on the side of the mountain have been mid-teens to low 20s, days mid-20s. The last few days the temps have almost hit single-digits just before sunup. It’s been so cold the last few days that I’ve had the pellet stove going constantly, to supplement the heat pump and help keep it from using the expensive auxiliary heat.

A pause for a White Christmas note here: None this year, either. I’ve been living in this part of the country for more than 63 years, and I only remember TWO true White Christmases. Usually we get snow, then it’ll melt right before Christmas, and then the day or so after Christmas we get a good bit of snow. That was the story again this year, only that snow is still with us: We still have about 3″ of snow left from the storm that came along just after Christmas, topped by a half inch of hail from a thunderstorm a week or so ago. It makes the driveway just plain treacherous.

Yeah, I’m ready for this to moderate.

Meanwhile, I’m appreciating the beauty of the winter for what it is, trying to “remember not to forget” (as my Mom used to say) to thank God for the ability to see this with my own eyes and experience it in person.  The other night Dara had been running around and cavorting like a puppy in the snow, and I was trying to capture her in the midst of her joy:

Let’s talk about ice storms. This region is famous for them.

A couple weeks ago, we had the worst ice storm I’ve seen up here in 26 years. The evergreens survived just fine (as soon as the sun comes out, they absorb the heat and can shed the ice quickly), but there has been a lot, an awful lot, of broken branches and branchfall from the oaks and alders everywhere around; my one neighbor across the road has lost a lot of wood. You have to stay away from those trees, because they are on deadly hair triggers. The branch can snap and bounce in any direction without any prior indication it’s going to move. Going up to my upper meadow right now is not recommended, as that stuff is invisible overhead, and will snap and fall to the ground without warning. Usually the birches here and there will just bend and do fine, but this time almost every one of them has the top broken out of it. The trailer is parked in the upper meadow, but it’s safe in an open spot much closer to the house.

The winds are what everyone talks about, because the Gorge is famous for its winds. Our winds have been moderate; about 20-25 knots constant, gusts past 45. There have been some nights where we’ve had real wind – it gets so loud in the lee side of the house, it’s as if you’re standing in the middle of the surf at the beach. You actually had to raise your voice to be understood. Last night was one of these. The gusts tend to hit so hard on that lee side of the house, it sounds like a body falling against the outside of the house.

Yesterday morning, the winds had really come up, with intermittent hard snow showers. You can tell the weather is breaking because the winds aren’t maintaining a constant speed, but instead are gusting wildly and then lulling. Gusts were hitting something past 60; they hit and then back off so quickly that my anemometer can’t speed up fast enough to measure them. But you see an 80-year fir out there at the edge of the ravine bending and swaying like a birch and it does give you a little bit of pause.

I’d let Dara out to go do her morning potty and I think she got seriously cold. She came in, got pets for being a good girl, then disappeared. I got to looking around for her, wondering where she went, and here she’d hopped up on the bed next to my wife, with her chin on my wife’s elbow. The expression here says it all: “What…”

We tend to get powder snow here that drifts up quite a bit; the wind is blowing the snow around so much today that it’s like living inside a snow globe.

We’ve been snowed in a few times, but my neighbor a couple houses up is a farmer and tends to get cabin fever. He’ll stand it only so long, then we’ll hear him coming and working the road with his D8 CAT. One time when he was plowing, I took a cup of hot coffee out to him and asked him how the drifts were, up at his place (he’s a little more exposed than we are) and he said that although he’d had the CAT plugged in, he’d had to shovel out the cab of it so he could find the seat to sit down and uncover the dash so he could get it started. That’s a drift of roughly eight feet deep.

Back to the present. Our weather is supposed to finally moderate, and get into the mid-30s. That would be a relief, if for nothing more than to be able to walk around outside without fear of falling. But we are supposed to go through an ice storm first. And late last night, the predicted ice storm hit. This morning, all the windows on the North side (the Ravine side) of the house are iced over. All the glass looks like that pebble glass that’s used in bathroom windows which lets in light but preserves modesty. It can give you a touch of claustrophobia if you think about it a bit too much.

Yeah, I’m ready for this to moderate.


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