Saturday, February 02, 2008

Our Week of Wintry Weather

How odd...I woke up this morning and didn't see any fresh snow on the ground. What was odder still...this was the second morning in a row that this happened.

In case anyone hasn't heard, it was the fourth snowiest January on record. We received about two feet of snow here in the city over the course of a week. Yes, I know that's really not a lot of snow, since I used to live up in the mountains of Northeast Washington, where we could easily get a foot of snow in a couple of hours. But it wasn't the amount of snow, but what the weather did meantime, that shut down our city, and county, and even most of our state (renamed the State of Emergency by our illustrious governor).

First of all, we received about six inches of snow Sunday morning, on top of the several inches we received the day before, on top of several inches of compacted snow and ice created by the previous week of single digit temperatures. This was followed by four more days of snow falling overnight, warming temperatures that turned the snow to slush during the day and freezing temperatures that turned it back to ice, followed by more snow falling overnight...well, you get the idea.

Driving around town was fun in our front-wheel drive with very good tires. Not. Tuesday, my daughter and I ventured out to the chapel at Fairmount Cemetery to attend Evelyn's funeral, about three miles west, easily accessible by nearby arterial streets. It took us half an hour, driving at no faster than 15 miles an hour. Navigating the side streets was like driving through about four inches of shifting sand. The main streets had supposedly been plowed. However, many vehicles, including the plows themselves, had used tire chains, which had tore up the snow into lovely washboard ridges before it refroze. Besides the ridges running perpendicular to our tires, there were ruts running parallel. The ridges and ruts would grab at our tires and send the back end of the car fishtailing if I attempted to go faster than 10 or 15 miles per hour. So I didn't.

The city school district ended up closing for a week, one day at a time. Tuesday, the district sent out 13 buses to check out the routes around town, especially the hilly ones. Within one hour, five of them had gotten stuck; one to the point of having to be towed. It was just too dangerous for either bussed students or those who had to walk on icy streets or sidewalks covered with snow berms to have school be opened. On top of that, officials have been worried about the amounts of snow and ice on school roofs. Friday was a planned day off; it was supposed to be semester break day. I imagine everything will be delayed by a week. The superintendent is looking into having an emergency waiver passed so we don't have to make up the four remaining days into the second half of June.

My second session of my Intermediate Online Genealogy class was canceled, and so was the February meeting of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society.

We stayed home as much as possible. Sunday, a plane skidded off the runway at Spokane International Airport. Over in Idaho, a shed collapsed under the weight of snow, trapping a 10-year-old boy, who was miraculously saved by a neighbor. There were nearly 700 vehicle accidents reported in the county in about 24 hours. Parking lots around the city are reduced to about 50 or 60% of their capacity, since we are running out of places to put the snow. Snoqualmie Pass, on Interstate 90, was shut down twice due to the worst avalanche threats it ever experienced. After the first shut down (72 miles of road closed), the Department of Transportation used 500 pounds of explosives to loosen the snow, and then the equivalent of 130,000 dump truck loads were removed from the highway along that stretch. Another small avalanche caught a couple of vehicles the next day, but thankfully, no one was hurt. The pass was closed again with hundred of truckers stranded on either side; our state economy being impacted by the hour.

The Army and Air National Guards has been shoveling snow off school buildings in Northern Idaho and clearing rural roads in West Spokane County. Prisoners at the Airway Heights Correctional Center have been removing snow berms from the mouths of the driveways of the elderly and disabled who've been trapped by the results of snow-removal vehicles. Volunteer and charitable organizations have been strapped to their limits attempting to help the homeless, the disabled, and those running out of food, unable to get to the grocery store.

We've seen a lot more neighborliness lately, though. When our car got high-centered in the alley on Sunday as we were trying to deliver a hot meal to a sick friend, several neighbors came out to dig us out and give us a push. In return, my husband took a roof rake and removed the heavy frozen snow from their porch roof, which was threatening a collapse. A semi with double flat-bed trailers got stuck down at the corner. A city grader driver stopped plowing for a few minutes, pulled out a length of chain, and hauled the big rig out of the snowbank. Hundreds of volunteers have called in to local charitable organizations offering to shovel snow or deliver meals where needed.

And I? I've been thankful, very thankful for our warm house, for our stock of supplies and food on hand, for the fact that we've all been safe and warm and able to rest and relax. It's actually been quite nice to have a week off work, with no agenda, no holidays to stress over, no huge dinners to make, gifts to buy, presents to wrap, etc. We saved money on gas, got to sleep in and spend lots of time on the computer. I was able to make up time lost on some presentations I'm working on--time I'd lost a couple of weeks ago when our modem went out. I got to check out GenealogyBank and the new California Voter Registrations database at Ancestry. My daughter discovered that she enjoys beading and macramé, my son was generous about sharing the main computer, and we spent a lot of time together as a family. It's too bad we couldn't make an annual event of this!


Jasia said...

You sure know how to turn lemons into lemonade Miriam! I can't begin to imagine getting that much snow. It's great that you were able to make good use of the time off. Here's hoping you get an early spring. You deserve it!

Miriam Robbins said...

Ah, it helps that I am a homebody at heart. What could be more fun than staying at home with my family and my computer! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I hope things stay "quiet". Challenges like these get old very quickly.

Thomas MacEntee said...

I'm glad to hear everyone at your end is okay. We gave up trying to get the car out on Friday - mostly due to the fact that Chicago doesn't (and really can't) plow the alleys between streets.

So luckily when the in-laws came over for dinner last night, I too had a well stocked pantry and freezer. I was able to whip up some chicken, safffron rice, caesar salad and a batch of Paula Peck's classic French brownies.

Thomas MacEntee said...

Also, forgot to ask: did you wind up subscribing to Genealogy Bank? Does it offer something that Ancestry doesn't?

Terry Thornton said...

Miriam, I've got snow envy. Please go out and make up one good sized snowball and toss it just for me! LOL!

Steve Danko said...

I fondly remember the snowbound days from my youth and from the eight years I lived in Nebraska. Here in California, there have been times that I've stayed home because of torrential rains, but it's just not the same.

For Thomas - I've had a subscription to GenealogyBank for a while now. They have quite a bit that Ancestry doesn't, especially newspapers. GenealogyBank was also the first to update the SSDI weekly, rather than monthly. I understand that others have now started to follow suit.

Colleen said...

Having grown up in western NY I remember this scenario well. My last winter there ... that of 1977 ... they had a big blizzard that closed our schools for what seemed like forever. We had to make up most of it, not getting out of school that year until June 27 or something like that!

Miriam Robbins said...

Denise, I couldn't agree with you more.

Thomas, it sounds like the Midwest is getting the same storms we had last week. Your dinner for your in-laws sounds delicious! Your questions about GenealogyBank have prompted me to write a post about it later this week.

Terry, my son did the honors by using snowballs to knock down icicles hanging from the second floor eaves!

Steve, I agree that torrential rains, although also devastating and dangerous, just don't have the same effect as being snowbound!

Colleen, I just checked my work e-mail. The second semester beginning has been moved back to February 8th; it was originally scheduled for February 4th. However, the district is still looking into the possibility of the state waiving the 175 days of education for seniors and 180 days of education for everyone else, as making up four days during spring break and/or the end of the school year is not very compatible, much less convenient!

Thank you for all your comments, friends!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I'm glad you were able to make the best of it! I know that last year when many of the surrounding districts used more than the number of snow days they had budgeted they had to take it out of future vacation days. We can't go later in June due to the way the state tests are given. I hope they "forgive" your four days. We finally just used our first so we are (hopefully) in good shape.