(Originally published in Gettysburg Times, March 8, 2013)
When I awoke Wednesday, entirely too early for my morning breakfast with a friend, I found about four inches of the white stuff on the backyard picnic table, and still coming down. Already it was falling off the Jeep, leaving behind rivulets of melt. By noon, it was almost gone, mostly turned to water.
A nice “now you see it, now you don’t” springtime snowfall.
It put me in mind of the storm we had in mid-to-late March 1998. I’d only been in Gettysburg a couple weeks. Saturday the snow fell, the same spring-is-coming wet as this most recent storm, melting of its own weight. By the time the fall was over, we scored about 14 inches. By Monday morning, it was gone.
Still, it sure was pretty out there at 4 a.m.
When I was a lad, I lived a bit north of where I now call home, in a town so small the “Entering” and “Please Visit Again” signs were on the same post. We had two snow plows, and Jack and Irving didn’t even start their motors until there was at least three inches on the ground and still falling. Each half of the town required about six hours to complete plowing; if snow fell at an inch an hour – not at all uncommon – they could count on calls from irate residents where the snow had been collecting since the last time the plow was by.
I was swapping tales with someone a few years ago and mentioned I used to hunt in snow nearly to my hind end. “Your hind end probably was closer to the ground in those days,” the gentleman said.
“Not so,” I replied. “I was full grown then, about to graduate high school.”
Climate change has been going on for awhile. I helped Dad plow our half-mile driveway, he behind the wheel of a Willys Jeep, me, my brother and mother on the working end of snow shovels, moving rolled up whiteness away from the bogged down plow blade.
A normal snowfall was 18-24 inches – until February, when we’d get some big ones. I went back after retiring from the Navy to discover a couple-inch storm was considered Very Big, and there were not many of those.
What was weird about this event just ended was the crowd at the grocery store the night before. Giant had all the lanes open, for people apparently grabbing supplies before the Big Storm. When I lived in Maine, there would be a forecast for a Big Storm, sometimes three whole inches. People would clean out the Shop ‘n’ Save. Then the storm would get stalled somewhere over Illinois.
The weather guys would assure us that was only a temporary setback. The expected snowfall would be a day late, but it would definitely blanket us. Next day, again, the grocery stores would be full of customers. I wondered what they did with the stuff they bought the first night.
I finally figured out the secret. The TV station had hired a meteorologist from Texas who’d never seen snow. He could make a three-inch fall sound like Snowmageddon – so much so that most folks would never hear the three-inch part and focus instead on The Major Winter Snowstorm.
On the other hand, there were some places hard hit from this week’s weather event. Shortly after noon, there were reports that nearly 20,000 people in the West Virginia mountains were out of power, and Washington, D.C. was experiencing “worsening” conditions.
It appears this storm will be like the one that greeted me in 1998, and that’s a good thing. I’m ready to put the snow thrower back in the barn and the canoe on the Jeep, and head for warm-weather activities. Grady the Golden has been after me to get us out in the woods. Spring, he keeps reminding me, is only about two weeks away.