We just switched back to snow, from rain. There's two feet of accumulated snow (at least), five in piles where the plows have been or the corners where the shoveled snow starts to pile up. Week after week, since December, this winter has been about snow. And cold. A lot of cold, but mainly snow.
There was the big snowstorm where the snow was all light and powdery, and the one where the snow was all wet and heavy (and heavier with the coat of freezing rain that followed. Then there are those 1-3 inch storms that went form being "oh no!" to "oh well." The night we saw The Lego Movie - me, Mom, and two rambunctious nephews - we got another one of those. Driving home through that was basically a piece of cake. That's what this winter has become. It takes more than a couple of inches of snow, now, to up end a northeasterner, right now.
That's less true down south, where one round of ice and snow paralyzed Atlanta and much of Georgia for a week; that was followed, over the past few days, by the most recent storm paralyzing North Carolina, as if no one had learned anything at all in just a couple of weeks, and with weather warnings more precise - and more accurate - than ever. Like hurricanes, it seems, people just don't believe the warning until they live it. Then, we get people who listen to, and heed, warnings.
Of course, there are diehards who refuse to give in, who refuse to be stopped or even slowed. Here in the northeast, it's easy to find those hardy souls who think every warning is an overreaction, every closing or delay unnecessary. Just put on your heavy coat and gloves and get on with it. Does your school district preemptively close, or take the chance (or, like my eldest nephew, does your private school simply soldier on, no snow days at all)? Unlike the years of amazing blizzards (1978, the memory lingers; and 1996), this year's snow day problem has been attrition: in three months, most New York area school districts have blown through their snow day plans by nearly a week, and the hard choices must be made - no vacations? more days at the end? weekend school? I feel for the kids, really I do.
Then there's the blown snow prevention budgets, the depleting reserves of salt and sand, the towns and cities where plows are few and far between, because winter doesn't do this. Usually. There's the drought developing in California, and the freezes in Florida that will wreck orange juice prices, or the already near crisis shortage of avocados (I picked the wrong year to obsess over guacamole).
This isn't some paean to global warming, or the greenhouse gas issue; it's cold, it's hot, it's wet, it's dry... climate change is worth considering but well beside the point on another night where the snow's piling up and the air is frigid. This winter has been an all too human reminder of our real vulnerabilities and our inability to really control our environment. We are at the mercy of the wind, and the rain, and the snow and the cold. We can dig out and get back on the roads and try to continue as if this all normal... but if this is normal, why do we seem so bewildered, so caught off guard?
The storms will pass, the snows will melt, the rains will come and go, and on some beautiful day in Spring we will again wonder what all the fuss was about. In memory it won't have been quite that bad. We will mostly have survived, largely intact. We'll promise ourselves to be better prepared, get that extra shovel, keep a little more salt in the garage... and then we probably will forget and put it off and soon the next winter will come.
If this is the winter that did you in, the one that makes you rethink living in Minnesota, or revisiting that plan to buy a condo in Florida (maybe this is the solution to their foreclosure crisis! More snowbirds!), it's okay, dude, we get it. This one was a lot to take. This one separates the hearty souls from the mild mannered. My feeling is, you either have what it takes to get through a winter like this, or you should have picked a place without winter. No one said we get to have it easy. There will be snow. It can get pretty heavy at times. The air is cold and the chill wind blows. After twenty years, I had to replace my Timberland boots. And that was in December. They've already served some pretty hard time.
The weather outside, well, yes, it's frightful. There's no two ways about that. I can't remember a worse December - or January, or much of February - come to think of it. But we do live in amazing times: our weather prediction is faster, more accurate, and more widely disseminated than ever. Most of us are better sheltered, and warmer, than our counterparts of even 50, never mind 100 or more, years ago. Sure, we buy milk and bread as if the world's about to end, but the process is mostly orderly and fairly calm. This isn't snowmageddon or the snowpocalypse, or the end of the world. It's just winter. A rough, cold, snowy winter. And I think we've managed to get through it surprisingly well, and probably mostly intact. And that's not the worst thing, is it?