Saturday, February 6, 2010

On my least favorite season

Well, we are snowed in. Again. Most of you live in the mid-Atlantic region, so you know. For those who may not, let me explain.

I live in Virginia. It is a state generally considered by its residents to be in The South. That means we do not expect metric craptons of snow (and yes, that is an official measurement term). In my current town of residence, the lovely Charlottesville, our average snowfall per winter is about 17 inches, which is skewed to the high end because of winters like this. This is my tenth winter in Charlottesville, and most of the winters I've spent here have had, at most, two to three snowfalls of 2 inches or less. That suits me fine. It's pretty to look at, doesn't screw up your travel plans too badly, and is gone the next day. I like the climate where I live. We get four distinct seasons; it rarely gets hotter than 90 degrees F in the summer and rarely gets colder than 30 degrees F in the winter. I do not like cold weather, but it is nice to look at pretty snow falling every now and again, provided it doesn't bring the entire world to a halt.

Now let's talk about this winter specifically. We got our first snow the first weekend of December. It was nothing - the kind of snow I like best, just about an inch of accumulation. It was early for us - we don't usually get any snow at all until January - but it was sufficiently cold and it was December. It was within the realm of the acceptable. Then, the weekend of December 18th, we got 18-20 inches. Okay, that's insane for us. Our "deep" snows are 6 inches. It was dubbed the Snowpocalypse by the local media. It took days to dig out. For those from particularly snowy regions who may be laughing at that notion, you need to consider that (a), we don't get enough snow to be used to driving in it; (b), we know no one else knows how to drive in it either; and (c), we get so little snow that our Dept of Transportation doesn't have the equipment or staff or budget or experience to remove it efficiently. So. The parking lot and sidewalks of my condo complex were still treacherous 3 days after the snow stopped falling. At this point, before December was even over, I was done with snow for the year. I wanted no more, and I was ready for spring.

Sadly, that was not to be. We got another small snow in early January. Then we had rain that finally melted almost all of the snow still left from December...and that also flooded all of our rivers. We live in the bend of a river, and we have lived in this condo for almost 5 years, and I have never seen this river flood. It's come close, but never happened. There's a trail behind our complex that winds along the river, and while that has developed large puddles, it's never flooded. Until now, anyway - the entire trail was under 3 feet of river water. So. Massive flooding. A week after the massive flooding, we got another foot of snow. And then 2 days later, another small snow with some sleet mixed in. That brought our running total for the winter to about 36 inches. Remember how I said we get an average of 17 inches per winter, and that most winters we actually get about 6 inches or less? Yeah. This is a lot for us. By the end of January, the Virginia Dept of Transportation had already spent their ENTIRE snow removal budget for all of 2010. In the first month of the year. They'll be dipping into emergency funds next, and then they'll have to start taking from other budget expense funds, meaning they'll have to postpone road repair and construction projects (because those are "non-essential") if they have to remove too much more snow.

That brings us to today. Saturday, 5 February 2010, aka Snowpocalypse II. It started snowing at dawn yesterday, and it hasn't stopped yet. There's at least 14 inches out there (I haven't measured, that's just an eyeball figure), and it's still coming down hard. It's not supposed to stop until tonight. Let's add another 16 inches to that total, conservatively - that brings us to 52 inches for the winter, a record winter for this town. And winter's not over. The forecast already shows snow again Tuesday and Wednesday of the coming week, and then again next Sunday. The kids only had one day of school last week and are clearly likely to miss more this week, and while I don't have kids, it affects my co-worker's work schedules (and as a former teacher, I can sympathize with the teachers who are starting to see their spring breaks disappear). The snow this weekend means we can't attend a party tonight that I've been really looking forward to. I hate winter right now, more than I ever have, and I'd stab it in the heart if I thought it actually had one.


  1. And, sadly, the new Governor, in his first gubernatorial act, used up the snow removal emergency funds so that he could re-open the rest stops. We've had less than you this time; about 6" so far, I'd say, with maybe another 1-3 coming this afternoon, but that's on top of the 4-5 that was left from last weekend. Figure we're out of school Monday and Tuesday again....I'm staying in and getting some reading done.

  2. I'm going to go measure when it finally finishes. There's a picnic table behind our complex that is on a perfectly flat piece of ground, so it's level and can hold a lot of snow, and it's mostly out of the wind so it doesn't drift much. I'll take my yardstick and see where it comes out. I'm betting on at least 18", maybe more...

  3. I'm a big fan of the phrase "metric crapton" myself :)