Tuesday, April 22, 2008

President's Day Blizzard

Just a six months ago the weathermen were measuring the drought by a gauge they called "the rainfall deficit". That drought was abruptly washed away this fall as one weather system after another rolled across our region. I did not even have time to rake my leaves when the hot, dry summer turned into a cold, wet fall which turned into a freezing, wet and snowy winter. Last weekend it snowed yet again. But this time it was a big one--the one the evening news called "The President’s Day Blizzard".

My neighbor on Bessie Bell mountain is Bob Ryan, the channel 4 weatherman and former weatherman on NBC’s Today Show. His snow-covered drive was unsullied by tire tracks this weekend for Bob was busy broadcasting the weather down in The District. When it snows heavily here the television coverage switches from sports and Jerry Springer to wall-to-wall snow coverage. It’s comical to watch the reporters out in the weather measuring the snow as it falls with a measuring stick. Such important news warrants veteran newscasters. So the usual, second string weekend broadcasters were shunted aside by the snow-fall celebrities Bob Ryan on NBC and Doug Hill on ABC. Doug Hill I like best for his WTOP radio forecasts are tempered by doubt. But even this weekend Doug Hill said there was no doubting the wrath of this mammoth snowstorm. Still he said it would be folly to predict exact snow totals until the weather was nigh upon us. Only then would we know.

Last weekend’s snow storm was a big enough event to sweep news of Iraq, Korea, and our relations with France right off the front page. There hasn’t been such breaking news since, well, Monica Lewinsky stole the limelight from her paramour Bill Clinton.

But how did this snow in far-away Washington affect us in Rappahannock County? I decided to venture out and see for myself. Sunday I got into my pickup truck and drove into Sperryville. Burger and Things was buttoned up tight even though it’s sign said "open"—so I could not enjoy a hot dog or some Carolina barbecue. Nothing was open. There was no place to buy food nor drink. So we drove around instead and snapped pictures of the frozen Thornton River.

The only other vehicle we saw on the road was a snow plow from Partlow trucking. I pulled up next to the driver and chatted with him for a few minutes. Then we drove up highway 211 and parked the car right in the middle of the vacant highway to take pictures of some cows all covered in snow. Poor, dump creatures. Perhaps they are too stupid to brush away the snow from their heads. Or maybe we should pity them for they lack fingers and arms to brush themselves off. Even the normally pampered horses, with their winter jackets, looked like tundra-dwelling caribou all decked out in ice.

Saturday as it began to snow I drove up to Linden Vineyards in Warren County. The wine-tasting patrons there wanted to know whether I had driven a four-wheel-drive vehicle up the steep driveway. "Yes", I assured them and they all burst out laughing. I wondered why they laughed until I saw two other cars come sputtering up the drive. One got stuck 1/3 the way up. Another did not make it even that far. It gave up, turned around, and skidded back to the bottom of the hill. That winter scene was prescient for that spot, Linden, Virginia, officially got 35 inches of snowfall this weekend. That was the highest snowfall total in the area.

Soon this snow will be but a memory as the winds of March usher in the Halcyon days of April and May. Ernest Hemingway said in "A Moveable Feast" that in the fall a piece of you dies and in the spring it awakens again. Such is nature. For the dormant grape vine and apples tree buds will soon burst forth in flowers in the warmth of the spring sunshine. The weathermen will surely be bored for they will only have blue bird days to sing about. What is boring for the weatherman is bliss for the rest of us.

Copyright 2003 Rappahannock News. Reprinted with Permission.

No comments: