Tuesday, February 1, 2011


It’s extremely hard to concentrate on work today, since we’re getting, apparently, the first bona fide official blizzard Central Missouri’s ever had in recorded history.

Naturally, this can easily be seen as a sign of the ongoing effects of global climate change, while those who don’t “believe” that climate change is happening will undoubtedly see this uncharacteristically intensely cold weather as a sign that nothing’s changing.

Anyway, it started snowing here before dawn, and at this point—around noon—the strong winds are blowing the snow sideways—it’s supposed to be sustained winds of 35 mph. There’s at least an inch and a half of accumulation per hour, and visibility’s awful. I can’t see anything beyond a half a block away.

When I lived in Montana, this wouldn’t be any particularly big deal. Yeah, I vaguely recall that.

But then, when I lived in Phoenix, one time we got some below-freezing temperatures and some sleet that collected in the cracks in the sidewalks—and that was remarkable, too. All those tropical and subtropical landscaping plants that could freeze.

Obviously, it’s all “relative,” and our homes, our heaters, our vehicles, our city’s snow-removal equipment, and our bridges, roads, and utility poles are designed to handle the bad weather we usually get. But this weather is definitely worse than usual.

There’s been a lot of nervous chatter and laughter among my Facebook pals. We’ve all known it was coming. For a week, the weather forecasters have been talking about a major snow, and for the last few days, they’ve been saying it’s a sure thing that most parts of Central Missouri will get at least 15 inches.

Which, as I said, is a remarkable amount of snow for us, especially considering we’ve already had several good snowfalls this winter.

A lot of folks (including me) laugh at the urge to go to the store right before the storm and buy “bread and milk.” A Columbia newscast showed pictures of empty bread shelves at one of the local Walmarts. One of my friends called this “overreacting.”

But truly: thank goodness people have enough sense to hit the grocery store before the storm. If bread is on the grocery list for survival purposes, it is understandable: in our culture, bread is the staff of life; it is the bare minimum. It is to us as rice is to the Orient, and corn to the Aztecs.

We certainly went to the store yesterday—not for bread and milk, particularly, but for the items we might have purchased within the next three or four days. We were out of eggs; we needed more cheese; we were almost out of lettuce. So laugh all you want, my friends, but I keep having thoughts of the Grasshopper and the Ant.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Katrina these past few days, as excitement and dread mounts, and I’ve been wondering how much in denial we all are. They knew the evil weather was coming, and for some reason, too many of them didn’t take it seriously enough.

The ice that’s falling just a few counties south of us is going to cause widespread power outages, right before subzero temps. Remember the freezing rain in early December 2007?

I do. It’s more than a memory—it’s practically post-traumatic stress for me. I had broken my foot the October before and was still in a cast; on December 3, since no healing had occurred, I had surgery to repair that Jones fracture with a screw. The freezing rain came on Saturday, December 8. I wasn’t even in a cast again at that point, I was still in the post-surgical splint. Plenty of swelling and pain, and still (of course) on crutches. And yes, I also had a concert to play that weekend, in Columbia! Sue drove us on ice-covered roads, and we ended up staying in Columbia that night.

(By the way, in case you were wondering, trying to walk on crutches on ice is flat-out impossible.)

So, that Saturday night was the night we had no power at our house—it went off after we’d driven to Columbia, and fortunately we weren’t home to shiver all night with the kitties. By the time we got back home Sunday evening (because there was a concert Sunday afternoon, too), the power was back on and the house was getting warm again.

But the power went off again on Monday night, when a tree on our street collapsed and strummed down a set of powerlines. It was a cold night, and a dark morning, and we were grateful for every bit of insulation our house has.

It’s hard enough to bathe with a splint on, much less in the dark in a very cold house. Fortunately, we have our old percolator, and it, with our gas stove, meant that we could have hot coffee that morning.

Our power came on again sometime that day, and life was relatively dandy after that. We decided that when it comes to power outages, we’re very happy to be living in the center of town, just a few blocks from the state capitol, and not way out in the country somewhere and low on the list of priorities. For some of those people, the power was out for a week, and they had to seek shelter elsewhere.

Okay, and so that was just a fraction of an inch of ice that weekend—and I don’t recall any serious winds or additional snowfall with that, either.

But with this snowfall, now, they’re saying that counties southeast of us may receive up to an inch of ice, with additional inches of snow on top, plus 35 mph winds. They will have power outages galore. Then, to have this followed immediately by subzero temps? I feel for them, I worry for them.

How long will anyone’s power be out? Who knows? How do you “prepare” for that, when the roads will be impassable? We here in Jeff City and Columbia can Twitter and text about how exciting our big snow is, we can crack wry jokes about “waiting for the roof to cave in.” We can make up clever, hyperbolic names for this situation, calling it a “snowacane,” and a “snowpocalypse.” And we can warm our attitudes by telling each other about our Crock Pots of beef stew and chili, our Kahlúa-spiked coffee, our split pea soup and our homemade bread. We can afford to grin and share, feel warm and cozy, because we know we’re just very lucky this time.

But when I look out the window, I can’t tell if I’m shivering, or shuddering.

1 comment:

Osage Bluff Quilter said...

Bona fide! Just what we needed to be.
Bernie is back out with tractor and blade once again. You can hardly tell where he worked for 3 hours earlier.
I'm cooking up a storm, beef stew, beef vegtable soup and spagetti. just in case the electricity goes off.
Hey working for an Electric Cooperative sometimes gives you no pull! (Except I am scheduled to be off today and tomorrow YIPPEE!)