By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Stormy Weather

The inch or so of snow that fell Wednesday evening in Seattle is still on the ground. Generally when we get snow, it melts in a few hours; it’s rare for it to last for more than a day except for spots hidden from the sun.

Seattlites react mightily to even a small amount of snow. Schools close, drivers abandon their cars by the side of the freeway and employees call in sick.

"Public schools with more than 350,000 students were closed Thursday in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and suburban and outlying areas in the western part of the state…There were about 75 minor collisions…between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., said State Patrol Trooper Jeffrey L. Merrill…In Kitsap County, a woman died after her car skidded on ice into oncoming traffic and collided with a pickup truck on State Route 307, state troopers said." Houston Chronicle January 11, 2007

This snow shower follows not long after the worst windstorm in more than a decade in Pacific Northwest history. The night of December 14, 2006, winds gusted to a record 69 mph at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, breaking the old mark of 65 mph set in 1993. Winds were clocked at 90 mph near Westport on the coast, according to

The wind toppled giant trees and snapped power lines. More than a million people were still without power by Friday night. Our power came back on after two and a half days, but neighbors went without power for more than a week. Many roofs were crushed. I took the photos within a few blocks of our home on my exploratory walk the day after the storm. Our house is surrounded by locust, walnut and cedar trees, so we were fortunate to have escaped unscathed. In addition to the uprooted big trees lying across a few streets, most all roads and yards were blanketed with conifer branches. We were treated to the irony of stores selling Christmas greenery while utility workers labored to clear the streets of piles of it. The few stores that were open, that is. At one nearby hardware store clerks used flashlights to escort one person at a time around the store to make their cash-only (registers weren’t working) purchases. On my way home from a walk, I picked up fir, cedar and pine and used it to make a holiday wreath, quite an attractive one, if I don’t mind saying so myself.

It’s hard to comprehend how dependent we are on electricity. I don’t know how many times I walked into a dark room and flipped the light switch. My husband was listening to a battery-powered radio when I brightly said we didn’t have to worry about the batteries giving out because they were rechargeable. Duh. A friend told how she encouraged her daughter to get up and do something so she wouldn’t feel so cold and helpless. The daughter agreed and said she’d clean the family room. The mom watched her haul the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and plug it into the socket before realization hit. The laughter probably warmed them some.

We have a fireplace so were able to warm one room. I was very glad I had gathered and saved fallen wood throughout the year from the aforementioned surrounding trees, but I was amazed at how fast it disappeared. Pioneers must have spent an extraordinary amount of time chopping enough wood to keep them warm an entire winter. Candles burn fast, too, and writing Christmas cards or reading by candlelight loses its romantic charm surprisingly quickly.

But this latest time around we didn’t lose power with the snow, at least not in my neighborhood. Since I don’t have to drive anywhere, it looks beautiful to me. I walked in it yesterday and today. All but the busiest streets are solid ice from curb to curb. I was able to stay upright, though, with my trusty old-fashioned hiking boots that weigh a ton but have major-traction soles. I did have a few whoops! moments where my feet slipped and my arms shot out for balance, but I didn’t fall. I saw a truck in a ditch, cars spinning their wheels with black smoke pouring out from under the tires, several sledders including a dad who almost hit a telephone pole and lots of snow creatures, the most memorable of which was a Cyclops with a humongous pink-stained eye and numerous twig arms. It was a fun day. I’m just so glad I don’t have to commute.

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At 3:51 PM, Blogger EilisFlynn said...

Don't know if you're going to get this (my track record has been abysmal, and I still don't get why), but the short hill in front of my office, the day after the initial snow ("initial" because it's snowing AGAIN), had numerous drivers spinning and spinning and spinning their wheels trying to get up it. Scary.

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Linda Wallace said...

Glad you made it to work safely. It is scary out. On my walks I was afraid one of those drivers spinning their wheels would slide into me. And cutting through the Westwood Mall on my way to the post office, a big chunk of snow and ice fell off a roof to land inches from me.

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the one hand I can see where these kinds of storms can really mess with you Seattlites because you don't experience the winters like we do here in Idaho. Reports of lots of fender benders just after our first snow occur here as well, but then we Idahoans get geared up for the future snows and traffic accidents quieten (is that a word?) down quite a bit. say that we leave our cars alongside of the road, call in and miss work - NOT. Only sissy lalas do that, hahahaha! It's really cold here now, record colds. 6 degrees this a.m. and Fairfield a little town only about 30 miles from us was MINUS 25 yesterday. Probably the same today. Brrrrrrrr!

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Linda Wallace said...

-25! That's dangerous cold. It must hurt to breathe.


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