The forecast was for a trace to 2″ in higher elevations. Hah!
It started snowing around 10:00 AM, but nothing was sticking because temps weren’t below freezing. It started to stick around 11:00, but not much, and the temperatures were still above freezing. Many of us didn’t think that much about it because…oh, I don’t know. Because we all count on weather forecasts to be accurate now. Because whenever we all get excited about possible snow, it almost never materializes. Because it was sticking to some things, but the roads were still clear. Because last week was false spring in northwest Oregon, and we’ve collectively decided that the time for real winter has passed.
Some schools closed early, but many did not because it wasn’t supposed to freeze until later, after the snow was supposed to stop falling.
Many, many people ended up on the road around 3:30, when, instead of tapering off, the snow started falling harder and the temperature dropped. People like Cane and me, who had to go feed his daughter’s cat. We could have left to feed the cat earlier in the day, when his school closed at noon, but instead we took a nap. Because we were tired. Because we knew we could go later. Because there wasn’t that much snow on the road and it would probably melt. Because the weather was not a big deal.
Once in the car, we quickly realized our folly.
About a third of the way there we realized that even if we could get to said cat, we might not be able to get back home. That realization took us a bit of time to get to because denial is a strong persuader, and it’s hard to let go of our ideas about what we can and can’t control and how things are supposed to be. But finally, reluctantly, we admitted that the cat could live until we could get there the next day, but we might be in some trouble if we didn’t turn around. We ducked into a side street and went around the block to get ourselves going in the opposite direction on the street pictured above. We then moved two car lengths in 20 minutes. And while we were idling and trying to make a plan, we had the further realization that all of the routes home we might take included a slope of one kind or another.
We needed to bail on the whole enterprise of driving.
We took the first turn onto a side street that we could, and we drove as far in the direction of our house as we could before hitting another clogged street or hill. Then, we parked our car on the side of the road, locked it, and began a nearly 2 mile walk to our house, with snow blowing in our faces in below-freezing temperatures.
Before we left the house, I’d grabbed a pair of thin, knit gloves I use for skating, but not my warm ski gloves. “It’s not like the horse is going to die and we’re going to have to get there on foot,” I’d joked, “but I feel like I should have something if we’re going out in bad weather.” I was sure I wouldn’t need them.
We walked a mile. We took our glasses off because we realized we could see better without them. The world felt a little apocalyptic.
We stopped at a bar to dry off and warm up because our pants and my silly gloves were soaking wet and my thighs had gone numb. Cane got his glasses out, and the frame snapped in two. We ordered a drink.
From the news playing on big screens, we learned that another 4-6″ was now expected to fall through the night. We realized we’d best get moving. So we did. More blowing snow. More trudging. More numb thighs and cold hands. And then we finally got home, around 6:30.
It kept snowing. And snowing. And snowing.
But our power stayed on, and we had food, and it was pretty, and we felt lucky.
It turned out to be the second-biggest snowfall that Portland’s ever recorded. (The #1 spot goes to a snow in 1943.) Ten inches wouldn’t be a very big deal in a lot of places, but it is here, where we rarely see that kind of accumulation. It took some guy on Reddit more than 12 hours to get home, and the news reported 6 hour commutes for many. Some people on interstate roadways walked away from their cars. It was a big deal because weren’t ready for it, we have little experience with it, and–because this kind of thing is rare–we don’t have a lot of infrastructure in place for it.
So much depends upon what you’re prepared for, doesn’t it?
The next day we took the bus to the cat. Had the whole thing to ourselves.
As I finish these words, we’re in the ugly stage of snow. It’s raining, and the view out my window is full of chunky, dirty-gray sludge. We should soon be back to our region’s normal. I’m going to miss our brief respite from normal. The night we walked home, we passed a sloping street with a long back-up of cars. Several people who lived along that street were out with snow shovels, helping people get their cars unstuck. Stories of good samaritans made the news. On Friday, the streets were quiet in the way they were during the early days of the pandemic. The few of us who were out smiled at each other more than we usually do. Our Thursday night was challenging, but now we’ve got a good story we’ll tell each other when snow falls in the future. It’s been a quiet weekend of leftovers and movies and puzzling. A big part of me hates to see it end.
Still, I know other good things are on the way, and it will always be true that change is the only constant.