The media, in its never-ending search for hype, has taken to naming winter storms as if they are hurricanes, which I disapprove of. The business of naming storms belongs to the people afflicted. Why not allow the locals to name the storms? I suppose some local names lack the things Madison Avenue deems important (and even requires), but, when old-timers spoke of “The ‘Thirty-eight Hurricane,” all the people who lived through it knew what they were talking about, though back then not even Hurricanes had names. Now even winter storms have names, but not everyone watches TV any more, so if you talk about “Rondell” coming to town, you may get an odd look, if not a “Who the -bleep- is Rondell?”
I don’t even know what the media-name for the last storm was. For me it was Storm-Number-Three, because a fortnight ago the computer models were showing us hit by three snowstorms, and I got a little excited at the prospect. We did get three storms, but they tracked well north of what was predicted, so much of what fell did not need to be shoveled, especially at the coast, which got nothing but rain. But I give the models credit. The storms were three in number.
My name for the third storm would be “The Grinch”, because it did all it could to rob Christmas of all “I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas” sentimentality. But it couldn’t stop Christmas from coming; it came.
The combination of Storm-Number-Two and Storm-Number-Three produced what the old-timers called a “Freshet”. Basically the first storm draped trees and broke boughs with especially wet, heavy snow, which held the rough equivalent of two inches of water. Then the second storm produced another two and a half inches of water, warmed to fifty-two degrees, which poured down very quickly, melting a lot of the snow as it landed. I think we may have seen two inches of rain in as little as three hours, and it melted roughly seven-eighth of the snow cover. This produced torrents which could not go down storm drains, for they (at first) were clotted with the prior storm’s snow. Suddenly there was a great deal of water with no place to go. Water refuses to stand still and wait its turn, so we suddenly had rushing streams digging gullies in unlikely places, and ponds where we’d never seen ponds, and lots and lots of flooded cellars.
This is not what you need two days before Christmas, when people tend to make the celebration of peace be most hectic. In my case I discovered a waterfall entering the cellar of the building that houses the electrical supply for my Childcare, and also that I’m a generous fool. During the kindly days of summer I’d loaned the sump pump which belongs in that building to a person afflicted by a summer thunderstorm. Then I totally forgot about it. I can’t even remember who I loaned it to.
In any case I went rushing off on a fifteen mile drive to buy a new sump pump. At the hardware store I met old friends, also buying sump pumps, but none of us had time to chat. I made it back to the Childcare in the nick of time, for the water had risen to within an inch of an important electrical junction box. In any case, such frantic activity in the bowls of a cobwebby basement was not in my to-do list for December 23.
I then had an hour off to gobble some delayed breakfast before starting my shift at the Childcare.
As I rushed home I wanted to take a few pictures of an amazing gully the freshet had gouged across my son’s driveway. Rather than rushing through a large culvert under the drive, the freshet had brought an amazing pile of autumn leaves down the hill all at once, effectively plugged the culvert, and then the torrents proceeded to actually rip up pavement digging a new channel. The street and State Highway were covered in sand and cobbles, with some cobbles as big as a grapefruit. The waters were roaring across the street into a poor fellow’s cellar windows. What a mess! What a great picture for this blog!
Much to my disappointment, pictures were impossible. I was too late. The mess was gone, and the water was rushing through the oversized culvert in the correct manner. Between my son’s landscaping equipment and a town road-crew’s backhoe, they had unplugged the masses of leaves and scraped up all the sand and cobbles from the pavement.
There is a story here I want to hear. My son has been telling the Town over and over and over that there would be trouble if they didn’t clean the leaves from the ditch uphill from his driveway, and now the trouble had happened. My eldest son does not suffer fools gladly. (I’ve seen his neck get bright red when a waitress is too slow at a restaurant.) Actually, come to think of it, maybe I don’t want to hear the story. But the job got done. The Town was even laying a patch of hot-top asphalt where his driveway reached the road.
And so we survived the worst the Grinch had to throw at us. By noon the downpours had turned to showers of drenching drizzle or spotted, splatting drops, but the worst was over. The amazing freshet was ebbing. And people got back to their frenetic preparations for Christmas as if nothing had happened.
Of course, everyone had a tale or two to tell, about how the freshet effected them, and of course among the best tale-tellers some knew how to employ certain embellishments of hyperbole, but what struck me most was the nonchalance. Between Storm Number Two and Storm Number Three the Grinch had delivered a pretty good left-right combination, and yet, rather than whining, the local folk were behaving as if the experience was exhilarating, and just gave them an opportunity to….well…brag? Or perhaps gloat? In any case, like the Who’s down in Who-ville singing, it was not what the Grinch desired or expected.
As Storm Number Three exited, temperatures plunged from 53 to 8, (12 to -13 Celsius), and the rain changed to pompoms of graupel and then snow, amounting to nearly an inch. The waterlogged world turned white. At dawn the next day, as family arrived from the snow-less coast, one looked around as we removed bags from their car and sighed, “You’re so lucky to get snow!”
The morning wind was blasting so cold I had forgotten to look up, but now I remembered, and you want to know something? Snow is really beautiful, sparkling in the sunshine.