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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Yesterday minus 50

Degrees, that is. Was it just yesterday that I wrote about the weather being beautiful, nice and sunny with temperatures in the 60's and bugs flying all around? Last night I heard a weather report that called for up to seven inches of snow today. Can't be us, I thought. Must be for someplace up north.

This morning I woke and turned on one of the local news stations' weather report. Rain changing to snow, heavier towards the afternoon. The changeover came early, around seven in the morning, and fine snow started to accumulate. There's something insidious about fine snow. Big, wet snow doesn't present much of a problem, because it tends to allow tires and boots to bite into it. Light, fluffy snow generally parts or packs down quickly. But fine snow creates a dense, level layer, with little more traction than solid ice. This was what caused such a problem during our first significant snowfall last December.

I left early for work, but everybody was going very slowly on the roads, and after 33 miles that adds up. I didn't see any major accidents, but that doesn't mean there weren't any.

The light, fine snow continued throughout the day. Temperatures dropped into the teens - about a 50 degree difference from yesterday. And the wind, as Messrs. Dylan and Hendrix said, began to howl.

Coming home was interesting. Following my rule of late in, early out I left around 5:30, shortly before sunset. The sun was sinking majestically, gloriously, brilliantly, blindingly in the west, which happened to be the direction I needed to travel to go home. I saw a series of amazing sky scenes over the first few minutes of my ride. For a little while a healthy sun pillar threatened to form, but it quickly dispersed. At one point the wind whipped up loose snow into a near-whiteout, colored golden by the setting sun. I would have enjoyed the beauty of the scene more if I had not been so desperately trying to keep my car from being blown off the highway.

I got home fairly late and had dinner before wandering out to attack the two to four inches of new accumulation on my sidewalks. This consisted of a one-inch crust of partially melted and refrozen snowdrift (melted by the sun, which is getting stronger in these latitudes) over a fluffy layer of fine powder on top of a thin densely-packed bottom layer. The wind was strong and the sky was crystal clear, so I did my shoveling under the gaze of Orion and the Big Dipper and managed not to freeze to death while doing it.

Tomorrow I have an early meeting. I'll try to get there in time for it. Of course, early in, late out, and who wants that? Maybe it will snow some more overnight. This time of year, there's no telling what tomorrow's weather might be.

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