Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.
As I type this, it’s relatively warm out and a light rain is falling, but a rumored “monster storm”— the worst of the winter, and we’ve had 16 so far— is moving in. Depending on who you listen to, by the time it’s all said and done we might have anywhere from one to 15 inches on snow on the ground. The totals keep being updated, but what’s not clear to me is whether a lower snowfall is a good or bad thing, less snow may well mean more freezing rain.
Earlier this winter, a weather page I follow on Facebook (or rather, followed; they’ve now disappeared) posted a picture of what one of the weather models was returning for the next week. They were very clear in saying that it’s nearly impossible to predict with any confidence a week out, and this was only what ONE model was saying, but if all the stars aligned and the timing and temperature worked out just right, we could be looking at measuring snowfall with yardsticks: 30-40 inches.
I immediately shared the image with great gusto and glee, tagging all those people who seem to find every snowfall event a personal affront. I told the kids, and we envisioned building tunnels in the backyard for the dogs to move through and living the Little House on the Prairie life when our power inevitably went out.
The model then went to take a much more conservative path, and in the end we got something like 6 inches of accumulation that time, I think. (It all runs together now.)
And half the internet rolled their eyes and said, “I told you so,” and went on to slam everyone who had shared the photo, belittling their excitement. An article ran in my local paper called the “superstorm” the “great white hype,” and was very smug in its assessment of the original poster’s “irresponsibility” for sharing the weather model in the first place.
Having now run through this scenario of snow Eeyore-ism 16 times this winter, I just want to go on record as saying: ye gods, get over yourself. I’ll take a little of that great white hype, every time. Here’s why.
In December, there was a snow event predicted to begin at noon, producing a coating to an inch. And so like responsible parents, we got the kids ready early and we went to get our Christmas tree at around 10:30.
When we arrived, tiny flakes had started flurrying.
By the time we’d found and harvested our tree 20 minutes later, it was really starting to come down in massively large flakes and the temperature was just plummeting. We tried to keep warm by a fire in a barrel while we waited for the tractor to return and transport us back to the parking area.
Turns out, the tractor had got stuck and we had to walk back, slipping in fresh snow the whole way. There was probably already two inches of snow on the ground by that point.
Our toes were numb, our hair was frozen, Jeff had icicles in his eyelashes.
We paid for the tree, tied it onto the roof, and were on our way home. Only…
We couldn’t get out of the parking lot. Stuck.
So Jeff pulled back into our parking spot and we settled in to wait it out. After all, they’d only predicted an inch TOTAL. How much longer could it possibly snow?
45min and many inches later, I was full on panicking. We were 3 miles from home. Jeff wanted to wait for a plow to go through, but we were on a rural road and clearly they had not been expecting this. How long would a plow take? How long would the gas in my tank keep us warm? All of our phones were on the brink of running out of juice and none of us had eaten.
To make things worse, the kids hadn’t worn boots so their feet were already soaked. Cass wasn’t wearing socks or gloves. I did not relish the idea of having to piggyback her three miles.
And, Jake’s girlfriend had come with us, sending the embarrassment factor soaring.
I made the call: we had to start walking, before the storm got any worse (and it kept getting worse, near whiteout visibility at times). I told Rachel shoe should probably call her dad to pick her up, as the tree farm was closer to her house than our own house.
Here’s where we got lucky: her dad drove an AWD that would fit all of us in it (Toyota 4Runner for the win). We made it home, passing all sorts of vehicles stuck in ditches and front yards. On one hill there was a long line of cars, and a team of good Samaritans pushing them up the incline one by one. It took Rachel and her dad over an hour to make it back to their house, usually 10 minutes away (I owe that man a beer).
At home, it looked like this.
My point? You can’t tell me NOT ONE COMPUTER MODEL indicated there was a chance that we were going to be slammed by snow. If we’d had any idea that we might get hit by any real accumulation we’d have taken Jeff’s truck, not my minivan, and we’d have made sure the kids wore boots.
I understand that there’s a risk of looking stupid if you predict sizable accumulations and it doesn’t happen. Around here we call that the Bolaris effect.
But if there’s any chance at all, it’s irresponsible not to tell us about it. That’s how people get stuck on lonely rural roads with a car full of hungry kids.
Seriously, we are grown ass adults. We can handle it. We understand words like “just one model” and “very unlikely, but.” Time and again this winter it’s been illustrated that Mother Nature is sneaky and valuable insight into her caprices is being deliberately withheld from us, in the name of ratings and saving face.
We are grateful for two hour delays. Sure, the road outside your window might be fine. On our twisty roads they are often treacherous and a bit of sun makes a huge difference; I’d prefer my boys not have to walk an icy road around a blind curve at 6:30am in the dark. The schools make the call with ALL their kids’ safety in mind… not just your personal convenience.
We reserve the right to purchase bread, milk and eggs, the staples that households with kids run through in just a day or two. A small amount of snow often turns into days of melting and refreezing ice; one snowfall can easily trap me for days on end.
We also have the right to indulge in gleeful childlike anticipation of the impending storm, even when we know it probably won’t pan out. 90% of the joy of snow is waiting for those flakes to fall.
I’ll take reveling in the deliciousness of a predicted 40″ that never came to be over shoveling an unexpected foot of snow any day.
So, internet, you can take your snow smugness and shovel it.
This storm may well be a bust— it feels pretty warm to me out there right now— but I’m glad our school district has already decided not to chance potentially icy roads during the morning rush, calling with a 2hr delay.
It was nice thinking about going out with a bang. It will be even nicer not having to deal with it.
Don’t ruin it by being a jerk. I get it, when you predict a storm won’t be as severe as forecasted, you’ll be right half the time.
Big deal. Let it go.