Friday, February 4, 2011

The Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011
So, it's my fault. Apologies for that. Here I went and talked about Chicago blizzards and forgot to mention the Jan 1-3 Blizzard of 1999. Law of Attraction and all that bullshit. Mother Nature decided to set things straight.

Actually, despite what you hear in the news, it wasn't all that bad. We closed the college down at 3pm Tuesday. When I drove home visibility was around a quarter of a mile. Not much to do, really. I had had three days to prepare and was well-stocked and ready. So, after dinner, I sensibly started drinking. Not hard drinking, mind you, just to find a comfortable buzz and maintain it. Because the plan was, you see, to get out into that blizzard and experience it firsthand. Which I did. Multiple times.

The snow really didn't start to kick in until about 9pm. Visibility about 100 yards. Still a few idiot drivers out, obviously thinking themselves invulnerable with 4-wheel drives. They would have second thoughts before the night was out. Drifts were starting to build, with winds a steady 40 mph gusting to 60. (O'hare airport, some three miles east of me, would register gusts 70 mph). We had not quite reached the description of "not a fit night out for man nor beast".

The next excursion occured a little after 10:30pm. Walked out into the unplowed street, I kicked the snow and found the pavement buried down at around six inches or so. A heavy, burly wind barreled straight out of the northeast with snow so thick it felt like rain. And then, and then, yes! Thundersnow! The entire sky glowed a brilliant blue, silhouettes of trees stark against it. The thunder came growling down a few seconds later. I let out a series of whoops in response and did a little storm dance. I walked around the neighborhood, everything just slightly unfamiliar, and by the time I came back in, an hour later, my wool cap, jeans, and beard are soaked to the skin. I'm ashamed to say it felt really good to be out in it, but common sense prevailed.

The last excursion occured around midnight. The snow, which seemed heavy before, had multiplied in intensity. Thunder and lightning still played about in the sky, but even this seemed hidden and muffled by the snow. Visibility was down to perhaps 25 yards or so. I tried to find the hole I had kicked in the street, and found only a uniform foot of snow, with perhaps a slight dimple of an impression. I'd had my fill of all this, and went back inside, thankful that my building still had electrical power. The houses south of me did not. I awoke to warmth.

The following day, the sun jumped out early, around noon. The blizzard warning was supposed to expire at 3pm. I lazed around until 1pm, then it's out to dig out the car.The manager of my shitbox apartment complex had made two passes with the plow, enough to create an alpine ski path. There was a perhaps 2 foot high by 4 feet deep wall of snow between my car and the path. Fortunately it was a light fluffy snow, perfect downhill schuss snow instead of heart-attack snow, and so it is easy to remove. I help my neighbor remove the snow from his car, so that I may use his shovel. The Tragedy of the Commons, itself a completely bullshit hypothetical essay, does not exist here. Each helps the other the out, so the vehicles may be moved to the street. Each of us does so knowing that the parking lot will not be plowed otherwise. Snow shovelling thus proved that the concepts of altruism and selfishness are not mutually exclusive. Ayn Rand was obviously a stupid, stupid woman.

With all cars evacuated, I decided to tour the town. The world was bright, blinding bright, but smaller. A little more cramped than two days before. A touch more claustrophobic, as four-lane streets are now two laners, two laners but footpaths, as to either side drifts are piled above eye level. Parking lots hold snow mountains and foot hills, and one wonders why winter play lands are not created with all the snow. Why the flatland of Illinois cannot be creatively festooned with hillslides and zoomflumes of snow and ice. Instead they search desperately to dump the snow.

As I drove around, I saw ravens. BIG ravens. My beloved birds were out. Extreme circumstances forced them to become bold. Though they are supremely adapted for the cold, much more than I, they need to eat, and so searched for what little there was. I am happy to have seen them. They not so much I.

All in all, it was a great time!

1 comment:

  1. mountains and canyons of snow, oh my. and I'm whinging about a little ice.

    and, oh yeah, it's not a good idea to challenge the gods.