When we moved from the Midwest to Washington ten years ago, our first winter felt balmy. We ran around in capris and flip-flops, our new neighbors shivered in parkas, the kind I hadn’t worn since daily trudging a mile across the University of North Dakota campus in blizzard conditions.
On the average, WA was 60 degrees warmer. It was like being on spring break all winter long.
One Sunday in January someone from our church called. “Church is cancelled today.”
We were shocked. We’d never heard of cancelling church.
“Why?” my hubby asked.
“Did you look outside?”
Hubby pulled the curtain aside and saw a dusting of snow on the ground. He asked, “Yea, so why did you cancel church?”
Our friend repeated, “Did you look outside?”
“Yes,” answered my husband, “but why did you cancel church?”
“There’s snow on the ground.”
“Yea, I see the snow, but why did you cancel church?”
“Because there’s SNOW ON THE GROUND.”
We laughed. We laughed and laughed and laughed. After all, we survived the winter of 1996-7 with 117 inches of snow (that’s nearly TEN FEET, people!) and the interstate shut down 13 times, followed by the Red River Flood of 1997.
We laughed for a few year years, until we finally understood how and why 1/2 inch of snow is treacherous in our new climate and terrain.
1. People don’t have snow gear.
If you shovel once every couple of years, why would you keep a shovel? I piled my shovels, scrapers, and snow blower on the sidewalk with a free sign when I moved, I use a pancake turner on my front porch. Seriously. I use it smugly and wisely. My library card scrapes my car windows. I’m very happy with this arrangement.
Obviously, my new neighbors don’t have snow blowers or a blade on the front of their pickups. Wait, most don’t have pickups. The cities don’t have garages full of snowplows that run on a regular basis. Being unprepared is frustrating, but spending money you don’t have on equipment you rarely use isn’t tax money worthy.
Sidewalks and streets aren’t cleared. Maybe I should loan the city my pancake turner.
2. The hills are treacherous.
Two nearby hills are so steep that only a guard rail come between a sliding car, and the houses below. Most hills don’t have guard rails.
North Dakota is extremely flat. You slide forwards or sideways, or into a small ditch you could drive out of and not tell your parents.
3. Many drivers aren’t experienced in snow driving.
I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about them.
Even ND drivers drive into ditches or “accidentally” spin a cookie. But people in snowy climates have six months a year to perfect their winter driving skills, not six hours or six days.
Many Seattleites didn’t grow up with parents who taught them how to drive on snow, ice, snow on ice, black ice, slushy snow, and slushy snow on ice. Add wind speed, air temperature, and visibility to multiply the weather conditions winter drivers master.
In the Pacific Northwest you learn to drive in overcast with rain, overcast with fog, overcast with occasional thundershowers.
4. Front wheel drive doesn’t work on slippery hills.
No amount of “I think I can, I think I can “ will get you up the hills without the right vehicle, tires, and ability.Many people don’t understand how front wheel/rear wheel/four-wheel drive works, so they just head out. Yea, we see SUVs in the ditches, too.
Others know it’s better to walk up the hill in dress shoes, than slide down in your car. (Review #3 if you are still confused.)
Parking overnight is common, but so are car pile-ups on the bottom of the hills.
5. People Wanna’ Play
When it snows, you stop and play. Almost every snowfall makes snowball snow, can you believe it, Midwesterners? It’s amazing.
My neighbors, Rick and Sandy, sculpted this amazing Seahawk. Actually, Rick did most of the artistic work, we “coached” him. I provided some pictures, a few shovels of dirtless snow, and the food coloring, but they included me in the picture, anyway.
There are forts to build, snowballs to throw,
and snowmen to create.
Kathy – Facebooking on my front porch and enjoying the snow and also the cars trying to get up our hill.
Vanessa – Please oh please, please stick around until morning, snow!! (We must be the only place on the continent who WANT snow right now).
Sonja – I realize this will NOT be exciting for my friends and family in Minnesota, Ohio, Connecticut, etc., but IT IS SNOWING AT MY HOUSE RIGHT NOW!!! It almost never snows here!! I love it!
LouAnn – It’s a beautiful snowy day in Lacey, WA! Hey! It can happen!
Marilyn – Measured 3-1/2″ so far – yippee!! Hot tub here we come! Love soaking while snowflakes falling ❄❄
Laura – IT’S SNOWING!!!
Linda – Dreams do come true, Snow is not a fantasy.
Kathleen – I have to say… my aim with a snowball is pathetic, now. More opportunities to practice, please!
Living with six months of snow can be drudgery. You’re always shoveling, bundling up, warming up, scraping windows, and surviving.
When it rarely snows, it’s a gift to be enjoyed. The morning after our Glorious Snow Day, the rains melted our snow creations into memories.
That’s the main reason Seattle shuts down for snow.