Friday, February 12, 2010

Stormy Weather

They've been getting a lot of snow north of here this winter.

And through much of it, Dallas has been spared.

That is, in fact, typical. There have been winters when we had little, if any, measurable snowfall around here. You can find people who can tell you about Februarys — Januarys, too, for that matter — when the temperatures were in the 70s, even 80s, and men wore short sleeves and women wore shorts.

But this year has been an exception. We've had several snow "events" this winter — my pastor says five, and I haven't been keeping count so I will assume he is correct.

Every such "event" has had a significance of its own. One snow event was special, not because it left much of a trace of itself but because it represented (as I recall) more days in which snow fell on Dallas than any other winter since they started keeping track of these things.

For the first time since I've been living here, we had a white Christmas — and I've lived here since 1996 plus my family came here to visit my grandparents on just about every Christmas of my childhood.

And yesterday was the mother of all snow events in Dallas. We had snow or snow mixed with rain just about all day yesterday. Until it got dark, the temperatures hovered at or just above freezing. The streets were wet, but they weren't slick. Meanwhile, some snow accumulated in tree branches and on lawns as the day proceeded.

I usually meet my father for dinner on Thursday nights, and we didn't let the weather interfere with our plans this week, but, as I was driving to meet him, I heard a man on the radio report that we were only a fraction of an inch away from setting a record for the most snowfall in a day. All I had to do was look through my windshield to know we would break that record.

And we did. The Fort Worth Star–Telegram says we bettered the existing record by about 3½ inches. It was still snowing when Dad and I left the restaurant. And it was still snowing several hours later. I was a witness to it. I had been home for about an hour when the lights began to flicker, then went out. So I went into the bedroom, opened the blinds and gazed out my window at the snow as it continued to fall. It was beginning to accumulate on the street, and traffic was moving slower.

I guess I was luckier than many folks. My power was restored about 90 minutes after it went out. By that time, it was getting cold in my apartment, but it warmed up when the power came back on. The Dallas Morning News reports that crews were still trying to restore service to 180,000 customers today, and it is said the repair work could "stretch into the weekend."

Residents have been asked to minimize water use. Hundreds of flights have been canceled. High school sports events have been canceled or postponed.

It was about as close as one is apt to get to a "blizzard" around here — assuming one is not referring to the ice cream treat at Dairy Queen.

I don't think the folks in Minneapolis would call it a blizzard. Nor would the folks in Pittsburgh or Chicago or New York or Boston. Those folks know what a blizzard is.

But folks in Dallas — well, the lifelong residents, anyway — have no idea what a blizzard is.

I do have an idea what it is. I went to school in the Ozarks, where we got snow and lots of it in the winter. I remember walking to campus in blizzards, and I remember walking along streets only hours after a blizzard had ended. I remember the solitary sound my boots made as they crunched the snow. I remember that, unlike my experience growing up in the lowlands of central Arkansas, snow in northwest Arkansas didn't melt off by midday, and it often stayed long enough to be topped by a fresh layer of snow several days later.

In Dallas, I am a few hundred miles farther south than I was when I was in elementary school. It is even more common around here for snow to fall during the night, then be gone by lunch, than it was in my hometown.

And it's true that the snow is gone from the streets this afternoon. Traffic seems to be moving normally, although there probably won't be as much of it as usual since so many businesses and schools did not open today.

But there's still quite a bit of snow in yards. You can't always tell how much there is, but you can look at footprints in the snow and see that it is still quite deep in some places — certainly more than the dusting we're accustomed to.

Well, it should all be gone tomorrow. It's supposed to get up to 49°. A week from now, I've heard that a high of near 60° is expected.

Now that is what folks in Dallas expect this time of year.

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