Monday, February 2, 2015

In defense of snow

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2015 at 3:40 PM

Snow is wonderful. Snow is magical. Snow is the stuff of dreams.

Think I'm wrong? Look at how it has transformed our world in just one day. Isn't it something?

Of course, we're used to it. After last year, we're used to the occasional wallop of snow that leaves us digging out for a day. Hence me tweaking the nose of the newsmakers who love to lavish attention on any coming storm. They really do overdo it.

Think I'm using my afternoon coffee to wash down some crow? Not at all. In fact, I'm still going to wag my finger at the mainstream news. Why? Because, year after year, they scream about any coming snowfall, with rhetoric that's turned up to 11. And then, when it doesn't fall quite as thick, isn't that really crying wolf? And when that happens, who crabs at them for sending people into unnecessary hysterics? In a way, they've all prepared us to ignore their warnings, leaving them shrieking like Cassandra of old when it's really going to whale on us.

Anyway, can't blame them too much. This isn't Palm Beach, and we know it snows here. And I say that cheerfully. Yesterday, I went out twice to shovel, and laughed as I saw it drift right back where I put it. This morning, I got out there on a clean, bright morning and got it out of the way again. I got to chat with my neighbors, which doesn't happen often enough. And I saw that the whole street, including many senior citizens, was cleared and ready for walking. It was deep, but — let's face it — it was very light. Sometimes, it's back-breaking work to pick up a few inches of really heavy, thick, wet snow. This stuff? Not so much of a challenge for the man and his shovel.

Cars, of course, are totally a different matter. Take a look at this:

Since we park behind the dwelling, off the alley, it does take some effort to get out onto the street. Luckily, the household's two cars include one that's fairly high off the ground. In this case, it took about 15 minutes of shoveling to clear a runway to get moving, and a lot of jittery powering-through in second gear before getting almost to the end. Then, physics simply took over, and it looked grim. Luckily, a neighbor down the alley had a snowblower running, and cleared out a segment that was all high-drift, and we popped free of the alley.

Driving on slush-filled streets takes skill, but it can be learned. Maybe not by somebody who just moved here from California, but any steely willed Michigander knows how to do it. My tactic is to run a little low in second, disengage the clutch while I coast up to a turn, wait a little longer than usual, then turn and engage the clutch. You'll fantail a little bit, but it's part of the game, as long as you correct for it.

Then, I took the freeway up to work, which wasn't that bad. When people don't have the option to not take the freeway, it'll be the one place where snow can't gather too much. I made it to work. An hour later than the delayed start time, yes, but I made it.

And how do I feel? Angry? Exhausted? Miserable? Nope. I feel kind of … proud. This is Michigan, and we have to be pretty tough hombres to make it through the snow. To own it. Makes you wonder what people feel proud about for living in California. They can walk around in flip-flops and Jams shorts all year? What kind of accomplishment is that? I made it through a snowstorm that was several inches deeper than even the chicken-little news media said would be. I'm feeling great: Part animal, part machine.

But before I beat my chest too much, it wasnt that bad. I know: The newspaper said it was the third-worst snowstorm ever, right? But, really, it was 16 inches of light, fluffy, drifty snow that fell on a Sunday. It didn't hit us when that many people were working, or out on the roads. It was followed by a bright morning of low wind and double-digit temperatures. We will endure, somehow. Maybe we didn't get into work today. Maybe the kids aren't in school either. But it seems we haven't had a whole lot of casualties. We've seen worse.

Just for perspective, recall, if you can, the storm that hit the Detroit area in 1978. When it was over, an Ann Arbor meteorologist noted, "The most extensive and very nearly the most severe blizzard in Michigan history raged January 26, 1978 and into part of Friday January 27. About 20 people died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, most due to heart attacks or traffic accidents. At least one person died of exposure in a stranded automobile. Many were hospitalized for exposure, mostly from homes that lost power and heat. About 100,000 cars were abandoned on Michigan highways, most of them in the southeast part of the state."

If and when that happens, even I will agree it belongs on the front page.

Well, maybe ...

That said, please take a moment to look at our "Detroit was hammered with snow last night" slideshow, now up at!

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