Snow can be a taskmaster, creating a burdensome workload that seems to be without end. You shovel once, and then again and again, to back the car out of the driveway; to uncover a heating vent; to make sure a windowpane is exposed to light from the outside.
Randy Buchanan, general manager of the Westwood Community Services District, described the month of February perfectly in his report to the board of directors at their March 4 meeting. He said, “I removed snow.” The removal of snow from fire hydrants was just one example he provided, stating they were often buried so deep they were hard to find.
And of course the fact that things get buried deep is another important reason to keep up with the snow. Driveways can quickly disappear. While most shrink in size regardless, Westwood residents were able to keep a space large enough to pull their car off the roadway. The spaces were chiseled out of the berms that increased in height and width with every storm.
The church van we park in front of our house disappeared. It became one huge mound of snow. It took two dedicated work nights to free it and the aid of a small tractor. One night Norm Wilson, the youth leader, solicited the help of several boys from the youth group as well as my husband, Terry, to break snow from the mound so he could scoop it up with the tractor and drive it a block to the woods. The next night Norm and Terry worked alone.
A few nights later I saw a news story on KCRA Channel 3 about snow in the Sierras that included a view of the grill and headlights of a jeep buried under at least 10 feet of snow. The man being interviewed was a heavy equipment operator who had been kept busy removing snow from properties. He said the jeep that was not dug out in a timely manner would probably be crushed by the weight of the snow.
Driveways and cars are not the only things that disappear with days and days of heavy snowfall; time also vanishes. Attending a meeting on the Peninsula took at least an additional hour after a heavy snow due to decreased speeds on icy roads. And then there is always the challenge of the berm, which may unexpectedly block the drive making it impossible to simply dash out to cover an event for the newspaper. The one-minute dash becomes a half hour dig.
The third snow survey by the California Department of Water Resources found the snow depth and snow water equivalent levels more than doubled in February. The survey at the Phillips Station snow course measured the depth at 113 inches on Feb. 28, an increase of 63 inches from the last survey on Jan. 31. The increase was attributed to several atmospheric rivers.
I did not know what these were, so I Googled it. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow regions in the atmosphere, like rivers in the sky, that transport most of the water vapor outside of the tropics. These columns of vapor move with the weather, carrying an amount of water vapor roughly equivalent to the average flow of water at the mouth of the Mississippi River. When the atmospheric rivers make landfall, they often release this water vapor in the form of rain or snow.”
This March the storms have not been so severe, and I am hopeful spring is approaching. The arrival of Daylight Saving Time brought joy. The lyrics to “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell came to mind … “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?”
My appreciation for all the attributes of spring has grown and that includes sunshine, longer days, the opportunity to walk outdoors for exercise, the freedom to travel without calculating road conditions before making plans.
The snow is still piled high on my deck so it will be a while until I bring out the Adirondack chairs, but I am looking forward to the change of season.