November 27, 2006
Actually, it all started on Sunday, November 26, 2006. Brian and I were reveling in our child-free Sunday morning sleep-in. Catfish was over on the peninsula visiting grandparents for a few days and, legally, we were required to sleep until at least 9 am. This was no problem for me, I like to sleep in. We woke up slowly and read for a bit. As I was climbing into the shower we were talking over our plans for the day. Mid-sentence Brian exclaimed “Hold on a minute. I’ll be right back!”
Two seconds later I hear a “Nu-uh! COME QUICK AND LOOK AT THIS!” I raced back into my housecoat and ran out into the living room. All over the yard, the street, the neighbor’s yard, hell – all over everything was a lovely thick blanket snow. And it was still coming down fast in big fat flakes. I yelled in surprise. We never get snow in November here. Currently, Seattle is angling for the wettest November in recorded history but no one said anything about snow. Or maybe they had. I don’t watch TV or listen to news radio. This is helpful if you want to stay sane but figuring out the weather is always a bit of a bitch.
Every adult I know always complains about the snow. When I was a kid my mom hated the snow. My grandmother would proselytize about how bad everything was going to be because of the snow. Even the neighbors talked about the snow as if it were the worst thing that could happen to us. No one seemed to love snow as snow should be loved and that always confused me because it’s SNOW for chrissake. We get about 1 inch of snow a year here and never all at once. It’s usually parsed out in individual packets of 20-25 snowflakes a day . So when you’re 10 years old and praying for a snow day, it really really sucks. However, once in a great while, we will get a snowstorm. And by snowstorm I mean 2-3 inches of snow within 24-36 hours. Enough to cover the ground, but no so much that you can go igloo-crazy-go-nuts.
I remember my igloo dreams. Every snowstorm I just knew we would finally get enough to finish that damn igloo and then I could live in it for the rest of the winter or at least until school started back up. My sister and I would get the old loaf pans out (kept especially for igloo construction) and start making making snow bricks.
It never went very well.
By the third layer of snow bricks we would be scooping muddy snow off the neighbor’s yard and trying to shake it down from low lying tree branches. Alas, we never did finish that igloo. There just was never enough snow. At most we made some sort of half-assed archeological snow ruins. But this never seemed to stop us. Every time it snowed we would dig out the loaf pans and try again.
I see this as no reason to forsake the love of snow. Sure it’s a bitch to drive in but that has never dampened my excitement at seeing freshly fallen snow. I’m an adult now and I still say things like “OH WOW! IT’S SNOWING!!” then run outside without my coat on just to make sure it’s not really a trick of the light against the window.
Let’s get back on topic. We’re talking about Snowpocalypse 2006. Maybe I should start with an explanation. We’re good at rain here. We are so good at rain here that you can pick out the tourists because they are the only ones carrying umbrellas. No one lets a little rain spoil their parade because we’d never have any parades otherwise. We even have these little bumps on the road so when it’s dark and rainy you can tell when you’re veering into another lane. Rain is fine. But snow? It hardly ever snows here. The denizens of the Seattle area are not used to snow. This results in an entire Metropolitan community being physically unable to cope with lots of snow in a short amount of time. In rare circumstances this results in something my husband has termed a “Snopocalypse.”
In my lifetime I have encountered two such events. Once, during the winter of 1991 when, after several inches of snow fell during the two hours of evening rush hour the entire city and surrounding neighborhoods literally shut down. A friend and I left school in his truck about 4pm. He was going to drive me home – a trip of approximately 3 miles. We didn’t get home until roughly 7pm. And even then we had to abandon his truck on the side of the road and walk the last half mile or I was going to piddle on the seat. You see, as soon as the snow starts coming down in earnest no one knows how to drive and inevitably two people end up sprawled all over the road, cars bent up in strange shapes and drivers standing around thinking “Oh my God, how did THAT happen?” instead of calling the police and getting the hell out of the way. On our trek to my house I heard several friends calling from their cars, pleading for necessities: food, water, a bathroom. My mom made hot chocolate and cookies and graciously let half of the school use the toilet before they trudged back to their hopeless place in a traffic jam that was at least 5 miles long and took almost 8 hours to clear up.
I remember going outside later that evening, around 8-9pm and watching a series of green flashes race across the horizon followed by loud booming noises, this proved to be the power transformers throughout the city of Kirkland blowing out. The reports of stranded commuters from downtown were terrible. All hotels in the city of Seattle were booked solid, city busses became makeshift prisons of commuter hell. Later that week the City of Seattle had to issue a public apology for roads going unplowed because, and I’m not making this up, they couldn’t find one of the snowplows. You may think that’s not a big deal but back then the City of Seattle only had two snowplows. And one of them was lost. I sincerely hope that whomever lost that plow was fired.
The second Snowpocalypse I have endured was Monday night. This time I was one of the lucky ones.
It started innocently enough. Snow on Sunday with the promise of more snow to come (Yay!) By Monday morning the roads had cleared enough that the drive in wasn’t so bad. Monday went well and I left at my normal time, 3:30. As I was driving home I noticed some heavy black clouds over the convergence zone. The convergence zone is a local weather/geographic phenomenon about 7 miles north of Seattle, where assorted northern fronts meet an assortment of southern fronts. All the really exciting weather happens in the convergence zone and just then the CZ was trying very hard to freeze hell over. Snow and sleet started to pour out of the sky, traffic immediately slowed to a crawl and the roads, even though they were being driven on, were slowly building up a thick layer of slush. As I was only a mile or so away from my exit I counted myself lucky and drove as safe as I could. I managed to make it home by 4:30, not bad I thought – especially for such a crazy turn of weather.
After I was home for an hour or so my husband called to say that he was stuck in traffic. He left his office at 4:30 but the snow had started and now he was hoping to make it home by 6.
At 6 he called to say that he wasn’t sure if he’d be home before 7:30.
At 7:30 he called to say that he was beginning to worry about the gas in the car (and that he had to pee).
At 9pm called to say that he had nearly run out of gas so he had pulled over but at least he was next to a police officer (also stuck) and he was relatively safe. He still had to pee and by this time I could hear it in his voice. I called AAA for him. The operator literally laughed at me. “It will be HOURS before we will be able to get to him. We’re only handling medical emergencies right now. I’m sorry.”
I couldn’t really blame her, thousands of people were stranded all over the region. She probably hasn’t been that busy since 1991.
At 10:30 he answered his phone in the saddest voice I’ve ever heard:
“hi. still no gas”
At 11:30 I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and I crawled into bed. I tried to stay awake for him but I couldn’t make it.
I woke up when I heard Brian walk in the door. It was 2 am.
“That’s the first time my commute has ever lasted longer than my entire work day.” It took him 9 hours to get home from work during Snowpocalypse 2006. You know what pisses me off the most about it? All throughout his ordeal I kept trying to look up the weather conditions on the internet or on the news. Do you think any of the local news channels even covered the Commute from Hell? No. One sad, puny story in the paper about it the next day is all. No pictures from the highway, no reason given for the shutdown of all lanes of traffic (until later at least) My friends claimed to be awed by the fact that I don’t watch TV or the local News, but there is nothing awe inspiring about this. The local news never reports on local news. I want to hear about what the hell is going on down the street, not in New York City. I could give a flying flip about the local news of New York City. I have personally witnessed two houses burning down in the city of Seattle – actual flames leaping out of the roof. Do you think I ever heard one word about either event? Hell no. Last year a squirrel ran over some power lines in our neighborhood and blew up.
He. Blew. Up.
For godsake there were barbequed squirrel bits all over the road. It caused a twenty second power outage all along our block. And yet, nothing. I searched and search the papers: Na Da. So I took it upon myself to report to you, kind readers about the terrible snowstorm of 2006, otherwise known as:
Updates at 11.
For 4 hours.