Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anatomy of a..."Winter Weather Event"

So, let me 'splain to you how cold-season-precipitation...stuff...goes down, here in the Mid Atlantic's Southern Division. First, we hear the predictions start to filter in, about how our friendly neighbors to the north (no, not Canada...Maryland) are bracing for a significant storm. But it seems like calm, rational reporting quickly deteriorates into heightened panic and a sense of escalating pre-snow-mayhem as the numbers for "total expected accumulation" climb higher. Meanwhile, here in the upper regions of Dixieland...sure, a definite chill could be felt in the air, but the sun was shining, and all appeared well when the kids arrived home from school on Thursday afternoon...that is, right up until we got the email stating that schools would be closed the next day, due to the threat of dangerous conditions...that COULD arrive with the newly-named Winter Storm Jonas. Here's what happened next:

Day 1 (Friday): Okay, for about 5 minutes, NOAA boldly proclaimed that we'd be receiving 4-8 inches of the white, fluffy stuff. Hmmm...this was actually pretty exciting, for these parts. By the time we woke up on Friday morning, however, they'd erased those words as if they never existed, replacing them with the more common (less welcome) advisory about "a wintry mix". They're trying to make it sound, I don't know, more scientific and perhaps picturesque? But in reality this simply means "It will be icy. Stay inside, lest you slip and fall on your butt in a totally undignified--but possibly hilarious for the entire neighborhood--manner. Don't say we didn't warn you." Sigh. Sure enough, the telltale "plink plink plink" on the roof, the windows, and the driveway was a dead giveaway. Stupid sleet!

I'd say we actually got probably about an inch of snow before it began spitting pellets from the sky, so the whole "frozen tableau" was admittedly kind of pretty (from the living room, with a cup of steaming tea, in fuzzy pajamas, mind you...just how I enjoy Winter the most...or, you know, "at all"). The children, of course, were 100% undeterred from venturing out into the...tundra. In fact, Derek left the house at 9 a.m. (I had to do a double-take, to make sure it was really MY SON--out of bed, dressed, and exiting the house at that hour on a vacation day). I didn't see him again until 10:45 that evening, when he finally returned to roost and tell the tale of his adventures. It seems he and his Bus Stop Posse had played several rounds of football during the course of the day, pausing only when they got too wet and cold, to pop into someone's house, toss their sopping outer layers into the dryer, get fed by a mom, watch TV while their clothes tumbled, then repeat the process. That's a full Snow Day O'Fun, I tell ya.

Meanwhile Riley and his 7th-grade buddies took advantage of the slick ground to sled down a hill--used by all of the surrounding youngsters--across the street on a piece of public land. Since he was actually within sight and could come home periodically to check in, I had time to consider something that had heretofore escaped my attention: neither of the boys has in their possession a pair of anything even minutely That's right, they were out there, in the hypothermia-inducing atmosphere, dressed completely inappropriately for the weather. BAD MOMMY! In my, I kind of...forgot (she mumbles sheepishly, at least having the grace to look thoroughly ashamed of herself). Since Winter tends to be so mild here, and we don't get much of the frozen coating, it seemed silly to buy them footwear they wouldn't use very often. Oops!

Fortunately Riley found a water-resistant, fleece-lined jacket in his closet that he'd inherited from his older brother several years ago, which still fit. (Well...for right this very second only. Once he grows again, forget it). Come to think of it, Derek has a very nice Columbia fleece I purchased for him last year...that he didn't even bother to wear. Yep, the boy left here in a regular old sweatshirt. I GIVE UP. Heck, I had to ask myself if either of them even had a pair of warm pants in their size-seriously, up to now they've been going to school every day in shorts. So, anyway, I was genuinely worried that Riley was going to lose some toes and it would be All. My. Fault. But he cheerfully informed me that when he and his pals got too chilly, they headed into a warm house of their choosing, where yet another Good Samaritan Mom fed them hot chocolate and chicken soup. (Yeah, she definitely wins the Parental Commendation for this instance. I'll get it together and step up next time, I promise! Or...I'll give it the old college try...whatever...)

In between shenanigans, I had LOTS of time to touch base with Facebook and monitor the progress of the Arctic Takeover in my former state. Oh. My. Goodness. The pictures people were posting were dazzlingly Mother Nature on a rampage can undoubtedly be...but I'm not gonna lie, at the same time I was admiring all of the (virtual) snowing and blowing and whatnot, all I could think of was how verrrryyyyyy grateful I was NOT to be there experiencing it in person. I lived through the last 2, aaannnnd I'm done, thank you very much.

Day 2 (Saturday): I know, right? Holy Time Warp, Batman, how can it only be the second day? Well, the kiddos continued with their no-school activities, but I was already feeling a bit stir-crazy. The roads sort of looked okay...ish, so I decided to brave a slow, cautious trek to Target in my trusty snowmobile--um "Subaru". And I, personally, was just fine. However, I was afforded the priceless opportunity to witness a slew of people who should have STAYED HOME. Such as...the little car at a stoplight perpendicular to me, that was unable to turn onto the (2-lane, 45 mph) main road at an intersection, having navigated directly into the piled-up slush left there by a plow. The passenger had gotten out to wave his hands in a mostly futile and ill-advised attempt to let oncoming traffic know he was...being an idiot, apparently...and PUSH the vehicle into the travel path. At which point I clearly saw his license plate...from Florida. Figures, yeah?

Oh, or the Nissan, that stopped at the top of the incline leading out of the Target parking lot, also in a mound of sloppy frozen mush, and then spun his wheels wildly for a couple of minutes, failing to free himself from his predicament. Me? I was behind him on the slope, having purposely halted far enough away to avoid a collision when he gave up and tried to inch his way backwards down the hill. I had plenty of room--and traction--to turn myself around and escape using another path. Honestly, the streets were worse than I expected them to be...but this is North Carolina, not North Dakota, so folks should expect a little delay in the cleanup, and plan accordingly. As in: stock up early, then hunker down and wait it out in the warmth and shelter of your own cozy home. (Yeah, yeah, I know: "except me, of course. " Hey, apart from a little...skittishness...on our steep driveway, prompting the (blessed) anti-lock brakes to briefly engage, I breezed in and out with no problem. And believe me, the fresh air and retail therapy (even if it was just...household supplies...) did wonders for me.

I did have one embarrassing moment, however. Husband absolutely couldn't go out himself in his Hyundai--and he's well aware of this, so what does he do? Why, the reasonable and sane thing: asks his wife to pick she's traipsing around the shopping center. Easy peasy, right? But Target had about one employee working, and, oh, 900 or so customers waiting to check out. Therefore I opted to use the self-scan which you're not permitted to purchase alcohol. Rats! So I was forced to be THAT know the one...who slinks into the GAS STATION to pick up a six-pack. And naturally, I went to the one on the way home, where they know me on sight. (No, not because I do this all the time! From buying gas! And refilling my coffee mug! Jeez Louise!) I felt vaguely when I chatted with the clerk during the transaction, I felt compelled to mention that the beverage was for my spouse, not myself. (Memo to Husband: this should explain the odd glance they're going to give you next time you stop by--you're welcome, dear.)

Day...what? Oh, "3": Sunday...yeah, yeah, more of the same. I went out again, to Lowe's, this time, 'cuz really, why wait to buy light bulbs? (Did I mention I don't do well with "Cabin Fever"?) If possible, the roads were even sketchier, having melted and re-frozen into a bumpy, hazard-ridden... lunar landscape. How to best describe it? I know: remember the go-cart-type rides at amusement parks, where you're doing the steering, but there's a metal rail in the middle to prevent you from going off the track? And every time you swerve and make contact, it grabs your wheels and shakes the car? Yeah, THAT. At some point the announcement came that schools would be closed again Monday--having recently experienced the Joy of Bouncing on the local byways, I could understand the reasoning--which worked out rather well, since it allowed the Testosterone Trio to settle onto the sofa for a football fest, and cheer the Panthers on to victory...without having to be sent to bed before the final whistle.

Day 4: Monday? Yeah, that's it. I actually went to my office...although I was the only one who did so. (Gold Star for me....yaaayyyy. In all fairness, the other 6 ladies did log in and work remotely. No worries--I had the Keurig all to myself...) We got a very tentatively-worded email that schools would open on a 3-hour delay...if possible....on Tuesday. (The subtext being a very palpable "Don't hold your breath, though.") In a stunning reversal, temperatures climbed to around 55*, which led to the amusing vision of Husband determinedly attacking the remaining ice on the driveway with a metal shovel...while clad in a light athletic shirt and SHORTS.

That brings us to Day 129 (okay, 5), when we woke up to an amended message informing us that--you guessed it--school would remain closed once more, to allow further thawing of the secondary streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. Eh, what's another free day, right? But I think Riley summed it up best when he exclaimed in mild dismay, "The snow's already mostly gone, we can't go sledding--what are we gonna DO at home?" That's right, honey, the fun's all over, here--better go back to those hallowed halls of academia...or what have you. I knew things were getting back to normal when the mail truck--which we hadn't seen since last Thursday, before all the Winter wackiness--puttered by for its usual run. And speaking of running, the mercury rose all the way to 60, so I laced up my shoes and went puddle-dodging and tiptoeing gingerly on leftover chunks of debris for a lovely late-January slog...I mean "3.5 mile jaunt".

And then, at last, Wednesday dawned with a chorus of angels creating a heavenly symphony that went something along the lines of "Tiiiiiime for Schoooool!" I might have been heard to throw in a few heartfelt "Hallalujahs" myself--just sayin'. The boys--who would never in a million years admit this--may have been a tiny bit relieved to be resuming their routine. I look at it this way: they can't give me a hard time for moving them someplace where you "never have snow or miss school". And if we're lucky, maybe we've gotten our share already, and we'll glide through the rest of the season unscathed. Everyone wins! (Fingers crossed....because let's face it, it's probably too late in the game to find any boots in stores down here, anyway...but there's always next year, yeah?)

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