The Cutting Wind, The Blowing Snow

Winter has arrived. It has come swiftly, suddenly, and with savageness.

October was, over all, a mild month. There was no bitter chill, and even days when the weather was unusually mild. Frost, this fall, came very late. So, as fall gave way toward winter it was mild weather leading into . . . what? Last winter was quite bitter, perhaps the most bitter in ten years. Was this mild fall a sign of a milder winter?

Well, maybe this winter won’t be so brutal as last winter. But mild it does not seem to be, and it is certainly here.

The first ominous signs that winter was indeed finally here to stay came last weekend, when the morning temperatures dropped down into the low double digits. (Fahrenheit, for any non USA readers.) However, early this week things warmed up a bit, making it up past 60 on two days. On Wednesday I was working outside in a long sleeved shirt. The weather was mild, partly sunny . . . nice.

Then Thursday came. I woke up that dark morning to the sound of wind howling outside, shrieking around the house. I go for a bicycle ride on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. My first thought on hearing the howl of wind was “I hope it isn’t too cold out there.” Then secondly, “That wind is going to make riding tough.” First thing downstairs I check the outside temperature. It’s in the mid twenties. I feel better about that. Wind in the mid twenties isn’t bad. Wind in the single digits is murder. I live in dread of the utter depths of winter when I may end up with mornings well into sub-zero temperatures. That happened last year. That is when biking gets really hard.

With a wind breaker and gloves, I didn’t freeze on my morning ride, but the head wind gave me trouble. It wasn’t a gentle breeze, but rather a gale force wind coming from the West. As I moved from one road to another, wind was alternately plastering me from one side, then the other, next pushing me from behind (that was nice) or gusting full in my face. If you’ve never gone riding a bicycle in the face of a strong head wind, you’ve no idea how much it can slow you down. At times it felt like I was slowed to a crawl, fighting to have any forward momentum at all.

Back home, I came inside most definitely awake, and quite . . . er . . . refreshed. It had been a hard ride, but overall I thought it wasn’t a bad way to start the day.

The wind did not let up as the morning progressed. If anything, it grew fiercer, and the air colder. Snow began to fall, whipping through the air. Around 10:00 AM, the electricity began to flicker. Then it went completely out. This was the first hint that Thursday was not going to be an ordinary day.

The power came back on about an hour later. I hoped there would be no more trouble with the power. I waited a little longer, then decided I could finally sit down and begin writing for the day. A half hour of writing later, the power suddenly cut out again, and I was treated to the horrifying sight of my text sucking of the screen into black oblivion. I have my word processor set to save every fifteen minutes, but fifteen minutes of lost writing is fifteen minutes too much.

So that was that. The wind was howling, and ever howling, the snow was flying, and it didn’t look like I was going to get any writing done. The only thing left to do was make the best of a bad situation and catch up on some reading. That is what I did all afternoon long. The power didn’t come back on for good until around five, and even then it was still flickering and browning out. There was no way I was going to risk losing any more work on the computer so I continued reading, switching from productive reading to entertaining reading. Snow continued to fall, and the wind continued to blow.

It was after six in the evening and utterly dark, when Dad called. He had hit a patch of snow, spun out, and ended up with his car in the ditch. Could we come and push him out? Teman, myself, and Lachlan piled into Teman’s jeep and headed out.

The snow had been falling lightly all afternoon with probably only a total of an inch on the ground. Most of the road didn’t have sticking snow. However, the wind was whipping the snow about, and where the wind was funneled across the road, there was drifting. As we headed out in the jeep we would come to sections of the road where the snow was blowing across in white out conditions. If the snow had been falling heavily, it would have been blizzard conditions.

Dad had more than slid slightly off the road. Coming over the crest of a hill, he had come suddenly upon a patch of road with drifted snow. He began to slide, and then went into a spin. He spun multiple times (enough to die three times over, he said) and ended up with the car straddling a ditch, the back end up on a bank, the front end facing out toward the road. It was a spectacular landing, and a reminder that if something solid had been in the way, or if he had landed in some other position than upright, he could have been dead.

The car had gone off the road hard and fast, but appeared to have landed softly on the grassy bank. One turn signal light had popped out, but there was no other visible damage. However, one of the front tires was hanging over the ditch, and the weight of the car was on the front bumper. We couldn’t get it out.

The section of the road we were on was open, and the wind was cutting, bitter cold, and strong. Sitting in the parked jeep we could feel every gust making the vehicle rock. It was miserable weather to be out fighting with a car over a ditch full of water. After a bit of effort we came to the conclusion we wouldn’t be able to move the car by our own strength. This job needed a tow truck.

It was a long night. We went home and called a tow truck. Then we drove back to the car and waited for the tow truck to show up. When the tow truck finally showed up, the driver had to call for his supervisor because it was a tricky extraction. So we waited for the supervisor. Then, once the supervisor arrived, the car was winched out. Dad drove the car to the local repair shop to have it checked over for any damage. Then we all went home. It was past nine.

Thus winter came in with a bang. Mild and pleasant it is no more.

The wind continued to howl all Thursday night. It has died down some today, but this afternoon it began to snow again. Such a grim change from the warmth and sun of Wednesday. Winter has come, winter is here to stay, and what does this fierce arrival mean?