Winter Left Behind and Pictures 12, 13, 14 and 15

It looks like we might not have a winter this year in Alabama.  Not that I’m sure exactly what winter here looks or feels like.

For the past few days, we’ve been swaddled in a warm wet blanket of air.  The heat’s been off for days, and this weekend we both wore shorts around the house.  Today at work, not one but two people told me they had to turn their air-conditioning on.  (“Had to” does not actually mean compelled to, e.g. by force or imminent heat stroke.)  While driving my boss to dinner on Thursday, he asked if the car had AC. Mr. NYer and I have been sleeping with the window open. And today, someone in the office pointed out the window and said, “What’s with those trees?”  They appeared to be in bloom, two months too early.

You get the picture.  Climate change has come to Montgomery, and gone are the winters of yore.  But I never saw them here, so it’s hard to know what I’m missing.

But I do know what I’m not missing.  Snow. Wind. Bitter cold. Even if we were to have an unusual and extreme weather event here in Montgomery, it might mean — at worst — some ice and maybe an inch of snow.  That melts immediately.  Nothing like the snows in these pictures from 2003 and 2006.

One car is being cleared; there's another under the pile on the right.

One car is being cleared; there’s another under the pile on the right.

MrNyer shovels the sidewalk even in mid-snowfall.

MrNYer shovels the sidewalk before the snow stops falling.

Only wet and heavy snow sticks like this.

Only wet and heavy snow sticks like this.

Snow piled up on the deck outside the kitchen.

Snow piled up on the deck outside the very very cold kitchen.

“Major Winter Snow Storm”–Redefined

As the afternoon drew on yesterday, the office chatter drifted to the weather.  The forecast called for snow, up to three inches.  After enduring several weeks of record-breaking below-freezing temperatures earlier in the season, Montgomerians didn’t seem happy about this latest wrinkle. 

My iGoogle home page features two weather gadgets, one set to Staten Island and one to Montgomery.  I had grown used to seeing temps in the 30s and snow on the 5-day forecast for New York, and did a double-take when I saw the flakes  floating atop the “Friday” icon for zip code 36104.   But three inches, on roads and ground that had basked in the sun only the day before, didn’t concern me.

It goes almost without saying that the prospect of snow freaked people out, especially as the predictions crept up to seven inches.  I’m really trying to avoid being the typical northerner come south, so I resisted pooh-poohing the reaction, and kept my thoughts to myself.  After all, I well remember being a new driver tackling snow for the first few times, and even after driving for  almost 40 years, I’ve still had some white-knuckle snow experiences in the  last few years.  I don’t blame people for being nervous in a place that doesn’t have plows. 

Twelve hours before the first flake fell the announcements of school closings began.  Our COO emailed with the news that he would make a decision by 5:30 a.m., and to check before heading in.  Home, I turned on the local  news, where I learned that it was a “major, serious storm.”  State offices, as well as those for the city and county, were closed.  People were urged to stay at home and off  the roads.   

I found odd comfort in the familiar news tropes.  There  were the scenes at the supermarkets, and the interviews with folks  stocking up on milk.  Another crew visited the home improvement stores to report that the inventory of salt and shovels had long since been exhausted.  Finally I saw the signature snow news piece — the poor reporter bundled in her warmest winter gear, marooned at the side of a usually busy road, waiting for the snow to fall and reporting on the lack of traffic.

The snow was supposed to begin shortly after midnight.  I woke several times and peeked through the blinds — nothing.  But the last time I woke it was 5:40 — the snow had begun and the email on my Blackberry had the news that the offices were closed. 

The snow fell  for a good 12 hours, sometimes heavily.  I’d say the total accumulation — on the grass — was about 3/4 of an inch, maybe a whole inch.  It simply didn’t stick on roads and sidewalks. 

Kids here in the apartment complex were truly excited and ran about trying to build a snowman with about 1/2 inch of snow on the ground.  It was kind of sad.  They didn’t seem  to know about snow angels or snowballs; two of them were riding their bikes.  They had no sleds.  But they seemed to have fun.

Back to Winter

I like  winter in Alabama.  You’ve got your bare trees,  yellow grass and crispness in the air, but no dirty slush, icy sidewalks or bitterly cold arctic blasts.  If they come, they don’t last.  True, the rainy days are gloomy and the rain pours down, but then the sky is  blue, the air crisp and all is well.

I could happily avoid real winter for a while.  Perhaps in a year or two I might wistfully think about how pretty the trees are when a fresh layer of wet snow has iced the branches.  But not now.

Too bad,  then, that I’m heading north tomorrow, to Washington.  Where they’re calling for about a foot of snow on Friday, the very afternoon I will be heading out of DCA for La Guardia. 

I think it’s going to be one of those road-warrior trips.  In fact, the storm and I are traveling together, borne aloft on winds from the Gulf.  It’s starting with heavy rains — a “deluge” — here in the South, so I imagine I’ll catch that on the outbound flight.  Possibility for delay in Atlanta?  Check. 

Entry into DC tomorrow looks OK,  but Friday is sketchy.  Luckily, there’s always Plan B: Amtrak.  The weather channel reports a major mid-Atlantic  storm for Friday afternoon into evening, stretching from northern Virginia up into Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.  Those trains will run at 35 miles an hour, but at least they’ll leave the station.  

At best I expected to have about 44 hours at home, probably my last time there before returning for the pack-up,  move out and closing.  As usual, I have not thought about how it will feel, and just hope that emotional upheaval does not lie ahead.  

Being  with Abandoned and Mr. NYer will be great, as will having some serious lap time with the two cats — if they remember me.  But entering the chaos of the house, realizing that our time there is really drawing to a close … that might be hard to take. 

Unless it snows and I have to shovel the steps. 

A few random thoughts and observations about life here in Alabama:

— It’s really a shame that I won’t be in Staten Island and in the upcoming production of To Kill a Mockingbird.  I think I’ve got the accent nailed. 

— I’m told that left on red is legal here when turning into a one-way street.  I’m too afraid to try it.

— The workday starts  at 8 am and everyone eats at noon.  I’ve acculturated myself: if I wait until 12:15 I’m ravenous.  Luckily, the cafeteria in the Commerce Building,  just across the street, serves fried fish, hush puppies and greens.  Or, you can have a salad:  many feature both bacon and cheese.  Yum.

— Religion is a part of life here in a way unlike  New York.   There, it’s private, or a cultural characteristic.   Here, people tell you where they go to church much the same way they tell you what  neighborhood they live in.  Others ask  if you’ve chosen a church family yet.

— Like religion, football  is unavoidable.  No one asks whether you follow football.  They want to know if you’re Alabama or Auburn.  I believe an Alabama game (Go Tide!) is in my future.