Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Wonderland: The D.C. Area's Record-Setting Snow

I'm pretty used to calls for incredible snow and winter weather going off like a wet firecracker--a fairly common occurrence for the Washington, D.C., area--so when forecasters initially projected the potential for record-setting snow this weekend, I took their claims with more than the FDA's daily recommended dose of salt.

The onset of the blizzard: Long-exposure shot from the night before the stormI took the afternoon of the 18th off from work so that I could get some handmade presents finished up in time to deliver to family in Lynchburg. Imagine my shock that apparently everyone else in the Washington area had also taken off early: in stopping at Safeway for some groceries for our planned Yuletide feast, I had to search the parking lot for a cart (even the cart returns were empty), and lines for checkout stretched almost to the back of the store. Seeing as how I wanted milk to make some homemade Nolly 'Nog, I was happy to discover the frantic pre-blizzard shoppers had not cleaned out all the proverbial bread and milk yet.

So fast forward to 11:00pm on the 18th; the snow had started around nine, and after two hours, didn't look like all that much. The long-exposure photo (above) taken from my home office window shows the back yard shortly before I went to bed.

I got up with Beth at 5:00am on the 19th; she had a diabetic cat petsitting client who needed an insulin shot, and I went outside to help dig out her car. At that point, we had about 6-7 inches of snow on the ground, but Beth tried her car and found it drivable, so once we got the drive and walk shoveled clear, I bid her a safe trip and went back to bed for a couple more hours (cell phone at the bedside in case I would be needed to rescue her).

The snowfall as of 5:40am on 12/19Another long-exposure photo (above) taken in the pre-dawn cold and gloom shows my car still covered in snow, with Beth on her way to her kitty client--whose owners were due to fly back to National later in the day.

A week or so ago we got the first snow of the season, an incredibly wet and heavy batch which wreaked a merry path of havoc over the plants we'd interred in our yard with such care over the spring and into the fall. That snow bent one trunk of our river birch all the way to the ground (the tree had yet to shed all of its leaves, leaving that trunk vulnerable to collecting snow and ice); I think it pulled through once I rescued it. Our front yard hollies likewise had been weighed down and then frozen to the ground by the treacherous, wet slush.

Poor plants buried under the snow!You can imagine my dismay then when I spoke to my sister Erika (in Lynchburg, VA) before our snow even started and took her report of "huge, wet snowflakes." After digging Beth's car out on Saturday morning, then, I spent a while rescuing the hollies from the weight of so much snow. A few branches and stems had been broken, but I am hopeful the plants pulled through on the whole--though several are still completely buried beneath the snowfall, like the little male pollinator holly.

Didi says, 'Throw my ball, Daddi!'The doggies absolutely loved the snow, as they always do. Even th0ugh it was deeper than the Papillons are tall, they bounded out the side door into the yard, and Didi made a beeline (or a bunny-hop line?) straight for where her ball lay buried beneath several inches of snow. Beth followed behind with the snow shovel, clearing a deeper trench for the boys to follow. I don't know how Didi knew so accurately where in all that mess of white her ball was, but it was hilarious watching her furiously excavate around it. (Yes, she can actually carry that big yellow ball around, too.) Above, you can see her proudly demanding her Daddi throw her ball.

The back yard birds weren't as thrilled by the weather, though they did put in such appearances in abundance that we had to refill the feeders twice during the day. We had avian visitors from the normal flocks of juncos and sparrows of various ilk to Pileated Woodpeckers, crows, and jays.

Beth clears snow for an evening petsitting visitFor Beth's evening petsitting visit, I knew she wouldn't even make it out of the neighborhood in her car. Problem was, she'd parked behind me when she got home in the morning. So that meant shoveling enough space to back her car out of the way--as well as clearing a path for mine, too; the snow was so deep it left even SUVs designed for offroading struggling to make it up our cul-de-sac. The snow had continued all day, leaving an additional 8 inches or so of snow atop Beth's car, and we had to go out for the third time that day to clear the walk (no mail ever came though--I don't blame the mail for not running, though don't they say something about "Neither rain nor snow..." and all that?) and the driveway.

The trip out to petsit for the diabetic kitty client was an adventure in and of itself, which I'll post about shortly in another entry.

We ended the day around 9:30pm with flurries still falling and the yard clocking in at 21 inches of snow in the flat areas, and drifts well over 30 inches deep in several places.

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