The Groundhog Day Slush Storm

Since I had not quite gotten around to posting this although I finished it three weeks ago, I have added datelines so the narrative makes sense.

February 9. Last week was fairly awful weather-wise—following an unpleasantly damp, cold month with very little snow. We got off easy, considering that Monday morning the weather people were saying “3-5 inches of snow,” and by Tuesday morning, it was more like “11-15 inches of snow.” I drive to school to teach in person on Mondays and Wednesdays. I had the worst drive of my life the previous Monday. It was extremely slick going to work, and on the return trip early in the afternoon, cars, the school parking lot, and the main thoroughfares were under 3 inches of very heavy snow. There were two reasons I didn’t turn around: it was just as bad on the other side of the road, and I would have to actually make a turn. I took the straightest route possible going home.

The National Weather Service (NWS) upgraded the winter weather watch to a warning late Tuesday morning, including something about “roads becoming impassable during this weather event.” School #1—which usually waits until I am hyperventilating by the door wondering whether to go—sent out a closure notice before noon for Wednesday and Thursday. School #2, which is generally a paragon of balancing safety and education, was mute on the subject until they finally cancelled in-person classes on Wednesday early in the evening.

I was awoken by very enthusiastic rain around 5 a.m. Wednesday—but the NWS had promised a rain-and-snow mix that would turn to snow from 2–4 a.m. It was still raining when I sat down to breakfast at 7:15. My neighbor’s rain garden looked like twin chipmunk pools; the edges are just visible on the left, above the honey locust, in the rain garden diagram posted in 2017. I had pools of my own under my reincarnated pawpaw, and on the areas where my brick edges meet, and it was still warm—34° F. It finally started snowing half an hour later. The chipmunk pools became miniature skating rinks.

By 11 a.m., there was well over an inch of slush on the ground, which I shoved more than shoveled over to the driveway and towards the road so it could head down the storm drain. But the ground was still warm, so the rapidly falling snow softened into a slushy mess under inches of snow. I shoveled again late in the afternoon, and overnight the city plowed me and my neighbors in—a knee-high wall of icy, salted snow greeted me at the foot of my driveway. Between my ice chipper and a kind neighbor with a sturdy snowblower, that problem was solved for our end of the block before the temperatures fell.

February 17 update. By last Sunday, it was sunny enough for runoff from a neighbor’s rain gutter to infiltrate the last packed inch of snow and glue its  monolithic self to the pavement as it froze when the temperatures fell again. With all the ups and downs, I finally got the last of that ice up today. I used more salt in the last week than I used in the last two years because of the ground’s warmth and the rollicking air temperatures.

All told, it could have been so much worse. The weight of the snow made power outages a worry—but there were none in the area—and despite the big rush and breathless newscasts before the storm, the grocery stores were decently stocked afterward.