Friday, November 21, 2003


So the first winter I moved out here, I got a phone call from my mom back in Pittsburgh.

"Hi, Honey."

"Hi, Mom."

"I hear you have some bad weather out there."

I got up from my desk andwalked to the back porch. The sky was blue. The grass was still green. Birds were picking a suet on the feeder. I was working in my short sleeves.

"Uh . . . no. Where did you get that idea?"

She got that idea from the Weather Channel, that was breathlessly reporting that the passes had closed. The passes are about an hour's drive away and several thousand feet higher up, and indeed, they were shut, sealing off that entrance to the Puget Sound area. The idea of something like this shutting us off from the rest of the nation appeals to me, and probably accounts for some of the insular nature of the region.

So I explain to Mom that out here, snow is measured by altitude, not latitude. It can be snowing like the dickens up in the passes, and we have nothing down here by the Sound. I told her she should call back when it hits the 500 foot level, which is the height of Benson Hill.

Last night, the snow level hit 500 feet.

I awoke to a wonderful carpet of about a half-inch of snow, enough to cover the unraked leaves, grass, and other sundries in the yard and wrap the area in a white blanket. And the radio was reporting on the threats of the dreaded black ice.

Now, when I was a lad - heck, even five years ago, we didn't have this black ice. We just had slick roads. Now there's that dreaded black ice, which LOOKS just like wet asphalt, but is insideous and nasty and tricksy. The Weather Channel (and others) have grabbed this new meme and made it part of the mental landscape, so that every time it gets cold and wet, people panic about the dreaded black ice, and drive accordingly. Which in Seattle, means to say, badly.

I had to be up early to drive a pair of friends to the airport, and found the roads to be wet but not a patch of dreaded black ice. The snow was on Benson Hill, and at SeaTac as well (the airport is on the hill on the opposite side of the Renton valley), but the lowlands were clear and just wet. Its pleasant, and the air has a nice clean, metallic flavor to it.

So of course I could get into work. Everyone else will have to deal with the dreaded black ice, and worse yet, people trying to avoid the dreaded black ice.

So I'm just glad I'm here.

More later