Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Weather Outside Might Possibly Become Frightful

The big news yesterday in Oregon was not about trade agreements or a change in political leadership. It wasn't even about BCS rankings or the newest retailer to hit the area. Think bigger. That's's the weather. If the computer projections are correct, and if for the entire next week the weather goes exactly as planned, there’s a hint of a possibility of a chance of a notion that we might have some snow! Now, Matt Zaffino may be telling us to not get too excited just yet, but he knows once you utter the "S" word around here, you can't take it back.
The media folks up in Portland know I'm a sucker for this stuff. Once the possibility is strong enough, news crews will mobilize with coverage at a level that can only be described as “shock and awe.” News has to sell, and news of cold weather is always the hottest ticket in town. It's usually pretty much focused on Portland; Salem will get an occasional mention on tv, and maybe a live feed from a camera pointed at the Capitol building. Never mind, we still all tune in.

Because the news stations compete for our attention, they all make up names for weather events like “The Big Chill” and the local favorite, “Arctic Blast.” All the while, we are out-of-control consumers of this stuff.  I for one like to bounce through all of the stations so that not one but four teams of reporters can tell me what’s going on around a town I no longer live in. Reporters and their remote camera crews will jockey for position on the overpasses around Portland, giving live transmissions every 15 minutes. We get updates us on the snow they see, the snow they saw three minutes ago, or sometimes, the snow that never materialized. 
When that first snowflake actually arrives, it's on. Life as we know it ends. News anchors will condense the national news down to tiny sound bites, and local coverage will shift entirely to the weather. They will open up their phone lines and let us all call in to describe what our patio furniture looks like when it’s snowing. Better yet, we take pictures of the garden hose that's frozen because we forgot to put it away, and proudly email them into the tv stations so everybody else can see it too. Funny how kids get up earliest on the days they might not have to go to school, watching the ticker scroll across the screen. Every kid's nightmare: most districts close but theirs is the one that says, “Buses on snow routes.”
I'm poking fun, but there is a serious side to our situation in Oregon.  When the snow and ice combo hits this area just right, it’s really bad. We have been known to have epic traffic jams when we're not prepared. The ice usually is wet on top, which makes it extremely hazardous to get around town. Or even up the driveway.  You may have seen this was shot in the Portland hills a few years ago during a particularly bad episode. The truth is that it just doesn’t happen this way very often, nor does it last for very long.   Speaking of snowy videos, I woudn't be true to my inner cyclist if I didn't share one of my holiday favorites.

Mrs. C doesn’t understand why we all make such a fuss over the first snow. I’ve learned to forgive her for getting on with her life like it’s just a normal day. It’s not her fault, really. She's from Sandpoint, Idaho, where it's not unusual have several feet of snow through the winter. Up there, it’s a good idea to have friends with snow plows and blowers.  She looks at me like I’m some kind of alien when I've thrown my flannel shirt on, heading outside to shovel the half inch of slush off the sidewalk. She just doesn't get me sometimes.
The Oregon economy counts on folks like me. We are the engine that powers one of the greatest days of the year for local merchants. Maybe it's not as big as Black Friday, but because of yesterday's news, today will become Snow Preparation Saturday, regardless of whether it actually snows next week or not. We’ll all be hitting the stores gathering “provisions.”  Les Schwab will be swamped with folks putting on their snow tires and buying chains. We'll go to Safeway and buy up all the hot cocoa, soup, microwave popcorn, and bargain dvd’s. Then we'll head over to Target and spend the rest of our wad on hand warmers, ice scrapers and Snuggies (in case we don't find the ones we bought last year). All of this, because it might...perhaps....possibly....snow.
For the next seven days we will glue ourselves to our television sets, watching the latest developments from the Sylvan Overpass.  
We don’t want to miss a thing.


bikelovejones said...

Don't forget the snow tires for your bicycle. That's right, we have snow tires with teeny tiny little baby studs on them, and apparently they DO work.

I've never tried them myself. Cheapskate that I am, I usually just unhook my rear brake and tie some zip-ties around my rear tire for extra traction -- and go slower because I only have one brake. Works like a charm, and at a nickel per zip-tie, about $91.20 less than a pair of Nokian snow tires.

But, yeah, snow doesn't really slow me down, either. I spent my first decade in New York and Philadelphia, where it snows pretty dependably every winter and no piece of abandoned cardboard was safe near a snowy hill.

Bring it, baby.

Jessica said...

HAHAHA! Eric and I love to sit in front of the tube on snowy days an "mystery science theater" the news reporters. It's our favorite snow day activity!
That first video was fabulous. Seattle is often worse than Portland when it snows because of all the hills.

Kelly C said...

B- I've heard of those studded bike tires...never pictured myself purchasing a pair. I do like the zip ties suggestion!
J- I feel bad for the news reporter (usually a rookie) who gets to cover the truck stop out in Troutdale. The gorge winds make that spot way more treacherous than any other spot!

The Hillbilly Banjo Queen: said...

I lived in Idaho and Utah for a while and schools don't close for nothin' out there. It was blizzarding my first year of college and my classes were not canceled all that often. And though my classes weren't canceled, my teacher often times didn't show because they lived too far out and then I would have slogged through the misery of snow and wind for nothing. I still harbor resentment over that. The zip ties are a great idea. I'll have to pass that one on.