Dealing with winter weather — for a little while

We all know the old saying “better late than never,” and some of us would apply that proverb to this season’s winter weather. Others might not agree, preferring that the snow and ice had stayed away altogether.

I traveled to the Columbus area for a couple of events this past week, including the Ohio News Media Association annual convention held at Westerville. When I went to bed Thursday evening, I looked outside as I closed the drapes on my seventh story window. All seemed fairly calm and quiet, with a bit of sheen visible on the damp roads and parking lots below. When I awoke early Friday morning and drew back those drapes, I saw a world transformed – everything was covered in a glistening blanket of white.

I picked my cell phone up off the charger and checked our local news sites to get an idea of what was happening here at home. I quickly discovered that many people back here were about to enjoy a snow day. Classes at almost all of our area schools already had been canceled.

I turned on the TV to watch a newscast out of Columbus. It showed quite a contrast to what was happening here at home. The weather forecast featured a map of the Columbus area with all of the surrounding schools marked in various colors. Green dots showed schools that remained open for the day. A yellow dot meant a school was operating on a delayed schedule, and a red dot meant a school was closed.

Nearly every dot in the city itself was green. A few yellow dots were in the mix on the outskirts of the most populated areas. Red dots showed prominently only to the south and east of Columbus, back toward home and in the vicinity of communities such as New Lexington and Chillecothe.

It seemed that the winter storm had struck with more intensity to the south and east, which didn’t really come as a surprise to me. Despite the flat open territory around Columbus allowing the wind to blow with ferocity, I have noticed over the years that we still tend to get more severe storms more often here in the Ohio Valley.

After the morning sessions of the conference ended, I headed for home. It took only a minute or two to clear the snow and ice from my car; just an inch or so of the white stuff clung mostly to the windows on the passenger side of the vehicle. I didn’t encounter any real precipitation as I drove south on Interstate 71. After I turned east on I-70, though, and left the more urban areas of the state capital, I passed through nearly continuous snow showers on those long, lonely stretches of highway on either side of Zanesville. Snow continued to accumulate all the way to exit 208 in Belmont County.

As soon as I stepped out of my car, I slipped in the snow. I quickly changed into a more appropriate pair of shoes to make my way from my driveway to my front door. My shoes and pant legs filled with snow, which had accumulated to a depth of 3 inches or so.

And it seems I made it home just in time. Not long after I arrived, my brother, Larry, called me to say he had been unable to reach the Ohio Valley Mall. He said I-70 was at a standstill near Ohio 9, and he added that U.S. 40 through St. Clairsville was a slippery mess. He was giving up and coming home via Ohio 9.

A couple of minutes later, my phone alerted me to some social media posts that were popping up. A first responder that I know shared that a 20-car pileup had occurred on I-70 near the mall due to whiteout conditions. For a couple of hours, people sat and waited for the traffic to be cleared, and things in that portion of Belmont County pretty much ground to a halt.

Meanwhile, I was sitting at home, writing a story for Saturday’s paper and looking out the window at the pretty scene the snow created as evening fell. From puffy little white caps topping the fence posts around my year to the lacy appearance of the snow-covered tree branches across the street, I ap[appreciated the delicate beauty that I knew would be gone if the temperature rose a couple of degrees or if a strong wind blew through the area.

I noticed some movement along the fence line as I watched the world pass by. I figured it was our outdoor cat, Mr. White, coming home for some dinner or to warm up in his heated house. I stood up to get a better look, and I was delighted to see it wasn’t Mr. White after all. Instead, it was a slinky red streak, bounding through the field next to our home. A small rusty-colored fox was frolicking about, seeming to be simply playing in the snow.

When I looked out a little while later, some paw prints on our porch revealed that Mr. White was indeed inside his little home, peeking out at me and the winter weather. I kept an eye out for more wildlife to come around, but darkness fell and my view became far less entertaining.

By Saturday morning, things had changed. Mr. White was on the prowl, coming and going at his leisure. The snow that had clung to fence posts and branches had largely fallen away, and the roads had become clear black streaks in the fields of white. In a few spots around my home, I could see and hear water dripping as the ice and snow melted away.

Last week’s winter blast may be the only one we really experience this season. Forecasts call fro some rain and rising temperatures over the next week or so, with no snow predicted for about 12 days. Since we didn’t have to deal with nasty conditions very much this winter, I hope you made the most of the snow we did get and took a little time to appreciate its beauty. At least we received one dose of seasonal weather, and that may be enough for most of us. Whatever else Mother Nature brings, do your best to stay safe, warm and dry!


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