Friday, March 27, 2009

Snow Day

When we first moved to Colorado, I thought for sure that we would get a lot of snow. I mean, it's Colorado, right? The day we moved from the rental house to our new home it was snowing, and I figured it was just the first of many storms we would be having that winter. I was wrong. Winter around here means dry cold wind far more often than snow. Most of the time that the weather forecasters here tell us that there will be snow, there isn't any. The kids have gone to bed many nights hoping for enough to go sledding in the morning, to wake up and see only a few flakes wedged up against the fence.

The wind is one thing that we get a lot of around here. This year has been particularly bad, and on more then one occasion I have found myself chasing trash cans down the street. The fences in our neighborhood have gone down a couple times already. Our huge plastic swimming pool managed to get out from behind the tree and blew over by the side of the house on one particularly blustery day. I was scared to try and move's big and would make a great sail. I didn't want to end up in Kansas. You would think growing up in Simi that I would have forever avoided living in windy places. I thought I was. I thought it snowed here. I didn't think it was windy all the time.

Living in Colorado, you learn about weather. You see, we live in what is known as the Banana Belt. And we are directly in the rainshadow of a 14er. These terms mean nothing to people living outside the Front Range, but they mean a lot here. The Banana Belt is the area just to the East of the Rockies. The storms hit the mountains pretty hard, but leapfrog over us and hit the plains more. We, for better or worse, don't get all that much weather here typically. Longmont is due East of Longs Peak, putting us in the rainshadow of a 14,000 foot peak. We get the downsloping wind, but the clouds go around us. The effect of the Banana Belt is exaggerated here because of it. Storms tend to hit harder North and South of us. Put it all together, and it means that we don't get a whole lot of snow. Usually.

If and when a storm sets up like the one did yesterday, we can get a ton of snow in a very short period of time. We got about a foot yesterday, most of which fell in 3-4 hours. In order for that to happen, the storm has to set up as an upper level low, centered in the SouthEast corner of the state. When that happens, we catch the backside of the storm, which pushes the energy up against the mountains from the East. Known to people here as upslope. A few hours of that, and we can make up for months of a dry winter.

It doesn't happen often, but when it does we can end up with blizzard conditions. And we did yesterday. School was closed yesterday and today as a result. It's the first time since we have lived here that the schools have been closed. The kids don't seem to mind at all.

We had real snow once when I was a kid. It was maybe an inch or less, nothing exciting by Colorado standards for sure. Living in Southern California, snow is something that almost never happens. I was in Junior High, and the teachers let us all out to play in it. For about an hour, we ran and played, threw snowballs and had a blast. For that brief time, school could wait. The adults in charge of us knew playing was far more important that whatever else we were supposed to be doing that morning. It melted quickly, but that snow day is something I will always remember.

There is something nice about a snow day. Being forced to take a day off. Sitting and enjoying the simple beauty of snow. Hot cocoa and tea, comfort food and sitting by the fire. Building blanket forts and baking cookies. Sitting around in your pjs watching movies. And a good old fashioned snowball fight.

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