Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Creepy 'Narrow Bands': The Winter Garden of the North



            We are going to the country of weather. What's that you say about snow? We're not afraid of a little snow!
            So we start off with fifty-degree weather and sunny at home in shorebound Massachusetts, feeling hot and overdressed in our winter clothes, for the great journey north and west to the central New York, to the land of the Finger Lakes, Syracuse -- though mainly of course to my sister's place in Tully -- and, don't forget, Lake Effect Snow. And before 6 p.m. that evening, leaving Gwen and Dave's house for a restaurant outside Syracuse, we are driving directly into a horizontal knife-blast of snow-white vectors aimed straight at our windshield, as the snow accumulates rapidly around us.
            It's a local event. But we happen to be in just that local time and place, so it's a rather significant event for us. And the wind is kicking.
            I think we must be living in a gentler clime. Around here we don't usually have snow when the temperature freezes your nose (and all that emerges from it) to your face the moment you stick it outdoors. If we get the occasional dose of brutal cold, it tends not to snow at the same time. And when the white stuff does fall, it hardly ever lines up at eye-level.
            In the event, the highly circumstantial "weather event" doesn't last that long, or extend that far, or lead to much accumulation. It's just that driving snow in that driving moment stays with one. We make it to the restaurant, the return-trip home snow is not so horizontal, and we get back to our motel with nothing more than a few slow-motion skids past an intended turn.
            Clear skies don't greet us the next morning, but it's not snowing either. This improvement lasts for a fine morning visit, including a fabulous brunch with French toast not the way Mother used to make it but reminiscent of the sugar and cinnamon mixture she used to dress it with. Then the skies darken in a snap of the fingers, and this little sprinkling -- not sugar, not cinnamon -- begins again. Well isn't that cute, a few more flurries. Quite unpredictable weather around here. We thought we had plenty of that in New England; but, no, these narrow bands of precipitation sure have us beat. Then the little flurries turn gray and snarly and the plot thickens along with the snow.
            Since we have a weatherman in the house (Gwen's husband Dave), we get a detailed reading of the situation. One of those "narrow bands" of lake effect snow is probing our way. It's clear sailing not very far from us in one direction or another, but we happen to be in the here and now, and the prognostication calls for a couple of inches potential accumulation every hour for the next three hours: Cue mad rush for the coats and boots by for the going-homers.
            Conversations trip into warp speed as generous-host gifts fall about us: daffodil bulbs from garden clean-up, garlic bulbs from a bumper crop, a jar of homemade maple syrup. Tax advice for our daughter from my brother. Reflections that the party of the first part, who left a couple hours ago, are probably well out of that "narrow band" of precipitation.
            We drive through the snow, through our finger of weather, because that's the way our road goes, our son behind the wheel now (I appear to be taking snow off this year), and pursue this first stage of our way home very carefully. A mere, slow, fog-of-snow twenty minutes later, the "event" is over for us. We're out of the band.
            Damn, wish I'd taken a picture. The sun shines for much of New York and the sky is brilliant and blowy in Massachusetts: Nobody will believe what just happened.
            It's our little sneak preview of winter weather events. Watch out for those narrow "bands" -- they play up a storm.