It was remarkably mild when Doug and I walked the dogs this morning--mild for November. The hockey boards are up over in the ballfields, so somebody's thinking ice skating, but right now the sun is filtering through the last of the golden-brown oak leaves and the temperature is heading toward 60.
The weather is supposed to change on Election Day, though, and get quite stormy and wet. Snow, maybe, by the end of the week. I was thinking about this when we walked this morning, my jacket open to the sunshine, which is still packing a little bit of warmth.
For some reason, it reminded me of 1991, and the Great Halloween Blizzard. Halloween is quite early for snow that sticks. Usually, we get a few days or even a week in October when it's nasty and cold and there are flurries and wet, but then it warms up to Indian Summer again and the real snow comes down right around Thanksgiving. But in 1991, it started snowing on Halloween day. And it snowed, and it snowed.
It snowed for three and a half days without stopping.
When it first started, I was in my office at St. Scholastica, working on my book (not Hack; a different one), and by the time I realized that this was no ordinary October flurry, the snow was so thick and so heavy that I knew there was no way I could drive home. My house was just a quick walk away, through the woods, but by car it was a longer, more treacherous route, with a very steep hill that I feared I'd never be able to navigate. So I walked home through the woods, and later that day a friend retrieved my car in the nick of time, just before the roads grew completely impassible.
Do you remember Sebastian Junger's book, "The Perfect Storm"? Same storm. This was a massive storm that affected the whole eastern half of the country. I remember what a big deal the Twin Cities media made about the storm down in Minneapolis and St. Paul: Twenty-eight inches! More than two feet of snow!
The reporters and editors who straggled into work that day at the Star Tribune were rewarded later with coffee mugs that bore the Strib masthead, covered in snowdrifts.
I was living in Duluth then, and I laughed at them. Twenty eight inches? Ha! Duluth got thirty seven. Three feet of snow.
For three days I could not leave my house. It piled up against the door, it piled up to the bottoms of my windows, it piled up to the middle of my windows, it buried my street and it buried my car and it buried the neighborhood, the town, the entire state.
You cannot really walk in snow that deep; it comes up past your knees and you have to lift your leg (already heavy, from the thick wool pants and longjohns and insulated boots)--you have to lift your leg high, above the snow, to set it down again and break trail. Exhausting. You can try shuffling forward, but the snow is too thick; it's a wall that you need to climb over, not push through.
The first day, as it came down, Toby bounded around the yard, but by the third day it was too deep for his short little legs and he struggled, too.
I remember that Election Day suiting up in my Carhartt coveralls and my Sorel boots and leashing up Toby and walking down the steep hill six blocks to Peace Church. I tied Toby to a flagpole and went inside and voted, and then we struggled back up the hill again, and home. It took more than an hour to go that far.
What a long winter that was. Snow on the ground from Halloween straight through April--a full six months of winter. I like winter, but that is more winter than I like.
This year, getting to the polls will be no trouble, though getting through might be tough; the lines are supposed to be very long, and I wonder how long I'll have to wait. The weather will turn by the end of the week, though, if the forecasters are right, and by next Saturday we might very well see snow.
Hopefully not three feet, or even two, but it's November now, and snow season is upon us, and once that happens, all bets are off.
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