The term “snowed in” is technically correct, considering the persistent coating of white blanketing what I can see of my surroundings through windows. Snow, however, can provide some traction, under some circumstance. It’s the ice under the snow that’s dragged normal life to a standstill.
Ice storm is a weather catch phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of those who know to look beneath the sparkling beauty of dangling icicles and frozen over tree branches. What lies beneath the superficial wonderland one can’t help but pause over to enjoy for the eye feast buffet is danger from several angles.
The biggest worry is snapping tree branches, or in worst case scenarios snapping whole trees, that in turn cause snapping power lines or snapping whole poles. Sometimes the weather remains fairly warm during and after an ice storm due to vagaries of the weather system at large. That kind of ice storm is mostly inconvenient. Stuff like losing anything you were foolish enough to stock the fridge and freezer with (melted icecream for dinner, anyone?), the loss of TVability, Kindle withdrawal, and a total disconnect from that 21st century essential…the smart phone.
It’s when it’s very cold and the power goes out that true danger potential becomes something to worry about until the great thaw arrives. Temperatures in the teens and single digits, often accompanied by subzero wind chills, not only ramp up the risks of power failure complications, but also keep the ice on roads like slippery, slidery glass. Once rain has frozen solid, with or without an insulating layer of snow, it’s there for the duration. Where it melts in the sun even with low, low temps, the residual moisture refreezes into ever more dangerous black ice.
When you’re caring for an elderly parent, it’s impossible not to worry about all the what ifs being surrounded by a beautiful, treacherous iceland outside brings to mind. The stresses of being frozen in place move beyond trying to figure out the timing for your next grocery expedition or remembering to charge those all important devices. Things like will an ambulance be able to come, if you need it? If it does, will it take you too, since you can’t drive to meet it, and then how will you get the car to where you end up? What if you run out of a crucial medicine, though you’re sure you got it all before the winter storm turned the world into a Doctor Zhivago landscape, sans sleighs and romantic interludes in icebound rooms? What if, what if, what if…until you just try to let it go. Time to curl up under a blanket with a supply of chocolate, listen to the new band you’ve just fallen in love with (San Fermin, at the moment), and turn your what iffing machine to writing.
The kind of quiet when you’re living under a blanket of snow is unique. Little traffic. Little hubub of normal life. That certain kind of silence that invites introspection also invites a writer to plot.
As I’ve just finished my new fantasy novella, my thoughts turn to what’s next. I’m ready for a genre switch. Maybe a bit of hard SF would be a good mental palate cleanser. That possibility has led me to ponder the intriguing possibilities of string theory. I found that involves too much research for a snow bound interlude, which frees my brain to move on to meta materials, graphene, and holographic projectors…not necessarily in that order. And not necessarily all in the same story.
It’s started snowing again. Freezing rain expected later. Again.
If this keeps up, expect me to start babbling about a new story. One about weather machines and an entrepreneurial koala who turned a perpetual blizzard into a giant purple snow cone business….