Saturday, December 13, 2008

Snow Falls

Part 1.

The snow falls.  

For western Washington it is a relatively big event. In the lowlands of Puget Sound a snow storm happens, maybe, a couple of times a season. Some years not at all.

You would think that we could be just a bit more sophisticated over something as trivial as a storm, but out here in the 4th corner folks are serious about the weather. Ten years ago and just 45 miles east of here, on a shoulder of Mt. Shuksan, a snow gauge measured over 1100 inches of snowfall. A world record for 1 years total!

The snow accumulated so deep that the Mt. Baker Ski Area had to bulldoze a path under some of the lifts so skiers could ride the chairs safely.

That many climbers, hikers and skiers become obsessed with the weather is understandable. On the same day skiers may encounter fresh powder, high winds, patches of sun breaks, rain, sleet and bitter cold. For added protection, some skiers routinely carry a folded up garbage bag with a head and arm holes already cut out. 

In the high Cascades, I have been caught in snowstorms every month of the year.  

We have been conditioned to carry the "10 Essentials" (maps, compass, first-aid kit, matches, fire starter, flashlight/headlamp, sunglasses, extra clothing,  extra food and water, knife) virtually anywhere we carry a backpack. 

In the winter we carry expanded versions of the ten essentials in the back of our cars. 

Napoleon Dynamite carries tater tots in his pockets, we carry waterproof matches, swiss army knives, and rain gear.

Many out here are fishers - commercial and sport. Every waterfront city of any size has a memorial to local fishers that have died on the waters here, out in the Pacific or up in Alaska.

We also have the Douglas Fir and other shallow rooted trees. In the forests each tree serves as a buffer for it's neighbor from the wind. As housing developments spread into 2nd or 3rd growth timber areas, many trees were left isolated from other trees. Without that protection, the wind quickly knocks over single trees and smaller stands onto houses, cars, streets and power lines.

And that causes power outages!

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