What I like most about the snow is the blanket of beauty and silence that arrives with it. The first few inches deliver a magical stillness where birds disappear into secret hiding, and as each perfect flake falls from the sky, we are spellbound together in wonder.
It’s no secret that winters along the southern shores of Puget Sound are laughably mild to transplants from New England. It only takes a few inches for newcomers to comprehend the quality of snow here is nothing like the dry fluff they left behind. In the Midwest, snow blowers are every bit as essential as lawnmowers.
Mention bad winters to anyone who has lived on the Key Peninsula for 25 years or more and you’ll learn the ice storm of 1996 tops the nightmare list. There is a certain pride in the telling of how many days they survived without power, some into the teens.
The recent storm was dubbed Snowmageddon 2019 days before it arrived. The nickname Snowpocalypse worked just as well. When it comes to conveying a message, words matter, and these increased the sense of urgency to stock up.
The snow began falling midday on Friday Feb. 8, and by Saturday morning we had seven inches at my house and the electricity hadn’t flickered once. Gazing from my cozy perch at the winter scene below with a pack of sleeping dogs warming my feet, I thought, this is my kind of snowstorm.
Little did I know, in my state of bliss, that many people had already gone without power overnight. Trees toppled under the weight of the snow, taking power lines and electrical poles along with them. Forced into sudden hibernation, many retired to bed early, with quilts piled high and stocking caps upon their heads. By storm’s end, everyone on both peninsulas and surrounding islands would lose power at least once.
While it hasn’t been the snowiest winter in recent memory, the snowfall set the record for February and was widely acknowledged as a rare event, unlike anything the region has seen in 50 years. Citing snow accumulations of up to 29 inches in places, later combined with freezing rain, CEO Jafar Taghavi of Peninsula Light called the storm “unprecedented.”
Winter weather is notoriously unpredictable around the Puget Sound and skepticism often follows, but caught unprepared in this storm meant facing serious trouble. Key Peninsula is home to many long and winding driveways, some with deep gullies that run alongside. The answer for most was to stay put and hope for the best.
The best comes in many forms on the Key Peninsula.
The song of one man’s chainsaw attracted distant neighbors who appeared one by one with chainsaws of their own to help. Together they cut up four enormous trees that had fallen on his garage, the debris from which blocked the family’s driveway for a solid week.
Anthony Taylor of Lakebay became something of a local Facebook celebrity during the storm by volunteering to clear driveways with his tractor for people who needed help. Taylor cleared innumerable driveways, even taking a couple of days off from work to do it, his wife Vanessa said.
While out clearing another driveway on Bay Lake, Taylor remembered to check on an elderly widow and discovered the 90-year old woman was nearly out of wood for her woodstove. With the help of his son, Taylor delivered enough seasoned firewood to see her through the storm.
KPCS Food Bank volunteers managed to deliver food to seniors, trapped by the snow and without enough food.
It was Peninsula Light Co. that shined throughout Snowmageddon. PenLight crews, supported by contractors from Michels Construction, Asplundh, Salish Construction and Clark County PUD were out in full force and working under brutal conditions. Communications staff were in high gear across multiple media platforms keeping co-op members updated on what was happening and where.
After a storm of this magnitude customers anywhere else might be complaining, but please, tell me, where else in the world do communities suggest celebratory banquets and parties in honor of their power company employees?
Some people dared to venture out early but most were stuck for the duration. Once liberated, people were busily chatting away, in parking lots, stores, restaurants, comparing notes and laughing. “We all have our own snow stories to tell, don’t we?”
The snow has melted away now, but underneath it all sweet snowdrops are in full bloom.