It was another January thaw, the third this year, or maybe it was the fourth. What snow was left from previous days sat in dirty piles of slush in places the sun didn’t shine. Then the rain came. As temperatures slowly dropped the rain became freezing rain, then rain mixed with snow — what the weather service calls “wintry mix” — and finally just snow. The air temperature was still above freezing, but barely, and the snow came down heavy and wet, standing in thick white mantles on tree limbs and power lines, challenging their strength. During the night over 30,000 West Virginia households lost their electricity, and in the morning over 7,000 were still without power, but ours went undisturbed.
It was only something over 4 inches of new snow, much less than fell further east, but the rain that came before provided a serious icy base under the snow, and the streets turned treacherous. We watched with some concern as cars and trucks slid around the curve next to our garage, but luck was with us — no one ran into the wall.
At night it’s hard to tell that it’s snowing. Tiny white flakes disappear against the night sky. Sometimes when I want to know I stand at the parlor window and peer at a space across the street, trying to judge what’s in the air by what can be seen in the glow of the streetlight across Milford. That night the snow was not hard to see as it fell thick and white through the light. The next night when I looked through the window there was no snow in the air. Instead the snow and ice on the branches of our gum tree glowed.