As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So in this blog post I'll be sharing photos of how my wife and I have been dealing with, and enjoying, a seemingly minor storm that dropped two inches of snow out here in rural south Salem.
I italicized "seemingly" because people from cold-weather states who make fun of how us Willamette Valley Oregonians panic over snow that they'd consider a dusting don't realize that our snow here usually isn't like their snow there.
This photo was taken today on a dog walk that led the family canine and I around the Lake Drive/Oak Drive loop in our neighborhood. You can see from the snow in the foreground that not much has fallen in the past few days. But look how shiny the road is.
It's basically a sheet of ice. Drive on it without traction tires or chains, and you'd realize this as soon as you tried to go up a hill, or brake while going down one.
Some of the ice accumulated as freezing rain -- a frequent occurrence in western Oregon at the beginning or end of a snow event, because the temperature often is right around 32 degrees.
This is nasty stuff. A 1/4 inch of freezing rain can make roads nearly impassable, because the surface is coated with ice (sometimes black ice; meaning, it is almost invisible, so you think the dark pavement is just asphalt... until you feel your car starting to slip and slide).
So this is why I put our Toyota Highlander SUV and VW GTI at the top of our long, sloping driveway after I realized freezing rain had started to fall. Even though both cars have studless winter tires on them, I've learned that when a bit of snow falls on ice, even an all-wheel drive vehicle equipped with Blizzaks can have trouble getting up a steep slope.
Again, driving on snow is a whole different thing than driving on ice. Further, snow often turns to ice in western Oregon, since the temperature usually is close to freezing.
Here's a selfie taken just before I began shoveling snow from our long, wide driveway this morning. I figured this would substitute for my usual Friday workout at an athletic club. Plus, getting rid of the several inches of snow would help the ice underneath melt faster when the temperature warms up in a few days.
I took this photo to show our shoveling implements, but it also shows the track left by some idiot who sledded down our driveway yesterday -- which compressed the snow down to the ice, leaving the track much icier than the rest of the driveway (another factor: the temperature rose a bit above freezing late yesterday, then dropped to about 20 degrees at night, refreezing whatever had melted).
When I fell on my butt after stepping onto the very icy sled track, I got pissed at the guy who had sledded down our driveway. He wasn't hard to find, because the idiot had made a video of his exploit that showed him clearly. I recognized the jacket, his face, and even his name.
Which wasn't surprising, since the guy was me. I'd forgotten about the downside of sliding over a few inches of snow underlaid by ice: you remove the walkable snow and reveal the almost unwalkable ice.
My wife, Laurel, and dog, ZuZu, helped out with the shoveling. ZuZu, mainly by looking bored, her expression saying Is watching you guys shovel the driveway supposed to be a substitute for my usual morning dog walk? Well, screw that!
Nevertheless, ZuZu managed to look halfway happy when Laurel took a celebratory photo of us after we reached the top of the driveway.
Note the curve of my oh-so-cool snow shovel. This is an ergonomic feature, not a bent problem. I like how it makes pushing snow to the side of the driveway much easier. I push the handle into my midsection and use my whole body to push the shovel, rather than mainly my arms.
Later in the day I took our aggrieved walk-deprived dog on a lengthy stroll around our rural environs. Now I could enjoy the snow without worrying about dealing with it.
On the trail at the back of our property I was struck by the beauty of the leaves that had fallen on top of the snow, a decoration of "last-gasp" leaves impelled to drop by the unusually cold temperature the past few nights.
Our dog added her paw prints to those left by other passers-by on the top of the earthen dam that holds in Spring Lake.
In wintry weather the lake dock definitely doesn't look like a great place to jump into the water, as it does during the summer months.
Continuing on a trail that has a hillside view of the Willamette Valley below, the setting sun illuminated oak trees in a neighbor's field.
So, yes, snow in western Oregon can be a pain, and also a pleasure. I ended up slipping twice on the driveway sled trail I'd made yesterday (yeah, I'm a slow learner), yet it was worth the fun I had the day before. Behold the video I made.
Update: re-reading this post, I realized that I forgot to mention a couple of other factors that make snow in western Oregon more treacherous than snow in the midwest, say:
(1) We have hills. Steep ones. In cities. And outside of cities.
(2) We typically get wet snow. Because, like I said, the temperature is close to freezing. It's a heck of lot easier to drive on feathery powdery snow than dense moist snow.
(3) We don't put much salt on our roads. "Green" environment-friendly Oregon rarely applies salt to snowy roads. So we slip and slide more than we would otherwise.
Well said! Thank you
Posted by: mike | December 17, 2016 at 08:49 AM
Enjoyed the photo story. Jean, who was born in Eugene in December 1938, graduated from Eugene High School in 1957, lived there until 1960, and who now slips and slides as a pedestrian in the winter in Spokane, WA. (Sweet doggie !) I have three cats.. "Stay safe" to you and some of my family who still lives in the Eugene/Springfield/Lowell areas. It was minus 4 degrees overnight here.
Posted by: Barbara Jean Rice, formerly Barbara J. (Ford) Simmons. | December 17, 2016 at 04:05 PM
I live in Okla. City and though we do not have much snow we have the same icing problem you have. Anything that falls turns to ice and freezes and then thaws again and again. I do get tired of people saying that we don't have a clue how to drive in bad weather. I don't know anyone who can drive on slick ice. We have our share of that. Our streets are a mess because of the freeze thaw problem that goes on all winter long. Good luck with your winter driving.
Posted by: Suzanne Bryson | December 17, 2016 at 08:48 PM