As the weather forecasts converged on last weekend, the possibility of an historical Virginia snowstorm began to grow. Weather models pumped out predictions of snow that threatened to swallow our 4 foot tall kids whole. Area meteorologists and weather geeks even tossed around the "B" word: Blizzard.
Tossing that word around was a sure way to get my weather attention. I'd already experienced a blizzard in my lifetime - one of an historical nature. It was long before The Weather Channel started personalizing storms by gifting them with their own names - like Jonas - so I simply recall it as the blizzard of 78.
More clearly, I recall waking up to a howling wind, looking out my bedroom window to see nothing but a sea of whiteness. It was like someone had covered the outside of the glass with a white sheet. The power had long been lost. Compounding that predicament was the reality that our wood pile was situated a hundred yards from the house and was impossible to find. Even if we could find it through the blinding snow, the mountainous snowdrifts between it and us were impossible to navigate. My dad problem solved by building a small tent village out of blankets connected to the fireplace and burning pieces of furniture in the house to keep us warm. (Fortunately we were rescued before he got much further than wood shop furniture in our basement).
In defense of my dad, in 1978 we didn't have access to weather models that predicted a storm of this magnitude days in advance. If the storm hadn't been a surprise, I know the woodpile would have been moved closer to the house before the storm. I also know I was intimately involved in the permanent relocation of that pile once the storm subsided - never to be outwitted by a winter storm again.
This is a classic historical photo of that 1978 blizzard. This isn't from my home town, but I vividly remember our roads looking identical to this for many weeks to follow.
Jonas turned out to be a relatively kinder, gentler storm. I don't believe our power so much as flickered. My prioritized list of which furniture to burn first became useless - (thank God, I know Katie really loves that green chair). I remember during the blizzard of 78 how difficult it was keeping up with storm updates without electricity. Huddled together in our tent village we gave it our best to monitor a local radio station with a battery powered transistor radio. Our efforts were futile. The constant static made conversations with ET sound more lucid. Keeping up with Jonas was much easier, though. With uninterrupted power, a dozen working screens, and multiple social media platforms, not only were we able to keep up with the current storm track, we also monitored the exploding snowman population and sledding parties breaking out throughout the county. All this as whiteout conditions promised to bury vehicles beneath colossal snowdrifts for many missed work days to come.
At the height of the storm on January 23rd, it became hard to see from one end of our neighborhood to the other.
The name Jonas is actually a Hebrew baby name. One meaning attached to it is "a gift from God." I know there were tragedies and major disruptions attached to this storm, but there were also opportunities to see it as a gift. Our boys had never experienced a storm of this magnitude. The adventure in their eyes as Jonas plowed through our area was fun to experience. Imaginations are at their wildest when we share the stage with life's biggest scenes.
We have no hills in our neighborhood, so the boys took turns dragging one another - dead weight and all.
They even let their mom in on the action.
For a little added adventure they borrowed the ramp up to our shed.
I also have to mention Fritz. This was his first blizzard too. And frankly it probably disrupted his world more than all of ours combined. I seriously doubt any of us have ever been surprised to find the spot we routinely and always uneventfully use to piddle suddenly buried beneath several inches of a foreign and very cold white substance. If Fritz has ever favorably considered leaving us to return to the shelter, it was during those initial moments of finding that Jonas had dumped a frozen load on the spot he formerly believed was his own private dumping ground..
Fortunately, Fritz overcame his shock and, with some help from the rest of the boys, found a way to join in the winter fun.
It wasn't long before Fritz was bouncing up and down in the snow like he'd been playing in it all of his young life.
Fritz did play long before returning to his affectionate side.
And pose for the camera. (Photo credit: Katie Cartwright Photography)
Today, January 28th and 5 days after the storm, the boys finally went back to school. I guess that brings an official end to Jonas and the blizzard of 2016. But if Jonas is anything like the blizzard of 1978, it's a storm that will live on in my memory for many years to come.
Final snowfall map for Jonas - The Blizzard of 2016