Typical Tidewater snow
By Biff and Susan Andrews
It began — as always — with confused forecasts. Local weathermen detailed how one model called for 7 to 9 inches, another called for 4 to 7 inches, and the European model called for less than an inch. They always do. The snow would start as rain on Thursday afternoon, or evening, or night, then end Friday morning with a sharp temperature drop. All normal, including the uncertainty.
School administrations made their varying calls — which would eventually change — some with delays, some closures. Suffolk pre-treated the roads with brine a day ahead. Good job. Hardware stores produced snow shovels, snow saucers, sidewalk salt, etc. — all of which had been stored in a back room for 776 days, since our last snow event. And grocery stores were mobbed with customers stocking up on bread, milk, water, but above all — hot chocolate. All very normal for an area afflicted only rarely with the white stuff.
The first flakes, mixed with light rain, began an hour or so earlier than predicted, but basically on time … good job of forecasting. Naturally, it was 34 degrees, so whatever fell soon disappeared. Eventually, however, a quick inch covered the cars and lawns — then disappeared as the precipitation turned back to rain — then back to snow — then a mix. Sheesh!
As Master Naturalists, we had, of course, put out seeds and nuts for the wildlife, and as darkness fell the little birds — sparrows, juncos, chickadees, finches — were reaping the rewards.
Outdoor lights at midnight showed about two inches of slush, at 32 degrees. Morning broke at 32 degrees on three and a half inches of … frozen something. Snow? Kind of. Slush? Kind of. But icy. And wet. And melting. But with temperatures dropping to 30 or so. So refreezing. Sheesh!
The newspaper later reported that Suffolk got the most in Tidewater — about 5 inches — but it was about three and a half at my place. It was snow white — but icy snow white. Lucky us.
The schools did right. Virginia Beach was right to delay; Suffolk was right to close. Well done all around.
We coated our snow-covered deck with nuts and seeds and were rewarded with a bird show. Bluejays, grackles, titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers — but above all, cardinals. There’s a reason so many Christmas cards show a snow scene with cardinals standing out in red relief. We normally see one to two cardinals at our feeders per day, even if we feed hard. On this day, we counted seven males at one time, with the females in the branches above. And the hollyberry red against the white snow proves the existence of God. Hallmark confirms it.
Sure, there were other lovely sights. Pine trees were topped with white frosting, which stayed visible for a day. Lopsided snowmen in fanciful garb created by red-faced children were everywhere. Dogs romped in the white stuff — and created some yellow stuff. Typical, all typical of a snow in Tidewater. What’s not to love?
But, as always, the white turned to gray, the sunflower seed husks became litter, and the only snow left was on north-facing roofs and in shady spots. It was gone, with only a patch here and there as a reminder.
It was typical, but savor it. With global warming, it’ll be 777 days till the next one.
Susan and Bradford “Biff” Andrews are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.