Sunday, 23 March 2008

It's Snowing

It's snowing in England right now. Big fluffy snowflakes gently drifting down. I love it.

Quite different to the snow in Montana. The snowflakes there are tiny due to the scarcity of water in the atmosphere. However they do have an abundance of it - for months. It doesn't snow everyday but several times a week. And it settles. There is a permanent blanket of snow from October to April in some places. And the snow is piled high along each road and sidewalk.

In England the snow rarely settles because the ground is too warm and wet. The snow usually melts on impact with the ground. It is a national pastime for people in England to moan about the weather. Every winter I hear complaints about how cold it is. the temperature is rarely below zero Centigrade (or Celsius as it is called now). Though, I must say the wind can be bitter and blow right through your coat making you feel very chilled.

But when I was in Montana a few winters ago the temperature was -7 Celsius on most days. On some days it was below zero Fahrenheit, and for two weeks it was about -34 Fahrenheit. When you get to those numbers it doesn't much matter if you are talking C or F 'cos they are about the same! It is not comfortable to go outside in those temperatures. The air feels like tiny needles are sticking into any exposed skin and the moist air inside your nose freezes. We laughed and thought that we could go back to England and say "You think this is cold?"

At the start of this very cold spell in the new year I drove 70 miles one evening to get my daughter from the airport. She had just spent New Year's in Texas so I took her a warm coat etc. (The Americans call the time around New Year - 'New Year's'. The British would say 'The New Year'.) My car's heating decided to fail during this time and so I had no heat inside the car for about one and a half hours. My feet, despite being in warm boots, were very painfully cold and I was torn between driving faster (over the speed limit) to make the journey shorter or driving safely in the freezing conditions. I was very glad of the relative warmth of the little airport when I got there. I didn't drive the 70 miles back because I actually lived about 6 miles from the airport!

The snow in North Carolina, in contrast to the snow in Montana, consists of enormous flakes. This is because there is such high humidity there. It only snows for a about three to six days there each winter and everything stops on those days. The schools have 'snow days' because the school busses are not designed to travel on icy roads. Also the snow has such a large volume that it quickly reaches knee height. Only the main roads are ploughed, leaving the side roads where most people live impassible by car. I heard pleas for divers of 4-wheeled vehicles to give lifts (English) or rides (American) to hospital workers so they could get to work. These snow days actually cut into the summer holiday time if there are a lot of them.

One snowy spell lasted for a few days and the Principal told the teachers they could go into school if they wanted. Even though it was physically possible to drive into school, I decided not to, because the roads were icy. They do not have gritting lorries there 'cos there is not much need of them. The funny thing is I had the same car with the same tyres driving in Montana to work and back on icy and snow compacted roads to and from work each day! The difference was I was told that my tyres were all-weather ones and that it was safe.

The snow has stopped falling here now, and sure enough there is not a trace of it to be seen. Just the usual wet ground of winter in England.