This morning, peek out your windows. Does snow whiten the mountain tops and quiet our town? After a month of hot and dry, will this weekend’s hesitant moisture stick to the streets, bringing a seasonal cheer that — fleetingly — reduces our stress about our warming climate?
I was excited last week about the predicted weekend snow. After two days of cloud cover though, the latest weather predictions caution against counting on snow accumulation — and tell us we can count on yet another week of sunshine.
Darnitall. Even though I may whine from time to time about shoveling, after months of daily sun, sun, sun, I long for the white, hushed streets of near-winter.
I don’t know if winter season in Flagstaff will become simply cold and dry, with a couple of days of wind tossed in every month. I do know, however, that so far this so-called snow season, there’s little sign of the record-breaking 86 inches that hit Flagstaff in two back-to-back snowstorms the week before Christmas 1967. (One meteorologist said the actual snowfall was probably more than 100 inches, but some of those little guys melted before they could be measured.)
And let’s not forget the 100 inches of snow we watched accumulate in 2010 — though that was for the whole winter, and not just one week. And two years ago on New Year’s Eve, Flagstaff witnessed more than a foot of snow falling from our skies. And then there were the three storms in January of this year, during which we saw snowfall of nearly 45 inches in the north side of town. (Maybe I should get my shovels out after all.)
According to the National Weather Service, Flagstaff snowfall season averages 298 days, typically from Oct. 24 to May 9. People! We’re nearly six weeks behind welcoming day of the tiny white crystals. And we’ll have who-knows-how-many future days of sunshine versus cozy, cloudy, cold days in which hot chocolate, snow boots and layers of turtlenecks, sweaters and vests are the norm.
Still, it’s barely December, and we may be in for some serious weather before we can say, “Jack Frost is lost.” (No, I don’t know anyone who says that either. But it could become a trend!)
I was happy for the clear skies the weekend after Thanksgiving, though, as I rode the rails from Los Angeles to Flagstaff Friday night/Saturday morning. I was thrilled to be in the small and tidy Amtrak sleeper car, where everything from the wall-mounted reading light to the Velcroed curtains has its purpose. The rocking of the Southwest Chief was soothing after three days of non-stop conversation.
My brother whom I visited in LA reminded me that I would miss seeing the landscape, because the train leaves around 6 p.m. and arrives in Flagstaff about 10 hours later, before daylight. But his prediction wasn’t quite true. While I did not see the daytime desert landscape of California and Arizona, I did get quite the view.
After sleeping for a couple of hours, I woke up — probably due to the rich, chocolate mousse the train attendant talked me into. The caffeine coursed through me, as my eyes adjusted to the dark. I turned to the window and saw, not a landscape, but a dreamlike sky scape. The stars were so bright, and the sky so black. While we have wonderful views of the heavens in Flagstaff, this was even better. There was sparkling Orion, posed to shoot. An hour or so later, the big dipper greeted me, calming in its familiarity, stunning in its brightness.
And then: actual landscapes. Although it was still dark outside, I caught glimpses of distant hills silhouetted in the night. I was mesmerized by the landscape rolling by, beneath the twinkling sky.
Soon, I was home. Waiting for winter.