A short story for a class that relives a meteorological disaster.
Green buds were just beginning to make their first appearance on the trees as if escaping an icy tomb in which all life seemed to have been trapped for months. The last of the snow clung to the sparse shading beneath the trees that dotted my yard. Spring was finally floating in the air, taunting everyone to emerge from their winter slumber and participate in the natural materialization of greenery and vibrancy. The black and white world would soon be replaced by a cornucopia of color and life. Words and images of rebirth and new beginnings, all the things that spring promised, were all that my mind could conjure. Streams of poetry strung like chords on a violin; piercing my mind as I dreamt of what was to come.
…Run, run to the vernal sun!
Forlorn days of old are gone
Tempest done and battles won
Beckon on to the rising dawn…
A northeastern gale, as I soon discovered, rolled down the near barren mountains and hills from upstate and greeted my face like pellets of ice. A northeast wind was a sure harbinger for often brutal snowstorms, especially given the late season. The warmer Atlantic waters to the east combine with polar air masses in a violent collision in the northeast, providing heavy snows and high winds. Above my head, high cirrus clouds arrived on wisps of high level winds from the south as the temperature dropped below freezing. Suddenly, it seemed as though springtime would have to be delayed by yet another storm. As time passed, clouds lowered and thickened, almost extinguishing the promise of spring as the land blackened. All the while, northeastern winds reinforced a stabbing cold that sent chills up my spine and numbed every exposed extremity. Soon thereafter I glimpsed small flecks of snow that floated in the strengthening wind only to land softly on the desolate ground. The snow had a certain reassuring quality about it as it fell on my head and face. It was reminiscent of my childhood winters in upstate New York when I would sit for hours on a hill outside my family’s winter home. Though Lake Ontario was only a few miles away, low clouds would collect along the Adirondack Mountains while fierce winds would deliver piles of snow, concealing my view. The sight of snow-laden mountains would invoke surreal images of fanciful flight and adventures in my innocent mind.
As the temperature continued to drop into the middle twenties, the fluffy snow began to transition into a more pellet form; bouncing off of uncovered surfaces as the mixture of sleet and snow began to slowly accumulate. The black-top street outside my house was starting to evolve into white. A Winter Storm Warning was soon issued for my town of Poughkeepsie and the surrounding areas for several inches of snow and sleet before changing to a harsh accretion of freezing rain. Freezing rain was one thing that my area did not ordinarily receive. Occasional blizzards would whip up across the lower state region; blowing heavy snows that would drift as high as window tops and consume the roofs of cars. However, freezing rain was something essentially different— totally foreign and intangible for me.
Though a Sunday, schools across my area were closing for the following Monday in prudence of the developing storm system. As abundant moisture overspread the top of a relatively shallow layer of cold air, I observed the sleet and snow making its transition to rain—a rain that adhered to all surfaces as the temperature stood at twenty-seven degrees. What an outlandish sight it was for me to see a steady rain falling well below freezing with ice beginning to hang from our tree branches, power lines, as well as creating a slick coat of ice on top of the light snowfall that had previously occurred. All signs of spring greenery were lost in an opaque shield as winter had begun to blow its final showdown.
The ice was hanging from everything that the rain touched. All I could see were trees becoming crooked and held down by the increasingly high amount of ice that dangled from each branch and evergreen leaf. The local news, streaming endlessly on my television screen, was also becoming bombarded by reports of traffic accidents and interstate pileups that stretched for miles. Furthermore, a growing amount of power outages overtook the power companies’ ability to handle as thousands in the region were left in the dark and cold. However dangerous the ice was becoming, the ice hung majestically like fingers of glass that imposed a great sense of respect for Mother Nature’s sublime force. The cracking sounds of trees and their limbs falling under the weight of ice and snow was only a reminder of what our earth is capable of. No matter how much ingenuity I, or the rest of the world, can conjure, the earth’s forces will always overthrow man’s attempt to control and manipulate natural forces
After a day’s persistent freezing rain event, more than an inch and one-half had accumulated on all that my eyes could see. Our back yard had become a mangled jumble of fallen trees as loose power lines lined our street. Electricity had, by this time, been severed by tree limbs to nearly the entire region. Only to make the situation worse, the electricity was unable to be restored for nearly a week. Most of our community was left without generators and we braced for the twenty degree nightly temperatures for what seemed like years. The ice had finally ended during the night on Monday and cleanup soon began. Mother Nature, however, did not help the relief efforts much by providing freezing temperatures and scattered snow showers for the next few days, adding only a small accumulation. The snow falling gently around me created what seemed to be a blanket for the ice, insulating it from being melted or cleaned off the roads and other surfaces.
Clean-up crews came from all over our state as well as other states during the following weeks, thanks to federal aid that poured into the effort for the entire northeast snow and ice storm. The largest challenge for the crews was the amount of trees that blocked roads, fell upon houses and businesses, and smashed cars like insects. I could see nothing other than mangled trees found everywhere as entire forests appeared to have been bombed in an act of terrorism. Rarely a single tree escaped the ice storm’s powerful hand. My view of such an event was quite breathtaking; the crystalline coverage of all things created a certain sparkle that made the world seem somehow brighter and more alive. How strange it is that beauty and disaster seem to always intermingle and create one another. Without total disaster the world would not offer inspiration, splendor, or magnificence.