The Weather Channel (not the National Weather Service) has decided that winter storms need names, in the same way hurricanes and typhoons need names. Blizzards and hurricanes don’t care what they are called but evidently TV producers feel their coverage is more compelling if we are able to somehow humanize dangerous meteorological phenomena, which is interesting because effective propaganda generally dehumanizes the enemy.
We humans name all kinds of stuff that need not be named, and I myself admit to the occasional anthropomorphic fit. A chicken I called “Tiny” was snatched away by a bear last spring and I once knew a tapir we called “Jim” because it was easier than saying “ear tag #P379” but the closest I’ve come to naming weather would have to be “that awful cold snap in ’92” or “the huge freakin’ blizzard during lambing in ’05.”
This most recent storm was given a TV name and many people will use it when they look back on this historic nor’easter. They got hammered and maybe it will help to have a name to shout as they shake their fists at the sky, but step away from the news and the roads and the towns and it was just more wind and snow.
Fish in a Barrel Pond escaped the worst of the snowfall, but the wind was fierce. In the yard, loose snow was driven into drifts that solidified in the desiccating gale. Blasted by ice crystals, layer after layer was scoured and sculpted as the storm raged for hours.
More solid than fluffy, the drifts snaked their way across the drive and up the hill. Below the barn they rose like waves six feet high at their crests, with bare ground exposed in the troughs. For more than 24 hours the wind blew, gaining force after the worst of the snow had passed. Grabbing edges and feeling for soft spots, it twisted and spun along contours, shaping fantastic forms as it went.
Thick with snow, the air turned to froth as it whipped through the trees and shattered flakes sifted down, settling on branches and drying in the cold.
Intertwined shards of snow crystals fused into a solid mass that clung to the trees even as the sun came out and the temperature rose today.
Water again flows in brooks that were frozen solid two weeks ago, while cobbles and stones wear crowns of snow.
When a storm like this hits and people can’t get where they want, they look for someone to blame even though they know it’s no one’s darn fault. In the woods the animals just hunker down where they are and wait for conditions to change. Moose, deer, and coyotes find sheltered spots to settle in, while grouse and other small animals take cover beneath the snow, even traveling below the crust in spaces created by the branchy skirts of small trees. An otter left the only tracks seen today, bounding up from the brook beneath an old bridge. If it had gone the other way this track would be smooth, packed by the otter’s belly as it slid down the slope.
As the weather warms this week more critters will be on the move but for now the woods are trackless.
The inhabitants of the woods surrounding Fish in a Barrel Pond are more concerned with surviving another day than what a particular storm was called. It’s us humans that are all hung up on names but now that the road is plowed and my driveway clear, I can say I’m ready for the next storm, whatever it is called. I’m sure I’ll have a pet name or two of my own.