Beginning last Saturday and continuing until next weekend (at least) the Bellingham, WA area is experiencing its longest cold “snap” (“snap” is in quotes because this is way longer than a snap, but I don’t know what the word for an unusually long snap is. Maybe a zip, because a zipper is, like a snap, a device for fastening, except it is much longer. I am going to call this a cold zip from now on, and I am going to close this parenthesis now) since 1990, according to the local paper, the Bellingham Herald. The high today, Monday, was 26 and the low was 10. Right now, at 7:00 p.m., it is 21 degrees Fahrenheit, but it feels like -4 because of the windchill. The winds are NNE at 28 mph. Gusts today have been up to 60 mph.
It has only snowed about three inches in some areas, and a light dusting in others. Because of the lack of snow, the school district I drive a bus for did not cancel school. There was a 1-hour delay because they didn’t want bus drivers to be driving (or students to be waiting) in the dark on potentially icy roads. My biggest adventure with the road conditions this morning was at a place called Finkbonner Hill, which all the local kids like to sled down when it snows. I never drive down it; only up. It is the steepest part of my route, and I am not supposed to go up it when I am driving the version of my route that I drive when it snows. But because of the small amount of snow, I was not driving the snow route. Against my better judgment, I decided to drive up it, despite the fact that it was nearly covered in about an inch of icy snow. There were six kids on board at the time, so I figured I was light enough to zip right up.
I was wrong. I was about halfway up when my forward momentum completely stopped, and panic set in. I downshifted. I eased the accelerator up and down to see if I could get some traction. I looked desperately on the dashboard for the button which deploys, Batmobile-like, sand in front of the rear tires to improve traction in just such a situation (later I found it in the upper left-hand corner, obscured by a badly placed cleaning rag). There were concerned looks on the students’ faces as the smell of rubber filled the bus. Eventually (aided by the hand of God, I’m sure), the bus got traction and we went up the hill. I ignored the stop sign at the top of the hill for fear of repeating the slide, and continued on my route. This afternoon, I avoided Finkbonner Hill completely, even though avoiding it causes me to make an unusually sharp right turn and drop off one student 100 feet away from her house. She’ll live. But I’m not sure she would if I had to go up that hill again.
I also had about a dozen extra students this morning because their regular bus was not able to make it out of the yard, but that is a different story. This story is about how unusually cold it is, and how unusually long this cold zip is going to be. It wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the wind (which likes to bat the empty bus back and forth on the road like a cat playing with a mouse; but that, again, is a different story).
In the end, though, I can’t complain. I have a warm place to stay, and I am also thankful for the shelters that have opened their doors to the homeless in this area. And when this is over, western Washington will go back to its usual mild-climate self. Even though it is colder now than it is in Nebraska (I checked: The windchill here, as I mentioned, is -4. In Lincoln, it’s -3), Nebraska is only going to get colder in January. Washington will get warmer. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.