Traveling east from Western Washington is like immigrating to a new country. The people, the politics, the culture – all different. At this moment, the difference I’m noting the most, besides a decided increase in red “Make America Great Again” hats, is the climate. When we moved here in September, we enjoyed a long sunny fall and I could count the number of days that it rained on one hand. It almost made me forget that I’m suppose to love rain.
However, I am aware that senses deceive, so I’ll stick to quantifiable facts. (Please note, these are not alternative facts). The average annual rainfall for Yakima is only 8.35 inches. Seattle averages 37.13 inches per year. Average annual snowfall in Seattle isn’t even reported by US Climate Data. For Yakima, 23 inches of snow is average. This year appears to be an outlier. I overheard someone saying that the valley hasn’t seen this much snow in over 20 years.
Another notable difference between east and west is the response to adverse weather: when Western Washington gets even a hint of snow, everything shuts down¹. When Eastern Washington gets freezing rain on top of 23 inches of snow, everyone still goes to work. No snow days here. This fills me with a deep, soul-crushing sadness.
A few weeks ago I met up with my BFF, Kelly Lin², and the SASA³ group in Easton, WA for some Sabbath snowshoeing. After a worship thought at the cabin, we headed over to Keechelus Lake for a snowy adventure. The temperature was hovering around 12 degrees Fahrenheit, but with the windchill, it felt more like absolute zero4. Not even the warm sense of superiority I get from wearing Patagonia products could keep out this cold. We suffered through the head wind to get to the lake, snapped a few photos, and scurried back to the car for hot cocoa.
It had started snowing hard while we were gone and since I had to work the next day, I set out for home as soon as we arrived back at the cabin. I wasn’t worried about driving in the snow, with my newly acquired all-wheel drive vehicle and studded snow tires. However, the biggest hazard about driving in the snow is other drivers. Shortly after I left, traffic slowed, then stopped. There was a collision 5 miles ahead that was blocking all lanes and no estimate on when it was going to clear.
My first reaction was to freak out. Should I turn around, like other cars were doing? Should I take the REALLY long way around and try to go over White Pass? Should I take the detour and risk it on the back country roads? What if I run out of gas? I was scared of freezing in the car, or worse, being found by the Night King5 and getting drafted into the army of the dead.
After the initial freak out, I got the blankets from my trunk, turned off the car, and gnawed on a Clif bar. Then my only problem was boredom (and the Night King). My phone battery was rapidly depleting and I needed to conserve power to check for updates on the DOT website. So, no games, texts, twitter, or insta. Just watching people walk around in the snow and thinking Lindsay Thoughts™.
Eventually the government cleared the road and I cautiously made my way home, arriving just before 10pm. The trip was about four times longer than it should have been and I’m pretty sure I saw the Night King near Ellensburg.
I guess blogs usual end with a clever lesson or piece of advice, so, here goes: don’t solely rely on your weather app for guidance? Invest in a back up iPhone for emergency web surfing needs? Pack more exciting snacks to nibble on during road closures? The point is: winter is here, it’s scary, and I’m going to need some retail therapy to get over this traumatic experience.