In Becky's Words

I dedicate this site to my mother. She was a columnist and an author with the uncanny ability to find humor in the daily ins and outs of life. She faced every challenge with a witty optimism, including the cancer that ended her life too soon.

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Location: Boise, Idaho, United States

Monday, January 16, 2017

Snowmageddon: Or Careful What You Wish For

Before winter break, everyone at my school, including us teachers (I'll admit), talked eagerly about having a snow day or two. However, I never want snow days during my December programs.

"What will you do?" more than one colleague asked me the day before my little kids' Christmas program, when the weather forecast was looking iffy.

I have been teaching for sixteen years, and I have never had to reschedule a winter program or concert. Boise rarely calls snow days . . . (foreshadowing)

"I'm not even going there," I told my colleagues.

Then I marched into my principal's office and said,"I'm not even going there, but what would we do about the program if we have a snow day tomorrow?"

We put a plan in place just in case.

The truth was, I didn't want any snow days through the whole month of December. My fifth and sixth graders were finishing auditions for our spring musical, Peter Pan.

"Why didn’t we get a snow day?" the kids asked me the Friday before break. A couple of surrounding districts had called school off due to inclement weather.

"Because Mother Nature knows not to mess with my Peter Pan auditions!" I told them.

The roads weren’t that bad, but I think we all needed a break.

Oh, how naïve we were back then . . .

Enter Snowmageddon 2017.

It was innocuous enough in the beginning. A big winter storm hit a day or two before we were supposed to go back to school. Like I said, Boise never calls off school, and I assumed we would be going back as scheduled.

I couldn’t sleep the night before. I was worried about driving in the snow (it looked pretty bad out there), and I had dreams all night about returning to school in a blizzard.

I woke up a half-hour earlier than usual to brave the roads and almost immediately heard a text message buzz on my phone, followed by two more e-mail and Boise District notifications. We were getting a snow day on what was supposed to be first day back from vacation.

The roads were bad, and the snow was still coming down, but my husband, Dan, decided to go into the office instead of working from home.

That morning, he texted me to say he made it safely and, "It was fun!"

I put my phone down and looked out the window just as the backyard was swarmed by a flock of birds. They were flying from their perches in a nearby tree to our fence and then to the small sliver of concrete behind our house. I could hear them pecking and scratching at the siding and underneath our kitchen. One snow day, and I was in the middle of a Hitchcock film.

Later that afternoon, I spied the kids from next door sledding on our snow piles. Yes, the piles from our shoveled driveway were large enough to sled down. I almost joined them, but the neighborhood kids don't really know me. "Stranger, Danger!" and all that . . .

Instead, I texted Dan, "Well, it's official. I can't see our backyard anymore. Shit just got real."

The initial excitement of the largest snowstorm in the Treasure Valley in over thirty years brought with it quirky neighborhood stories about friends helping others get cars unstuck, people digging folks out of their cul-de-sacs, and neighbors with snowblowers clearing subdivision sidewalks.

The local news featured a man in a T-Rex costume shoveling driveways. Dan helped a neighbor dig out of our subdivision. Her husband returned the favor and shoveled our driveway that afternoon.

"If nothing else, this storm is a good way to meet your neighbors," the husband told Dan, with whom we are now on a first-name basis for the first time after living in our house for thirteen years.

A few days into Snowmageddon 2017, one of my Facebook friends commented, "Somebody's prayers are being answered. Wait till I get a hold of them!"

By the third snow day, Boise's mayor declared a state of emergency. This was more about freeing up funds and resources to hire contractors to clear the roads than about a looming apocalypse. But that didn't stop Idaho's survivalist instincts from kicking in.

People flocked to the grocery and Costco to stockpile water bottles, canned food, flashlights, batteries, and milk. (Does anyone else think milk is a weird, perishable thing to stock up on?)

By the end of the week, the stores were out of supplies. There were talks of ice dams (we had a few on our house) and removing them with pantyhose. (I am totally serious. The stores were running out of pantyhose . . . or maybe it was ice melt.) A video circulating on Facebook told everyone to prepare for five days without power. (Our power company took issue with that and posted a rebuttal.)

"The mayor just declared a state of emergency in Boise," I told Dan.

"Wow! Like on The Walking Dead!" he exclaimed.

"Except still no zombies," I said. "How about tuna on pita chips for dinner? That sounds like a good state of emergency meal."

"Yeah, cool!"

We didn't go back to school Monday or Tuesday, making our snow day count five in a row. Although I loved all of the reading I was getting done, I missed the kids, and I was tired of revamping lesson plans and rehearsal schedules.

As the record snowfall began to melt, our schools experienced flooding and heat and water issues. A few classrooms in my building had standing water in places, and my classroom heat went out and is yet to be fixed.

According to my weather app, the road conditions were listed as "ponding," meaning there were literally ponds in the middle of the streets. If you zoomed out on the map, Boise appeared to be one large pond.

Then it snowed again.

We went back to school on Wednesday. The temperature dipped. All of the "ponding" turned into an ice rink, and with that, school was called off again.

On the sixth snow day, Dan had to stop me from getting into the shower.

"Your phone is making weird noises."

I thought he was joking.

"They are probably just reminding us we have school today."

Nope. School was out one more day due to hazardous icy conditions.

We did return to school on Friday. I have never been happier to see my (extremely cold) music room.

By the way, the snow is falling as I type this. Who knows what will happen next week?

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