Storm Approaches
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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

Winter Storm Approaches

A Harbor Journal

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

Fall Winter 2007-2008

Spoiled? (01/21/08)
(Click photo to enlarge.) Weíre spoiled. Lulled into laxity by a series of indifferent winters, we who by choice or necessity dwell alongside a restless Gitchi Gumee for the seemingly endless interval between color and bugs, suddenly find ourselves ill prepared for a winter worthy of our repute. I find myself digging through rusting mind manuals for the secrets of driving in complete white-outs, accessing deeply snow buried and hard frozen wood piles, assuring that water pipes donít become ice cube makers, and even the secret for skillfully scooping snow so that the plows deliver it to my neighbors rather than returning it to me. (In truth, I donít need to worry about such scooping Ė my ďdownstreamĒ neighbors, the Lake Breeze proprietors, wonít be back much before the firecrackers pop; by then my disregard for their interest will hopefully go un-noticed.)

And now, with an uncharacteristic bitterly cold artic air mass lingering about, emasculating our normally protective shield of warm, at least warmer, open lake air and setting off an avalanche of massive lake effect snow storms, the keeper of all thatís holy of Copper Country winters, ole Heikki Lunta, our snow God, seems to making undo amends for his several years infatuation with the enticing babe of the warm seas, El Nino. OK, my tan losing friend, Iíll cease casting dispersions about your recent years of lack of due diligence, if youíll send this blast of Eskimo stimulate back to my Canadian friends, whose sense of masculinity is somehow tied to their joy and pride in enduring it. (Like my friends in Minnesota.) While the snow it produces is most welcome, you, of all gods, know it doesnít need to be this cold for good snow. Youíre over-reacting!

Well, none of this, of course, has to do with our being spoiled Ė some of us are just a bit slow in getting our big winter skills back in gear. Weíll survive; even prosper, in this joyous return to normalcy. What does have us a bit baffled, and is evidence of our spoiled nature, is our surprise in not having our camp side roads cleared of snow everyday. Youíll see in the photo above that my street is unplowed, and has been so for a couple of days. In years past, even a whisper of snow was sufficient to get the massive plows and their stalwart drivers and wingman out of their cozy homes and out doing their thing.

The Road Commission reports that this change in plowing strategy is a direct result of reduced state funding and increasing costs, especially fuel. No big deal. If the snow depth, or drifting, gets to the point where travel becomes almost impossible, theyíre still quick to respond. Actually, I like it this way Ė there is something serenely beautiful about a snow laden and wind sculpted roadway, and most of us have become pretty adept at driving on snow packed roads. And we have little reason to travel everyday, at least in this node of retired winter castaways. Of course, up the hill where there are lots of working folks, even a little snow can be a challenge, so if thatís where the County is directing itís limited resources, thatís good. The main roads remain a priority. Even if I and my couple of Harbor neighbors have to trudge a bit to get over to say a plowed M-26 and up to the Inn, or into a copper town for "history tours" or grub, all is well.

My only current peeve, well the gruesome, star canopy obliterating streetlights remain a major nuisance (their only value being the ability to gauge the intensity of snowfall as snow streaks through their phosphorous beams), is the seemingly increasing propensity of the County Road Commission to send out the stamp sand or pulverized rock spreader truck rather than a plow. Why destroy the pristine beauty of our snow by blanketing it with black stamp sand or pulverized poor rock?

A drive through towns like Calumet or Mohawk in a thaw should convince anyone that this is sacrilege, sacrificing all that is so precious about Keweenaw snow for a bit of additional traction for folks who are already pretty adept at driving on snow packed roads. Itís bad enough that the beds of stamp sands, the awful legacy of our ancestorís (including my own mining family) days of disregard for environmental consequences are already despoiling our waters and beaches. Why add to the damage?

(It's sadly ironic, that while millions of our federal tax dollars are eagerly sought and received by local communities to "mitigate" the environmental hazards of local stamp sand deposits, our road commissions are eagerly digging it out and spreading it around our towns. Same for pulverized poor rock piles, also loaded with bad stuff. Makes no sense to me!)

I know salt or salt slurries are also saddled with environmental baggage, but at least they donít blacken the beautiful snow and leave ugle messes to be cleared up in the spring. Nor do they necessitate the destruction of the old mine poor rock piles, an important part of our historic landscape. So, roadway guardians, if you must cater to those who need, or insist, on a bit more roadway traction, why not use salt? (I add this just to let you know that I havenít lost my zeal to rant!)

But, itís truly too wonderful out my door to be ranting. Sure itís ghastly cold, causing my camp timbers and my bones to twitch and creak, but each time I tromp out to the buried and frozen woodpile or to the mailbox, I feel rejuvenated. Very cold lake effect snow is wonderfully squeaky underfoot and its icy crystals sparkle in even the diffused light of snow filled air. And itís beautifully draped over everything Ė so peaceful. Even the normally very skittish coyote and the two little red foxes that visit me almost everyday, pause for long periods atop the big plow built snow pile out front, gazing across the snow blanketed harbor and its now sleepy shore hugging little town, seemingly as mesmerized as I am by the wonder, serenity and beauty of it all.

As I finish this, little tornados of wind driven lake effect snow are swirling eastward across the new harbor ice, our first good ice, surely skateable if not so snow covered. As is characteristic of lake effect snow storms, breaks in the cloud cover allow occasional bursts of bright sunlight, transforming the swirls to magical whirling devils, the icy prisms reflecting all the colors of a rainbow. Itís so beautiful.

Yes, I am spoiled, but in such a wonderful way. .

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