Thursday, December 18, 2008

A "Real" Winter?

Technically, it's still (very) late Autumn, but Winter has returned to the Puget Sound area. And, as usual, brought the place to a complete standstill. It snows only rarely in this part of the country (and, for that matter, this part of Washington State). As a result, there is very little in the way of snow removal equipment to be found in the area. The price that we pay for not having plows and sanders sitting around unused for years at a time is that more than an inch or two of snow completely snarls the entire area.

Normally, we get what are perhaps best termed "Weekend Winters." The classic example is one, maybe two inches (but usually less) of snow on a Saturday that's then almost completely gone in time for Monday's morning rush hour. You might see some snow in a yard or in a park, but pretty much everywhere else, it's already melted into runoff. This time, we weren't so lucky. It's not liable to warm up for a while, which means that we're going to be iced over for some time.

It's something of an inconvenience, to be sure. But I wonder about the effect that this is having on the local homeless. One of the first things that I noticed, the first time I went into downtown Seattle, was the relatively large number of homeless people. I'm sure that compared to someplace like Los Angeles, we don't have a problem. But being originally from Chicago, I wasn't all that well acquainted with the issue. Not that Chicago doesn't have its share of homeless people, but I'd never seen all that many. In a place where the summers and winters can be randomly brutal (sometimes REALLY brutal) life on the street can easily double as a death sentence. (We had a pair of somewhat morbid sayings: "It's not a 'real' heat wave/cold snap until there's a body count." The body count in question commonly referred to people who never left their homes, or people who didn't have them.) Seattle, with it's much more clement climate, is considerably more hospitable to the involuntarily out-of-doors. While the rainy season is annoying (I'm understating that, I know), it's not immediately lethal in the way a week of 20 below zero temperatures can be.

It's been snowing, off and on, for about 24 hours now. Watching the white stuff float down on the wind, and realizing that it will be next week before the "warm" weather returns, I have the sinking feeling that we might be in for a "real" Winter, this time. At least for a week.

No comments: