Katrina Stonoff

Dirty Snow

Fairbanks, Alaska, is magical in the wintertime. You can watch the light change almost daily as the days shorten and then lengthen. Snow falls in a myriad of different ways: big fluffy clumps, or little ice pellets, or multi-branched snowflakes, or my personal favorite—tiny, thin sheets of ice that look like mica. The wind blows the accumulation, changing the landscape regularly. And as the snow melts, it creates an always changing parade of gargoyles in the berms by the side of the road.

But toward the end of March, we’re ready for a change. 

My optimistic husband always announces at some point (usually in the middle of February) that the back of winter has been broken. I always laugh at him (and I’m always right). This year, he didn’t announce it even though we had a long string of ridiculously warm days. Instead, he waited until it turned cold and started snowing again, and then he told me he’d been so sure the back of winter was broken.Piles of dirty snow beside a road.

Today as I was driving to the gym though, I noticed the berms left by the snow plows were dirty, and I was surprised how much it thrilled me.

In the dead of winter, the berms appear to be pristine, but they’re not. They’re full of little bits of dirt and gravel, scraped off the road with the snow. As the snow melts away, the concentration of dirt increases, and eventually those mounds will look like hills of dirt — not snow at all. So dirty snow is one of the first harbingers of Spring.

In Washington State, we watched eagerly for the crocuses and the hyacinths, followed by daffodils and tulips, as a promise of Spring.

But we don’t get those here. Spring is extremely short (last year, I think it happened on a Tuesday), and everything blooms at once. 

So we celebrate dirty snow instead. Huzzah!



Categories: Weather Hope Snow

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