Can you hear the snow melting?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012 - 21:59

April is almost gone and the small patch of ground that was to become a garden in my front yard is still covered by a foot of snow. My back yard, which receives about as much sun as the inside of the Whittier tunnel, has three feet of snow that will probably not melt until July.

Speaking of melting, it’s been going on for so long that I almost think I can hear it No, I don’t mean the incessant water dripping from the roof.  I mean piles of snow melting. It’s sort of a faint, hissing sound. Channel 2’s weather guru Jackie Purcell has the right words: evaporation, sublimation. I‘ve convinced myself that I can actually hear those processes. 

For the past two weeks my rain gutters have been working overtime. Once I got up on a ladder and cleaned out about 20 lbs. of leaves and twigs, they actually began to drain off water the way they’re supposed to. 

Attached to my down spouts are extenders to take water away from my foundation. I make furtive daily patrols into my crawl space to inspect for water incursion. Miraculously, it seems to be dry beneath the Visqueen.

I’ve seen people around Eagle River snow blowing their yards to give lawns a fighting chance. I’d have to rent one of the Municipality of Anchorage’s heavy-duty, monster snow blowers to clear my yard, or perhaps a U.S. Army issue flame thrower. 

A few days ago I was startled by a rare sight: A clean car. It was shiny red and looked like a Ford Mustang. The guy must have had it washed six minutes earlier. I’ve wanted to wash my truck for about a month because when I do it seems to drive better. But what’s the point?  

Of course, now it’s time to change tires. We only have two vehicles, so I always wonder why there are 13 tires stashed in the garage and in the storage shed. One of these years I’ll make a supreme effort to get rid of all the tires we never use, along with a lot of other stuff my wife thinks the kids will want someday.

Then there’s all that dirt and gravel that the muni deposited on the street during the winter. In just half a block, one could scoop up enough to start a small gravel supply operation that could compete with Klondike. I generally sweep it up rather than wait until the end of the summer when the muni finally gets around to it. 

You look at the blackened snow banks, leafless skeleton trees, trash on the side of the roads and dust flying around in the air and wonder if anything on earth could be uglier. Someone once actually calculated the weight and mass of doggy doo lying around after winter’s snow melts away. Even if I had the number, I wouldn’t share it. It’s just too disgusting — and equally depressing. 

The mountains of snow in Anchorage’s storage areas are impressive. You could set up a base camp and mount a small expedition. The piles might not entirely melt this summer. And if we have several big snow years in succession, glaciers will begin to form right in the middle of the city!

The transformation: But then suddenly, explosively, probably about 2:30 p.m. on  Saturday, May 12, green begins popping out everywhere. Our disdain for spring, at least the kind of spring we have here in Alaska, quickly fades. We earnestly, almost unconsciously, head outside and begin cleaning things up.

With the arrival of glorious summer, we take advantage of every minute of every hour of every day, because it goes faster than the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft. The grass in my lawn, for example, will probably enjoy a 10-12 week growing season. The small blooms of my perennial flowers will just have a chance to look up at the July sun and say “hi,” before August rains try to push them down to the ground and drown them. 

The cherry tree that I’ve been nursing for a year and a half will probably strain to grow an inch before muttering, in Peggy Lee fashion, “is that all there is?”

But that’s okay. We’ll take full advantage of the short summer and unfortunately,  we’ll spend part of it thinking about the oncoming winter. We’ll be preparing ourselves for another record snowfall. We’ll have bigger and better snow blowers; larger, sturdier snow shovels; we’ll pay more attention to roofs and rain gutters. As I’ve said in a past column, it’s all-out war.

But we have to get through spring first, with all the mud, dust, doggy doo and that noisy, infernal melting.


Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.

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