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Around 3 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2023, big flakes began falling in my neighborhood in Portland, Ore. I did not think much of it, because the normally accurate National Weather Service’s winter storm warning only called for one to three inches through the next day. And to my surprise it really started falling. By 6 p.m., when I called it a day working at home, nearly three inches of snow had already fallen, and the blowing flakes were still coming down, heavy and wet.
After a nice and soggy snow walk, I settled in, wondering what the next morning would bring.
Much like Bill Murray’s weatherman Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, who finally sees a new day that ends his torment in Punxsutawney, Penn., when I opened the blinds at 5:30 a.m., I saw a massive dump of snow had accumulated. It was far greater than predicted. Our regional weather data gatherers reported Portland recorded the second-largest snowfall in a single day by the time it all ended, with parts of the city recording up to 11 inches of white stuff.
For hundreds of thousands, this historic snowstorm did what we know happens here, by bringing the commute to a crawl. Most drivers in Portland don’t have good winter driving skills, and the excess of large vehicle owners driving recklessly, causing mishap, not to mention trucks jackknifing and shutting down the arterials, paralyzed the evening commute. Countless big and “manly” pick-ups” and SUVs were abandoned, as were the semis, and it turned into a saga of six-hour commutes for many workers. I really felt sorry for most. I had that happen before to me, in Portland’s February 2017 snowstorm. I counted my blessings, as I am now a telecommuter. I will never forget how lucky I was not to be risking my life to commute–it’s something I hated doing for years of my life.
Before my workday began, I did a nice three-quarter mile walk in my neighborhood, snapping the proverbial winter shots I often do and relishing the snowy quiet.
Local and state transportation officials were urging people to avoid driving if they could, which is impossible for tens of thousands of people who have to work, particularly if they are essential workers. But the icy conditions probably grounded many, and those who showed up showed up like they always do, because when you work, you show up if you aren’t privileged.
As the day ended, I did a fun run through a snow covered wooded trail. It was glorious. I also marveled at narcissistic behemoth vehicle owners gunning it 50 mph on ice covered streets as if they were immune from laws of physics. They always do that here, because that’s who they are. Mostly, I smiled at the teens enjoying the bliss of sledding on a popular sledding hill. Now that was how to make the most of the weather.