Snow Way

Per usual, our snow forecast for Tuesday-Wednesday was wrong. Per unusual, we got more snow than called for — more than double, in fact.

We had a gen-u-wine December snowstorm Tuesday night. I took my trusty tape measure out to the hood of my truck and then to the deck, and in both places the snow came in right at 7 inches. Which was a long way from the “1 to 3” that usually means “a skiff.”

I can also tell you it exceeded the “boot test,” in which I put on my new Muck Boots with their eight-inch sides and immediately dumped snow down one because when you lean into and out of seven inches of snow as you walk, eight inches is not tall enough. I had to break out my aging tall boots that haven’t been worn in years and years. Or we can say it matched the Bear Belly Test, since it came right up to Bear’s undercarriage.

It was even wet snow, not the whispery dry stuff we’ve learned to not expect as the predictions usually fail us lo these recent years. Good snowman (snowperson) snow, except that Lynn was not home to build one. And, as I was out with my tape measure, broom and shovel, I thought, “Now we just need it to get cold — like Lynn won’t want — and stay that way.”

But I didn’t even get the thought out of my head before the temperature got so warm I had to make yet another trip inside, this time to exchange my coat for a zip-up sweatshirt that I left unzipped. By the time I got to the roof at work I was even forswearing my gloves.

All our splendid snow started sliding off the pitched roof here at home by 8 a.m., avalanching down to land with a large “whoompf.” And now the snow was super sticky and heavy. Good for snowpeople; not fun for shoveling.

When I got to work Kara tiredly told me I had good timing, since she and James had just finished all the shoveling. “Not all,” I said virtuously, and headed for the roof.

The roof at work is my private domain, a place where I spend rather more time than I want. In the old days, I didn’t have too much cause to go up, because it would snow, get cold and stay that way. One winter when we got bonus snow my landlord got worried about the weight, so he and I and a couple random guys he located went up and shoveled all the snow off the roof, a roof which is surrounded on all sides by either sidewalk or building. If I recall correctly, my landlord was able to talk the city into cleaning up the sidewalk so that we didn’t have to shovel it all a second time.

Lacking my landlord’s powers of persuasion, I try not to dump any more snow off the roof onto the sidewalk than what seems necessary, but since the Great Flood of 2020 (I think it was), I pay a lot more attention up top than I used to.

That February, I started noticing a musty odor inside the shop that no one else was corroborating — until James noticed water leaking out of the ceiling in the corner near his desk. Then one day without warning the ceiling opened up right over our tie-dye rack in the retail area. That was the year Kara’s husband Geoff used a rubber mallet, on his knees, to hack up a full foot of built-up ice on the roof.

Geoff does not have a job I envy in the slightest. For three seasons of the year he is a landscaper, where the work is steady and regular enough that he can at least make a semblance of planning his day and providing for staff (if he can find anyone, which is a huge, huge problem everywhere in the valley these days). But come winter, he is a snow removal professional, where he can wait weeks for work and then do an entire month’s work in one day.

Like Wednesday, when he started at 1:45 a.m. He popped home briefly at 7:30, long enough to tell Kara he was way behind, and then she didn’t see him again until dinner. She doesn’t think he even stopped to eat.

Since the flood year, I don’t think I’ve needed him to go topside much, and certainly not required him to take up an entire ice floe by hand. That’s because I’ve run a heat cable from the drain at the back of the roof all along the trough at the midpoint of the building, which so far has stopped the ice from building up. As long as I go up to the roof every single time it snows.

Maybe it’s more luck than skill, especially since our “snowstorms” of late have generally failed to materialize at all, but when I reached the roof yesterday I could see an open channel all along the roof when the heat cable resides, and the only ice was directly along that channel, suggesting everything is working the way it should and water is draining off the roof rather than piling up just waiting to find a way through the membrane onto our retail goods or equipment.

But I did give the heat cable a hand, clearing a swath along its course, freeing up all the vents and other roof-top openings, and clearing my solar panels. Which meant numerous trips from the middle of the roof to the side, where I tried to drop it on the thin little strip between the building and the sidewalk and not on any passersby. But Kara still had to come out several times to clear off the sidewalk.

During one of my many breathers — I’m not as young as I was during the Great Removal of ’08 — I noticed a group of tourists, wearing bright-colored suede hiking boots that I’m sure they imagined, in their southern state, as being sufficient as well as cute, in the snow (and they would have been fine just one day before), trying to get an older member of their party from the street to the sidewalk through a vast minefield of slush and black water.

Several years ago the State of Colorado, in its infinite wisdom, did not listen to the concerns of local officials as they forced curb cuts with raised lumps of metal all along our Main Street, with the unpleasant result that during the winter access becomes problematic for even the most abled, let alone older visitors in boots that are more cute than useful in a seven-inch snowstorm.

When I got done with the roof, I then waded in my tall boots and snowpants into the streetside morass, and managed to funnel both water and slush into a drain that frequently is frozen and clogged but happily was open and functional. I couldn’t do much about the other corner, with gutter access blocked all the way down by piles of snow, but hopefully the visitor (and local) experience was made a little improved.

Today the sun is out, but this is supposed — supposed — to be the lull in the storm(s), with the forecast calling for two to three inches of snow every day for the rest of our lives. Given how inexact this “science” is, I guess we just wait and see how many more trips I’m making to the roof.

Perhaps it doesn’t look like much to you, but it took me nearly two hours to get the roof to this point.

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