December 5, 2009
The forecast called for snow. Several inches of snow. The weathermen were about to pee their pants with excitement. On the news there were lists of school closings and business closings. Reporters were sent out into the field to search for snowflakes. We were told to protect plants, pets and pipes (not necessarily in that order). The feeling of impending doom hung in the air like the blooms of a brugmansia.
Welcome to the first freeze in Austin, Texas, a.k.a. BLIZZARD 2009: YOU DIE. Maybe the weathermen here go a little crazy in the summer giving the same forecast day after day after day (sunny and hot). Whatever the case, when we are forecast to have freezing weather and especially SNOW, all hell breaks loose here.
I grew up in Coldwater, Kansas and lived in Canyon in the northern panhandle of Texas for 4 years, so I’m used to snow and ice. Unless the snow drifts made opening the front doors of the school impossible, the cancellation of classes was unheard of. That’s not the case in Central Texas. My first year here in Austin (1984) I was working as the office manager at Austin Pump and Supply Co. in South Austin. The forecast called for snow and the people in the office were jumping up and looking out the windows like whack-a-moles every few seconds in anticipation of the inclement weather. When the snow did start in the early afternoon, you could cut the anxiety in the air with a plastic windshield ice-scraper. After about 100 flakes drifted by, the business owner shut the place down and told us to go home before the roads became too treacherous to drive. I laughed to myself as I climbed into my old ’67 Cougar, “This is bad weather? These people are nuts.” On the drive home, it all became clear; it wasn’t the snow that was dangerous, it was the other drivers. It was like something out of an Armageddon movie out there. Everywhere you went there were abandoned cars. Cars in ditches, on sidewalks, front yards, facing the wrong way and crumpled in piles at the bottoms of hills. My laughing started anew as I crawled past dozens of cars spinning out of control at the bottom of a small hill, wheels spinning wildly as the owners gunned the engines in a futile attempt to gain traction, the bald tires on my car making easy work of the Austin hills.
My roommates, having also been sent home early from work, were waiting at home when I arrived. Chris and Patty had moved down here from Canyon with me. Patty grew up there and Chris had grown up just outside of Indianapolis so none of us were strangers to snow. We had quite a time sharing our disbelief at what constituted a blizzard here in Central Texas. It was a Friday afternoon and we couldn’t believe our good fortune at having an unexpected 3-day weekend! Visions of partying at Club Foot, shopping at the malls and eating out in the restaurants danced in our heads. Turning on the tv, we saw that the regular programming had been pre-empted on every channel by weathermen excitedly telling us about the hundreds of car wrecks (the highway was shut down in both directions) and the 1/4″ accumulation of snow on the ground. The next day, the entire city was shut down. Streets and highways looked like used car lots with cars parked in dizzying disarray. The malls, gas stations and even the HEB Grocery Stores were shut down. Though the sun was shining and a quarter inch of snow glistened in the light, not a single human could be seen on the streets.
Welcome to winter in Central Texas. Last week it was in the 70’s and this morning it was 26. We got a little flurry of snow yesterday afternoon for about 15 minutes, followed by several hours of sun. That was enough to close schools and send usually mild-mannered people into a tizzy. Next week we’ll probably be back to skinny-dipping at Lake Travis. This is the life.
And now here is the photographic proof of the dramitic results of DeathStorm ’09. ::cue the music::
Alison Moyet’s “Winter Kills”
“Green in your love on bright days I grew sun-blind
I thought you unkind to remind me how winter kills…”
::cue the drama::
And here it is. If you look VERY closely you might see a couple of white flakes of snow falling in the backyard. What? You don’t see it? Try hitting yourself on the head really hard with a hammer. Now do you see spots???
So we missed the snow, but we did get the first freeze, a HARD freeze, of the season. I woke up around 6:30 to a temperature of 27 degrees. Is this a pathetic sight or what? Poor old banana trees. If you listen closely you can almost hear them crying. They’ll die back a bit but next year they’ll be back stronger than ever.
Moldy Pentas? No, it’s frost.
I debated bringing in the Bolivian Jew. I probably should have, but they grow so fast I’ll just replace it with another in the spring (just over months away).
“Goodbye cruel world”. This was a depressing sight. The little bowtie vine was covered in blooms yesterday. Look at that sad, hanging flower.
The jellybeans looks perfectly happy this morning.
Won’t be needing to mow for a while.
Now that’s just pathetic.
Frost on the passionflower vine.
This kinda sucked because the red hibiscus just had it’s first bloom about a week ago and has been blooming like crazy for the past few days. He’ll be back next year though.
Anyone for some frozen cabbage?
Looks like somebody rolled the purslane in sugar.
Are those germs in a petri dish? Nope, it’s frost on the beet greens.
I’d rather have ice on my rice paper tree than frost on my tetrapanax. Har de har har.
Another sad banana. This one is hardy to 10 degrees and has been known to grow as far north as Canada, so no worries, he’ll be back too.
the crumpled party dress of a debutante.
Sad, sad, sad. Frost is a very sad thing. It’s a very sad thing, frost. So now what are you gonna do now that Brugmansia is dead?
The frost has magically bronzed the zinnia blooms.
The castor bean plants seem to be saying “Mr. Frost, ya big meanie, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Poor dead, exotic bird on the walkway. Oh wait, it’s just a canna.
Yesterday these were chartreuse.
The frosty blooms of the giant dianthus.
Blooms through the frost.
What a perfect summary for the post. The head of my former arch-nemesis, frozen in the bird bath in the back yard. “You’ll never cross me again, damn knave!”
That’s all folks. It’s almost warm enough to get out there and start chopping down and clearing out the carnage. Fortunately I have a couple of empty compost bins ready for the bounty.
Happy gardening everybody. Be sure to keep your digits warm. Until next time.