One thing a lot of people hate about living in Syracuse is the snow. Our proximity to Lake Ontario means we are frequently the recipients of the Golden Snowball; our only real competition is Buffalo, but we’ve been crushing them for most of the last decade. In winter a term you’ll hear a lot around here is “lake effect”. Air currents pick up moisture off the lake—especially if the lake has warmth to drive the effect—and it dumps in narrow, shifting bands. The flakes produced by lake effect are usually big fluffy ones, and in thicker bands it can cause a squall.
I don’t hate the snow; I love it. It’s an important part of this time of year for me.
In a normal year, we get one very brief snowfall with light flakes in October; it often lasts less than half an hour and nothing sticks. In November, we usually have snow in earnest, which tends to start later in the month. It is not uncommon to have snow for Thanksgiving or Black Friday. Then we’re hit on and off unpredictably from December through March and sometimes April.
Last year was severely abnormal. I believe it was our warmest winter on record. Every week, there was at least one day above 40°. That’s not exactly warm, but it’s above freezing so it’s warm enough that snow doesn’t stick around, and we never even had much of that. So we had a winter that had a lot of gray and brown and some very dull green, and it was awful. This year we’re getting stiffed on the snow so far too, though I expect 2011-2012 was a fluke overall.
When we miss out on snow in December—it does happen plenty of years—I always hear people breathing sighs of relief that it isn’t snowing yet. The key word is “yet”. Last year was unusual; I expect never to see another winter like that in my lifetime. Usually if we’re stiffed on snow in December, we still catch up in the later months. And that’s why I can’t stand it when people proclaim their relief at the lack of December snow.
Well, that’s part of it. In Syracuse, we know we’re going to get snow one way or another. With the one all-time exception, it always comes. But this is Christmastime, when snow is most appreciated. This is when people are out Christmas shopping, listening to Christmas music on the radio, and getting ready for good times with family. So if we’re going to get a crapload of snow, this is when I want it. In January and February, there reaches a point where everyone has flipped a switch and is desperate for spring; that’s when you don’t want the snow, except perhaps as a distraction from how gray and miserable it is outside. And eventually I do reach the point where I get sick of even the pretty snow and need to find some spring again.
It’s gray out my window right now. The trees are bare; the grass is practically mocking me. Our neighbors haven’t hightailed it to Florida yet. Leftover rain is dripping off my roof. This sucks. If it can’t be snowing then at least I’d prefer it was sunny.
The channel 9 weather forecast says it’s going to be cold enough for snow the weekend before Christmas, with a 40% chance of precipitation both days. I hope they’re right and get righter, and it stays cold and snowy for at least a few days. Syracuse’s actual forecast horizon is about three days (sometimes not even that), after which things get murky, so I can’t take the forecast at face value. But I’m dreaming of a white Christmas here.