It feels like we've experienced this winter day before, but something is different

Charles Owens

It is a day that I have lived through before. I guess you can say I’m experiencing a mild case of deja vu.

It is a cold and dark January morning, and I am awakened to a winter wonderland outside of the bedroom window. It’s a work day, and there was no mention in the forecast the night before of snow — any snow — for that matter. Yet, the driveway outside is completely covered with snow, along with the secondary roadway below.

I didn’t plan on having to shovel snow on this particularly morning. But I have lived this day before.

In fact, I can think of several times before when the official meteorologist has completely blown the forecast. How did he or she not foresee all of this snow that was coming?

•••

It’s Monday morning, Jan. 11, and quite a bit of snow is falling in Bluefield. I look outside of the Daily Telegraph’s conference room, and Bluefield Avenue is more or less snow covered.

This is unusual because — once again — there was no mention of snow in the official forecast. In fact, the forecast suggested rain was possible. But it was too cold outside for rain. I guess everyone knew this except for the National Weather Service. The good news is that after a couple of hours, the snow finally ends. There was never any rain.

•••

Flashback to Christmas Eve 2020. Already, it feels like it was an eternity ago.

A big snowstorm was in the forecast, but it was a mild 51 degrees outside, according to the digital thermometer in the Jeep. It’s also raining, but a winter storm warning is still in effect. You want to prepare for the storm, but you also must wonder if the forecast is wrong.

It can’t snow, after all, when it is 51 degrees outside. So I assume the National Weather Service must have got the forecast wrong. Just to play it safe, I double check the forecast on my cellphone. In a few seconds, I’m reminded that a winter storm warning is still in effect. But now, instead of 4 to 7 inches of snow, my phone is simply saying 1 to 3 inches of snow. That reaffirms my earlier belief. The weatherman got the forecast wrong, but instead of admitting that he (or she) was wrong, the weather service has simply downgraded the predicted snow accumulation totals from 4 to 7 inches to now 1 to 3 inches.

But it is a day that I have lived before. So I know how this story is going to end.

Just like clockwork, as the sun sets and dusk emerges, the temperature outside drops. And it is quite a dramatic drop on this particular day. We plunge from 50 degrees to 30 degrees and falling. The rain, which is still falling, suddenly turns to snow. Almost as quickly as the change over from rain to snow occurs the ground is subsequently covered with snow. And the snow keeps on falling.

By 8 p.m., there is already a good 1 to 3 inches of snow on the ground, and the winter storm outside is still going strong. By 10 p.m., it looks we have a good 3 to 6 inches of snow outside in our sheltered valley, and we are closing in on the original prediction of 4 to 7 inches of snow.

The weather service was right all along. I swear I have lived this day, and this same snowstorm, before.

I wake up the following morning —Christmas Day — to a whole lot of snow on the ground, and light snow is still falling. But that doesn’t last long. The sun eventually comes out, although it is still extremely cold. I venture outside with a snow shovel, and begin a ritual I have repeated far too many times in life. I shovel out the driveway, and create a path to the main road below. It’s not an easy job, but it has to be done. Soon I have created a path, and I hope that sunshine and warmer temperatures will finish the job.

Of course not, as I’ve experienced this day before as well. It goes like this. The weather forecast says the snow is over, but as soon as I’m finished digging out a path, here comes the snow again. It’s a mini whiteout of sorts. Within an hour or so, everything I have shoveled out is covered with snow again. Never mind the fact that the weatherman said the storm was over. 

This, too, has happened to me before. It feels like a bad case of deja vu.

But there is a difference this time around. It’s winter during a global pandemic. The last time this happened was back in 1918 and 1919.

I never expected I would live through a pandemic. And I never imagined I would experience a pandemic that others didn’t take seriously. So that’s where my feeling of deja vu ends. This is all new, even snow on Christmas. The horrific year that was 2020 is finally over, but we are still dealing with the plague that defined that otherwise dark year. Oh, and we started 2021 with an angry mob storming the U.S. Capitol.

That, too, is new. So much for the deja vu argument.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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