Dec
20

Snow Day

By

We got snow!   While I realize that our little meterological adventure was nothing compared to what the East Coast of the US has gone through, not to mention northern Europe (stories of the trains trapped under the Channel inspire a special kind of shudder), it still was  enough to jolt us out of our midwinter torpor.

This was our wake-up call.

This was our wake-up call.

Even here, flights were cancelled, or delayed, and I have no doubt that stories of catastrophes on the mainland will be coming in.

But for us, the situation was more beautiful than distressing, if you don’t count our miscalculation on getting home before the acqua alta was high enough to mostly cover our feet.   (Yes, we were warned: two tones on the sirens.   But I didn’t take it seriously.)   Sorry about my Timberland hiking boots; hope I can salvage something from the effects of salt water.

We usually get at least one severe cold snap each winter, though it seems to want to wait till just after Christmas.   So this year we got it early.   For the past few days it’s been at or below freezing and Saturday morning we woke to the double-whammy of snow and acqua alta.  

Two hours later, the scene had changed.  One good thing about acqua alta is that at least it removes the snow.

Two hours later, the scene had changed. One good thing about acqua alta is that at least it removes the snow.

When  Lino was a lad, as soon as the flakes began  to fall, men would present themselves at the central office of the Vigili (a sort of local police) to pick up a shovel and make some extra money cleaning the streets and bridges.   He says you could hear them out on the street, talking, as early as 4:00 AM,  waiting to get to work. Intensely  intelligent and also effective and probably didn’t cost the city all that much.   All good reasons why they don’t do it anymore.

Our faithful trash collectors  were scarce to invisible this morning.   Any tiny deviation from the norm throws the squad into total disarray.   No snow shoveled, no garbage collected — I can’t believe that every sanitation worker in the city had to be in the Piazza San Marco to set up the high-water walkways.   Perhaps they were all clustered in a doorway (more likely it was a warm bar somewhere) drawing straws to determine who’d be the one who had to go out and actually work.

I have some happy, if highly eccentric, memories of a real cold snap here.   One winter morning a number of years ago, when the cold had come down from Siberia like the wolf on the fold, we went out rowing.   Yes, of course we’re mentally unstable.    

This time it wasn't fog that made the city look like this.  Blowing snow is also pretty effective for blurring the scenery.

This time it wasn't fog that made the city look like this. Blowing snow is also pretty effective for blurring the scenery.

Here’s what I remember:   Rowing down a canal and our oars slicing neatly (once in, once out) through the forming ice.   What a fun little crunching sound it made.   What wasn’t quite so fun was the wind blowing so hard that the spray from the waves froze in the bottom of the boat.   I spent the entire time we were rowing back  imagining that my shoes were nailed in place, because it was like standing on a skating rink.   If I’d slipped just once, I’d never have gotten my footing back.   I took my mind off this problem by trying to imagine if it would be possible to row on my knees.  

But that was nothing.   There was the famous — make that “epic” freeze of February, 1929: people were walking across the lagoon from the Fondamente Nove to San Michele.   Impressive.   Of course, one reason that happened (and probably could never happen again) isn’t just the factor of the degrees below zero.   There wasn’t the constant maelstrom of waves back then that we have today, which would prevent any rational water from freezing.   If you’ve got a really low temperature, few or no waves, plus only the tiniest tidal variation (twice a month, when the moon is exactly  half, the tide scarcely moves, which would help the freezing, obviously) it’s almost inevitable that ice will form.   I have to say I’m glad we didn’t reach that point.   Delicate little skins of ice covering the water is one thing, but not this polar purgatory.

 

 
 

So on the whole, we made out really well.   The snow came, and then, when the tide turned in the early afternoon, the sun came out and we were fine.   Except, I mean, for the bags of garbage which will lie out there till Monday.  

The lions in front of the Arsenal were not amused.  "Remind me again how we ended up here, surrounded by water?  Oh, right: spoils of war.  Great."

The lions in front of the Arsenal were not amused. "Remind me again how we ended up here, surrounded by water? Oh, right: spoils of war. Great."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As long as you don't have to drive, scenes like this are really beautiful.

As long as you don't have to drive, scenes like this are really beautiful.

 

The guys who run the bumper cars at the temporary amusement park on the Riva dei Sette Martiri have to clean up the old-fashioned way: physical exertion.

The guys who run the bumper cars at the temporary amusement park on the Riva dei Sette Martiri have to clean up the old-fashioned way: physical exertion.

 

 

Eventually at least a couple of ecological operators, as they're called, had to get out and do something. The Barbie-sized wheelbarrow appears to contain enough salt for exactly one bridge.

Eventually at least a couple of ecological operators, as they're called, had to get out and do something. The Barbie-sized wheelbarrow appears to contain enough salt for exactly one bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the gondoliers who didn't come to work in the Bacino Orseolo are just going to wait for it to melt, then bail.

All the gondoliers who didn't come to work in the Bacino Orseolo are just going to wait for it to melt, then bail.

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Categories : Nature, Water

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