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The First Snow

FirstsnowI have seen a lot of first snows. I have also gone through a lot of years when there was never a first snow. Snow is an unusual thing. How it impacts your life depends a lot on where you live. We have lived in lots of places so our snow memories span everything from flurries to blizzards just as you might imagine.

Back in 1960 when I was in elementary school in Lewisville, North Carolina, I had my first serious experience with snow. In March 1960, it started on my birthday and snowed three straight Wednesdays. We hardly went to school that month. Those storms must have created a powerful pull on me. It took me at least twenty-seven years before I had enough snow to move back from Canada and end my sixteen years north of the border.

The first snow in New Brunswick often was a pretty serious one. It is the land of real snow. In November 1974, when we first moved to our farm, the snow was already on the ground. It never left until the middle of May the next year. You could drop something on the ground in October and not see it again until late the next spring.

That first winter we did a lot of snowshoeing and learned about breaking trail in very deep snow.  I had a ball with my cross-country skis on those beautiful trails. We only had a handful of cattle so there was time to enjoy the snow. We did buy a tractor mounted snowblower and it was to become an essential part of our lives.

Most mornings during the winter on the farm, I started the day by shoveling snow. It was not unusual for it to snow five or six inches during the night. The snowplows did not even bother with that tiny amount of snow. When it did not snow, there was usually snow sliding off the roof of the house. One way or the other you ended up shoveling for most of the winter. You learned that keeping up with the snow was a Canadian virtue that made life a lot easier in the snowy north.

Fast forward to 1989, and we are quickly approaching our first winter in Roanoke, Virginia. We have been back in the states for a couple of years after spending three years in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It started snowing on our mountainside above the Roanoke Valley in November just before Thanksgiving and the snow stayed until after Christmas.  We thought we were back in Canada. The road got so icy, everyone in the neighborhood banded together and chipped a single tire track down our half-mile long hill.  That was not our snowiest winter in Roanoke but it was a memorable one with an early first snow. We did live on a very steep hill which often frustrated even the VDOT snow plows.

After we moved to the North Carolina coast in 2006, we waited almost three years for our first snow. We never really got a lot of snow on the Carolina coast but it was enough to scare away anyone who feared snow flakes. I hauled my snow scoop that was so essential in Roanoke all the way to the coast. I used it once and that time I even had to dig out my hiking boots because my Crocs were too cold in the snow.

We caught the last of the winter here in the North Carolina foothills but there was only a dusting of snow before the grass started turning green. I suspect that might be the rule rather than the exception now that our winters have warmed. We certainly will not see one like the first snow in September 1973 that welcomed my wife to Nova Scotia.

If you are really hooked on snow, these pictures from December 2009, show that Roanoke has a pretty good history of snow. We even had some bigger ones that this April dusting.

I had happy to report that Highland County, Virginia, had its first snow of the season today, November 2, 2021. It came earlier than the first snow for many of my friends in Canada. Weather can be tricky.

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November 13, 2014