I am not a native to the PNW. I will never be a lifer. I came here from decades in sunny Scottsdale, AZ and sparkly, smoggy Los Angeles, CA. However, My roots are midwestern, born and raised in Chicago, IL.
This gives me a unique perspective on people, life, climate and geography. I grew up living through snow storms of monumental proportion. I learned to shovel, snow-blow and salt before I hit puberty. I know how to flawlessly navigate a vehicle in ice and sleet. I am not even a little afraid of weather.
Until now. For the past three winters, I have lived here in Bothell, WA. It has snowed, iced over, and shut down the entire region every single year. This year was obviously the longest and worst. But snow, panic and freaked out drivers are not a PNW anomaly.
Unless you ask anyone who is from here. “I don’t understand why they don’t plow the side streets,” I’ll often mention in local conversation. “If we cleared and salted the streets effectively, the busses could take the kids to school. And we could avoid the plethora of car wrecks we see year after year by drivers careening into other drivers due to the ice sheets that form across the entire transportation grid.” Invariably the answer I get is, “But it never snows here.”
Well, I beg to differ. As I mentioned above, it has snowed, closed the schools, created havoc in the streets, and shut down the airport every winter I have lived here. So in fact, it does snow here. And I would venture to guess that if you literally calculated the lost revenue this region experiences every time we all get snowed in, you would find that it would cost a whole lot less to invest in a few snow plows and some salting machines. They actually make snowplows that retrofit to garbage trucks for those of you who insist we don’t have the room to store fleets of snow removal machines. Really, this is a pretty simple fix.
But what gets me more than the incompetence of snow removal plans, process and personnel here is the blatant rudeness of my Bothell neighbors as we nearly froze to death in our crappy little rental house. First let me say that I have never lived anywhere else where power outages were as constant and irritating as they are here. Whether it’s rain, wind, snow, sleet, micro aggressions, the power outages here in the Puget Sound are frequent. I have also never lived anywhere that didn’t have access to heat via radiators, gas furnaces, or central heat and air.
So this past summer when the temperatures hit upwards of 105 degrees, we were more than a little uncomfortable. I did learn an important lesson, however. While residing in one of the most expensive real estate locales on the planet, dig deeper when presented with atypical affordability options for a rental lease.
Likewise, with all electric heat and power, when you have an outage for days on end, you will get hungry, cold and filled with a certain sense of panic. Welcome to my world. My children were out of school for two full weeks! We couldn’t buy a shovel or salt to save our lives. The supermarkets ran out of eggs, milk and bread. And my neighborly neighbors who all have generators, acknowledged what a bummer it must be for me, my kids and dogs who were holed up in a freezing bungalow as the temperatures fell to the low 20s.
Did anyone invite us over for vegan chilli, fair trade coffee, or a mere cup of filtered hot water? No, they did not. What? You don’t actually think this Seattle freeze thing is real, do you? My neighbors turned their backs and fled into their comfy, climate-controlled houses while I stood staring at them in the snowy street with utter disbelief.
This was truly disheartening. The reality is that a multitude of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances from Edmonds did open their homes, offer their beds, and welcome our popsicle pups for sleepovers. The problem is, we had no way to get there.
Our truck was crashed on the side of the road a few blocks away after hurtling across a plane of ice into a parked car. My little yellow Fiat did not have a prayer of escaping the garage (whose door was locked shut anyway due to the power outage.) And when the guys in the hood snortled about the last time the power was out for nine days, I was sincerely frightened for my kids’ and dogs’ safety and well being.
I know I could’ve broken down and asked any of my Edmonds’ pals to trek over in their trusty Subarus. But I’m a proud woman and I didn’t want people to laugh at me for being scared. I also felt like I’d bring shame to my midwestern heritage by crying uncle in two feet of snow.
So we burrowed under blankets, ate defrosted veggie lasagna and a whole lot of pretzels and Mini Wheats. And we survived. But not without a lot of sadness. It’s hard to find a community. It’s hard to feel alone. It’s hard not to live in Edmonds. Be grateful for your friends, your neighbors, and your amazing community. You are truly blessed.
Debra, sorry that your experience has been so disheartening. As a transplanted Coloradan in Portland via DC, I’ve also found it amazing how everything shuts down with snow (or just fear of). But I’m more sorry about your experience with your neighbors. If you were in Portland, I’d say we were on the same street! While I have many friends who have better experiences here, we’ve been amazed at the surface friendliness that never actually extends to anything meaningful…and I’m not talking about crisis situations like yours. Hope you can move to a new neighborhood in Edmonds and find some community!
Thanks for the reinforcement, Sarah. We are actually moving to Oklahoma City this summer and hoping for a friendlier reception. Fingers crossed!