This Winter Has Left Me Nearly Speechless

A long sentence by Jon Klusmire • Originally published in The Sheet in Mammoth Lakes

But not quite because how on God’s green earth turned snow white can anyone be quiet while looking out on a sunny Bishop day while pondering how 40-plus feet of snow swamped Mammoth and swallowed houses and closed Yosemite National Park while by some miracle of heavy equipment and muscle power a huge ski hill with dozens of lifts keeps chugging away and hauling paying customers and hard-core locals up the slopes without losing any of them and also giving them rooms at the inn and food just like their business counterparts in Mammoth Lakes who somehow keep showing up and keep serving up burgers and coffee and pizza and tacos while also keeping asphalt open to hotels and motels and B&Bs and condos so more skiers and boarders and gape-mouthed SoCal beach lovers can enjoy a real winter with more snow than Santa has to wade through to feed those skimpy reindeer at the North Pole

Yes, Santa has to do it because at the North Pole there is so much snow the elves can’t even get out of their elf houses just like about half of Mammoth Lake residents who are as we speak exiting big-person domiciles through second floor windows unless they are lucky enough to have industrial strength snow blowers and a beefy snow blower operator to push the damn thing through neck deep snow time after time after time to create a little trail to a door in between huge piles of snow which make run-of-the-mill houses look like the magical places hairy footed hobbits live while eating two or is it three breakfasts a day which is about all anyone can do when snowed in like the hearty souls in Mono City who survived being snowed in with no power for days because it’s tough in the West and they live in the West so they are by definition tough

Images credit: Dakota Snider

Just like the dozens of snowplow and snow blower drivers and backhoe and front-end-loader operators who have been hauling ass and hauling snow out of Mammoth Lakes and off US 395 for days full of overtime and whiteouts while working cheek and jowl with Mammoth cops and CHP officers and Mono County deputies and the search and rescue crews who do not even snicker when yanking misguided and then snowbound motorists out of danger from Big Pine to Benton after the techno-twits decided to believe the online mapping app which somehow assured them that even though the major four-lane United States Highway 395 is closed due to too much snow or zero visibility it’s a safe bet to take a wimpy little two-lane state highway in the middle of nowhere which led to dramatic rescues and Mono County Sherriff Ingrid Braun going viral with a Facebook/Instagram post affirming all the roads are closed and there are no alternatives or sneaky local routes to be found which led her down the road to viral fame when she became probably the first sheriff in California to be tagged as “sassy” by the San Francisco Chronicle

The Chronicle flogged Sierra snow stories harder than a big-city severed-head-found-in-the-park crime story which was also overshadowed by the news that this is a record year for snow and Oh My God look at Lake Tahoe it is buried and then came The Drama of Snowbound Residents in San Bernardino County fighting through seven feet of snow with is pretty much called a dusting on Tuesday in Mammoth Lakes at this point and truth be told a minor dusting of 12 inches is really all that happened in Bishop even though I whimpered and whined like a sixth grader asked to pick dirty socks up off the floor when burdened with the chore of shoveling about one foot of snow off nearly 12 feet of sidewalk and shoveling two feet of snow plowed off the street next to my car

Images credit: Mammoth Mountain / Peter Morning

When the chore was complete in about 40 minutes, the neighbors and I compared storm notes. This inevitably brought up the Big Winter of 1969, which makes all the old geezers and snow wizards stamp their feet and declare that 1969 was the biggest snowpack ever. This merely gets raised eyebrows from the snow gurus at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, who acknowledge 1969 was quite a year and seems to be the winner. But the snowpack measuring techniques from that era are a bit dated and there were no automated snow pillows and fewer snow courses. So LADWP considers 2017 the biggest snowpack year in the Eastern Sierra, which is going to be eclipsed probably this week when atmospheric river number 10 or 11 or whatever arrives in time to take the snowpack well above the 200% of average on the April 1 target date

That is a lot of snow that will turn into a lot of water that will guarantee that Keeping Long Valley Green won’t be very hard this year. The coyotes will have to swim with inflatable water wings to get to the gulls on Negit Island in Mono Lake, which might start rising sooner than usual if the forecast is right. And there will be rain instead of snow this weekend at about 7,000 feet, which will melt tons of low-elevation Sierra snow into surging waves of runoff that could lead to flooding and debris flows. All of which would just be the cherry on top of this sloppy sundae of a winter

Jon Klusmire of Bishop is trying to take a breath.


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