In Our View: Winter Games Visit County

While Olympians toil in Sochi, Russia, our area revels in a rare snowstorm



There likely wasn’t any ski jumping, and hopefully no biathlon — at least not in populated areas — but Clark County just endured it own version of the Winter Games. As any resident of any reasonably hilly street in the area can attest, the past couple days have been replete with plenty of luge and bobsled competitions, with maybe some skiing and snowboarding thrown in.

Area residents might not be deluged with snow very often, but we know how to take advantage of it when it piles up. And pile up it did. The three-pronged winter storm that now has turned into a big thaw dropped several inches of snow on every part of the metro area, with Ridgefield, Woodland, and Salmon Creek each compiling an estimated 12 inches — a veritable blizzard for this part of the country. There was snow, then more snow, then freezing rain, topped off by rain.

The snowfall was unusual, but the timing was serendipitous as it coincided with the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where snow makers have been working for months to ensure there is enough of the white stuff for the Games to take place. (Fun fact: Sochi’s climate is such that it supports palm trees.) So, while American athletes took on the world in a resort city with a subtropical climate — we’re still trying to make sense of that one — local weekend warriors took to the streets for their own fun and games.

Most students — and teachers — were blessed with a four-day weekend one week before an extended holiday weekend. One of these days, they might actually have a five-day school week, which likely will be welcomed by parents with a sigh of relief.

More important, local drivers seemed to adjust well to the snowfall. Local residents frequently are the butt of jokes from outsiders who wonder whether there are more flakes in the air or behind the wheels, but for the most part the latest storm was handled with aplomb. The key, it would seem, is that Thursday and Friday brought unusually dry snow for this area, which led to little ice on the roads and easy traction. You see, we aren’t poor drivers — so long as the snow cooperates.

Now, however, after being taught one of our infrequent lessons in snowstorms and the winds of winter, we can brace for a primer in floods and how they work. Temperatures are expected to rise quickly and result in rapid snowmelt, which will send water flowing into creeks and rivers. It doesn’t appear to be the perfect confluence of conditions that resulted in widespread flooding throughout the Northwest in 1996, but it will bear watching.

And it will serve as a reminder of why many of us choose to live in this part of the world. Many parts of the United States are burdened by oppressive humidity during the summer and bitter cold during the winter. Others accept afternoon downpours as a daily occurrence. And still others — such as California — are suffering through historic droughts.

For us, the fact that a couple days of mild snow can be viewed as unusual is a blessing. The incessantly mild climate of the Northwest is one of the region’s biggest selling points — proof that we complain about the rain simply to keep others from moving here.

The idea of a “perfect storm” is one in which several factors come together to make for apocalyptic conditions. We have different ideas. For us, a couple days of snow followed by warming rain is, indeed, perfect. And it is ideal for a few days of Winter Games.