A high of fifty-five degrees Fahrenheit and a low of thirty-one. Those were the average temperatures in Oklahoma City on February 16th, 2021. The average temperature was below normal from February 8th to February 16th and showed no signs of stopping. The high temperature had not reached above single digits in three days; as well as dipping into frigid negative temperatures at some points during the days and many times during the nights.
The temperatures had only been a portion of the unusual weather. On February 8th, residents began having to deal with a thin coating of ice on roads; this began to clear up by the 10th. On February 13th the beginnings of a record breaking snowstorm began to flutter from the sky; this continued into that divisive day of red things and loving feelings, becoming a sky cascade of coating, unsweet sugar by the middle of the afternoon. On the 15th, the quieting blanket of precipitation had come to an end; leaving much of the city in an involuntary stupor of immobility. The next day, people, as they do, began to venture out; some with apprehensive caution, others with misplaced confidence; it wasn’t hard to tell them apart. As the daylight took it’s leave that day, it was replaced by the appearance of a fresh and generous layering of that equally loved and equally hated substance from the sky. This snow would continue into the evening.
Utility workers watched surrounding maps of Oklahoma, and it’s neighbors, as in scattered pockets of neighborhoods and in broad swaths of towns, bulb filaments and heating elements were turned off without their owners permission.
From the eyes of migrating American Robins, spiraling patterns of people lined up outside of grocery stores; carrying the clawing hunger and hope of satiation of both them and their young.
Those lacking the shelter that should have been theirs by their very nature, were offered temporary walls of life-preserving protection by both those declared to care for them, as well as those neighbors that saw a need which demanded to be filled.
The luckiest ones tried to close their doors and windows just a little bit tighter. They wore layers upon layers in an attempt to stave off what winter managed to leak through the cracks of their homes.
All this but glimpses of life interrupted as the snow drifted through the air; and as the snow piled on the ground, and as the snow muted the routines and lives under it.
Of course, books were devoured as quickly as reserves of food. Expectedly, sleds were brought out and raced with joyous abandon. Predictably, ounce upon ounce of coffee was brewed and savored. And like a promise, collective wishes of normalcy permeated the air in between the floating flakes.
Unknown to the drinkers, the racers, the brewers, the wishers, the lucky ones, the unsheltered, the robins, the workers, the drivers, and all the others, this winter would continue to grow.
On February 19th, the storm would continue in its expansion. It would continue with intensifying frigidness; it would continue with accelerating magnitude; it would continue with escalating catastrophe. This winter would continue for one hundred and nineteen years as soot and ash replaced the dancing flakes of so many children’s dreams. This winter would continue unchecked; unaware, and unremorseful. This winter had no goal. This winter was the child of hate, the offspring of greed, and the fruit of selfishness.
To have the ability to return to another time and change a decision, or to influence a person, or persuade a government might be able to course correct this impending destiny, but it would be unnecessary if such a terrible destiny was born of a little imagination and too much snow.
The haphazard dam that was made up of humanity’s fear, wisdom, and restraint, had been constructed at the same pace that the river-flow of humanity’s evolving technologies had increased throughout the decades. Eventually, the miniscule cracks in the dam ruptured when time’s open and generous offer of rue and rectification had closed. Time had withdrawn it’s intervening hands, and destiny had inserted its own.
To deal with weather that is atypical and unusual for a region is one thing. It’s quite another thing to deal with it for so many consecutive days that you literally begin to feel as if your daily routines have been upended and the comfort of familiarity has been pulled out from under you.
Experiencing frigid temperatures and watching the snow falling for the second time in such a short period of days, in a place that rarely sees snow anyways, has been a little bit like a nightmare with too many displacement themes. It’s very easy to allow the feeling of being in another place to overwhelm you when the place you’re familiar with is just gone. It’s easy to let imagination step in and begin to wonder, what if this was the beginning of a nuclear winter?
Looking now, Canada can confidently say they have Oklahoma Beaten with temperatures getting down to -20. I’m not saying I think Oklahoma is colder; I’m saying it’s very strange to be in a place that should be sunny and in the mid thirties, to have 10+ inches of snow on the ground and wind-chills in the negative teens. It’s beginning not to feel like Christmas anymore, but to feel just a bit like an alien landscape, and this frozen astronaut is ready to go home.