Saturday, February 26, 2011

S'no Go for SF Snow

That's my front yard, all right, but it is a photo taken by my father in 1976.

Everybody was all excited about the possibility of snow in San Francisco--and the Bay Area--this weekend. Though we live up against the Coast Range, it only snows down here at sea level about once every twenty or thirty years.

We knew, whatever happened, we wouldn't have to worry about shoveling it. Unlike the residents of, say, Minneapolis, where a friend of mine told me she had endured eighty inches of snow this winter and the roof and sides of her home are so covered with the stuff she feels as if she lives in a snow cave.

For us--the cities circling San Francisco Bay--it was just the novelty of the thing. Alas, alack and Alaska: It appears that big storm from up Fairbanks way didn't quite materialize as predicted.

Back in the twentieth century, when I was but a youth, we had one Sunday when the snow really did fall here in Los Altos, California and stuck to the ground.

That is me in the scarf and my sister in the ski sweater, throwing snowballs at our father the photographer. © Robin Chapman

I remember the day so clearly. We had a neighbor from St. Paul, Minnesota who had moved in across the street and she and my mother sat chatting in the living room as the snow flakes drifted down.

"It's snowing!" I kept pointing out the big picture windows. "It's snowing out there!"

My mother and the neighbor were not impressed. Finally the lady said to me:

"It is just snow, for heaven's sake. Don't be so excited."

I left the room in disgust. Maybe they saw a lot of snow in St. Paul, where she grew up, and in Spokane, where my mother grew up--but where I grew up, this was front page stuff. (I guess I was a born reporter).

My father, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, was able to get excited about it, and he joined my sister and me outside for some fun. He, being a boy, wanted to throw snowballs at everyone. We, being girls, just wanted to get pictures.

Here is the side yard of our house--the house where I live today--on that one snow day, way back when. © Robin Chapman

Later, when I moved to Washington D.C., I still found snow an interesting novelty. It doesn't snow much there either, and it always meant some producer would send me out to stand in the stuff with a television crew and say: "I'm here at the Silver Springs Metro station, and it is snowing heavily ..." Once I said to my news director, "But they know it is snowing. What do I have to go out and stand in the stuff?" And he gave me a very good answer: "Robin," he said. "This is television."

Bethesda, Maryland and the little house I owned back then, when I worked as a reporter in Washington, D.C.

I was looking forward to a little flurry of it out here in Northern California. Not enough to shovel. No requirement that I go broadcast in it. But, for now, we will have to be content to enjoy the snow only in our memories and our imaginations. And, I have come to believe this is probably the very best way to enjoy a heavy snowfall.

That's Bessie and me in Bethesda, Maryland.

If you have snow photos from the higher elevations around the San Francisco Bay area this weekend, or from anyplace else you'd like to share with my readers, send your photos and stories to me at and I will put them up on the blog.

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