The Mast-Head: December Afternoon

Late-fall snows like these are difficult to predict, especially out here

    Most local after-school activities were canceled Tuesday as a light snowfall drifted through the air over the South Fork. Traffic on Main Street quieted down; the usual rumble of work trucks was thinner. The snow wasn’t sticking. The temperature was slightly too warm, but that did not stop the preparations.

    From my window, looking out toward the Town Pond green, I could see the occasional snowplow roll past, all geared up with nothing to do.

    Late-fall snows like these are difficult to predict, especially out here. Those who make decisions about school closings and the like have only the forecasts to go on, and the National Weather Service had posted notice that as much as four inches could accumulate by sundown on Tuesday. But as classes were being dismissed that afternoon, there was only a white dusting in patches and nothing on the roads.

    Television news from UpIsland thrummed out its ominous drumbeat nonetheless. Storms are part of regional TV’s bread and butter, and the newscasters’ excited patter adds to the sense of drama. Truth is, most snows here do not amount to much. We’ll get a couple of inches, or even a foot or more, but soon the temperature warms, and it all melts away. Very rarely do we see a many-day accumulation. Would-be cross-country skiers find no hard crusted base under a new blanket of white on which to glide.

    Gray days like Tuesday wrap us in the season’s dour coat anyway, the dim light leaving us less energetic than usual. The phone does not ring. Conversation in the office just dies away. A little more snow would brighten things up. Instead, we have cold, wet ground and the hiss of tires on the wet pavement.

    It is the middle ground of a December afternoon, not day or night, neither fall nor winter.