Monday, January 28, 2013

Phenology: Thaw (After Ice Storm)

On Friday everything in Scott County closed again because we had a light, yet freezing, rain. This "storm," hardly visible to the naked eye, did at least give us all a good illustration of what the phrase "black ice" means.

"Black ice" is very clear, transparent ice that enhances the color of whatever is underneath it. When that is the asphalt surface of a highway, the ice looks black. When it's the small, broad, evergreen leaves of the privet hedge in front of the Cat Sanctuary, the ice looks deep, glossy green, almost like Christmas wrapping. When it coats twigs on every tree in the forest, as it did on Friday, and the sun shines through the ice, as it did on Saturday, the ice looks incandescent, like millions of little bright light bulbs.

"Black ice" is hard to see and makes roads very hard to use. Walking, even with sticks, can become dangerous. Will grass provide traction? Sand? Whoa...maybe not!

During "storms" like this one Southerners reserve the right to give ourselves more holidays and feel sorry for Northerners, who see this kind of weather often enough that they expect anybody to go to work during it. We know that nobody can be asked to do much of anything when there is reported to be any black ice anywhere.

For once, Kingsport, Tennessee, got the power outage, and Gate City, Virginia, didn't. Nevertheless, the five-foot wall of books on the library desk, here at the computer center, silently explains how many people weren't able to use this public building on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Many didn't even leave their homes until midafternoon.

We were all reasonably comfortable at the Cat Sanctuary...especially the kitten Iris, who was nursing her bronchitis a few feet away from the heater in the warm room when a friend drove up to check on us. Iris was taken for a ride in a car. She took to the idea of riding in a car at once, and was the best behaved cat with whom I've shared a car since Magic's time. By way of a reward she was taken to visit her brother Mo's new home. She and Mo obviously recognized each other (Iris did not greet the other resident cats) and seemed glad to see each other again. After confirming that they remembered each other they got cat-sized dishes of baked salmon.