Author’s Note: After nearly a decade on the east coast, it’s time for Mr. & Mrs. Link to head West. In the last ten years, our lives have changed significantly. We moved in together, got married, bought a house, got promotions at work and earned higher education degrees, hiked, drank, ran, ate and welcomed our son to the world. For a gal from Southern California and a guy from Montana, Maryland took some getting used to – the pollen, bugs, humidity, and distance from home made the change all the more difficult. But as time passed, we began to grudgingly put down roots. We even began to feel at home in our adopted land. What follows is Mr. Link’s favorite (and least favorite) parts about living in Maryland. Other posts here.
Top Ten Things I’ll Miss About Maryland
Number 7 – Storms
Well, let’s see. There were Hurricanes Ivan, Ernesto, Hanna, Irene and of course “Superstorm” Sandy. There were tornadoes, flash floods, Nor’easters and a derecho or two. There was Snowmageddon, Snowquester and Trafficgeddon. And that’s just off the top of my head.
Growing up in Missoula, surrounded by tall mountains, clouds jettison their water long before they get overhead. As a result, a bad rainstorm means drizzle for a week – the kind where you can walk from your car to the front door without an umbrella. In California, rain is rare with precipitation taking the form of mist or fog as often as not.
Neither Montana or California reliably produces storms as violent and powerful as the ones we have experienced in Maryland. And here, storms happen among high population densities bolstering body counts and property damage. Add in with a higher concentration of sensationalistic media in the D.C. area and its not an exaggeration to say that the whole country ends up talking about our weather.
Sure, the rest of the country makes fun of D.C. for closing schools and the federal government at every hint of inclement weather. Usually that mockery is deserved – I went though 12 years of school in Montana and never once had a snow day. Locally, we joke about how bad the weatherman is, knowing full well that the micro climates make predicting weather nearly impossible. You can have tornado clouds in D.C., sun in Columbia and torrential rain in Baltimore… all at the same time. In fact, it became tradition to leave rain in D.C. to find sun on the Potomac River for tubing or over the Shenandoah Mountains for hiking.
Storms in Maryland are fun. They’re a social event. They’re scary. And we’ve forged some great storm memories in our decade here.
Over the course of an average year, Columbia (42.24″) gets about three times as much precipitation as Missoula (16.63″) or Los Angeles (17.66″). The very nature of the rain is different – instead of long, dreary days, Maryland storms build, break and pass quickly. If you’re caught outside without an umbrella, chances are really good you’re going to get soaked.
In 2011, Montana’s Billings Little League made it to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. As President of the Montana State Society, I chartered a bus to take a group of Montanans up to watch a game. As the bus drove back, Hurricane Irene struck with a mighty vengeance. That far inland, the wind wasn’t terrible, but there was a ton of rain. After dropping us in D.C., we drove back up to Maryland in some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen. It was awesome.
There was also a Brad Paisley concert back when they allowed tailgating at Jiffy Lube Live. Turns out, that mud doesn’t get slippery when wet…
I grew up with snow, but Mrs. Link did not. I only remember one “blizzard” in Montana. As an arid state, usually the extreme weather is cold, not snow. Maryland winters are not as cold, but they are a ‘wet cold’ which makes all the difference. And when it snows, it can really pack a punch. All that heavy rain I talk about above comes down in massive, thick snowflakes and snow can accumulate very quickly.
My favorite snow story was the cleanup after Snowmageddon. It was my first time missing school or work because of snow, but there wasn’t a choice. While main roads were cleared pretty quickly, smaller roads and drive ways were impassible for days. Here’s the thing about a big storm on the east coast: while they have the snow-removal equipment they need, the urban density means there’s nowhere to put the snow when they plow it. We were stuck, and I was a little stir-crazy, so my neighbor and I used his snow shovel Excalibur (he was the only person that had thought to buy one before they all sold out) and started digging our way out. Other neighbors we didn’t know joined the fun, and before long we’d cleared our cars out of the parking lot! We got to know our neighbors, who are still friends today, and since we were all stuck at home for the Super Bowl everyone came over and watched at our place.
Funny post-script. Remember I mentioned that the problem with a lot of snow is that there’s nowhere for the snow removal trucks to put the snow? Well, the nice big patch we cleared manually over the course of an afternoon became the receptacle of all the snow in the entire parking lot. Our good deed resulted in our parking being out of commission longer than anyone else in the neighborhood. Sweet!
Wind typically goes along with rain or snow, but I put it separate because it’s usually the wind that does the damage. When someone dies, or when 100,000 people lose power for a month, it’s usually because the wind knocked over a tree that grew really big on account of all that rain.
Two times, I have been stuck in the middle of the Potomac River in a bathing suit during extreme winds. Both were Capitol Hill Tubing Society excursions. We always stop on a rock called the Andy Bopp Memorial Rock which is about a quarter mile downstream from where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac River in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Both rivers have carved very deep valleys, and the rock where we usually stop for lunch is at the vertex of those valleys. We’ve tubed through a lot of rainstorms on the river, but twice the combined funnel of those two valleys hurled a mighty wind laced with stinging rain and dirt against our rock. Both times, we were humbled by the awesome power of nature – and sadly, while both storms were newsworthy, the first storm proved fatal when it reached D.C.
Flights also were grounded, but [Sister Link] of Missoula was able to jump on one of the last planes to depart Montana. [Sister Link] was hoping to arrive in Columbia, Md., before the storm so that she could help her sister-in-law and 2-month-old nephew weather the storm.
“I have’t really experienced something like this before,” she said. “I don’t really know what to expect.”
Link landed on Sunday afternoon, right before the rain started. It continued raining through the night and into Monday, with gusts of wind creeping up around midday.
“We’re hunkering down right now and staying indoors,” she said. “It’s been gallons and gallons of rain all day long and you hear the constant howling (of the wind).”
[Sister Link] also was prepared.
“We stocked the house and made sure to have enough food and water and formula,” she said.
[Sister Link]’s brother works for Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont.
Of course, at the time, no one knew Mrs. Link was internally bleeding to death and we were going to lose the election and my job, but that’s a different story that has nothing to do with storms in Maryland…