By the Mild Mediterranean

photo, surprise snow of rue forgas One surprise morning in March.

That Was the Winter that Was

by Ric Erickson

Port Vendres:– Sunday, 7. March:–  As long as the cat is away the weather thinks it can do any damn thing it wants. Now there's an Orange Alert, even for the Pyrénées–Orientales, starting tonight, for snow. In fact it rings the mild Mediterranean coast of France. On TV they said it is ultra rare, especially at this time in March. I was so upset I forgot to pay attention to what they said we have in store for Friday.

Monday, 8. March:– 

I went to bed early – ! – last night so that I could get up early and catch any wisps of snowflakes – if any – before the mild Mediterranean took care of them. So naturally I slept until noon – ah, what the heck! – feeling, that there couldn't be any surprise in looking out 'da winda.' Oooops!

*Météo France forecast* – Andorre/Pyrénées orientales: neige vers 100/200 mètres cumuls très importants sur le piémont et les Pyrénées, 40 à 60 cm de neige, localement 1 mètre en montagne. Temporairement passage en neige probable sur le littoral où les sols pourraient blanchir par endroits.

Wee! "Blanchir par endroits" means a bit of white powder here and there. Yes, just 10 cm deep right down to the water's edge, the edge of the mild Mediterranean. A bit of blanchir is blowing off the church roof, powdering my balcony – a first, I bet – and the brave palms are staggering under the weight of the snow. Outside on Arago it falls down and blows up, up your nose. Since all roads out of Port Vendres are uphill, I believe we're stuck here today. Nobody has snowshoes. Now a crash of thunder. I spent a bit of time online trying to track down a verification of an item half–heard on radio France–Info– something about a six–metre wave expected on these shores of the mild Mediterranean. Nothing, nada, no red alerts for the seaside.

Radio Catalogne du Nord seems to be off the air, so no locales, no updates.

Need to go out, for Gitanes, of course. Was out for the Vieux Port photo. Snow was every which way. No kids to be seen, and they are all home today because the buses stopped.

This has been an update from the mild Mediterranean.

Monday, later:– 

There is a blizzard situation between the church and my balcony. Wind is swirling snow off the church into the alley, and the balcon is being sprayed with it. On my expedition for cigarettes I found it to be much worse than imagined. Our alley is a snow trap – it is calf–deep. There's no path because I'm the only idiot to try it. Out of breath by the time I got to the street. There, there were ruts, half–full and easier. Getting up the stairs – no stairs, just a slope – not easy but took it slowly. No easier at the top; no paths. Saw tabac was closed. Got a loaf of bread though.

Cannot see anything in harbor from the balcon by the boulangerie. A wall of grey full of flecks. Kids were snowboarding down the steps between the flowers and the France café. Hardly anybody about – just refugees hiding in the France – where I went after seeing the other tabac was closed. Remember that! When the going gets tough there aren't any cigarettes but you can still get bread. I think I have two left.

photo, icicles by the mild mediterranean The last thing I expected to see.

Found a rut going back along the quay around the Vieux Port. Were the boats surging? Seemed to be more back–and–forth than up–and–down. Our corner, between the quay and Templars, that is where it is like a blizzard, flurries coming down the hill, smack smashed in the face in the alley. How hard can it be to lift feet with the snow calf–deep? Twenty metres of it and you are KO.

Let's call the situation the big dump. It's two weeks until spring. If this lot goes all at once there's going to be a lot of water. Don't park in Collioure's storm ditches.

Odd hearing the weather on France–Info. Usually all about everywhere else. Not today. No trains. Airport closed. Trucks ruled off the roads. Spain is closed. Or the other way around; we are closed.

Monday, still later:– 

I need a cigarette. This is stressful. My hopes are pinned to a rapid thaw tonight so I can hop, skip and prance over and up to the tabac, which will be open and waiting for me with wide open packs of Gitanes, garlands of cheery Xmas lights, and a Bic to light one with. That's all I want.

Look out da winda and I see... darkness, because it's nighttime. Estimate that the snow is over a foot deep but it's stopped falling. There are some breezes so I imagine there are some extra–deep drifts. I think I felt these in the alley where some snow seemed to come above my knees.

photo, sign, carrer del sol

I hope the future ressembles the forecast and all the white crapola melts before Friday and the red carpet dosen't get too soggy.

Oh, I forgot – other sources have been saying, warning really, about exceptionally big waves tonight while we are peacefully sleeping in our cozy beds. They also said that those at risk had been removed from areas of danger but they probably said that last weekend too when 50 people drowned. An early report said the waves would be six metres high, so places like Saint Cyprien were being evacuated. Didn't say anything about Collioure, Port Vendres or Banyuls. Apparently France doesn't believe there's snow in Perpignan so they had to put it on the TV news – claimed 30 cms, showed bewildered drivers. Then they claimed 25 cms for Argelès–sur–Mer but there was no video of it.

photo, snow on fishboat Were we ready for this?

Oddly, with the Orange Alert last night they clearly said there would be no school buses today. So of course a lot of parents drove their kids to school this morning, from Perpignan to private schools outside, and then they couldn't drive out to pick up the kids. The roads were impassable.

Go on, hurry up and melt! Hand on heart, truth, they say the last time this happened around here was 1993, 17 years ago. Or was it 1974?

Tuesday, 9. March:– 

Thousands of trucks blocked on both sides of the frontier. Radio said 6000 snow–stranded people were taken care of overnight. Services provided food and drink to blocked drivers, train passengers, and provided camping places in schools and other places. One old guy died in Port Vendres; found by neighbors this morning in his garden.

Meanwhile in PV the sun is shining and a moderate Tramontana is helping the snow to melt. For some unknown reason one of my neighbors was out shoveling in the parking lot – without actually digging the whole 60 metres to the sortie. The main road is two ruts and passable with 4–wheel drive, otherwise we are still snowed–in here.

I'm going out to look for yogi but I suspect the Casino minimarkt will be sold out. No worries – some energetic soul shoveled the steps by the Obelisk.

photo, apres snow by the mild mediterranean But a day later, by the mild Mediterranean, sunshine.

It was damp. The snow is just a lot of slush waiting for release. Folks in the Bar Cristal were coming out and taking photos, and smoking of course. Phone calls relayed the latest from Gerona, just over the border. Even if the autoroute is passable no secondary roads are. The PO has no anti–snow equipment along the coast. They were using a big lift–truck from the shipyard to clear a path around the Vieux Port. Forks down and pushing it away – not really suited for it.

This has been a winter update from the mild Mediterranean.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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