Posted by: Llywelyn Graeme, Ambassador’s Executive Assistant
We had the first snowfall of the year this week and it reminded me how lovely Kyiv is in the winter. The first winter I was here we had a major wet snowfall that caught everyone off guard. It was my favorite kind of snow, very packable to make snowmen and easily to shovel. One of the things I like best about Ukraine is we always seem to have a white Christmas. In my home town (outside Seattle, Washington in the Pacific Northwest) it snows only three or four times a year outside the mountains, and it usually melts in two or three days. When it does snow it is always wet and thick. Every few years a storm will appear seemingly out of nowhere to drop anywhere from 5 to 15 centimeters of dense “accumulation.” Cars will be stuck on bridges and freeways overnight and run out of gas.
Different parts of the United States react very differently to snow. One of the first things I noticed when I was hired by the State Department and sent to Washington, D.C. for training was that all of the cars were fairly new. On the West Coast (California, Oregon and Washington) you will often see cars on the road dating back to the 1960’s. Volkswagen beetles, Oldsmobile 88s, Chevy pickup trucks and convertibles of all kinds.
East of the Rocky Mountains you just don’t see that variety and age and I wondered why for some time until my first East Coast snow storm. Then I saw dump trucks everywhere covering the roads with a salt and chemical mixture. Cities there spray thousands of tons of salt on the roads every year and this causes the bottoms of the cars to, over many years, rust away. Since the snow so rarely sticks for more than a few days on the West coast, people just normally stay home and roads are covered with sand, if anything. Seattle and the surrounding areas are also extremely hilly, so any snowfall of more than 2 centimeters and many parts of the city are impassable for anyone without chains on their car (and sometimes even with chains they are treacherous!) In fact, schools and most businesses close when there is that much snow. It happens so infrequently, we just don’t remember how to drive in it.