A winter of discontent

Rain. Snow. Ice. Wind. What's next? Locusts?

More than half of Arches readers live in Western Washington, and we don’t have to tell you what winter has been like around here this year. For the rest of you, well, let’s just say that life in Tacoma has been character-building lately.

First it rained. A lot. And it kept raining, so that November 2006 was the rainiest November on record in the Northwest. Even for a climate where the locals think of rain fondly and are sometimes inspired to write poetically about it—Tom Robbins: “Rain will dramatize the countryside, sewing pearls into every web, winding silk around every stump, redrawing the horizon line with a badly frayed brush dipped in tea”—this was a bit much. On November 6 you could have sluiced logs down the flume that formed in the entrance to the university’s 13th Street parking lot.

Next: the post-Thanksgiving snow, which melted a little, then promptly froze solid, turning campus walkways into nice, big toboggan runs. On the roads, it was a very good day for auto body-shop owners.

That was followed by the big one—the wind storm of December 14–15, a meteorological event that knocked out power to more than 1 million homes and businesses, the university included. On campus, we lost 60 trees—primarily in the president’s woods, the arboretum, and near the fieldhouse. One of the trees pulled up a water main, flooding the library basement—not a good thing for books on the bottom shelf. Another tree fell on the library roof. Roofs on South Hall and many university-owned houses also were damaged. The music building basement flooded, too, prompting an emergency rescue for the musical instruments stored there. Through it all, first-semester exams continued, thanks to some creative scheduling and emergency generators.

The good news: The college is insured (and staff members got to take home lots of firewood). It took a Herculean effort by university facilities services staff, but grounds and buildings were mostly back in order by the time students returned on January 16, a day which, by the way, dawned to 4 inches of new snow. — Chuck Luce