Let It Snow, Let’s Count The Flakes!

This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for November 15, 2018, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.

            “Let it snow, let it snow!” Dean Martin, on the Dean Martin Christmas Album in1966, described a snow that kept falling – “Man it doesn’t show signs of stoppin’.” Obviously, the lyrics weren’t talking about the Houston Gulf Coast area, where it rarely snows without stopping. In fact, it rarely snows here.

            Well, according to Eye Witness News, in 1895, Houston did have 20 inches of the magic white stuff! Since 1895, the report said, it has snowed 38 times in the Houston area: 2 ½ inches in 1929, 3 inches in 1940, 2.6 inches in 1949, 4.4 inches in 1960, three times in 1973, each time over an inch, small amount in 1989, 1.7 inches in 2008, 1 inch in 2009, and a trace in 2010. A trace in a couple more years, but not enough to record.

            And that was true of Tuesday morning of this week, — a few flakes in East Bernard, someone posted on Facebook, not enough to count. However, in Amarillo, where it snows more frequently than down here, had a blizzard on Monday. Yet, the odd thing is that even for Amarillo, it normally doesn’t snow in November, and certainly not in early November. No, probably not.

            When my wife and I were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan for graduate studies, we experienced the worst snow storm in the history of Michigan and Ontario! And it occurred on Thanksgiving Day. As we were driving back to Michigan from our brief jaunt in Canada, a few snowflakes began to fall. The closer we got to Detroit, the higher the flake count. We asked several old time Canadians if we should be worried driving home to Ann Arbor, and they laughed and said, “Oh, no, don’t worry, we never have snowstorms as early as November.” We took their word for it and blithely drove on the last long lap to the Border. That’s when the blizzard came in all of its November fury! Almost a whiteout, and the car radio kept telling us to stay off the highway we were on. It was an ordeal which turned me against the idea that the “weather outside is delightful.”

            That Michigan blizzard happened in 1974 or 1975, and was the first snowfall I had experienced since 1973, the year we were married. On January 11, 1973, when I was still living in Wharton, we had 2 inches of the delightful stuff (as I thought of it then), six months before my wife and I were married. Little did I know as I wrote poems about the exquisite white pellicles falling from the sky that a year or so later we’d risk our lives in a vicious flake storm!

            If we could see individual snowflakes, I think we’d agree that each one is beautiful. Snowflakes are tiny ice crystals formed in the clouds from water vapor, and when they stick together they become heavy enough to fall to the ground. These crystals form a multitude of different shapes, to the extent folks say there are no two snowflakes alike. It wasn’t until the late 19th Century that Wilson Bentley photographed individual flakes for the first time, coming up with over 5,000 images of them. Each one was different. However, until somebody photographs trillions of them, I don’t know that we can say absolutely no two are alike.

            When I was a child, the one or two times it snowed, what we liked about the snowflakes was not their beauty, but making snow cones out of them, pouring on a little strawberry extract and eating them. Since the water vapor forms ice crystals around tiny pieces of dirt in the atmosphere, when you eat snow, you might being eating a little dirt, too.

            I am writing this the morning it snowed in San Antonio, after it snowed in Amarillo, and a few people saw a few flakes in East Bernard. What will happen between now and when you read the Express will be interesting to observe. One thing we can be sure of is we’re not going to have a blizzard. People in places like Michigan think we Texans are funny, because when we experience temperatures below 40, and we see a few snowflakes fall, we cancel field trips, shopping excursions, and sometimes, even school. So, let it snow, and let’s count the flakes!


Ray Spitzenberger is a retired college speech and English teacher and a retired Lutheran pastor.


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