Snow in Boulder Creek, California

February 12, 2001

We had a very unusual event in Boulder Creek on the morning of Monday, February 12th -- a snowstorm! Snow falls two or three times a year on the higher elevations of the Santa Cruz mountains, but very rarely at as low an elevation as Boulder Creek (only 500 feet above sea level), and even more rarely does it stick on the ground.

Heavy, wet snow began falling at about four in the morning that day. The accumulation on the ground continued to build up until about 11am before it began to melt off. The heavy, wet snow itself wouldn't have been enough to close roads and do damage -- but the havoc it worked on the trees in the rainforest of the San Lorenzo valley certainly was. Sherwood tried to drive to work at his usual pre-dawn time, but didn't get very far. All roads over the mountains into the "pit" (the Santa Clara, or "silicon", valley) were closed by then due to fallen trees and branches. Electrical power failed because of many, many downed lines (we didn't get ours back until mid-day Wednesday).

If you live with snow every year, then these pictures will seem very unremarkable, but if you've ever visited Boulder Creek (or our house in particular), then these images will surprise you. We don't expect to see this again in our lifetime.

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In the early morning hours:

Diane and Kelsey as the snow started to fall at about 4:15am. Kelsey enjoyed sliding on the first snow he had ever seen; Diane got a kick out of looking up at the falling flakes.

Before the sun came up, the dawn light was a strange (to us), almost glowing blue.

Morning, after sunrise:

As pretty as the scenery was, it was a little unnerving to hear the snapping of tree limbs all around the neighborhood. The redwoods, unused to bearing such a heavy weight, were losing limbs at an alarming pace; about two or three times every hour, we'd here a loud CRACK like a rifle shot, followed by a whooshing rustling, followed by a THUD as another limb came down. Luckily, we had our nine big redwoods skirted and limbed this summer -- only two branches ("widow makers" in the local lingo) came down on our property and did little damage. One of our neighbors' cars was severely damaged, though.

The birds, both real and plastic, had an unusual environment that morning!

Damage (very slight) in our yard:

Our beautiful, old camellia trees (not bushes!) lost a few branches. We had them trimmed and shaped the next day, and they should be fine.

This widow maker fell more than a hundred feet, and only nicked our fence.

The big laurel in our front yard -- which had been severely pruned this summer -- threatened our power, telephone, and cable tv wires, but didn't break any of them.

The saddest damage, though, can be seen next to the house in the first picture in the "Morning, after sunrise" section above. Our old dogwood tree outside our office window came down. We'll miss it.