The strangest Christmas: my experiences in the great PNW snowstorm of 2008.

This reminiscence is a special treat for my paid subscribers. Thank you and happy holidays!

The strangest Christmas: my experiences in the great PNW snowstorm of 2008.

This article is a bit of a departure for me, a bit more personal, which is why it's in the "Inner Garden" (the paid tier). Christmas 2023 is over, but it's still the season. Some of us are back at work or school, but the full-on daily grind hasn't yet resumed; there's another holiday coming up on Monday. The week between Christmas and New Year's is for many people a sort of blank spot on the calendar, a nether-zone where daily life bears a resemblance to the way it does the rest of the year, but it's still not quite the same.

In this column I'd like to tell the story of my own strangest Christmas season ever. It was in the year 2008, now hard to believe that it was a decade and a half in the past. The story intersects, and is in fact dominated by, one of my favorite themes in history: environmental and weather history. That Christmas was the season of the blizzard, and, even having been through a number of snowstorms in my life, it still remains the strangest and most memorable.

The weekend it hit, both my job and my family were stressing me out. In late 2008 I was still practicing law at a large corporate law firm in Portland, Oregon, and the Great Recession, which had begun in earnest in September, was still laying waste to the world economy at a frightening clip. I was working on a large corporate deal that was supposed to close on December 19, a Friday. My parents, whose house was about half a mile from my apartment in the suburb of Beaverton, had decided we would all fly to Omaha to visit my sister and her family for the holidays. We were all supposed to go together, but because of the deal I couldn’t leave before the 19th. They flew out on Wednesday, and I was stuck in town until the following Monday. I was supposed to leave on a flight early Monday morning, December 22, and because it was so early and my apartment was far from the airport, I decided to book a hotel room near the airport for that Sunday night and leave from there.

The snow totals of the 2008 PNW storm have since been exceeded (for example, in February 2023). But these contemporary images show how bad it was at that time.