BIG SNOWS BRING BIG SNOWMEN – Sylas Walls built this snow giant Sunday with his dad, Toby. They are used to lots of the white stuff, having lived in Vermont.                                                          – Photo by Sarah Walls
BIG SNOWS BRING BIG SNOWMEN – Sylas Walls built this snow giant Sunday with his dad, Toby. They are used to lots of the white stuff, having lived in Vermont. – Photo by Sarah Walls

There was plenty of love in the air – and on the ground – over the weekend here. 

Especially for those smitten with snow, Valentine’s Day and Monday holidays. 

La Conner area residents awoke Saturday to snow that would become a one-foot blanket, a surprisingly much greater accumulation than was the case that morning upriver closer to the Cascade foothills. At a site five miles south of Anacortes, a volunteer data collector measured 12.8”.

The sudden snowstorm inspired galleries of wintry scene photographs taken along Swinomish Channel and in nearby farm fields. There were slews of front yard snowmen and a one “Frosty the Bear”, plus hours of sledding down blocked-off Washington Street, known fondly as Whitney Hill to locals. 

There were complications, of course. 

Town Public Works crews spent much of the weekend plowing iced streets and clearing sidewalks for safe passage. The Town placed signs closing all the streets with hills Saturday and Sunday: Fourth Street top and bottom; Douglas at the top and Whatcom/Myrtle and Hill/Maple. Only Second Street was plowed and open to vehicles. Only sleds were allowed on Washington between Third and Whatcom Streets.

Temporary power outages were reported in town, on Swinomish Reservation and across Shelter Bay. Repair work to a blown transformer closed traffic on Sherman Street near Pioneer Park on Saturday afternoon. Local businesses, long hamstrung by COVID-19 restrictions, were forced to shutter due to the weather. Twice downed trees briefly blocked the Rainbow Bridge. See the Blotter, page 8.

Yet most were able to take it all in stride, mindful that elsewhere in the nation people dealt with single-digit temperatures, electrical service interrupted for days and water plants shut down indefinitely due to a severe continental polar vortex. 

La Conner physical therapist Lynette Cram literally made tracks in the snow, joined on the boardwalk on Valentine’s Day afternoon by Clover, the family Springer Spaniel. 

The day before, Cram had trudged her way from town just over a mile south to McGlinn Island. 

“By the time I got back,” she said, “I felt like I had gone on a 20-mile hike.” 

The Public Works staff was lauded for their yeoman work done throughout Saturday and Sunday. Residents pitched in, too. Neighbors answered the call to clear steps, decks and sidewalks for those unable to do so. Others provided rides to the store for those with no way to get out of their driveways. 

Ivan Carlson, III turned down an offer of pay to provide a store run, doing so for free. Robert Cofer, of Bob’s Garage at Sixth and Morris streets, went downtown to shovel snow at an apartment on First Street. Both were cited as examples of the “small town spirit” for which La Conner is widely recognized. 

Local photographers Sarah Walls, Alexa Robbins and Katie Bassford were among those venturing out to capture images truly frozen in time. Bassford posted a picture of Rainbow Bridge reflecting on the channel lined with snow on both sides. Robbins photographed hilltop sledders, long a winter tradition in La Conner. Walls and her husband, Toby, braved country roads to line up shots of nature’s snowbirds. 

“We found a couple flocks of snow geese,” she said. “It was hard to see them against the snow. I also saw some swans, tons of eagles and hawks and lots and lots of ducks.” 

By Sunday, conditions had improved to the point that couples arrived in town to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Two sets of sweethearts, in fact, could be seen eating and toasting at tables outside Anelia’s Kitchen & Stage – proof that warm hearts can prevail over cold weather. 

By Monday, the Presidents’ Day holiday, temperatures began to rise which,, along with more typical Pacific Northwest rainfall, led to fairly rapid melting.

But memories of the deep snow here are sure to remain long after its disappearance. The many photographs taken over the weekend will be conversation pieces both near and far. 

“My family lives out of state,” said Jean Hurley, who thanked Robbins for her photos, “and they will never believe the amount of snow that we got.”