Last Word from the Lake: Winter at the Lake

Just about everywhere I’ve been in this country a local resident will at some point say something to me along the lines of, “Don’t like the weather? Wait 5 minutes.” The implication being that the region is so prone to unpredictable temperature swings that you don’t know if you’ll want to wear a tank top or down jacket each day. Few places live up to this claim, but I have to put North Carolina, particularly around the lake in the winter, on the list.

One day it’s in the seventies and you’re playing basketball in the driveway and the kids are wrestling in the mud. The next day it’s snowing and you’re shoveling the driveway and the kids are wrestling in the snow.


The holidays this season brought historic cold levels. Last winter we’d had days with temps that allowed for wide open windows and afternoons basking in the sun only to have it followed a day later by about six inches of snow that shut down the lake. Last year’s big storm was well covered in the news, and I made the mistake of running to the local Target the day before the snow arrived. The place was more crowded than the day before Christmas, it was like people were stocking up for the apocalypse. Of course, I forgot a few things on that trip and had to run back to Target the day after the storm. And that day it actually felt like the apocalypse had happened. I didn’t see any other drivers except one guy wearing a motorcycle helmet in his open-top side-by-side spinning around the Target parking lot. I went into the store and lamented that I’d never gotten into roller skating. The store was so empty and wide open that I could have flown through the aisles on skates.

When I got back home the kids were out with the neighbors rolling up snowballs for a big snowman, the grass under the snow still a vivid green. Our neighbors told us that school had proactively been canceled for the entire week.

The power hadn’t gone out, which was a shock in itself. We live on a long peninsula that has one powerline running down it, so whenever we get snow, wind, or a truck drives off the road and smashes into a pole, we all lose electricity. For reasons that I’ll never understand, one side of our road is covered by Duke Energy and the other is Energy United, even though we’re all pulling power from the same line. So when power goes out you can drive up and down the street hoping to spot a crew from either company working on the lines, with bonus points for the internet company making repairs.

Winter is also the season at the lake where the traffic on 150 and 16 is merely “bad” as opposed to the summer weekends where “soul crushing” is the only suitable descriptor. A new friend at the Hickory Tavern told me that eight bridges will need to be built before 150 can be expanded to four lanes, so it sounds like winter is the only traffic break we’ll be getting for the next few years. And when that new construction does get underway, the entire year will be traffic season.


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