Winter in California

My children attend a charter high school that follows a different schedule allowing the students to ski for two weeks every winter. They ski at China Peak, a 8000 ft elevation summit, a popular winter destination for the residents of Central California.
For the first time, my husband and I decided to join our children and stay at a cabin in Shaver Lake. Unfortunately we are still home waiting for the power to return and for a major storm to switch gear. Two feet of snow fell last night, leading the CHP to close the access to the village this morning. PG&E has not yet restored the power. Meanwhile, Caltrans is busy cleaning up debris and fallen trees.
Our bags are packed and we are ready to go. Tonight we will check the updated weather forecast and the CHP report online and maybe, we will take the road early tomorrow. After all it is only a 60 miles drive.
Twenty years ago, when I announced that I was leaving Paris for California, my friends’ response was a mix of pity and envy. A few couldn’t understand why a Parisian would leave the City of Lights for the Golden State and couldn’t imagine what could possibly be better there. I suspect that many more envisioned me, sipping an exotic drink and sun bathing around a blue pool, spotting an occasional movie star. I had told them San Francisco and not LA but French people associate California with eternal sun and celebrities.
I have now spent fifteen years in California, and although I have survived a couple of fierce northeastern in Massachusetts and summers in front of the chimney in Maine, this is in California that I have seen the most extreme weathers.
In Central California you can keep blooming geraniums under a porch in the winter and plow your driveway four miles away. Tule fog rolls through the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valley in the winter making commute sometimes so dangerous that the CHP paces the traffic. Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park closes as early as October cutting the access to the high country until Memorial Day or as late as mid June. Sonora Pass follows the same rules. Even Altamont and Pacheco Pass, gateways to the Bay Area experiment closures when winds and rain make the roads too treacherous. The Grape Vine toward the South regularly traps drivers when sudden snow or heavy rain shut it down. As early as June temperatures can reach 110F in the Valley and October doesn’t mean fall is here. San Francisco can be the coldest city of the country in the summer. Ask Mark Twain.
Living in California is living in many countries that only share the same name.
Today, I was reminded that if we, Californians, love our sun, we also welcome, after months of drought, rain and snow with gratitude, knowing that they mean possible flash flood, blocked roads, and accidents as well as change of plans.
Would my French compatriots be surprised to know that their Parisian friend has in fact rarely sun bathed in California but has kept a set of warm clothes when she lived in the Bay Area and headed toward San Francisco, that she has seen more celebrities in Paris than in LA, that she has now snow chains for her car, the full gear of a hiker and skier, the skills to spot the presence of rattle snakes, scorpions and tarantulas around her house and that she rarely thinks of earthquakes?
As for now, forecasts another substantial accumulation of snow over night and well into tomorrow early hours in Shaver Lake. Will the kids be or not able to ski tomorrow? That is the question that leads to the following. Who said that Californians had it easy?

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