by Leon Archer
It had started out as a normal week, working at the high school where I was a media specialist, which was a new-fangled term for librarian.
I was busy with the daily routines, but already looking forward to a late December duck hunt with fellow teachers, Gary Narewski and Charlie Ottmann. It had been abnormally warm for so late in December and we were thinking that the lake ducks would probably not give us a lot of action on the coming Saturday, but we were going to go anyway.
That night, the weather report predicted a radical change in the weather for later in the week. It actually sounded severe enough that the three of us would discuss dropping our plans to hunt near the Narewski camp. Eventually, we agreed to just wait and see.
Tuesday morning dawned with a palpable sense of change in the air even though it was still warm. By mid-afternoon, the temperature began a skid as the sky turned first grey, then leaden, and finally threateningly dark. Walking across the parking lot after work, buffeted by a biting wind, I was wishing I had brought a jacket with me. By dinner time, it had begun spitting snow.
I awoke Wednesday morning to the moaning of our house as the wind roared doing its best to remove the shingles from the roof, and later, my trip in to work found me driving through several inches of wet snow and navigating around numerous downed tree branches.
We lost power at the high school for short periods several times during the day. I was glad to be inside. From my warm library, I could look to the west at Lake Neatahwanta as it thrashed like a giant beast in pain; bucking, black, wind driven waves turned the surface to froth.
In the lee of the storm, on the far western side of the lake, the bluebills and whistlers poured into the calmer water until it seemed like the next arrivals would have needed a shoe horn to join them.
The lake ducks that had taken refuge on Neatahwanta were only a small percentage of the birds that had found Ontario’s open water to be outside even their comfort range. The Oswego River and harbor were clogged with thousands more; even old squaws and eiders could be seen in the company of the bluebills, goldeneyes, and buffleheads.
On my way home from school, I stopped by the river and gawked at the number and diversity of the waterfowl, but I didn’t spend long outside of my car. The temperature was suddenly dropping like a rock and the wood fire and warm meal that would greet me at home pulled me away.
Watching the news that evening, I had an idea that we might be in for a snow day. The weatherman predicted temperatures were going to near zero that night, and outside, the wind continued to increase. On top of that, it had begun to snow again earlier, and by 8 p.m. it was a full blown blizzard.
Thursday morning, the radio came on at 5:30 p.m. and the first thing I heard were school closings. Fulton and several other schools were closed; I could go back to sleep for a while. Before I drifted off, I heard the news that there were a couple of lake ships that were having problems on Ontario as they sought a safe harbor.
I was up and about by the time I heard the first plow go down our street and as I pulled the blind open to take a peep, I could see that the wind had blown itself out during the night, but not before leaving huge snowdrifts, one of which filled my driveway to overflowing. My day was devoted to shoveling snow and trying to stay warm. By bedtime, the city plows had finished their rounds and my driveway was free of snow. Friday would find me back in school.
As I drove across the river on my way to work Friday morning, I could see that the majority of the water was iced over and the vast number of ducks I had witnessed Wednesday afternoon had mostly disappeared along with the open water.
Lake Neatahwanta was frozen solid. I almost expected to see waves frozen in place, but of course, the surface was smooth with an equally flat blanket of snow.