It is the last week of August, a good morning for a steaming hot bowl of oatmeal. The rain is pouring down at a 45-degree angle, driven by 30-mile-an-hour winds. It is out of the east and the waves crashing against our boat at the dock are getting bigger with each passing hour. This is summer?
The weather woman last night said, “The temperature will drop to 38 degrees in the foothills and the snow level is already down to 3,500 feet.”
In conversation with a friend from Vail today he said, “Last week Vail got dumped on by six inches of snow that stuck around for almost a week.” All of this weird weather is because Al Gore narrated a movie about global warming and he got a Nobel Prize in Norway for his forecast of a hot planet. In his effort to cut down on worldwide pollution he even flew to Norway in his private jet from his 22-bedroom house.
If we are experiencing global warming, why is this the wettest August in the history of weather records in Washington State? Why are some of my friends phoning me and asking if the ski resorts will open early? What is early? One winter in the 1930’s no snow fell in Mammoth until February. One year they skied in two feet of powder in August? Living here on our island with the weather this month being identical to a late November morning you just make sure that there is plenty of chopped wood available for the fireplace. I can get caught up with inside chores and working on my wife’s honey-do list.
As I think about some of those weird weather patterns in my lifetime, I also realize the dramatic changes in the world since I started my film business so many years ago.
I lurched and skied through a lot of unusual weather conditions over the years. In 1943, in the mountains to the east of Los Angeles, it snowed 24 feet in 24 hours.
In 1944, when I was stationed in Asbury Park New Jersey, the hotel I was living in was hit by a hurricane and the water was six-feet deep in the hotel lobby.
In 1945, while I was traveling from Guadalcanal to Pearl Harbor to have our ship converted to a shallow water mine sweep for the invasion of Tokyo, we got caught in another hurricane. This time it was a little more dramatic because the waves were more than 50 feet high and our ship started breaking up. We managed to keep it afloat for almost 24 hours until we had to abandon it and were rescued by another ship in the convoy half an hour before the subchaser sunk.
During January of 1946, I was skiing in Yosemite and six feet of snow fell overnight. The next morning, when we finally made it up to Badger Pass to go skiing, a skier was missing from the day before. I volunteered to go with a pair of forest rangers to search for him. We got caught in the darkness and had to spend the night around a campfire. My ski boots were wet and cold and to keep my feet from freezing I put them so close to the fire that it burned the soles off of them. Forest rangers found the missing skier still alive 13 days later.
In 55 years of one-night stands showing my movies, I only missed one show because of weather. I had flown from Los Angeles to Montreal and was going to drive to Quebec the next morning. When I got up the next morning I couldn’t see out of the motel window because it had snowed six feet in seven hours. Nothing was moving, not even the trains and there was no possible way to travel.
One year a foot of snow fell in Buffalo, the day of my show. Another year nine inches fell in Washington D.C. and people still came out to see what I had filmed the winter before. The film business started with black-ice roads, a can of film and a rental car and has progressed to satellite DVD projection. Do I miss the days of fighting my way through winter snowstorms? Of course not. As soon as the ski lifts start up in December I’ll be out there looking for storms so I can go skiing with my friends in new powder snow and talking about how it snowed in August in Colorado and wonder whatever happened to the summer of 2008?