December 2009 and the first week of January 2010 have been unremittingly awful, and therefore highly unusual. Not as dramatic and destructive as the Great Tempest of Boxing Day 1999, but long and continuously depressing in different ways. It started with ten days of virtually constant rain, when the daily rainfall was more than the average for the month. Rivers overflowed their banks, and everywhere was sodden. Then the weather went dry, and often sunny, but day after day below zero. The first two photographs show the valley of the river Sée near Tirepied, between Avranches and Villedieu-les-Poeles. This is a flat valley where normally the river gently meanders along, but in times of heavy winter rain can flood. This year it flooded almost completely, and before the flood waters had all gone they froze.Before there was any chance of a thaw, the snow fell. That was on 17 December. and the picture with cattle was the view from our bedroom window the next morning. And the snow is still here, being renewed every four or five days, just as it looks like the last is going from the fields.
We were marooned in our house for four days. On the second day, a farmer used a tractor with a shovel to try and clear a way out, but once we get out of our little rural lane, the road has a sharp incline, and I could not get all the way to the top - 50 metres - even though my foot was to the floor in first or second gears, the car stopped moving. Downhill ended in a T-junction at the bottom of the valley, with sharp climbs in both directions. The last photo is the walk to the village after three days of snow.
New Year's day, and the snow fell continuously, another foot or so. It was gardually reducing until yesterday, 6th January, when another foot fell. It is snowing again as I type, and of course we cannot get the car out and are marooned again. Fortunately, there is a small epicerie (grocery) we can walk to in the village, and a depot de pain as well, though the two mornings a week butcher hasn't been able to get there.
I know there has been a lot of snow in the last few days in the UK, and it seems the bad weather is stretching all the way to the south of France. Must be the climate change - global warming leading to a shift which in the short term is very cold, before overheating. It is also interesting that we in western Europe have had unreasonably good weather, compared with North America, for centuries and longer. Toronto in Canada is on the same latitude as Madrid, and they have snow for six months every year. Snow is really pretty for the first day, but ther magic wears off. I found that in Quebec a few years ago, when the temperature was minus 25 without counting the wind chill, and there was no free running water anywhere. The Saint Lawrence river at Quebec city is about a kilometere wide, and was entirely frozen except for a single little channel kept open by an icebreaker chugging up and down 24/24. We have not got it that bad, yet, but ten years after La Tempete, another bad winter. Is a pattern developing?