By DINA ARÉVALO
Port Isabel-South Padre Press
It’s officially been ‘winter’ for a while now, but it wasn’t until this past week that we truly saw some wintry weather. Now, sure, we’ve had a couple of cold fronts blow through during the 2016-2017 winter season already, but they’ve all been pretty tame compared to the weather system that blasted its way down last week.
As I left my office late one evening, I caught some movement in the corner of my eye. I turned around to look and saw what I at first mistook for fog. It wasn’t a bad guess, seeing as how we had had thick blankets of fog dampening the air long into the afternoons for days before the cold front hit. But what I saw that night wasn’t fog, it was mist — salt mist, to be precise — roiling in off the bay in puffy sheets set aglow by the tungsten-tinted illumination from the streetlights.
For those not familiar with where the PRESS and PARADE offices are located, we sit just a couple of blocks south of the Laguna Madre, just a little ways from Lighthouse Square on Maxan Street in downtown Port Isabel. Many of the north-south streets in the area will eventually spit you out onto North Shore Drive, which hugs the southern shore of the bay.
Normally, our prevailing winds blow from south to north. That’s true for most of the year, except during the rare occasions that we get a cold front. During the spring months — March and April —the winds can get so strong they practically knock you off your feet. But there’s lots of town between the PRESS offices and the small channels that ultimately lead out to the Brownsville Ship Channel, the bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. When the warm southern winds blow, you’ll find yourself facing a lot of hot air and not much else, since the many houses and businesses between here and there provide a twisty obstacle course for the wind to worm its way through.
Last week, however, the cold front descended with force, charging across the Laguna Madre for miles before hitting the windbreaks that the town’s structures create. The bay was boiling with fury but without warmth. The ragged swells chugged along, forming frothy white caps which were, in turn, launched into the air. What I saw last week wasn’t fog, it was the angry spittle of a storm which had only just begun to chill the shallow bay and the land. The sea had come to us, as it were, coating everything in a film of corrosive salt.
I stood there a moment just watching the billowing clouds of salt spray roll at quite a clip towards the main road and the sparse evening traffic flowing along that artery. As I got into my car and turned onto Highway 100 myself, the path momentarily cleared as the spray was mostly halted in its tracks by the buildings that now stood between the road and the bay. However, as I approached the bridge near The Fingers, the mists from the waves in the channel once again lashed over the road in sheets.
It was quite a sight, watching the saltwater so violently glitter in the dimness. Not a bad show, Mother Winter. Not bad at all.
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