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December 7, 2003

Snowday
Posted by Teresa at 11:56 PM *

The official measure is fourteen inches in Central Park, which is not bad for “sleety rain with chance of occasional snow showers.” I sort of wished I hadn’t worn my hiking sandals on Friday, but what the hey.

Meanwhile, if you want to feel better about this godawful mess of an early storm, it’s still snowing in Colebrook, NH, and as of 11:30 this morning it was knee-deep in Jim Macdonald’s yard and crotch-deep at the foot of his driveway.

I don’t know about you, but in about five minutes I’m going to pile all our blankets and comforters onto my bed and crawl in under them. And I’m going to stick my bedroom slippers under my pillow so they’ll be warm in the morning, and I’ll be able to put them on before I get out from under the covers.

If Patrick comes in and drops a handful of snow on me again, violence may ensue.

Comments on Snowday:
#1 ::: Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 01:30 AM:

I'm looking forward to seeing the pictures in the newspapers over here today. I've never seen that much snow in my life. I'd love to, but I wonder how I'd cope. Here it's just cold and I have a pile of sweaters which need to be washed because the cat slept on them. Is this bad timing or what?

#2 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 01:41 AM:

Oh, so -that's- where all the snow is.

It's all right, you can keep it for now, but we have watersheds with needs.

JMF
[Former resident of Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia, who, when he told people he was moving to Minneapolis, was invariably asked, "Isn't it cold there?"]

#3 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 01:58 AM:

I expect I will be smacked by people in places with real weather for this but:

I miss snow.

#4 ::: Maureen Kincaid Speller ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 02:07 AM:

And then I went to look at the snow in Jim McDonald's yard. Oh my. What an amazing photograph. I could almost hear the snow falling (that unmistakeable, highly pregnant silence that means nothing else). I now realise that yes, I want snow too.

#5 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 07:24 AM:

We got about a foot, but less than they were predicting here. Our daughter drove home from NYC, Friday afternoon in the snow, a trip that normally takes 3 hours took 9.

But we went out the next evening to see the Moscow ballet's "Nutcracker." The huge Fine Arts Center was totally full. New Englanders are hardy. And the Muscovites dubbed the snowstorm "a dusting."

Jane

#6 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 07:50 AM:

We feel we got off lucky. Only 14 inches at our place. Where Nancy used to live, down on the North Shore, got 32.

Of course, I had to perform one of the most discouraging acts of my life yesterday morning. I woke up, donned coat and boots, and began to shovel snow out of my living room. Or, at least, where my living room will be. I suppose the absence of windows and doors made the removal easier, but we'd really hoped to have a roof on before this sort of thing hapened....

#7 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 07:54 AM:

Umm,I put an ice cube in my coffee this morning.

[getting dressed in shorts and short-sleeved shirt to go to work][but not gloating; just grateful]

#8 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 08:20 AM:

"Ya, this is like a summer day in Finland," said my Finnish neighbor as he strolled down the snow-covered street in a T-shirt, jeans, and sandals.

#9 ::: Adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 09:07 AM:

What is it with spouses/sig. others and those dang snowballs? Sheesh. I have found that a good cure for the winter chills is a hot water bottle at the end of the bed. Generally, mine stays toasty most of the night.

About ten inches here, which was about ten fewer than had been predicted. We're 3.5ish hours west of the city. It is very scenic and fun. This will change, but now it's very pleasant, even with the snowballs.

#11 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 09:54 AM:

We got over two feet in Newton, just outside of Boston northwest. Good weekend to try some new cocktails—which I did after hours of shovelling the driveway: a Tequila manhattan with Hornitos. Definitely keeps you warm out there....

#12 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:10 AM:

John --

Strong drink is not a good idea when you're going out into the cold; that feeling of warmth is due to the alcohol being a vasoconstrictor. This isn't good for your extremities in serious cold, since they freeze off faster.

This has been a We Are the People of the Frozen North safety circular; please continue with your regularly scheduled delight in the season.

#13 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:14 AM:

Teresa, I was thinking of those Oolong pictures while watching Emmy (our dog) romp around in the snow this weekend.

If Patrick comes in and drops a handful of snow on me again, violence may ensue.

I think this means you're a nicer person than I am--if I was speaking, it would be "will." Even without the "again."

(We got about a foot and a half, but it wasn't too bad--it turned cold here before the snow, so we already had the flannel sheets on the bed, and we got a snowblower *just* in time.)

#14 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:16 AM:

I'm with Tina--I miss the snow. One of the few things I truly do miss about the east.

#15 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:48 AM:

Steve Brust talks about how whenever the snow piles up in Minneapolis, the folks from Winnipeg come down and tromp around in shorts and sandals while gabbling about the balmy weather. Having heard my parents' stories of their year in Winnipeg (many years ago, just after I moved out on my own), I believe it.

#16 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:51 AM:

Colorado's appears to be next in line for a large dusting. The last time the forecasters had their undies in a twist like this, two feet of snow was the small end of the totals in the area. We were originally predicted to get 3 inches. Now they're thinking it's going to be 8 and starting to sound nervous.

Deck the halls,
Kellie, who is glad she wore pants and sensible shoes to work today.

#17 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 11:11 AM:

You know those lines in Ozymandias about the bare and level plain?

Well, make that snow, instead of sand, provide very low-slanting light from the pale sun of winter, and put two intersecting cross country ski tracks in the medium foreground.

Nothing blessed else; not a shrub, not the shadow of a leaf, nor the memory of the pasing shadow of an owl. Nada.

Run over the caption "Portage and Main, Christmas Eve" in a student newspaper, it did a really good job of evoking how people who are not from Winnipeg feel about being there in the winter.

The folks from Winnipeg harrumphed a bit, and told Winterpeg jokes a little more forcefully than normal. The folks from Vancouver did the usual ritual shudders, and got mocked by anybody who'd ever spent any time in Edmonton, even in the summer. The whole That's not snow ritual, essential to Canadian social custom, went on its familiar way.

Me, I miss winter.

I'm starting to believe in my heart that the North Atlantic conveyor/salinity predictions are right, and that we're going back into the freezer. I shouldn't be glad, but it's hard not to be; the Lady of the Ice does not love us, but dealing with her is good for us, all the same.

And I do hope y'all are getting more enjoyment than travail out of the snow, too.

#18 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 11:12 AM:

What is it with spouses/sig. others and those dang snowballs?

I can only conclude that snow spontaneously decreases spousal intelligence. Once upon a time my better half simply refused to wake up, and we had an important affair to get to that morning. Losing IQ points with every step, I walked outside, sans shoes or socks, and stood in a snowbank for half a minute (I'm a trained Minnesotan, do not try this at home).

I then went back inside, lifted the covers, and attempted to place a nice deathly-chilled foot directly on her tummy. Unfortunately, I missed. The areas directly north and directly south of a woman's stomach are both exceptionally sensitive; I leave it to your imagination as to where the errant foot wound up.

I suspect I'll be damned if I'll ever hear the last of that incident.

#19 ::: Lara Beaton ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 11:50 AM:

Theresa:
If Patrick comes in and drops a handful of snow on me again, violence may ensue.

No jury in the world would convict you.

Graydon:
The folks from Vancouver did the usual ritual shudders

*shudder* I'm not sure if I've got the ritual down yet, as I'm a transplant.

My favourite quote about Canadian winter is "I was north of Winnepeg in February. That's like the opposite of being south of Hell in August."

#20 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 12:24 PM:

I enjoy snowfall, and pretty fresh snow on trees and lawns, and don't mind shoveling the first bit of fluffy accumulation off the walks. Last winter, I got a kick watch my brother's sweet little pit bull romp around in the snow with the nieces.

What sucks, and makes me dread my winter visits to family back East, is the *next* round of shoveling, and using the snow rake to clear off the roof, and the sight of dirty, tired snow in great ugly heaps making it hard to get around parking lots, and salt and slush making the car a mess, and kitchen floors covered with damp and grit.

It all gets tired really fast.

#21 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 12:28 PM:

I can't find it in my heart to believe that dealing with the Lady of the Ice is good for us when so much of the world's population is fed by agriculture. Yes, some areas would get more rain, theoretically bringing them into the reliable crop-growing range; but rain where there didn't use to be rain doesn't mean there's soil where there didn't use to be soil. Complex biological systems take a while to work out. So do our interactions with them.

Also, I hate cold dry weather. It's very pretty, and good for making certain kinds of confectionery, but breathing cold dry air has been bringing on general respiratory distress in me since I was six months old.

#22 ::: Rachael HD ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 12:31 PM:

I wish we had some snow. I lost all of my bee balm last year because of the lack of snow cover. If the ground would hurry up and freeze I would go buy some salt hay. Minneapolis winters are totally over-rated. Why, when I was a kid we had so much snow....

#23 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 12:43 PM:

Teresa -

The things that are good for us fall into two blocks; one social, one biological.

Socially, the awareness that a failure of co-operation is lethal soon, this winter, helps a lot.

Biologically, hard winters get rid of a lot of insect pests and tropical diseases. New England's astonishing historical population growth was mostly due to that; it was cold, so it was healthy. (I have my suspicions about Quebec, too, but haven't seen any studies.)

And by 'back into the freezer', well, it might mean 19th century temperatures, which are not a trivial adjustment but far from a disaster. If it means North American continental glaciation and the moonsoons shut off and no acriculture in Europe north of the Franco-Spanish border, that's something else entirely, something 'disaster' doesn't quite manage to cover.

I don't know where between those things our fate is going to fall; I'm hoping for the former.

Cold, dry air; the traditional fix for going outside is to breath through some flannel. Polar fleece works, too, if it's thin enough.

Hope you manage to avoid the general respiratory distress, all the same.

#24 ::: bill blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 12:54 PM:

I just rode my bike 10 miles (home -> public library -> campus -> home). It's 39 degrees F outside, I'm tooling around on my bike in jeans and a flannel shirt, and my neighbors are starting to refer to me as That Insane Guy From Up North.

For pete's sake, I only lived in northen Indiana. My biggest winters were due to lake-effect snowstorms... this whole lack of snow, raking leaves in December bit is tiresome.


-bill b., now in springfield, ohio

#25 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 01:21 PM:

Pictures like Jim's front yard hit me strangely. Growing up in Louisiana and Alabama, I ended up thinking that a white Christmas meant that your lawn had gone beige and dormant for the winter. I longed for snow and sleds and making snowmen and all the other stuff I saw in schoolbooks written far to the north. My last year of elementary school saw us transferred to Oscoda MI. I waited and waited for the first snow. That year had an unusually warm and dry fall so there was no snow on the ground well into December. Finally, like in some bad movie, a foot and a half fell Christmas Eve. I loved everything about it -- even the shoveling (we had a very short driveway).

Well, that wore off. A couple of years there, then a year in northern Oklahoma (yep, it does snow there) and then three years in Germany took care of any lingering sentimentality about snow. Or at least it should have.

I still head up the road every year to my favorite bit of winter (the early snow has melted but more is on the way). My favorite winter fantasy is to hole up in the Awahnee for a non-holiday week (nobody will be around), and get the full dosage of snow that I need, with a warm fire and hot drink nearby. Then I can scamper back down here to the Valley, where winter means the grass turns green and starts growing again.

Take care Teresa. If Patrick really does suffer from that form of temporary insanitity in the presence of frozen precipitation, maybe you should stuff some Gore-Tex in under your pillow next to the slippers.

#26 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 01:36 PM:

Well, lack of real weather does not preclude one from getting sick, dammit.

This is only my second winter in L.A., so may I just say I don't miss the snow at all. In fact, I relish the opportunity to call my parents in Chicago and tell then how we had to open the sun roof on the way home from Christmas shopping. I have also been known to call them from the beach in February. (my dad's snappy come-back involves Lou Malnati's pizza.)

What I do miss about having weather is having it get so chilly that I feel compelled to sit down in front of endless episodes of cheesy sci-fi programs with a two-cheese grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, followed up with a mug of hot chocolate with little marshmallows.

#27 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 02:01 PM:

I MISS winter. Especially winter in Canada. A winter spent in San Diego played havoc with my internal thermostat, and now that I am experiencing the admittedly mild winter of North Carolina, I find myself shivering in temperatures I had previously found quite temperate. For example, a chinook would hit Calgary and I'd run around in shorts and a tank top, but experiencing the same temperatures here (as a drop from higher ones, not a rise from lower) I'm shivering and piling on the sweaters. My Calgarian friends are mocking me from afar.

I'm also not sure if I'm looking forward to visiting Utah at Xmas--on one hand, I'll get to see snow. On the other hand, there are visions dancing through my head--visions where my poor icy fingers snap and break like little twigs.

Living in San Diego was like that scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail:

In the frozen land of Nador, they were forced to eat Robin's minstrels. And there was much rejoicing. A year passed. Winter changed into Spring. Spring changed into Summer. Summer changed back into Winter and Winter gave Spring and Summer a miss and went straight on into Autumn.

Except in San Diego, it's Fall giving Winter and Spring a miss and going straight back to Summer.

That sort of thing will really give your poor body a shock if you're used to four seasons done dramatically.

#28 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 02:05 PM:

The Patriots had a sellout football game yesterday. And about thirty inches of snow fell on the stadium. It wasn't pretty. The team actually clinched a playoff spot with the win, but an astonishing amount of talkshow airtime afterwards was consumed by people who were trying to go to the game, but never made it into the parking lots...

#29 ::: Alison ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 02:27 PM:

The curious thing about Washington, DC is that it snows every year and every year people behave as if they'd never seen the stuff before. We end up with things like 100 car pile-ups on I-95 and two hour trips between Dupont Circle and Georgetown. I'm just glad the first major storm of the year occurred on a weekend when no one was obligated to go anywhere.

This is a marked contrast from, say, St. John's, Newfoundland, where they close school only when several feet of snow fall at a time and they have to dump the plowed snow into the harbor because they've run out of places to put it.

#30 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 02:45 PM:

This is a marked contrast from, say, St. John's, Newfoundland, where they close school only when several feet of snow fall at a time and they have to dump the plowed snow into the harbor because they've run out of places to put it.

Yes, that's the bugger of living where it snows every winter, all winter. Growing up in Utah, my siblings and I would hear stories about kids who had school cancelled because it snowed but needless to say, such a thing never happened for us, until tenth grade when it snowed so much one Sunday that CHURCH was cancelled--no small thing in Utah, where there are chapels on practically every corner. Even then, we still had to go to school on Monday, as the roads were plowed by then.

Ditto for my second snow day--in college. It also occurred on a Sunday, and again church was cancelled. The snow piled so high that I could step on mounds of snow higher than my head with little trouble.

Snow! Circa January 1996

#31 ::: Kristine ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 03:07 PM:

I'm in Swampscott, Mass., north of Boston near Marblehead, so we got 30 inches of snow and tidal flooding. I bundled up my 6-year-old last night and walked down to the beach to watch the last of the storm swells. There aren't that many things in life that are more fun to do with a 6-year-old than with slightly more advanced life forms, but this was way better with him. All the cliche9s about wonder, etc.

Later, as we were drinking our cocoa (well, OK, as I was drinking my cocoa and he was spooning up marshmallows held together with a shot of cocoa), he said "Mama, I'm starting to feel my right size again."

Indeed.

#32 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 03:11 PM:

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon snowballs, I vowed revenge

#33 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 03:20 PM:

The curious thing about Washington, DC is that it snows every year and every year people behave as if they'd never seen the stuff before.

Alison, the same thing happens here in the Denver Metro area. I'll never understand that. I mean, part of the reason so many of these folks are here is because they are within a couple hours drive of ski areas. Snow should not be a foreign concept. My husband is from Buffalo and can drive through any type of blizzard you lay in his path. But he doesn't set foot on the roads in this area during snow because the rest of the drivers make traveling more hazardous than a 0 visibility snowstorm. The natives I've queried about thw "What the hell is this white stuff" driving phenomenom blame the large amounts of Californians who visit and move here.

#34 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 03:45 PM:

The curious thing about Washington, DC is that it snows every year and every year people behave as if they'd never seen the stuff before.

...and you've just described Minnesota, too! You'd think we'd know better, but no. Every year, same damn thing. School cancelled, 18-wheelers overturned, ditches so thick with cars you could walk the length of the state on top of them. Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.

#35 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 03:51 PM:

The Muscovites may have called your snowstorm a "dusting," Jane, but as of mid-last week Moscow itself was strangely and entirely without snow. The temperature floated somewhere around a "balmy" 32 degrees F. I imagine that's changed since then, but I'll be quite excited if it doesn't. It'll be nice to flee the snow here and go to Moscow and do without - a real reversal from my usual December travelling.

#36 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 06:02 PM:

Our first hint of winter in Prescott AZ (mile-high, so don't confuse us with Phoenix) arrived this morning. Mid-way on my c. 4-mile walk home from downtown -- good exercise and we don't have buses -- the air filled with teensy little white pellets that immediately melted. Coming from the Bay Area, I don't know snow terms -- powder? Not hail or sleet, at any rate. But the really great thing was vicarious snow watching, seeing it on the flanks of the San Francisco Peaks 90 miles to the east, a dusting on one northern mountain, and dark or white bursts of it hanging over some area at a safe distance. Now cozy at home, I can still see some of it from here at my computer. (Even when it does come down and stay a while in January, my husband from Maine is not impressed.)

#37 ::: HoHo ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 06:36 PM:

30 - 40 inches of glorious powder at Sunday River in Newry (Bethel)Maine where I'm teaching skiing this winter. A ski instructor's dream -- no students, the training schedule changed to "Independent Practice" and a mountain full of "steeps and deeps". I've been convincing people to make snow angels when they fall to give thanks for the snow.
My legs hurt, I'm living on vitamin I(Iboprofen), but my beard is full of ice, and my grin in frozen on. Sometimes I wish I had a snorkel, though!
Ok, I'm not quite a typical fan...
Just wish I could send Scott Imes (who also taought skiing a long time ago) a postcard about it...

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 06:47 PM:

Sunday River? Cool! That's near one of my local movie theaters, and the lasertag and climbing wall nearby are great!

#39 ::: HoHo ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 07:53 PM:

"Local movie theatre" only in a north country sense -- around 50 miles, isn't it? Across the watershed between the Connecticut and Androscoggin rivers at Dixville Notch, then across the Mahoosics at Grafton Notch (though you could circle around).
I'll probably be at the 6:30 "Last Samarai" show at the Casablanca tomorrow night.

#40 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 08:56 PM:

...and you've just described Minnesota, too! You'd think we'd know better, but no. Every year, same damn thing. School cancelled, 18-wheelers overturned, ditches so thick with cars you could walk the length of the state on top of them. Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.

...Er? Which Minnesota are we talking about here, Scott? The school district I moved into this October (Eagan-Apple Valley) just sent out a self-congratulatory newsletter talking about how they've only had eight school closings in the last ten years and three of them were governor-mandated closings. And having been a college student whose contact solution froze to her eyes in the wind those winters, I can verify that those three were definitely worth it, and if that's their standard for closing, it's all right by me.

And the driving...my parents, native Minnesotans, used to think Minnesotans couldn't drive in snow. Then they moved down to Nebraska, where I had school cancellations for a three or four inches, and they grumped about it until they saw the southerners try to drive. As bad as it can be here in Minnesota, it really is worse further south. Really. We have state employees who know how to plow freeways here, at least in theory.

When I was living in California and I told people I missed the snow, they all goggled at me: how could I possibly miss snow? But a lot of Minnesotans I've talked to agree with me that it isn't the MN winters that give them pause, it's the summers.

#41 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 09:27 PM:

It works both ways, of course. The first serious snowstorm of the year, there is tinburger all over the highways; and the first nice weekend of the year, cyclists (motorized and not) decide to dash as fast as possible through traffic, having left their helmets wherever they usually leave them (generally at the store).

One imagines the Trauma Calendar. I think I can live without websearching for that.

This has to have some sciencefictional application. "Hovercraft in the molting season! When will they ever learn?"

#42 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:11 PM:

Graydon,
Strong drink is not a good idea when you're going out into the cold; that feeling of warmth is due to the alcohol being a vasoconstrictor. This isn't good for your extremities in serious cold, since they freeze off faster.

Thanks for the pointer—I'll remember it (that's what comes from reading too many Alistair MacLean novels when I was a kid...."gimme a shot of brandy before we head back out to the Schloss Adler...")

#43 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 10:56 PM:

I'm with Kate, I'd have killed him on the spot.

I was at SMOFcon in Chicago and there were lots of Bostonians there. Most of them had their Sunday flights cancelled. All of them but one got out today. For some reason Deb Geisler's airline couldn't get her out until tomorrow.

Hate snow and cold. Hate it.

MKK

#44 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 11:23 PM:

Alison: unless the climate has changed more radically since my childhood than I've heard, it doesn't get snow every winter; it gets "snow" every winter, or maybe snow "every winter". In the 1950's and 60's soccer was a winter school sport, between football and baseball -- occasionally a field had to be plowed off but usually it was \slightly/ harder to fall on.

Certainly DC drivers were idiots in the winter; the standing joke was that the Soviet Union would invade when DC was paralyzed by half an inch of snow. But they had the excuse that the snow often turned to rain before it got to the fall line. (The one winter I had a paper route, I considered myself hard done by if the thermometer was at or below 26F at 5:30am.)

Of course, there's an exception to everything. A couple of times we got enough wet snow to take down the power lines, and just once there was a real blizzard -- cold enough that the snow moved instead of staying put. Grass was showing through the crest of the eight-foot cut on my road, but the cut itself had vanished.

I'm just as happy to be in Boston; I'm still fit enough to shovel, and I get about 10 days a year like the ones DC would have for several months in a row in summmer.

#45 ::: davey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2003, 11:56 PM:

Mike, we now have more than enough to share with those we care about, and there are wondrous conveniences available of Overnight Delivery and Special Packaging.

And I'm really glad Chip's still fit enough to shovel since he does the apron in front of the garage and usually the whole sidewalk around our corner lot, while I do the path from the kitchen door to the back gate (and, now, the pad by the back steps where my Vespa is parked).

Could be worse, though: the silliest shoveling-out I ever had to do was in 1978--Boston got The Blizzard, but I was still in Lancaster County, PA, which only got a couple of feet of snow in that storm. I was living in dorm, and not teaching off-campus the next few days, so by the time I went out to clear my car the plows had been by many times and the parkers on both sides of me had also shoveled out. So there I was facing a mound of snow well taller than myself in which was buried, somewhere, my VW Beetle. White, of course. After I was done laughing I took soundings with the handle end of the shovel to figure out where my car actually was...

#46 ::: Kate Salter ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 12:09 AM:

We have 38 inches of snow up here in Beverly, MA, which is 26 miles north of Boston. Somehow I got the brilliant idea to drive to my bf's house on Saturday becasue he lives in Belmont, whihch is only an 18 minute drive to work, in the hope that I could make it in last night. It took me three hours.

I hate snow.

Especially now that I can't have hot chocolate.

Damn Migraines.

Kate

#47 ::: Bob Devney ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 12:24 AM:

Graydon, so "[B]iologically, hard winters get rid of a lot of insect pests and tropical diseases." Never thought of it that way before.

So we avoid leishmaniasis, river blindness, and the fabled brain-boring earwig ("they lay eggs"). Thus giving us the environment in which to develop parliamentary democracy, the moldboard plow, and French onion soup plus ski lodges to slurp it in.

Cool.

I say chapped lips, Celine Dion, and Norwegian reindeer sweaters are small price to pay.

#48 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 02:55 AM:

Graydon and John Farrell, I could have sworn alcohol was a vasodilator - hence the "glow". This is much more dangerous; the flow of blood to the extremities keeps them nice and healthy and warm, at the expense of potentially fatal hypothermia in the body core. I think nicotine is a vasoconstrictor; smoking in cold weather supposedly increases the risk of frostbite.

John M. Ford, the idea of a molting season for motor vehicles ties in well with local observations of their breeding season, which is coming up in a few weeks. Large motor vehicles converge from the deserts in all directions to gather in large herds for a week or so here in Pasadena. Some time later, we'll see individuals migrating along the freeways with their young in tow behind them. We haven't yet been able to determine the sex of individual specimens; perhaps Kevin A. Murphy will be able to assist us.

#49 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 05:00 AM:

The snowfall distribution was unusual. Were it a more standard distribution, parts of Worcester County would have had more snow than Beverly, instead of the two feet or so less.

Farther north doesn't necessarily translate into "more snow." The year I was at Thule the snow that was one the ground on base, mainly was blown in from off the icecap [snowcap, morelike] horizontally, rather than falling from precipating down from high in the sky. There was more snow in my driveway yesterday than there was totally on the ground at Thule the entire year I was there. OTOH, the winds were nasty here this weekend, but nowhere near "Phase" storm level. The sound of howling wind going a minimum of 40 mph gusting to 90 or more, was not what I was hearing. And the temperature stayed in double digits F, as opposed to dropping down to -40 and staying around for a week or so at that level. And there was -sunlight- today, something I went for -months- without seeing any of.

#50 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 07:50 AM:

Paula: Yeah, Greenland is one of the drier spots on the Earth (especially the interior), together with the heart of the Antarctic and the West coast of Chile (average precipitation in Calorica, Chile: 0.6 mm/year).

#51 ::: Rachael HD ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 08:08 AM:

"School cancelled, 18-wheelers overturned, ditches so thick with cars you could walk the length of the state on top of them."

Hmph, I have taught in Mnneapolis (well, Edina actually) for ten years now and the only darn snow days I have gotten were my first year and they were actually cold days and they were called by the gov'ner. I stand by my earlier statements: why, when I was a kid we had real snow, and it stayed all winter too.... (wheezes, shakes cane.)

#52 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 08:56 AM:

Jeremy -

Small amonts of alcohol are a vasodilator, larger amounts are a vasoconstrictor. Traditional cold weather drinks from cold countries are well into the -constrictor ends of things, as the matter was explained to me long ago.

And yes, I'm sure this varies a great deal per individual metabolism, but it's also not the sort of thing you really want to take chances with, either.

#53 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 09:38 AM:

Mris wrote:

...Er? Which Minnesota are we talking about here, Scott? The school district I moved into this October (Eagan-Apple Valley) just sent out a self-congratulatory newsletter talking about how they've only had eight school closings in the last ten years and three of them were governor-mandated closings.

Rachael HD wrote:

Hmph, I have taught in Minneapolis (well, Edina actually) for ten years now and the only darn snow days I have gotten were my first year and they were actually cold days and they were called by the gov'ner. I stand by my earlier statements: why, when I was a kid we had real snow, and it stayed all winter too.... (wheezes, shakes cane.)

Hey, y'all should visit scenic District #833, South Washington County, where my mom works and where I went to school. ;)

To be clear, it wasn't snow days I meant, it was the initial cold/ice/muck of the first snowfall of the season. Once winter sets in, Minnesota plows through it with general efficiency and indifference, even if the TV news folks won't stop whining about it. But for the first day or two, it's as though all the relatively simple lessons we all should have learned (slow down and be more watchful, dammit) in years previous have been completely forgotten by too many people.

I remember driving between Woodbury and White Bear Lake along 494/694 to get to college from '96 to '98, and the first snowflakes of the year inevitibly heralded mass auto-graves in the highwayside ditches.

Also, my father is a part-time tow truck driver for Twin Cities Towing, and has been for almost a quarter of a century. His specialty is retrieval of broken-down and overturned 18-wheelers, of which there are always dozens soon after the first flakes hit the ground. My opinions on the first few days of winter in MN may well be heavily influenced by being the son of one of the guys who gets to ride to the rescue year in and year out.

But that's the fun of anecdotal evidence-- it can all be 100% accurate and 100% contradictory.

Cheers!

SL

P.S. Hey, it's finally snowing hard here in St. Paul-- my yard has two inches on it at the moment. Not bad, considering that it was sunny and melting (about three-quarters brown grass) just yesterday.


#54 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 09:53 AM:

Love the picture of Jim MacDonald's yard -- looks exactly like where I grew up, on a steep road in a suburb of Pittsburgh, where we had real snows when I was a kid darn it. (Although I called home and they had real snow Friday, poor things.) One of the familiar sounds of winter was cars sliding and skidding as they tried to climb the hill, then drivers giving up, abandoning their vehicles at the crossroad below us, and climbing home, grumbling mightily...

Here in balmy Oklahoma I gloated about our shirtsleeve weather, and of course we are now likely to get a dusting today, which means "tinburger" (evocative word, John!) on my route home. At least they drive slightly better in the snow here than they did in Tennessee...

#55 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 10:27 AM:

Wow. A whopping 4 inches in Boulder. You'd think it was four feet with the havoc it was still causing this morning. Traffic was backed up for two miles so everyone could slow down from the requisite 30 mph of snowdays to 5 mph and ooh and aah over a pickup flipped on its side in the ditch. I can't wait until we move to Arizona so we only have to deal with driving in snow insanity once every five years.

#56 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 12:12 PM:

The two winters I spent in Alaska were contrasts in themselves.

One winter was so cold that very little snow fell in our area. It was ankle deep at most. Water that had seeped beneath the linoleum rose to freeze into small indoor puddles in the rooms at the ends of the building where the wind hit most and caused the inside temperature to actually be lower than the rest of the building. I recall the outside temperature was -60 degrees.

The other winter was milder in temperature staying mostly in the twenties and thirties. The snow that year accumulated until it reached well over the height of most, if not all, adults. The sidewalks had been shoveled regularly so that we could move between buildings to go about our work. The same with the highways, but the median strips were still covered such that you didn't have to use low beams in order to spare drivers on the other side of the highway. It is those median strips that I remember because numerous drivers during the course of the winter would lose control and spin out into the very wide median. They would then climb out of the vehicle and follow the hollow path they created to the highway and hitch a ride. This was before cell phones became available. With the coming of the spring thaw, there was a parade of tow trucks along the highway to recover the vehicles because snow collapsed in the hole the vehicles made so that they became lost to sight before the owner could find his way back to where he thought he lost his vehicle. No one was willing to dig into that much snow only to discover that they'd found someone else's vehicle, so many were left buried until the thaw revealed exactly which vehicle was which.

#57 ::: Norm ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 02:11 PM:

And here I find myself in Central Canada with less than 2 inches on the ground.

#58 ::: Rachael HD ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 02:43 PM:

Scott, didn't mean to imply that you were wrong, just enjoying grousing about my lack of snow days. I took a sick day today and it's snowing so that's almost as good. (Other than the whole being sick part.) You couldn't be more right about the driving, I am always confused by my fellow Minnesotans lack of driving ability for the first snow. What? you forgot how in the 10 weeks of summer?

Best all time snow day? The winter my kid brother was 4 or 5 and it snowed so much I had to pull him on the sled to the park because the snow was deeper than he was tall. Second best was the year of the Halloween and Thanksgiving storms (89? 90?) when my husband and I spent the whole day digging out peoples cars for them and ended the evening at the bar at the end of our block drinking cocoa with the bartender until 3:00 am.

#59 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 05:35 PM:

Scott, didn't mean to imply that you were wrong

Hey, no problem! Occasionally being nudged to provide supporting evidence or clarification is a good thing. Keeps my Mutant Arrogance Factor in check.

Second best was the year of the Halloween and Thanksgiving storms (89? 90?)

I can't remember the specific year... I would have been 11 or 12, depending. I have much more vivid memories of the Legendary Huge-Ass Thunderstorm of '87, as it washed an acre of new sod out of our yard and left it three blocks downhill. Now that was neat!


#60 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 05:47 PM:

BTW, while we're on the topic of weather and calamity, I just felt an earthquake. About an hour ago. At first I second guessed myself, thinking, I left California three months ago, and I'm being a little over-imaginative. Nevertheless, I checked some sites online, and lo, there was level 4 earthquake in Richmond, VA, that could be felt as faraway as NC and MD.

Here's some links in case anyone is interested:

Recent EQs: ttp://folkworm.ceri.memphis.edu/recenteqs/

Reporting Form (if you felt it):
http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/shake/cus/

Who Felt It:
http://newsobserver.com/front/story/3117138p-2823585c.html

http://pasadena.wr.usgs.gov/shake/STORE/Xcdbf_03/ciim_stats_14

Anybody else feel it???

#61 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 08:43 PM:

Halloween storm was the year I was 13, so 1991, I think. The other Minnesotan in house has confirmed it.

(This is probably going to be after someone else's comment already saying the same, since I left this window and wandered off awhile. Sorry.)

#62 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 11:00 PM:

What Alison fails to mention is that DC drivers react in exactly the same way to rain.

I'm moving to north of Baltimore this weekend (where last Saturday I had my first helping of shoveling snow out of my very own driveway, for which my back may even forgive me at some point), and looking forward to seeing how far away from the Dark City you need to get before people stop being constantly astonished by precipitation.

#63 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2003, 11:32 PM:

And after a relatively tolerable commute yesterday (possibly aided by schools being closed), Boston today found out just how badly it had plowed; streets west and southwest of downtown turned into parking lots. It hasn't helped peoples' tempers to hear that the man responsible for plowing believed the forecasts that said 4-7" (which I saw on TV Friday night and on the web Saturday, even after there were 8" on the ground), and didn't start serious plowing until he was behind the curve.

I think Paula exaggerates; snow patterns here can be all over the place. Inland towns often don't get as much snow as the coast because winds come off the water; the hills aren't high enough to give a lake effect as in Buffalo, but the air can be out of moisture by the time it gets 50 miles inland. My guess is that the north/south range (3' ~20 miles north-by-east of Boston, 16" in Boston) was because it didn't get severely cold -- south of downtown at 4pm Saturday the roads were more slushy than snowy. (And the official figure probably came from the airport, which is on former tidal flats and so has less extreme temperatures than a few miles inland.) But even Nantucket got some snow rather than all rain; an hour-by-hour map of isotherms would be interesting.

#64 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 12:53 AM:

Weird days. We started out the day with a thunderstorm, which is really odd in December. The morning was pretty much like the gods were flushing out the heavens, as usual I took Jim to work and he asked to be dropped off at a garage entrance where he could get the inside link to his office rather than walk to the front door. It let off a bit, and about two hours ago (8:30 or so) the rain started sounding tinkly (sleet) and now it looks like it's snowing, They keep reducing the amount, though. so It's not likely to be bad. But I SO want to stay home and get work done tomorrow.... get a day in the deadline train..... sigh (I've had a 24-hour workweek so far and it's only Tuesday.... sigh. Winter at a trade show publisher).

#65 ::: Jello ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 01:01 AM:

Winter is good. It kills lots of creepy crawly things we'd be up to our collective arses in if it weren't for the occasional hard freeze.

KC always lays down at least a 1/8 inch of ice before any snow, just to make it interesting.

Jello

#66 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 09:08 AM:

Dan --

If it makes your back hurt, odds are you've bought a snow shovel from the Crippler's Conspiracy. The shovel should have a handle that's long enough to allow you to do all the work by flexing your legs with your hands held close to your body as (variably positioned) fulcrums. The little bity short handled things are that way so they'll fit in the trunk of your car, not so they'll do a good job on the driveway.

#67 ::: disgusted` ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:47 PM:

CNN footage: US Soldiers execute Iraqi man, cheer.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.literati.org/article5365.htm

young soldier describes how 'awesome' it was.

#68 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:50 PM:

If it makes your back hurt, odds are you've bought a snow shovel from the Crippler's Conspiracy. The shovel should have a handle that's long enough to allow you to do all the work by flexing your legs with your hands held close to your body as (variably positioned) fulcrums. The little bity short handled things are that way so they'll fit in the trunk of your car, not so they'll do a good job on the driveway.

Nah, I'm just woefully out of shape. The shovel's great.

Didn't help my following that job up with six hours of painting rooms, either. So it goes.

#69 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 04:55 PM:

Graydon: Small amonts of alcohol are a vasodilator, larger amounts are a vasoconstrictor. Traditional cold weather drinks from cold countries are well into the -constrictor ends of things, as the matter was explained to me long ago

So the obvious thing to do is to balance your alcohol consumption with a suitable amount of nitroglycerine.

(Nitroglycerine is a strong vasodilator, and has the interesting property of freezing perfectly happily, but exploding spontaneously when it melts. Some years ago, an article on the history of dynamite included the story of a miner in the Old West who drank nitroglycerine on a bet, went out in the cold, and froze to death. The next morning, his buddies found the body and brought it back into the bar to thaw...)

#70 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2003, 11:25 PM:

I had my snowday today. It took me almost an hour to take Jim to work and get back home and I was totally traumatized by the slickness (it rained here before it started snowing, and the snow crews basically scraped the snow off the ice. And it was a bit too cold for salt to do much good. But I got to get ahead on a project that just needed sitting down and working on..... for eight hours straight.

I thought it was stupid that a local 'investigative reporter' was going to look into why a couple of highway ramps became impassible. I wanted to smack him and say, "what can you say about acts of God?" you can't plan for the weather, you can just deal with it. And the snow crews were out doing their job, they just can't magically make all the ICE disappear/evaporate at once! (plus it was windy, and on some vital roads, they'd scrape them and the snow woud just drift back over....).

#71 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2003, 02:13 AM:

Oh, it's forty below in the winter,
And it's twenty below in the fall.
It rises to zero in springtime,
And we don't get no summer at all.

(chorus from a little ditty on the joy, the mystery, the wonder, that is Saskatchewan.)

#72 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2003, 07:54 AM:

CHip wrote,

"I think Paula exaggerates; snow patterns here can be all over the place. Inland towns often don't get as much snow as the coast because winds come off the water; the hills aren't high enough to give a lake effect as in Buffalo, but the air can be out of moisture by the time it gets 50 miles inland."

Noreasters coming back around, where the precipitation is all snow and no rain in Boston, can get more snow in Boston than in Worcester. Storms coming in from the west with water picked up from the Great Lakes before then freeze, though, tend to dump more snow on Worcester County than Boston. For one thing, Worcester has a higher elevation. For another, Boston is usually warmer, both for the lower elevation, and the recording site being at Logan Airport, which is on the Atlantic Ocean. The harbor doesn't freeze very often.

I grew up 40 miles west of Boston, half the time it was snowing in Worcester County and Boston was getting rain. Note than Worcester tends to get more snow a year that Boston does....

http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/climate/orhsnw.shtml
versus
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/images/yrsnow.gif and
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/box/climate/BOS.SNW

[bad URL on the link page, the correct link is the one above...]

Worcester almost always gets more snow, sometimes a -lot- more snow. Boston got 70 or more inches of snow 9 times from 1892 - 1996, Worcester had at least 70 inches 29 times for the same period.

#73 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 12, 2003, 11:52 AM:

The snow is gone now, incidentally. Amazing what a day of warm heavy rain will do to even the most solid packs of snow, and to the highways.

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