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December 16, 2005

Cold Blows the Wind Today
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:43 PM * 434 comments

The temperature on my front porch when I went out on a pre-dawn ambulance call yesterday morning was twenty below, and today I’ve got freezing rain and sleet, with a forecast of four-eight inches of snow on top of it, so it’s time for my annual Hypothermia talk.

Guys, hypothermia can kill you deader’n dirt, and it can kill you fast.

Some things to remember if you’re planning on outdoor activities like hunting or hiking:

First, there is no such thing as “warm clothing.” Hang the nicest fleeciest Gortex ‘n Hollofil parka on a clothesline overnight with a thermometer inside it, and in the morning that thermometer will read the same as the air temperature.

All that clothing can do is slow down how fast you lose heat. Sometimes the clothing you need to wear is a “cabin” with a pot-bellied stove.

Non-survivable conditions are just that: non-survivable. Listen to the locals. They’re the ones who are going to have to go haul your dumb ass out if you run into more trouble than you can handle.

While no clothing is warm, some clothes will chill you down faster than others. Cotton is about the best for buying you a ticket home in a body bag. Wool stays warm even when it’s wet.

Hypothermia and dehydration go hand-in-hand. Drink lots of water! Beer is not a substitute.

If the question ever arises in your mind, “Should I turn back now?” the answer is “YES!”

Dress in layers. Carry more food than you think you’ll need. Carry more water than you think you’ll need. There are some very nice, very light, very small tents on the market. They won’t help you in non-survivable conditions, but they’re a big help when conditions are marginal, the sun’s going down, and you’re deep in it. The question in your mind when you’re packing should be “Can I manage overnight with what I’m carrying, if the temperature is twenty degrees lower than forecast, and it’s raining?”

Let someone know where you’re going, and when to expect you back. Give the local rescue squad something to work with.

The buddy system isn’t just for Girl Scouts. If you go into the woods, take a friend. When his teeth start chattering, his lips turn blue, and he starts acting goofy, you’re hypothermic too.

A GPS and a cell phone are no substitute for a map and compass (and know how to use them, too, bucko).

Carry a whistle. Make sure your kids carry whistles. We’ve had some very sad cases.

Stay safe. Mother Nature doesn’t give a flip if you live or die.


Copyright © 2005 by James D. Macdonald

I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.

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Cold Blows the Wind Today by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

(Attribution URL: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/007098.html)


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Comments on Cold Blows the Wind Today:
#1 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 01:44 PM:

And friends, if you're going to be driving anywhere where it gets the kind of cold described above, please, please remember to pack your car with emergency supplies, and use good sense when deciding whether or not to drive somewhere in bad conditions. You can freeze to death in a stuck car.

#2 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 01:51 PM:

As a corollary, the family friend who taught me to ski impressed upon me very firmly that the time to stop skiing is at the point you think you have "one last run" in you. By that point, you're tired and prone to injury. It is also likely that the sun is going down and the mountain is getting colder and the ski patrol is going to find you harder to see.

#3 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 01:58 PM:

Here in Tennessee, and I suspect in most other states, there are areas where your cell phone won't work. Some of these are state parks with popular hiking trails.

If you're cold and confused enough, GPS won't do you any good--you have to think well ehough to figure out "Where do I go from here to get where I want to be?"

Much of the United States (and elsewhere, in temperate climates) has times of the year when weather can go from "fine hiking weather" to "chilly enough to produce hypothermia if you're out in it without warm clothing*". In the Great Smoky Mountains, neither April nor October can be relied upon, and I wouldn't get too cocky about May and September, either, especially if it rains. Now contemplate how much farther south the Smokies, the Blue Ridge, or the Cumberland Plateau in east-central Tennessee, are from Mount Washington, the mountain that kills all year round. Places with a high altitude can be counted on for changeable weather; the farther north they are, the worse the changes are likely to be.

All the weather divinities in the world have had reputations as flighty bitches--because you can't count on the weather to be on your side. Ever. At all.

*Which is still above freezing.

#4 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:07 PM:

If you live someplace warm and decide to go to the mountains to look at the snow, remember that even if it's warm where you live, snow is cold. Dress for the snow, because it's bigger than you are. Don't go walking on steep slopes, because it's a long way down. Especially avoid streams, because if it's cold enough for snow to be on the ground, it's cold enough for those tempting rocks to have ice on and around them. It's really a long way down if you fall on ice; sometimes it's all the way down that mountainside. Rocks may break you fall, but they'll break you in the process.

#5 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:08 PM:
Young Charlotte lived by the mountainside in a cold and dreary spot
No other dwelling for miles around, except her father's cot
And yet, on many a winter's eve, young swains would gather there
For her father kept a social board and she was very fair

Her father loved to see her dressed prim as a city belle
She was the only child he had and he loved his daughter well
In a village some fifteen miles off there's a merry ball tonight
Though the driving wind is cold as death their hearts were free and light

And yet how beams those sparkling eyes as the well-known sound she hears
And dashing up to her father's door, young Charles and his sleigh appears
"Oh, daughter dear," her mother says, "those blankets round you fold
For it is a dreadful night to ride and you'll catch your death of cold"

"Oh nay, oh nay," young Charlotte said, and she laughed like a gypsy queen
"To ride with blankets muffled up one never would be seen"
Her gloves and bonnet being on, she stepped into the sleigh
And away they rode by the mountain side and it's o'er the hills and away

There's music in those merry bells as o'er the hills we go
What a creaking noise those runners make as they strike the frozen snow
And muffled faces silent are as the first five miles are passed
When Charles with few and shivering words the silence broke at last

"What a dreadful night it is to ride. My lines I scarce can hold"
When she replied in a feeble voice, "I am extremely cold"
Charles cracked his whip and urged his team far faster than before
Until at length five other miles in silence were passed o'er

"Charlotte, how fast the freezing ice is gathering on my brow"
When she replied in a feeble voice, "I'm getting warmer now"
And away they ride by the mountain side beneath the cold starlight
Until at length the village inn and the ballroom are in sight

When they drove up, Charles he got out and offered her his hand
"Why sit you there like a monument that hath no power to stand?"
He asked her once, he asked her twice but she answered never a word
He offered her his hand again, but still she never stirred

[And there he sat down by her side while bitter tears did flow
And cried," My own, my charming bride, 'tis you may never know."
He twined his arms around her neck, he kissed her marble brow,
His thoughts flew back to where she said,"I'm growing warmer now."]*

He took her hand into his own, twas cold as any stone
He tore the veil from off her face and the cold stars on her shone
And quick into the lighted hall her lifeless form he bore
Fair Charlotte was a frozen corpse and a word she ne'er spoke more

He took her back into the sleigh and quickly hurried home
And when he came to her father's door oh how her parents moaned
They mourned the loss of their daughter dear while Charles wept o'er their gloom
Until at length, Charles died of grief and they both lay in one tomb

File this under Things You Learn From Folk Music. First, silk wasn't a bad choice (silk or poly-pro makes great undies when you're wearing wool), but she apparently didn't have enough layers.

Next, at the moment she said "I'm feeling warmer now," young Charles should have stopped the sleigh, dug a snow cave, said "To mean you any harm, my love,/ Is a thing that I do scorn./ If you let me lie all night with you/ I'll marry you in the morn," and provided body heat.

Third, see above about non-survivable conditions.

There's a kind of doll called the Frozen Charlotte, and a kind of dessert as well.

#6 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:12 PM:

I have a dumb question. I can't wear wool. What's my next best option?

I don't go hiking, but do have to walk daily, even when it gets chilly (4 with windchills below, recently). I have heard that Coolmax makes good long undies. Any thoughts?

#7 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:20 PM:

Coolmax, GorTex, and PolyPro are all good fabrics if you can't do wool.

BTW -- your prime hypothermia weather is forty to sixty degrees (Farenheit), light rain, and a stiff wind blowing.

Hypothermia inside a house is common. Especially for elderly who may not be able to afford heat. Look for hypothermia whenever you find a patient on a floor. Injuries that limit motion make hypothermia more likely.

#8 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:21 PM:

Speaking of wool, what can you use that would work similarly well in wet and cold conditions? All the survival notes speak highly of it, but I haven't read many recommendations for other materials if you happen to be deathly allergic to wool.

#9 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:22 PM:

Elizabeth, can you wear silk? If you can, I highly recommend Wintersilks long underwear. It comes in several different weights.

Over top of the long johns and regular clothes, I'd suggest outerwear thats a combo of Goretex and Polar Fleece. (Try checking Lands End and L.L.Bean.)

#10 ::: Dru ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:25 PM:

Doh!

Elizabeth beat me to it, dallied too long on the submit button. Does the recommendation hold true for wet conditions as well as dry?

#11 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:28 PM:

I was recently some-online-where trying to compare deaths due to indoor hypothermia in nations with different building and welfare codes, but no-one could find really useful numbers. What got batted around was the increase in mortality as temperatures dropped, but there are confounding factors, like flu season; though I should think flu and hypothermia exaggerate each other's effects.

#12 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:29 PM:

And remember that Polar Fleece and similar materials do not block wind. I make sure my fleeces are inside a wind-blocking layer.

Please remember this for your animals, too. Wind, which cuts right through their fluffy insulating coats, makes hypothermia a danger at temperatures above freezing.

#13 ::: ben ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:36 PM:

And...

If it's snowing or might possibly snow, don't leave any of your gear lying flat on the ground. The best prep in the world won't matter a damn if it gets buried right under your nose.

For those who haven't been involved in Scouting or learned this info otherwise and are wondering why alcohol is a bad idea - it opens blood vessels, which has the consequence of carrying heat away from the core of the body even faster than would be the case. In other words, it makes you hypothermic even faster. So just don't.

Following up Aconite's first comment, I'll bet that four Mylar emergency blankets and a box of flares together cost $20 before tax, if not less.

Even after almost ten years total of living within easy driving distance of the Missouri River, it didn't occur to me until just last week (when it got to fifteen below Fahrenheit here) that below ten above, maybe more, the level of discomfort felt by decreasing temperatures (alone) achieves its floor. When I mentioned this to my father (who lives in San Diego, but grew up in Idaho and went on lots of hunting trips in the mountains when he was a kid), without breaking flow he answered, "Sure. That's what makes it so dangerous." This is borne out by the verses that Jim posted.

Mount Hood near Portland is an easy enough climb that according to popular theory, a well-guided wilderness n00b can try for the summit in good weather. Alas, some of those have learned the hard way what fidelio says about the unpredictability of weather at altitude.

#14 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:40 PM:

Interesting data on hypothermia, part 2,245: When rewarming a person, at the point the rectal temperature is rising, the atrial temperature is still falling.

The reason you want to handle cold people carefully, and especially avoid artificial rewarming if the person has decreased mental status is: The limbs by that time are full of cold, stagnant, de-oxygenated, acidic blood. If you start moving that stuff into central ciculation, you're going to induce ventricular fibrillation. At this point your life will become even more exciting.

Next tip: To avoid hypothermia, or to treat mild hypothermia (patient can still guard his airway), give warm liquid Jell-O or warm apple juice by mouth. Avoid caffeine.

#15 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:40 PM:

I was about to write: I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where even when we think it's cold, it's really not -- and then Jim posted this: BTW -- your prime hypothermia weather is forty to sixty degrees (Farenheit), light rain, and a stiff wind blowing. We get exactly that kind of weather all winter. I didn't know... Thanks.

#16 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:48 PM:

Lizzy L: there's a line, attributed to Twain: "San Francisco is the only place where you can lie under a rose bush in full bloom and freeze to death."

This is not strictly correct (I'm sure there are other places where you can freeze while lying under a blooming rose) but it would appear to be otherwise correct. (We used wool blankets even in the summer!)

(BTW: loved your 'grumpy rant #1'. ROFL!)

#17 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:48 PM:

Try watching the day trippers on Haleakala (Maui). Many do not realize that they'll need cold weather gear -- it's a bright sunny day in the balmy islands, right?

Wrong -- you need pants, solid shoes (not flip flops or sandals) and several layers of warm clothes, at the least.

So here are the tourists, aloha shirts, shorts and sandals, freezing their buns off and surprised that it's cold at 14,000 feet!

Sigh -- it's even better if they've visited the winery on the other side of the volcano first.

#18 ::: Adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 02:59 PM:

The mention of Frozen Charlotte up thread is tickling something in my brain and won't let me rest. The internets don't seem to be much help -- not because the info isn't out there but because I can't come up with the right string to search with because I can't remember all of the details.

There was a young adult (?) novel that featured a character who either a) is named Charlotte because of the poem, b) becomes obsessed with the Frozen Charlotte dolls or c) is named after the doll because her mother is obsessed with them.

I know. Not much help.

Part of me wants to think it was something by Paul Zindel. But I make no promises.

Anyone? Or is this even too vague for the collective mind?

#19 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Lori: Whereas we Hawai'i locals break out our sweaters and complain bitterly when, as today, the mercury drops below 70F in the mornings. You'd never catch me up there in less than a heavy jacket, jeans, and good shoes.

#20 ::: kGraydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Dru, et al --

Wet means you're dead.

This isn't strictly true, and it's the bias of an upbringing where it got cold enough that sweating could kill you if you did it away from shelter, but it's a dandy thumb rule. (This is, tangentially, why I don't like goosedown parkas -- they're entirely lovely insulation until they get a bit damp, in which case you're biscuited.)

"Wool works when its wet" means something much closer to "sweat will kill you slower" than "getting wet isn't a problem"; it is.

It is difficult to too highly recommend GoreTex or similar wind pants; I see a lot of people at the bus stop in fairly serious jackets and a pair of jeans. You're as warm as the worst layer, too; expedition grade parkas won't save you if you're not wearing a hat, or only have a single layer on your legs, or no wind-stopping layer on your legs, or similar.

All breathable membrane fabrics don't work if they're not clean. If you wore it last year, and haven't washed and re-waterproofed it, it won't work to keep the wind out anywhere near as well as the label claims it does. There are specific products to wash membrane fabrics in; detergent will generally make things worse.

No one is coming to get you -- plan on this basis.

Lighting a fire on snow makes a slushy, soaking mess. Lighting a fire at all in windy conditions, and a useful fire moreso, is remarkably difficult. (Use number six hundred and eight for those mylar survival blankets -- wind stop and heat reflector.)

#21 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:09 PM:

Also, remember: Frozen lakes aren't (unless the locals are fishing on 'em).

#22 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:13 PM:

James, would you please define "artificial rewarming"?

#23 ::: Trey ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:15 PM:

I've done hypothermia, its not fun at all. You really don't think well at all and its absoloutely terrifying as yourealize what's happening.

How did it happen? I was sailing a small boat (sunfish) when I was a teen and the weather changed - temperature dropped like a rock, wind came up like hell. Couldn't get it to point worth a damn in the weather and by the time I was frozen, wrecking the boat on the breakwater seemed like a dandy idea. I could walk to shelter then.

Fortunately, the race committee remembered me after counting noses on shore and came to rescue me.

#24 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Is that "k" in "kGraydon" like the "t" in "Haydent"?

I grew up in New England. For many years our house didn't even have central heating. I don't understand some people's enjoyment of winter sports, skiing, etc.

Winter is not a leisure activity. It's a test of survival. Sometimes it's fun, but it is always serious.

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Artificial rewarming = heat packs, warm baths, etc.

There have been some amazing recoveries from low temperatures. Even apparent death (fixed dilated pupils, no apparent pulse, no apparent respiration, unresponsive to painful stimuli) isn't really dead. We have a saying, "You aren't dead until you're warm and dead."

Eventually we do rewarm people, but it's done in closely controlled conditions in a hospital. Things like filling the abdominal cavity with warm saline.

#26 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:24 PM:

There's a reason our ancestors, who did not have GoreTex and other miracles of modern textile chemistry, were prone to long wool overcoats and to things like waxed canvas dusters--these provided another layer for the legs. Nowadays, we like short coats--they're easier to move in, and the extra fabric is a nuisance in a vehicle. But if you walk a lot, or stand about in the cold, add something to make up for the lost layers if you wear a short coat. (This is also why, about a hundred years ago, women in the western world still wore wool flannel petticoats in chilly weather. In fact, my great-grandmother was still faithful to hers in the 1930s. In a house heated by woodstoves and fireplaces, even in a mild climate like the Ozarks, it made a big difference.)

Among the useful things stashed behind the seat in my truck is a box of trashbags--in addition to anything else they may be good for, they are acceptable emergency rain ponchos, and will block some wind*. I wouldn't want to test my luck in them for very long, but I do my best to avoid going to places where I'd need more without bringing more. However, the trashbag is better than nothing at all.

*Note: "some" does not mean "lots" or "strong", espcially as these terms are understood in serious snow and blizzard country. For Nashville, where you can also freeze to death under a blooming rosebush, the trashbag is a useful stopgap. (Unless the wind is, in fact, a tornado--in which case, hypothermia is the least of your problems.)

#27 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:35 PM:

I have a long waterproof (and moderately windproof) japara coat. It is disliked by various members of my family, who think that a) it's too big, b) it's full-length c) a and b result in it looking ugly. In vain do I point out that it was bought specifically for standing around on British Rail platforms in the middle of winter, and thus I *want* it to be almost dragging on the floor. Keeps my legs warm, see, even on British Rail platforms in the middle of winter. And the British winter may not be as cold as North American winters, but this thing called sleet can lose you heat very fast indeed.

The bit *I* object to with said coat is that it's now pretty much impossible to get a japara, full-length or calf-length, with a proper wool lining. They're all cotton-lined, because the shops found that given a choice between cheaper cotton lining and costlier wool lining, most people would go for the cheaper japara even when the salesperson explained to them why Wool Is Good.

#28 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:40 PM:

Eric, I'm about 600 ft above Pearl, and it was in the low sixties last night. Three blanket country, especially if I like windows open at night.

#29 ::: Moleman ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 03:42 PM:

Yeah- the artificial rewarming stuff is neat, in terms of what they can bring folks back from. There are some more, ah, extreme methods that I'm familiar with, but they're usually done in the cardiac OR under very controlled situations, where they've unhooked your heart and cooled you down to anywhere from 28-15 C.

#30 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:01 PM:

When my dad's ship got back to Pearl at the end of WWII (they'd spent the time in the south Pacific), the men on lookout wore parkas.

Now a bit on shivering:

Muscles create heat when they work. As your core temperature goes down, you start to shiver -- that's involuntary muscle movement for the purpose of creating warmth. This burns up glucose in the bloodstream. I'm sure y'all have heard that things go from bad to worse rapidly when the patient stops shivering? That's because the body's used up all its glucose. The warming stops, so the core temperature starts to plummet. Plus, at this point, you're now hypoglycemic with all the signs and symptoms associated with that unhappy condition.

Another mystery revealed: When persons with European ancestry get cold, their hands and feet start aching every eight to ten minutes. That's because the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet contain what's called the A-V Shunt (for Arterial-Venous Shunt). Every eight to ten minutes that shunt opens up, dumping warm arterial blood directly into the veins (rather than going through the capillary beds). This is a cold adaptation thanks to the Cro-Magnon ancestors who had to deal with glaciers and such.

You can use this to advantage -- warming the palms of the hands warms the central circulation. That's where the little chemical warm packs that slip into gloves come in handy, and why folks warm their hands at the fire.

Next mystery revealed: Why exposure to cold makes you need to urinate.

When the arms and legs get cold, the blood vessels in them constrict, slowing blood flow, to keep from dumping too much heat to the environment. When the vessels constrict, the blood moves into the body core, raising the blood pressure. The body reacts, lowering the blood pressure by dumping water out through the kidneys.

#31 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:09 PM:

(This is also why, about a hundred years ago, women in the western world still wore wool flannel petticoats in chilly weather. In fact, my great-grandmother was still faithful to hers in the 1930s. In a house heated by woodstoves and fireplaces, even in a mild climate like the Ozarks, it made a big difference.)

Jim or other knowledgeable persons -

How dreadful would it be to use cotton flannel instead of wool flannel for such a petticoat? The latter is several times more expensive, harder to find, and a mild allergen, though it wouldn't be next to my skin. The flannel petticoat would be one of six layers on my lower body, with the others all being lightweight cotton, along with a wool cloak over all. I might be persuaded to make flannel drawers as well, but those would definitely have to be cotton flannel.

I'd be moving around and ice skating (slowly and carefully) but it would still be outdoors in a New England winter. I would not be leaving the confines of a town or otherwise attempting to survive outside civilization, but I don't want to have to be constantly retreating indoors either.


#32 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:10 PM:

A frequent lurker provoked to praise.

I am a resident of the scenic state of Alaska, and I have the nearly overmastering urge to print out copies of Jim's initial post and keep them in my pack for handing out to the obviously clueless.

The tourists in jeans have some excuse. The locals in the mountains in flipflops and cotton sweatshirts defy belief. Yes, Anchorage is the largest city in AK. Yes, we have coffee stands on most corners. We even have most of the big box stores. People still die within city limits for being stupid about the terrain, the weather, and the wildlife. And yes, it can snow in the mountains in July on a day that started clear as a bell.

#33 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:17 PM:

Susan: How dreadful would it be to use cotton flannel instead of wool flannel for such a petticoat? ... The flannel petticoat would be one of six layers on my lower body, with the others all being lightweight cotton, along with a wool cloak over all.

So the cotton would be situated so as to absorb sweat? Cotton doesn't insulate worth squat when wet, no matter which direction the moisture comes from.

Tangentally, a woman who raised sheep and spun wool once lectured me that most people who say they have allergies to wool actually only have contact dermatitis, the difference being that for the latter you don't have to be rushed to the ER. I offer that FWIW.

#34 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:33 PM:

So the cotton would be situated so as to absorb sweat? Cotton doesn't insulate worth squat when wet, no matter which direction the moisture comes from.

In order from the inside out: my body, heavy cotton stockings, wool socks, mid-calf-length cotton drawers (could do in flannel), cotton chemise, corset (layers of cotton drill), hypothetical flannel petticoat, cotton corded petticoat, second cotton corded petticoat, cotton tucked petticoat (covers upper body as well), chemisette (cotton dickey with high neck), dress (cotton, ankle-length, long sleeves stuffed with polyfill - avoiding down due to allergies), pelerine (short cape), lacy cap, bonnet, wool cloak, gloves, large furry muff. Oh, and ice skates - modern ones, alas.

The only other thing I might add would be silk socks under the stockings. As far as absorbing sweat goes, let's just say there's no reason ever to wash the dress, since sweat won't ever get that far. The question is whether the number of layers makes up for the thinness of them and whether a wool flannel petticoat would be so significantly better than a cotton flannel one that I should go to the cost and hassle of finding the fabric.

Tangentally, a woman who raised sheep and spun wool once lectured me that most people who say they have allergies to wool actually only have contact dermatitis, the difference being that for the latter you don't have to be rushed to the ER. I offer that FWIW.

Breaking out in an itchy rash. I don't care what it is precisely, I just don't want to do it. It's not life-threatening and does not seem to be a problem as long as the wool isn't directly against my skin.

#35 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:47 PM:

Susan, I think the problem is not so much the dress as the cotton layers already next to your skin.

Itchy rash sounds like dermatitis, though I agree: whatever it is, I don't want it.

#36 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:47 PM:

Laura --

'k' means 'up', and sometimes it (and 'j', which means 'down') leak in on me if I am so foolish as to scroll over a text input box.

Susan --

It's not likely to matter. Petticoats are effectively a way of stopping air currents and maintaining bulk, rather than a conforming layer, and since you're not going to be sitting down much when skating, you don't have the problem of converting them into a conforming layer to worry about. (Unlike people with drafty houses and wood heat and a desire to not stand up all day.)

The single best thing you could do for warmth is likely to make the calf length drawers out of a modern treated cotton waffle-structure fabric, but I suspect that'd leach all the fun out of it.

#37 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:49 PM:

Susan: I suppose you could do a layer of cotton (or linen) next to the skin, then go to wool.

I have some waffle-stitch cotton thermals (Swiss made, not full length). They do nicely at temperatures down to about zero, for travel/shopping purposes; I also have a down coat to keep me warm (last used on a day when it was 35F/35mph). If I were going to be out in real cold for long periods, I'd consult with someone from Cold Winter Areas (James's advice will do fine; I also know someone from Fargo via Minneapolis) about what works well.

#38 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:49 PM:

Is there some reason you're avoiding other-than-natural fibers?

Silk stockings and underdrawers might be a good plan. I don't know how linen would work as an insulating fabric.

#39 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 04:58 PM:

When wet, cotton, even heavy cotton flannel, does not perform like wool.
Which brings us to: Will the flannel petticoat be getting wet?

If you aren't absolutely sold on total authenticity, and can locate some, there are polyester textiles that resemble fine wool, and, thanks to the contruction of the polyester fiber, have the ability to lock in air almost as well. Another possibility would be a heavy-weight silk noil, in a tight weave. Neither is authentic to period, but will pass in a dim light, or under your skirts, so to speak, since wool doesn't have to be thick and heavy to be warm. (I am currently wearing a thin wool crepe shirt not much heavier than cotton--over a silk undershirt because I'm not heroic.)
Wool blends are also often less scratchy--whether wool/silk, or something at a slightly lower end of the price range. Worsted is less scratchy than woolen, and then there are tropical worsted suitings in wool blends, which are often on sale this time of year, and are not at all scratchy. It's not the same as all wool, of course.

From what my mother says, Great-grandma's flannel petticoat was somewhere around mid-calf, and wasn't too full--although fasions in her youth were considerably less full-skirted than mid-19th century styles.

#40 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:03 PM:

One thing I disagree with. Mother Nature DOES care: she wants you to die if you're stupid.

#41 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:05 PM:

P.J.:
I suppose you could do a layer of cotton (or linen) next to the skin, then go to wool.

Actually, I have a linen chemise I can use. Forgot about that one.

Graydon:
It's not likely to matter. Petticoats are effectively a way of stopping air currents and maintaining bulk, rather than a conforming layer, and since you're not going to be sitting down much when skating, you don't have the problem of converting them into a conforming layer to worry about. (Unlike people with drafty houses and wood heat and a desire to not stand up all day.)

Define conforming layer in this context? Does that have to do with anything except fit?

You vastly overestimate my skating prowess if you think I won't be spending a lot of time sitting/falling down!

The single best thing you could do for warmth is likely to make the calf length drawers out of a modern treated cotton waffle-structure fabric, but I suspect that'd leach all the fun out of it.

That would probably be second on the list of un-fun things to do to drawers to make them warmer, and the first only just now occurred to me. Hmm.

James:
Is there some reason you're avoiding other-than-natural fibers?

They hadn't been invented yet.

#42 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:12 PM:

Susan - Silk, silk, silk, silk. Heavy silk underwear is a joy in itself even before it keeps you warm. Un-glossy, undyed silk looks a lot like cotton muslin, too.

#43 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:21 PM:

Another mystery revealed: When persons with European ancestry get cold, their hands and feet start aching every eight to ten minutes. That's because the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet contain what's called the A-V Shunt (for Arterial-Venous Shunt). Every eight to ten minutes that shunt opens up, dumping warm arterial blood directly into the veins (rather than going through the capillary beds). This is a cold adaptation thanks to the Cro-Magnon ancestors who had to deal with glaciers and such.

That's fascinating. (Says the former archaeologist, who's going to be assistant-teaching a class on human evolution next term.)

I'm pretty sure I had a brush with mild hypothermia one time. Woke up at 5 a.m. when the temperature at destination was 45 and dropping; got off a warm bus at 8 a.m.; was on my feet and occasionally moving until about noon; was sitting on a metal bench for most of the next several hours. (College football game, and me in the band.) By fourth quarter it was snowing, I couldn't feel my feet, and most frighteningly, when I tried to mentally recite the thing I usually recite to keep my mind off being miserable, I had trouble remembering the words.

I never want to do that again. My ancestors may have been Scandinavian and Swiss German, but I grew up in Texas and will gladly go toe-to-toe with potential heat stroke -- just don't make me deal with the cold.

#44 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:38 PM:

Two days ago, I'm driving down the highway in the right hand lane, about to take the next exit. A semi-tractor-trailer in the next lane over starts lane changing on top of me, my passenger freaks, I swerve into the breakdown lane, the semi's still coming, I swerve over some more, and end up on top of two feet of packed ice and snow under the middle of the car. the wheels aren't touching the ground. I've got emergency blankets, jumper cables, a small first aid kit, and some other stuff in my trunk, so I go look and discover... no friggen shovel.

Call a buddy of mine at work. He asks around, 15 people, including the building maintenence manager, and not a one of them has a shovel. He stops at Target, all sold out. He has a plastic kids shovel in his trunk. He comes over, we dig it out, and the three of us push the car back onto the road.

Went to Lowes that night, found a spade labeled "World's best shovel". It's about 4 feet long (can fit in a trunk), all steel construction, and it's FLAT. (You won't consider this important until you try to dig out the snow under the middle of your car and the only shovel you've got is CURVED and jams up two feet under the car) I bought three. One for me, and one for the two buddies who helped push me out.

Not that I'd shovel my sidewalk with this thing, its a spade with a narrow blade (maybe 8 inches wide), but when you're car is up on two feet of snow-ice it's better than being stuck.

must find a tow rope or hand winch or some such thing too. If anyone's stuck on ideas as to what to get me for christmas, nudge nudge...

The semi never stopped. He either didn't see me or didn't care. No one on the highway around us stopped either. We basically sledded into the snowbank and sat there for half an hour without a single car stopping. I dunno bout you, but where I grew up in Wisconsin, if you didn't stop for someone stuck in a ditch, it was a sin. Oh well, life in teh big city.

#45 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:48 PM:

PJ Evans; I am glad you enjoyed my rant. Self-disemvoweling is remarkably easy to do, and very satisfying.

The Twain aphorism I learned, which no historian has been able to find but which everyone agrees Twain would have said had he thought of it, is: The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. I spent 5 winters in Chicago, and believe me, the above not-Twain-quote is bullshit. San Francisco ain't cold. Chicago winter IS cold. (And you guys who live in Montana, or Alaska, or the Yokun -- yah, you get cold too.) BUT -- when you're standing on the corner of Fillmore and Geary, waiting for the bus at 6:30 on a February morning, with the wind knifing east from the Pacific and the damp clinging like Shelob's web to every inch of your exposed skin, San Francisco sure feels cold.

On cold days where I live now, I unashamedly wear long silky things under my jeans. Not a Stoic, not me, no sir.

#46 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:51 PM:

[petticoats not a conforming layer, quoth I]
Define conforming layer in this context? Does that have to do with anything except fit?

One can lose heat through conduction, convection, or radiation, those being the only ways there are for heat to flow from the hotter body to the cooler body.

A conforming layer is effectively anything where you're losing heat through it by direct conduction. (One can lose quite a lot of heat through one's head and hands by radiation; convection is why wind is bad, and why standing very still in bulky outer layers is better than fidgeting.)

So in the case of the petticoats, they're not conforming layers; they're in contact with other layers, but not directly with you. This being the case, their ability to add to insulation by keeping layers of air trapped and making the IR photons work to cross them isn't directly affected by interacting with your skin, which is where wool really does do very well. (Lots of layers can be interacting with one's skin if the layers are pressed together; this is why layering for warmth has to involve successively looser fitting layers. It doesn't help if the jacket goes and compresses everything.)

You vastly overestimate my skating prowess if you think I won't be spending a lot of time sitting/falling down!

Unless you spend a lot of time actually sitting on the ice, with or without Emulation of the Forlorn Penguin noises, that shouldn't be a problem; the air layer gets to re-establish quickly and isn't out of existence for a significant percentage of the time.

[make drawers out of modern waffle-cotton]

That would probably be second on the list of un-fun things to do to drawers to make them warmer, and the first only just now occurred to me. Hmm.

There comes a time when modern silk or polypro longjohns just make sense. Without knowing just how cold it'll be, come the day, it's hard to offer an opinion on that point, but certainly for anything where the wind chill temp is below 0 Fahrenheit when being active outside I'd strongly consider that.

#47 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:54 PM:

This is fascinating, and helpful. Thanks, Jim, for posting it.

Could someone explain what causes paradoxical undressing? I ran across that while looking up hypothermia, and I'd never heard of it before.

#48 ::: Derryl Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:55 PM:

In addition to the writing, I'm a casual letter carrier (casual as in on-call, not full time). The Worker's Comp here in BC doesn't allow outdoor employees to work when it drops to minus 40 (which is the same in F and C). Last year we came close, and this year it's been cool (-12 or so today), but so far not nasty.

For today I wore: wool socks, regular street hikers (what snow is left is thin and crusty, so I don't need ankle coverage), long undies, pants, light sweater, button-up tshirt, work jacket, touque, and thin gloves. Fireman's mitts were in my bag for the second half of the day, when I was no longer dashing in and out of overheated businesses and apartment buildings. If it drops to -20, with or without windchill, I wear a turtleneck. -30, I lose the touque and wear a balaclava, but the problem with that is it gets so hot I roll is up, and then the moisture from my breath freezes it in place, so a scarf always comes with me on those days.

Visits to apartment buildings are the most dangerous. We stand in steaming hot lobbies while we drop mail in slots and sweat like mad, then walk back out into the cold again. Those are the days I've come closest to hypothermia.

D

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 05:57 PM:

Lizzy L: Having grown up in the Bay Area, we never went into the city without jackets or sweaters, even in September and October. I can remember my father going out a few times in the winter to thaw waterpipes, also. It can get a tad cool in the valleys.

#50 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:05 PM:

People still die within city limits for being stupid about the terrain, the weather, and the wildlife. And yes, it can snow in the mountains in July on a day that started clear as a bell.

People are clueless all over. Here in the Central Valley (California), fog is the primary problem. The saying here is that it's called dense fog because it makes people driving in it stupid.

California also has what may be the largest highways through the most remote country in the US. Interstate 5 between Bakersfield and LA runs through Grapevine Canyon and Tejon Pass -- many miles running through truly desolate areas that get heavy snow (enough to close the highway) with little warning a couple of times a year.

And then there is I-80 between Sacramento and Reno. Six lanes full of traffic at over 7 thousand feet elevation with some of the bigest snowfalls in the lower 48 (well over 30 feet a winter is not unheard of). You would think that people would take some warning from the name of the route -- Donner Pass. (The location of that culinary landmark is just short of two miles from the interstate. See this site for the history of Donner weather)

And on both routes on holiday weekends you will find people without chains, blankets, heavy coats, water or any other survival supplies blithely driving through a snowstorm.

This is defintely not evidence of intelligent design.

#51 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:08 PM:

James, do people who are NOT of European extraction actually lack the A-V Shunt?

#52 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:11 PM:

And I had (until they simply wore out) a set of military artic flying gloves that I inherited from my B-52 pilot father. On the inside, synthetic (I don't think they were silk) undergloves with special patches on fingertips to ensure grip. Over those, wool gloves and over those, leather. I miss those gloves.

#53 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:19 PM:

Claude --

Any decent outdoor store -- at least anywhere people ski or fall off mountains -- will have glove systems like that; they're typically synthetic, generally poly, neoprene, and membrane backed nylon as the three layers of gloves, but they work pretty well for gloves.

Nor would it be hard to get pretty much exactly what you describe -- leather gloves with thinsulate-and-wool liners are easy to find, and thin polypro glove liners are also easy to find in place of the silk layer.

#54 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:20 PM:

Interstate 5 between Bakersfield and LA runs through Grapevine Canyon and Tejon Pass -- many miles running through truly desolate areas that get heavy snow (enough to close the highway) with little warning a couple of times a year.

Last winter, when I-5 was closed one time, a semi tried using California 33 as an alternate route. He got stuck in the snow. (It has less traffic and is much twistier and much narrower than I-5. I-5 is a well-traveled road, with a few places to pull off and wait.)

#55 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:20 PM:

PJ Evans: That sounds right. And yet,every summer, the Angelenos fly north, bearing gifts (of credit card balances) and wearing shorts, and tank tops, and flip flops, and sunglasses fercryinoutloud, and they arrive at Union Square or Market Street or, God help them, The Cliff House, and they are fuckin' freezing their shapely asses off! Happens every year. Don't these guys ever talk to each other? (Fog? What's that?) While the natives, or those of us who have been here enough years of a lifetime to pass, peel off and put back on the necessary layers over and over.

Except -- not this past August, at least, not so much. It was odd. Chance? Global warming? Who knows?

I wonder about this global warming thing a lot. I wonder what happens to those of us who live on the coast when the ice caps melt -- as they are. I wonder what happens when instead of one Katrina, there are two, or four, every year. I wonder what happens when a major river, a river depended upon for water in some major city, dries up. Just dries up. Or when -- oh, sorry. I'm off topic. Right. We're talking about cold.

I think I'll go read something nice and soothing by J. G. Ballard.

#56 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:24 PM:

San Francisco ain't cold. Chicago winter IS cold.

I agree, BUT:

Our house on the San Francisco Bay, when we moved in three years ago, not only had no insulation (not terribly surprising both for the era and for the area) but had no heat (there was a fireplace, but the chimney was damaged in Loma Prieta and it wasn't safe to use it). When it was 40 degrees outside, it was 40 degrees inside. (And there were other issues, like when it was raining outside there was a waterfall in the library, but this is tangential.)

We're about to start our first winter with central heat both installed and operating, our fourth winter in the house, and just walking into the house and feeling warmth instead of a dark, damp chill inside makes a huge difference. We spend a lot less time shivering, for one thing, and on weekend evenings, we can stay home, instead of going out to any place that is likely to be heated to warm up.

In contrast, I've never ever been in a building in Chicago that didn't have central heat of some sort. And I've been in a lot of buildings in Chicago. I think being able to get away from the cold makes all the difference in the world in surviving the winter.

#57 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:31 PM:

Ayse: When I was in high school, we moved into a house with steam heating. This is a great system in an area where it's cold all winter. It didn't work really well in the Bay Area. I will admit, it was not helped by the fact that the builder (described by one of the neighbors as [pantomime of drinking from a bottle]) installed the system with the main lines in the attic (steam flows down and water up, yes?), and there was a nail through one of the tubes (system rebuilt later by my father, worked better afterward). We spent a lot of time cold in the winter and hot in the summer (no AC in that house either).

#58 ::: bill blum ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:32 PM:

And if you're at all skeptical of your furnace and its ability to continue functioning as temperatures drop? Get a service tech to look at it...

Service techs just left our house about 20 minutes ago after replacing our failed furnace. Only warning we had of the incipient failure? An intermittent odor.

#59 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 06:55 PM:

Steam heat is overwhelming even in cold places, in my opinion. Also, it helps if it was installed by somebody with a decent understanding of plumbing and heating principles. I have lust in my heart for a hydronic radiant system (hot water rather than steam in the pipes), but that will have to wait.

We put in a cheap forced-air system last winter (but had to leave it disconnected until this fall for reasons I won't get into). Works OK. It's a terribly inefficient kind of heat under the best of circumstances, and only more so in a house with open holes to the outdoors. But it takes the edge off the cold, and now we can walk around the house without seven layers of clothing on.

My parents have been limping their ancient furnace along for decades, and recently discovered that they could replace it with a new one that a) takes up a quarter the space, b) includes an air conditioner, c) costs considerably less than the original in dollars that haven't been adjusted for inflation, and the kicker, d) would save them so much money on gas that their total cash outlay for the first year would be less than with the old furnace, not including rebates from the gas company. I think they went for it. If you also have a forty-year-old furnace, consider an energy-efficient replacement.

Another heating tip: put a note on your calendar to call the furnace guy for a checkup in late July. (Or midsummer, wherever you are, after the cooling season has been going a while but before everybody is thinking of winter again.) They're usually a) instantly available and b) cheaper at that time of the year, and you don't risk having to replace the furnace at the last minute when everybody else's furnace is also failing. You don't need to do it every year, but regularly is good.

#60 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:08 PM:

I just wanted to add that it doesn't have to be all that cold outside for you to gethypothermia. That's what people die of on the streets here and it doesn't get below the forties most of the time, hardly ever below freezing. It's having no rain gear and getting soaked and then it's just kind of cold, and that's enough to do a person in.

#61 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:21 PM:

Thanks Graydon -- I just checked out REI and see some likely candidates. However, I don't think they'll smell like the old ones. Can't have it all, I guess.

#62 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 07:27 PM:

A few winters ago, I was visiting Jo in Swansea, at New Year's. Now, Wales doesn't get cold by New York (or Montreal or Chicago or Anchorage) standards. And I wanted to walk along the shore and see some local sight, since it was effectively my last chance before Jo et famille emigrated.

So, Sasha (age 11, I think, at the time) and Tom and I were walking next to the sea, on a chilly winter's day (air temperature probably around freezing), while Jo and Emmet sat sensibly in a bookstore/cafe. It was cold, as the three of us had remarked on, with of course an onshore wind.

And then Sasha commented that he didn't feel cold anymore. Just an 11-year-old's offhand remark. I declared that we were turning back immediately, and took shelter in the first available spot. After Sasha had warmed up again in the canned food aisle of said local grocery, we found Jo and Emmet and then a bus home.

I've wondered, occasionally, whether Tom would have realized, at some point, what "I don't feel cold anymore" meant--he's not stupid, but he's English and not as used to serious winters. They'd have been unlikely to be out there without me, though, so it probably wouldn't have been an issue.

Sasha understands about winter, and warm clothes, and such now, of course--though I remember a couple of years ago, in Montreal, on our way to the Metro one morning, him asking why nobody had told him how cold it was, and I explained that I had told him, but he hadn't been paying attention.

#63 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 08:02 PM:

Claude --

Something close to smelling right is why I still have my moosehide mitts, even if they're really rather too small, now.

#64 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 08:16 PM:

Anyone hear of "muck boots"?

They're a brand of winter boots that are insulated and waterproof and I saw them in a store once during the fall, and foolishly thought I would be able to buy a pair sometime later.

Are they any good? They looked good, but
boots always look good on a nice dry shelf
in a store. It's in 4 inches of ice-cold water, snow, and slush that is the deal breaker.

And if they are good,
where the heck can I get a pair?

#65 ::: Naomi Parkhurst ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 08:27 PM:

I will absolutely second the comments about rain and bad rain gear being recipes for disaster.

I went hiking in the Rockies one June with my father when I was in my late teens. We made sure I had both rain coat and rain pants, and we even re-sealed the seams on them as well as re-waterproofing my boots. (I think my father's gear was all new). But we neglected to check to make sure that the new waterproofing worked.

It was several hours into the first day's hike, it was warm enough that I was wearing shorts and t-shirt, and it started to pour down rain. So I put on the rain gear. Turned out I missed a spot, or else the Gore-Tex had gotten worn out across the shoulders; I can't quite remember. Also I hadn't waxed around the boot laces well enough. I was absolutely miserable.

Anyway, it's fortunate for me that my father was a member of a rescue club when he was in college, because he knew right away what was happening to me. He pitched the tent in the first vaguely big enough (not really), vaguely flat enough (not really) spot he could find, (I remember just standing there weeping in misery, not understanding what was happening), and shoved me into it. He made sure I stripped off completely and got me into my sleeping bag; I wasn't too far gone, so I warmed up pretty quickly. The sun came out an hour later, so I went and basked on a boulder.

It's left me very wary of rain on warm days. It's also left me prone to being scoffed at for warning people against hypothermia in such circumstances. But I perservere in telling them, regardless.

#66 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 09:12 PM:

Aconite ( if you're going to be driving anywhere where it gets the kind of cold described above, please, please remember to pack your car with emergency supplies) and ben (I'll bet that four Mylar emergency blankets and a box of flares together cost $20 before tax, if not less) remind me that the last time the conversation here turned to 'survival' (after the New Orleans flood), I was motivated to go out and buy a case of Mylar survival blankets and a case of whistles.

Stocking stuffers for everyone on our list this year.
I started handing them out to relatives I saw at Thanksgiving.

So thanks, Jim, for reminding us to make sure that the people we care about start thinking about these things.

#67 ::: RosemarieK ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 09:29 PM:

Thank you so much for the information, both in the post and the comment thread. I'm going to print it out and use it to revamp how I dress for going to work. I commute by bus and as my office moved from Mid-town to the financial district, I now have a much longer bus ride and longer periods outside, which includes time waiting for buses in open areas (by bridges and NY harbor).

#68 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 09:30 PM:

Xopher -- so far as I'm aware, non-Europeans don't have the A-V Shunt.

Greg, are you referring to "duck boots"? If so, they're great.

Suggestion for everyone: Shop for socks at a sporting goods store that caters to hunters and hikers, even if you aren't a hunter or hiker yourself. I have a pair of Hunting-Fishing thermolite socks from Lorpen that is really outstanding. Padded, insulated, really nice.

Speaking of kids -- they're on the wrong side of the surface area/volume ratio, and will get cold faster than adults.

#69 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 09:34 PM:

Greg --

Never heard of "muck boots"; insulated boots with waterproof feet (but not the leg covering uppers, which are merely resistant) are pretty easy to find.

The two brands I have had good results with are Sorel and Baffin. Both manufacturers make boots rated for -100 C.

#70 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:08 PM:

Hmm. Still no seriously cold weather in NYC. It was 50 out today. Practicaly t-shirt weather.

#71 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:21 PM:

Lordy. I'm off to the cricket. It may have gotten all the way down to 20 degrees today, just before sunrise. Celcius, that is.

#72 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:42 PM:

Josh--

Okay, maybe we're on different metabolisms, but -9 C before counting wind chill is cold enough for me, thanks. Not as cold as I'll be dealing with--I'll be in the frozen north in a fortnight--but it's cold.

#73 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 10:45 PM:

Another boot question:

If I read the Websites right, neither of the boots Graydon recommended come in my size.

Can anyone recommend good -- warm, waterproof, and suited for walking a mile or two at a time -- boots that come in a women's size 8 E? Or equivalent--I think that's a European 39, a US boys' 6.5.

I have a pair of ToeWarmers, which fit quite well in the store and not so well once I actually walked more than a short distance in them outside in the cold.

#74 ::: Michael Turyn ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:00 PM:

I seem to remember seeing battery-powered heated socks at a hunters' store, years back; I didn't want them, but I was younger then...now, I think I'd like a heated vest, and greatly like our heated mattress pad (10% of the power of a room heater...).

#75 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:17 PM:

Nice lead, minor additions for consideration:
If you come across a cold, maybe-not-dead person: Rescue flat, transport flat, you don't want the blood to drain from their head.

The urinating when cold (shell-core affect) can lead to impressive dehydration when you warm up, and possibly consequent vascular shock due to lack of blood volume. Get warm, fall over.

When your brain starts getting cold, the first thing to go is common sense. We are only a few degrees from being morons.

Don't assume there is only one diagnosis for a set of symptoms. Consider the hypothermic hypoglycemic diabetic. Who's been drinking.

Kids definitely get cold faster, when I teach skiing to kids, I try to deliberately underdress so I realize how cold the kids are. Conversely, when I'm ski-patrolling I overdress since I never know when I'm going to be lying still in the snow stabilizing someone's head for a half-hour or more.

Greg: "muck boots" might be findable at a farmer's supply or feed store. If you're looking for mukluks, try a snowmobile place.


My preferred heating system is gas-fired steam. The thermocouple in the pilot light generates enough power to run the gas valve. Still warm during the blackout.

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:48 PM:

See also: http://www.ilo.org/encyclopaedia/?print&nd=857100121 for information on cold occupations, cold injuries, and much else.

#77 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:50 PM:

Here's what really kills fast in real, deep cold.

Too much clothing.

Why?

You start warm. You start moving. All that insulation is keeping the heat in. Your body gets hot. You start sweating. The sweat soaks your clothing -- and collapses the insulation.

Suddenly, you're standing there, with your body in full "dump heat" mode -- and you've soaked through, so the water in your clothing is conducting the heat right through. Water is *great* at conducting heat. Suddenly, you're really cold, you get stupid, and you die.

The biggest rule of cold -- if you're sweating, your screwing up. When you walk out from indoors, you should feel cold. If you start moving and still feel cold, you add a layer. More likely, though, you'll quickly get warm. Strip off that top layer. Keep moving. If you start to feel warm again, off with the next layer.

When you pause, you immediatly add a layer until you get moving again. When you stop for the night (if camping), you add at least two, unless and until you get into bed.

For Ghugle's sake -- don't forget your hats. Heck, if you're cold sleeping, wear one while sleeping.

Hydration is important -- even if you aren't sweating (and you mustn't), when your lungs warm 0F air to 90F, that air is very dry, and it will humidify in your lungs. You will exhale amazing amounts of moisture that you'll need to replace. Food is also important -- no fuel, your body cannot make heat. Camping Trick Number 3 -- eat before you sleep, and you sleep warm. (number 4 -- once you're in your bag, with your hat on, do ten situps. You'll be warm all night.)

When you get inside, get as much clothing off as possible. It'll need to dry, and you don't want to overheat (then you sweat when you get outside...) You can dry dampclothes in your sleeping bag while you sleep, but that energy comes at a price -- you provide it. If you don't have enough food, that's a big problem.

Finally -- the coldest activity is the world is astronomy. Clear nights are colder, because the Earth's heat radiates to the dark sky. Still nights (when the seeing is best) doubles this fast. Furthermore, if you're using optics, you aren't moving. The standard is dress 30 degrees *colder* that the acutal air temp. I don't think that's enough.

The one time I actually hit real hypothermia wasn't on Superior in January, or Chicago in February -- it was July in St. Louis, this year. How? Company moved, racking servers in new datacenter. Spent 14 hours in a dry, 60F room, not eating enough.

When I left, and tried to reach my car, I had to sit outside for 30 minutes before I stopped shaking enough to dry. Thankfully, warming up in St. Louis in July is *not* an issue.

That's how easy hypothermia is -- it's a simple equation. Your body burns fuel to generate heat. The enviroment pulls energy away. If the latter exceeds the former, you start to lose.

(And, on the converse -- there's a rule of rescue. There are no cold dead people in rescue situations. They have to warm up first, because you'd be surprised at how long someone can be cold, and come back. There is a limit, however -- if they're frozen solid, they're dead.

So, if you ever pull a kid out from under the ice, and that kid still bends, that kid isn't dead yet. Important.)

#78 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2005, 11:54 PM:

Consider the hypothermic hypoglycemic diabetic. Who's been drinking.

I think I picked him up once. Except my guy was also psychotic (the voices in his head told him that water is poisonous).

#79 ::: H Melville ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:51 AM:

Just an additional cold weather note. When it comes to water issues, do not go in after anyone in cold weather without proper rescue equipment. Two dead people instead of one will not significantly improve the situation. I grew up visiting my aunt who lives on a lake that freezes in winter, and she taught me about basic water rescue. She saw three people die one winter because one went through and the other two didn't wait for help and equipment before going after the first. All three died. Under those circumstances, you're not being a hero, you're being a fool. Get help, so that the rescue people at least know where someone went in. And if you aren't trained, don't assume that you have any idea what you're doing.

#80 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:58 AM:

Fidelio:
When wet, cotton, even heavy cotton flannel, does not perform like wool. Which brings us to: Will the flannel petticoat be getting wet?

I can't see why it would. If I fall through the ice into the water I expect I'll have more immediate problems than the precise fiber content of my clothing. (Joke, mostly; I think this is a constructed rink, not a pond.)

If you aren't absolutely sold on total authenticity, and can locate some, there are polyester textiles that resemble fine wool, and, thanks to the contruction of the polyester fiber, have the ability to lock in air almost as well. Another possibility would be a heavy-weight silk noil, in a tight weave.

The problem I foresee with either making underwear out of silk (as various folks have suggested) or wearing modern silk stuff or anything else that locks in air under my underpinnings is that I have the modern problem of going from heated buildings into the great outdoors, and I can't easily remove underlayers without stripping to the skin. This wouldn't have been such a problem before central heating. I may have given the impression that all the layers I described were for outdoor wear. They aren't. Everything up to the pelerine is normal indoor clothing such as I'd wear for vigorous activity like dancing. (In summer I might remove the pelerine.) Adding or subtracting a waist petticoat or two is fairly simple. Adding cloak, gloves, muff, etc. likewise. Adding layers under the chemise and drawers means I am stuck with them. I suspect I'd have overheating problems indoors and end up going outside sweaty, which is something I want to avoid.

There are also logistical difficulties with modern long-johns under the drawers, though I suppose I could alter a pair for functionality.

From what my mother says, Great-grandma's flannel petticoat was somewhere around mid-calf, and wasn't too full--although fasions in her youth were considerably less full-skirted than mid-19th century styles.

Mine will be mid-calf as well, with tucks and maybe moderate cording. I'm in 1830's here; the fashions are full-skirted but not yet at their maximum.

#81 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 01:06 AM:

Graydon:
So in the case of the petticoats, they're not conforming layers; they're in contact with other layers, but not directly with you. This being the case, their ability to add to insulation by keeping layers of air trapped and making the IR photons work to cross them isn't directly affected by interacting with your skin, which is where wool really does do very well. (Lots of layers can be interacting with one's skin if the layers are pressed together; this is why layering for warmth has to involve successively looser fitting layers. It doesn't help if the jacket goes and compresses everything.)

I think what this boils down to is that my layers of petticoats will be useful in and of themselves just by trapping air between them, such that the fiber content of one petticoat is less critical, yes?

Unless you spend a lot of time actually sitting on the ice, with or without Emulation of the Forlorn Penguin noises, that shouldn't be a problem; the air layer gets to re-establish quickly and isn't out of existence for a significant percentage of the time.

Barring injury, I do not expect to perform the Emulation of the Forlorn Penguin posture and noises for more than a moment, though I will probably be less graceful and rather noisier in righting myself than the typical penguin.

There comes a time when modern silk or polypro longjohns just make sense. Without knowing just how cold it'll be, come the day, it's hard to offer an opinion on that point, but certainly for anything where the wind chill temp is below 0 Fahrenheit when being active outside I'd strongly consider that.

I would hope for a warmer day for skating. I am not that fond of cold weather; I grew up in Texas.

#82 ::: Marie Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 01:30 AM:

Susan -- ah, a kindred spirit. :-)

All this discussion is reminding me that, evolutionarily speaking, we are tropical animals. I am re-confirmed in my belief that I should never live anywhere that gets colder than sixty degrees Fahrenheit.

It's also reminding me of a scene that's always stuck in my mind, from Tamora Pierce's Lioness Rampant. Alanna's about to hike up a mountain pass in the midst of a blizzard (bad idea, and she knows it, but y'know, epic quest and all) -- so Pierce gives us a couple pages of Alanna preparing. Silk undergarments, wool overgarments, fleece-lined leather top and bottom with goosedown vest, knitted facemask, goggles, headcloth, fleece-lined mittens, fur-lined cloak, snowshoes. (And then magic to help make it all stay warm.) Then vivid description of re-learning how to walk in snowshoes, and an effective moment when Alanna realizes she's been walking for ages and has only made it a short distance out. The effect? As a reader, it absolutely made me believe this blizzard was the incredible danger the characters said it was. (The well-documented benefits of showing, instead of just telling.) It also stayed in my mind as a guide to how I should dress in severe cold, and it pleased me to see, when I started reading this comments thread, that yes, leather over wool over silk is in fact a good way to go. Yay for authors doing their research.

#83 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 02:45 AM:

I spent much of my adolescence living in a barn on a mountain in the Massachusetts Berkshires. Forty foot ceilings in the hall and living room, forced air heating which really only warmed things in the small rooms--bedrooms, bathrooms. Several fireplaces which were used most of the time. And (while I lived there) no insulation in the hall and living room, with the result that the wind would come roaring through the house at damned near full speed: we had windchill inside the house. You put on a coat to go from my side of the house (the loft above the bathroom and TV room on the south side of the house) to the kitchen on the north side. You put on a coat to go into the living room. The first year we celebrated Christmas and brought a nice little tree down the hill (it was 35 feet tall, but who could tell when it was on the mountain with all the really big trees?) we sat in the living room in front of a fire in coats (over our pajamas) and boots and hats, to see what Santa had brought.

I don't handle cold well. What all this taught me was that when it comes to temperature I have no vanity. When we lived in NY I would wear my ski-bib to work. People laughed, but my legs were warm. Now that we live in the Bay area, where (as the nice realtor who sold us our house pointed out) everyone is in denial about the weather and no one insulates properly, I am always just a little too cold. Again, no vanity: when my fellow San Franciscans are gadding about in T-shirts and shorts, I'm wrapped in shawls and wearing gloves.

#84 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 03:10 AM:

Note one: London is really warm. Ok, people keep telling me that this is unusual balmy weather, but still, if this is the worst winters can do here, I really laugh at them. We got real winters at home, thankyouverymuch.

Note two: even so, winter is winter, and I can't understand why people don't dress accordingly. Back in November when we had a couple of truly freezing nights I met a couple of minicab drivers who went through this pityful running-out-the-car-flapping-arms every time they had to go outside. They had a polare fleece jacket and a t-shirt on. I gently suggested to one that perhaps he ought to dress more. He said, no, no, it's just that he hadn't eaten.

Mah. Lots of people go around in flip-flops, and denim jackets here. Miniskirts, no stockings, sandals, and cotton jackets. T-freaking-shirts. Maybe they have more moral character than me. They don't seem cold, in general, althought there was a lot of complaining about the bitterness of the climate when it went a modest two degrees Celsius below freezing.

Note three: it's amazing how much of a difference a good hat makes. I bought a fur hat from the Russians in Padova last year, mostly because I liked the (probably fake) hammer-and-sickle enamelled pin on it. It looked gorgeous, and I have lost count of the people - sometimes passing strangers on the street - who told me "Great hat". So I bought it for the look, and of course it doesn't hurt that the theme this winter seems to be Tzarist Russian Look, but as time went by I realized that Russians do know about cold.

#85 ::: Tae ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 03:41 AM:

Could someone explain what causes paradoxical undressing? I ran across that while looking up hypothermia, and I'd never heard of it before.

I remember talking about this a couple years ago in alt.folkore.urban. The consensus was that - and I think it was already mentioned above, people get stupid when cold, and take off their clothes rather than keep them on.

The incidence of this happening in the general frozen public is about one in four. One year Sweden counted up all the peoplesicles found in flagrante delicato and determined that two thirds of them had drugs or alcohol in their systems.

They didn't come right out and make the correlation between drinking and taking your clothes off in public, but as also mentioned above, being cold and drunk makes you even more stupid than either one alone.

There was some other Swedish study - which rates mention in that it is only one of twenty-five Medline articles that make reference to 'drunkards', which tried to create a link between atherosclerosis, alcohol, hyperthermia and the winter lambada.

Artherosclerosis might cause paradoxical peripheral vasodilation, which, much like alcohol, will cause one to feel warmer than they really are. The Germans reference this and introduce another whacky behavior of the cold and nearly-dead - "terminal burrowing behavior".

Those Germans.

#86 ::: Mary ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 04:28 AM:

Another thing about making it more likely that children will be rescued (on top of "give them a whistle") is to be careful how you teach children to respond to strangers. A child lost in the bush Australia this year starting trying to *evade* the rescuers because they were strangers to him and therefore, as per his parental teaching, dangerous.

#87 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 08:27 AM:

Susan --

I think what this boils down to is that my layers of petticoats will be useful in and of themselves just by trapping air between them, such that the fiber content of one petticoat is less critical, yes?

Pretty much, yes. The difference there is between permeable and impermeable, but I misdoubt me you're going to make a mirror-mylar petticoat under any circumstances, so that's not likely to be a meaningful concern.

Barring injury, I do not expect to perform the Emulation of the Forlorn Penguin posture and noises for more than a moment, though I will probably be less graceful and rather noisier in righting myself than the typical penguin.

Have you ever seen penguins getting up onto their feet again? Not bending in the middle and having tiny, horizontal, splint-like femurs doesn't make for elegance in arising.

#88 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 08:34 AM:

Have you ever seen penguins getting up onto their feet again? Not bending in the middle and having tiny, horizontal, splint-like femurs doesn't make for elegance in arising.

With the corset on, I have the not-bending-in-the-middle part, and having 12+ yards of fabric wrapped around my lower body will take care of the rest. Perhaps we could film this and then watch March of the Penguins for comparison.

Clearly the most important accessory for this excursion will be a large penguin, err, gentleman with exceptional balance and ice-skating skill.

#89 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 08:54 AM:

Susan --

Oh, right, forgot about the corset.

I remain certain that frenzied territorial croaking and barking is entirely avoidable, which is not the observed case for the majority of the ilks of penguin.

Clearly the most important accessory for this excursion will be a large penguin, err, gentleman with exceptional balance and ice-skating skill.

An obvious commercial opportunity presents itself -- highly elegant, mannered skating partners for hire at the entirely reasonable rate of a kilo of fresh herring an hour.

There's still the question of how you make skates for tridactyl digitgrade feet, but that can be dismissed as mere engineering in the funding proposals.

#90 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 08:55 AM:

Susan: With the corset on, I have the not-bending-in-the-middle part, and having 12+ yards of fabric wrapped around my lower body will take care of the rest.

The real reason women haven't traditionally* excelled in sports.

*for a given value of "traditionally"

#91 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:28 AM:

It's been cold all week (highs below -10 C) so yesterday when it snowed 41cm and was a balmy -4 it seemed quite warm -- no need for a fleece layer under the coat.

Nevertheless, I was surprised to see people out wearing mini-skirts and little jackets with bare bellies.

They were downtown, not in the wilderness, and the people I saw on the street around here (mostly having impromptu "let's dig the car out" parties) were sensibly dressed.

But even downtown the snow wasn't cleared everywhere, and it was -4, and I'd have thought winter clothes would have been better... even considered as a mating display.

Still, people are very odd.

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:35 AM:

Speaking of Not Talking to Strangers and the rescue problem -- same thing happened recently in the USA:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/06/22/missing.scout/

#93 ::: Eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:41 AM:

I live in Vermont, where the winters get a bit chilly. At 5 degrees F below zero, your breath will freeze to your scarf or beard. At 20 degrees below zero, your tears will (occasionally) freeze your eyelashes together. This is not weather for the unprepared.

The basic rules:

1) Long underwear, top and bottom, made from either wool or a good modern synthetic. Cotton does not work. A layer of thick polypro against the skin makes an amazing difference in warmth.

2) Whatever you do, try very hard not to sweat. At rest, the human body consumes about 100 watts of power--a lightbulb. In motion, the human body consumes something like 1,500 watts of power--a decent space heater. If you're working hard, you will warm up radidly and sweat. When you stop working, you'll freeze.

3) Layers, layers, layers. Because your body's heating ability varies so widely--and because you don't want to sweat--you'll need to control your temperature. You want lots of thin layers, none of them cotton. Personally, I'm fond of middle layers which unzip at the chest and armpits if I'm going to be moving. Also: Tick wool socks, good boots, and outer layers which break the wind. In particular, if you're using artificial fleece, remember that it's transparent to even a light wind.

4) Protect your head, neck, face and hands. Exposed skin can freeze very quickly. You might try Turtle Fur around the neck, a really warm hat with ear flaps, and--in colder weather--a face mask. Also, when possible, favor good mittens over gloves; your fingers stay warmer together. If you need some finger mobility, try a bicycling shop--they often sell "two finger" gloves.

5) Keep moving, and keep adjusting your layers.

With the right preparations, and a little practice, 20F below is survivable. But it's not particularly forgiving weather, and any windchill can make it dangerous indeed.

#94 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:41 AM:

Further demonstrating that fear also makes you stupid.

#95 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:41 AM:

I remain certain that frenzied territorial croaking and barking is entirely avoidable, which is not the observed case for the majority of the ilks of penguin.

That really depends on the heights (or depths) to which we wish to lift the performance art, doesn't it? If our skating achieves B-movie status (I don't think any of us involved in this claim any actual skating ability), we might go for the truly awful and add sound effects and perhaps some flying pie tins. I can practice the sound effects right now while I recite the Rant of the Missing Chimney Sweep, which is going to delay the opening of my afternoon performance art ("Christmas in Connecticut") by preventing the artistic pre-arrangement of the logs for the Roaring Fire. This is the last straw after the noncooperation of the weather, which has removed most of my picturesque backyard snowfield (putting an end to any prospects of romping in the white stuff and making snow angels.) The world is against me; I might as well croak and bark.

An obvious commercial opportunity presents itself -- highly elegant, mannered skating partners for hire at the entirely reasonable rate of a kilo of fresh herring an hour.

Provided they are sturdy enough to lift large, bundled-up ladies to their feet it would be a bargain.

There's still the question of how you make skates for tridactyl digitgrade feet, but that can be dismissed as mere engineering in the funding proposals.

Would it make sense to have three blades or would that spoil the physics of the skate? Perhaps a wider skate narrowing down to a single blade? Or perhaps the penguins could just slide around on their bellies until needed?

#96 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 09:46 AM:

Vicki: I do tend to run hot, and have absurdly good circulation. Plus, I think I got the nordic gene for "jumping in to cold water after baking one's self in a sauna feels goooood".

Still, it was above 0 C for a good part of yesterday.

#97 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:06 AM:

The Eskimos also know how to deal with cold. The fur around the edge of the hood is very effective in keeping warm air around the head, even if the local gear has fake fur on a hood with polyester batting as a filler. (You can wear a watch cap under said hood. Or the Hallowig from Knitty.com which was a link in October 2004; it covers the back of the neck too. Wool is good.)

#98 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:09 AM:

"jumping in to cold water after baking one's self in a sauna feels goooood"

Isn't that especially dangerous? I remember reading "The Book of Lists" many years ago and finding a story about a man who decided to take coold bath on an especially warm day, and the sudden change in temperature seemed to have killed him. I did some further research on the subject because I thought it was interesing (and because it scared me), but it was years ago.

This topic is the other reason I love Making Light so much; great information. Thank you, Jim. Me, as an Eagle Scout... I remember our Klondike. I was no fool; seven layers of clothing (although, I was foolish, I remember, for that was where I learned to wear a hat, always).
My lessons have served me well, like when I went to New Mexico expecting a desert and discovered it snowed on my first day there. Also, Berlin is a different cold than Chicago.
Of course, I'll admit, I have slightly more and less difficulty than most people staying warm; I have a ludicrously high metabolism and very little body fat (well under the average for men, by several percentage points). I'm always very, very mindful, because I know I'm gonna be the one to get cold *quick*.

#99 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:13 AM:

Julia Jones:[...]but this thing called sleet can lose you heat very fast indeed.

Old farmers here used to refer to sleet as the "sheep killer". There's nothing to make a flock of sheep seek shelter like it, and they're the ones that invented wool.

The survival technique I learned while in the north serving in the Royal Norwegian Navy:
1) Go to the ATM and get cash
2) Go to the pub and order a pizza and some beer
3) Outdoors? What for?

#100 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:20 AM:

Adrienne: there's a YA novel called "Missing Melinda" by Jacqueline Jackson (I believe it's out of print, but still obtainable used) in which the owner of a doll museum sings the Frozen Charlotte song as an explanation of the doll's name. The protagonists are twins named Ophelia and Cordelia (their father is a Shakespeare buff) and the plot involves a stolen antique doll. Good novel; I was given it by my sister, who knew the author.

Re the A/V shunt and women in sports: anyone else read Lynne Cox's "Swimming to Antarctica"? This woman apparently has some adaptations the rest of us don't have. Two things I took away from the book were an increased respect for human diversity and the idea that if your kid consistently loses races and yet finishes in good shape, try longer races. (Lynne was a competitive swimmer in middle school who never won races. Her coach noticed she was swimming faster at the end of 1500 meters than at the start, and began entering her in channel swims. The first time she attempted the English Channel she set a world record. She has also swum the channel between the North and South islands of New Zealand.)

#101 ::: Therese Norén ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:22 AM:

Someone asked about how many elder people died from cold at home. The Swedish number of people over 65 who die of cold exposure (ICD 10 code X31) is around 20 per year. Last year, it was 23. This is in a population of about 1.7 million. I don't have a specific number for how many of them die in their residence (because the .01-09 subcodes are seldom used and are not available in the official statistics), but this is not a high number anyway.

#102 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Thank you, Tae!
And Susan, too. I wrote a hypothermia scene set in the early 1800s, so this thread has been great for checking the details on both hypothermia AND period dress.

It's given my confidence a boost too-my character was doing "burrowing behavior" of a sort before I even heard of it.

Thank you! I learn more interesting stuff on this board...

(BTW, if you're trying to thaw someone out in a pre-Jell-o era, is warm sugar water a good alternative?)

#103 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:33 AM:

I think it might be a bit hard on a weak heart, but there are arguably some health benefits to it.

There seem to be more experienced medical personel here who could probably tell you more about the effects of sauna-to-cold-plunge type treatments than I could.

I just know it's an incredible whole body endorphin rush, and seems to help decrease cold/flu symptoms in me. The Finnish people swear by it.

#104 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:46 AM:

I read that and thought, if it's raining, it can't be 20 deg colder than forecast...

-- A northerner.

#105 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:48 AM:

I've lived in the Sangre de Cristos and the Colorado Rockies, in winter, and backpacked or X-country skied them all year round. In the high country, there is NO season you can't freeze in. GoreTex pants & jacket (with hood) are wonderful things that can double as rain gear and don't weigh much more. Long underwear is wonderful and makes great pajamas--especially when getting out of your bag in the morning in a cold tent. Yeah, a couple of extra pounds in the backpack is a pain. So's freezing to death in the rain and wind because you thought jeans and a sweatshirt and a space blanket were sufficient for playing mountain man. (Bring the space blanket anyway. Heck, bring two.)

There have even been a few case of folks with small tents suffocating under the snow cover in the high country IN MID-SUMMER because they didn't have their cheap tent vented. A partially open flap may be an invitation to the morning flies, but the flies make a good alarm clock, right? :-) VENT THE TENT where it can't be sealed down by accident. Yeah, almost all tent fabrics "breathe" some and most small tents have vent spaces up by the roof under the fly, but they're worth diddly when the fly is flattened and sealed against the tent under a blanket of wet snow. I've been snowed on every single month of the year in the Colorado high country, and I don't mean trace amounts. I mean six inches or more, overnight, in July, while I was sleeping. Don't trust the weatherman just because he says "All Clear!" In the mountains, local conditions can vary widely as pockets of moisture are swept along and trapped in valleys, or "dropped" over ridge lines into warmer pockets. You can get rained and snowed on just fine even when there are no clouds showing above timberline.

If lost, there's really only two choices. Stay put on an established path if you can, and the weather permits, and figure out fire and shelter and hope you remembered to arrange "time checks" for giving the alarm, or that someone who isn't lost wanders along. If the weather and/or situation says you MUST keep moving, or freeze, follow the nearest path by a water course downhill. That's what searchers consider the "prime course." Tired people walk downhill instead of up, water forms a barrier they can't or don't want to cross, so....

Topo map and a decent compass. Always. Know how to use 'em. A folded topo map fits nicely in a gallon Ziploc bag, and then you can read the map in the rain without soaking it. Your cell phone isn't that helpful (when it works) unless you know where you are! A cell phone signal can be traced to the receiver tower, but a five-mile radius is a BIG chunk of territory to search, almost eighty square miles. In rough terrain.

Evolution never stops, but you don't have to be its personal assistant (it's a very temporary assignment).

#106 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 11:51 AM:

This thread, on Making Light, cannot be complete without some Robert Service.


There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ‘round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursed cold, and it’s got right hold till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ‘taint being dead--it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”

A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you to cremate those last remains.”

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows—O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked;” . . . then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

#107 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:06 PM:

Susan --

[penguin noises]
That really depends on the heights (or depths) to which we wish to lift the performance art, doesn't it? If our skating achieves B-movie status (I don't think any of us involved in this claim any actual skating ability), we might go for the truly awful and add sound effects and perhaps some flying pie tins.

After the January exams, my grade 13 class had a skating party on the Rideau Canal. (In Ottawa; it's a skating rink every winter.) Skating skills ranged from 'learned when they learned to walk' to 'never been on skates before'. There were some relatively comical consequences.

The canal's ice surface is well below the summertime water surface, so the walls of the canal block most of the wind; in Ottawa, in January, at night (skated until midnight) this is a very good thing indeed.

Never considered sound effects, though, despite the diverse failed attempts to stop pre-snowbank.

I can practice the sound effects right now while I recite the Rant of the Missing Chimney Sweep, which is going to delay the opening of my afternoon performance art ("Christmas in Connecticut") by preventing the artistic pre-arrangement of the logs for the Roaring Fire. This is the last straw after the noncooperation of the weather, which has removed most of my picturesque backyard snowfield (putting an end to any prospects of romping in the white stuff and making snow angels.) The world is against me; I might as well croak and bark.

The problem with this sort of understandable lamentation is that the weather gods sometimes attempt to make up for the lapse. (Not, hopefully, the sweep's, or at least not usually.)

[penguin skating partners for hire, and skates for tridactyl feet]
Would it make sense to have three blades or would that spoil the physics of the skate? Perhaps a wider skate narrowing down to a single blade? Or perhaps the penguins could just slide around on their bellies until needed?

Three blades would make turning impractical; could have a central blade and outrigger points to assist in turning, though. That would even go along with the clawed feet.

If they're sliding around on their bellies, they're a tripping hazard, so that might be best avoided; it's so extremely difficult to pancake onto a penguin in an elegant way.

#108 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:07 PM:

No one seems to have mentioned battery powered clothing, which I always thought was nifty. If I lived somewhere that got seriously cold, I'd look in to getting some.

Is there some reason why they're not reccomended? Other than that the batteries run out, I mean.

#109 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:09 PM:

Josh --

The batteries run out, the elements mess up and brand you, the elements mess up and light your shorts on fire, the insulation messes up and you get zapped, and the problem is rarely lack of heat; the problem is almost always lack of insulation, and having the heating elements and wires makes the insulation worse when they're not powered.

#110 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:28 PM:

Other than that the batteries run out, I mean.

The batteries would run out right when you needed them most. But mostly, I can't imagine wanting to deal with that many batteries all the time. Clothing is available that will keep you warm at any temperature reached on the planet Earth, and it doesn't require batteries.

That said, I know enough weather wimps who would totally wear electric clothing if it worked, and they don't. So I'm forced to conclude it doesn't work.

#111 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Graydon & colin - There's quite a bit of electric clothing available in the motorcycle accessory market. I own an electric vest. It plugs in to an accessory outlet on my bike.

I've never heard of anyone getting shocked, let alone set alight by their powered clothing.

Admittedly, it's not much good away from the bike, and bikes aren't so great in a snow or ice storm, but a good electric vest can keep you from getting hypothermia in a contstant 60-70 mph headwind.

#112 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 12:44 PM:

I own an electric vest. It plugs in to an accessory outlet on my bike.

I stand corrected. And yet, that's not battery-powered. I wonder how long it would be good for on a couple of D cells.

#113 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 03:13 PM:

I learned to wear layers in the Bay Area, and now in mile-high Prescott AZ I just pile on a few more of them. I do see locals in shorts and t-shirts when I'm near to shivering in a coat over a jacket, but my next-door neighbor's 100+ pounds overweight and might be especially impervious.

Our low of around 15F last night seems like nothing compared to that 20 below, but it was enough to get our Norwegian Forest Cat to spoon with us on the bed (after first draping his 20 pounds across my ankles). I'm just glad I never experienced what my husband said he did -- and I don't think this is one of his tall tales -- sleeping in a Maine farm house where there was frost on the inside of the windows.

One more thing on circulation. I'm one of those short people who have what I think is called Reynaud's Syndrome -- fingernails start turning blue on the slightest provocation, as digits chill. Yet I've read that Eskimos are adapted to cold by being short and stocky, with small hands and feet. Does anyone out there know why I have a Syndrome and they do so well? (I doubt if the answer is entirely "moose-hide gloves.")

#114 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 03:37 PM:

sleeping in a Maine farm house where there was frost on the inside of the windows.

That's quite common in freezing climes, especially with uninsulated windows. All it means is that it's moister inside than out (usually true), and the window is freezing cold.

When I was growing up I would carefully chip the ice off the window next to my head in the morning, to keep it from melting as the day warmed up, and dripping all over the windowsill and bed.

#115 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 04:05 PM:

I've been heard several times to say that the main reason we northern-dwelling folk can brag about how we handle tough weather is that we (usually) have the sense to stay indoors.

We also know how to dress for it. Although yes, we get our idiots -- more within the city than on the highway, but you'd be astonished. It's not because they don't know. Some of them are Charlottes, and the fashion counts more than the survival (You know, since they're within a block or two of a coffee-shop/ bus route/ friend's house.) Others know, but get stupid-bravado about our "toughness", that we're somehow less chillable than the people who just don't know enough in the first place because they don't see it every year from October to April*. Or justify it by "I'm going to be in a heated car".

Not like *I* haven't ever screwed up (For instance, today, I did forget to layer under the jeans. In my defense, while I'll be outside, I'll entirely in areas where I'm close to help and/or public indoor locales.) But today aside, I *heart* layering, and I refuse to wear skin-tight jeans for more reasons than my weight.

* Yes. While real winter tends to be mid-November to mid-March, October and April have both featured blizzards within the time I've lived here, and possibly within the last decade. If you want to mention the months where there is a chance of snow at all? That would be eleven of them. (I think it might even be all 12 as of last summer.) I should say, too, that our summers hit 90 Faranheit, before you get the cliched impression of what we're like.

#116 ::: Janet McConnaughey ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 04:42 PM:

Josh Jasper:

> Hmm. Still no seriously cold weather in NYC. It was 50 out today. Practicaly t-shirt weather.

It can be relative. In my high and far-off college days, we had one really brutal winter. A couple-few feet of snow and for what felt like years.

Then one day it warmed up. The snow melted. It was balmy. Several friends and I went out for a walk in shorts and T-shirts.

When we got back, we leared that the temperature had gone up to 40. Fahrenheit, not centigrade.


#117 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 04:50 PM:

Graydon,
Thanks for the boot links.
I've passed the word to Santa.
Greg

#118 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 05:07 PM:

A further example of it being relative -- one of the classic photo poses at the Antarctic bases was the outdoor shot with the guy who's been there a year standing in his teeshirt grinning, and the guy who's just got off the boat bundled up in his furs and in the classic clutching himself because it's *cold* posture. Exaggerated by both parties, of course, but apparently not *that* exaggerated.

#119 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 05:26 PM:

I live in Minnesota. In winter, I wear silk long johns every day, and wool socks with my boots if I'm going to be outside for more than a minute or two. I always wear a hat. And that's just for running around town.

Back when I was in college, a group of us (no, we hadn't been drinking) decided that it would be fun to go out and look at the stars from the campus arboretum late one very cold night. We were all dressed appropriately, but one of the people in the group was asthmatic and the cold air triggered a severe asthma attack, which left him collapsed on the ground and too weak to move. We sent one person running back to get help, and then did our best to keep him warm -- which meant that we all stripped off our own outer clothing and spread them out over and under him. Two people also lay down on either side of him to try to share body heat.

We were so hyped up from the adreneline of worrying about our friend that none of us felt the cold till we arrived at the hospital (we all rode with him on the ambulance), at which point we realized that most of us had lost feeling in our feet. The ER staff re-warmed our friend by giving him hot drinks and wrapping him up in blankets. I believe he was officially diagnosed as pre-hypothermic; his temperature was something like 94.5, IIRC (it was a long time ago now). The good news was, this was a good motivator to him to get his asthma under better control; he had been severely over-relying on his rescue inhaler.

#120 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 07:06 PM:

It's 35()F and windy in Portland. I've been in far colder places, including *damp* cold places with piles of snow on the ground, but after three years in the temperate Oregon vallies this feels brutal.

I'd stay inside all day, but I've got a dog to walk. She's a shepherd with an undercoat, and not only doesn't mind the cold but delights in skidding her face and side along frosty lawns.

I'm thinking of picking up an extra set of thermal underwear and wearing them all day.

#121 ::: ben ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 07:54 PM:

And an anecdote:

I moved to Kansas from Portland, where I grew up. Everybody asks me why, because in this particular burg, everone thinks of Portland as some sort of Xanadu (which, comparatively, it is - possessing most of the advantages, and lacking most of the disadvantages).

However, natives of the Great Plains get confused about West Coast weather; they figure that Oregon, being at the same latitude as Wisconsin, must have winters just as bitterly cold.

So I explain it to them. "It's not actually cold like that at all, and there's hardly any snow at all in the valleys, where most of the people live." (I usually avoid pointing out that three quarters of the state is arid; that confuses them even more.) "But," I go on, "it's like this. You know how it gets really hot and sticky here in the summers? Well, imagine the same stickiness, except when it's forty degrees out instead of ninety. That kind of cold seeps right into your bones."

I close by pointing out that I dress the same way for that weather as I do for the snow and single-digit windchill factors here, which is every inch the case (and makes me every inch the idiot, because I don't own a long coat or any trousers nade of anything besides cotton).

...And my level of comfort usually turns out to be the same, though I'll admit that it's a lot tougher to walk around when there's six inches of fresh snow on the ground.

Another anecdote:

Once I got stuck participating in a meet at a school we'd never run at before, where the grounds had no natural cover to speak of, and practically no manmade windbreaks.

In the course of the meet, the weather changed unexpectedly from mid-sxities, breezy, and sunny, to upper-forties with gusts and driving rain.

Our entire team, who'd dressed for the warmer weather, was caught unprepared, and because of the weather the race schedule had gone completely nonlinear, so no-one dared head back to the buses for shelter.

Almost twenty years later, I've yet to feel that miserable again... If I had that day to live over again, I'd've gotten myself marked down for a DNC - even if it'd resulted my being removed from the team - because the coaches were completely unresponsive to our misery.

Many things can make perfectly reasonable people into flaming idiots.

#122 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 08:09 PM:

Larry --

For motorcycles (or flying open cockpit aircraft) I can see it working quite well. I was answering from the biases of someone who expects winter clothing to hold up, or at least be able to hold up, for continuous days of use without coming inside heated shelter.

In that application -- and admittedly awhile back -- all those problems were known for electrically heated garments. (Chemically heated, by things such as those slow thermite hand warmers, is a different set of tradeoffs.)

#123 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:04 PM:

Until the last couple of winters we've had a long stretch of milder winters. When I was growing up we had lots and lots of snow (we've got movies/pix of the snow forts we'd build and that would stay a while).

And if I have to be out in really cold weather (for a long time we had one car and I rode the bus to my downtown job) my favorite next-to-skin piece of clothing is a wimple I made for an SCA outfit, basically a hood with a cowl on/around it, all of a piece so you don't have to worry about a tie or anything coming loose. The year it was so cold we (Jim actually) blew the brake diaphragm on the station wagon, I didn't have any qualms about going to the bus stop == underwear/panty hose, wimple + office clothing as first layer (probably skirt in my bag), sweat pants and sweater, the wimple, wool coat, gloves + mittens and fleece(russian type, fleece inside, skinside out) hat.

Ben, where do you live in Kansas? I live in Kansas City, MO, in Hyde Park.

#124 ::: Lisajulie ::: (view all by) ::: December 17, 2005, 10:29 PM:

Adding on to the tips for keeping warm, let me recommend a few strategies.

Liner socks. I hate wearing shoe or boots. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I survive in Birkenstocks through most of the winter (when the snow is less than 5 cm deep) by wearing wool socks. When the temperature dips below 0C, I put little thin cotton socks on under the heavy wool socks and my feet, and by extension the rest of me, stay a lot warmer than they otherwise might.

I also wear home-made fingerless gloves under mittens.

And, even the flimsiest of scarves wrapped around the neck, acting as a muffler, can help keep in heat.

#125 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 12:43 AM:

This thread has been quite an education.

I have a few questions, mainly related to things that I have read or seen published in other sources (mostly wikipedia and the worst case scenario handbook.) They're mostly idle, but if anyone feels like answering them I'd be much obliged.

What is the general medical opinion of the body heat method of treating hypothermia? I've read all over the place that it had fallen out of favor, because of the risk of the person prioviding body heat becoming hypothermic as well. Are there situations where it is an especially bad idea, and situations where it is fine?

When is the wrap+other person method preferrable to just using a wrap itself?

All of Jim's links seem to suggest that immersing someone in warm water is a BAD idea, but wiki and the worst case scenario list it as a preferred treatement. I'm currently assuming that Jim's links are right, but is there any situation where that treatment should ever be attempted? (Note: If someone feels like editing the wiki entry it may need it. Compared to Jim's links a lot of stuff doesn't add up, and I must say rather shamefacedly that I had previously been relying on it as a decent source.)

And the last is related to a situation very commonly found in literature/film/fic

Say you get a moderately to severely hypothermic person back to a heated, indoor location with food and running water but no emergency or medical supplies, and there is no way to contact medical assistance. What would be the best way to begin to attempt treatement? I understand that this is probably complex and definitely Do Not Try This At Home, but I'm curious (mostly for plot based and RPG related reasons).

I'd say this is one of the top 20 stock plot items, and I'm beginning to think that the average portrayal is just as wildly inaccurate as the idea that you can "shoot the lock off" any door with a pistol from range. I don't fault people for using hypothermia in stories, because it is quite obviously something that happens all the time, still I'd prefer to know when it is approaching realism and when it is complete bunk.

#126 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 12:58 AM:

Raynaud's Syndrome doesn't have to do with being short and stocky. There doesn't seem to be any special type of person for it, though it seems like maybe more women than men have it.

#127 ::: hk-reader ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 01:39 AM:

re:indoor hypothermia

I lived in Taipei in the late 1980's and was shocked to find out how chilly it could get in the winter (I arrived in the height of summer). No place had heat, and most of the buildings were made of uninsulated concrete. I had a friend whose bronchitis swiftly turned to pneumonia, you could see you breath in her bedroom. If it was 4 C outside, it was likely to be 4 C inside, and *damp*.

One thing I discovered, which has helped me cope w/ cold there and here in HK (which is a bit further south and warmer) is the habit of drinking hot water and using a cup or mug with a *lid* (to keep the heat in) and to drink it often to keep warm. This is also why most home in Hong Kong have hot water machines so hot drinking water is always available (in the old days, people used thermoses, which you still get in most hotels in China).

So, if you're working in an office indoors with no heat, keep your coat and hat on and drink lots of hot water.

A popular frugal version for large consumption is to use an old Nescafe jar with tea leaves floating in it. Unscrew the lid to drink and add hot water as needed.

I've heard there is still no heating in public buildings south of the Yangtze - even though it might still drop below 0 C.

#128 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 01:46 AM:

When I was growing up on Long Island, the default gifts from baffled aunts** and unimaginative Secret Santa participants was either a scarf and glove set, or an ice scraper.*

I just looked in my dresser's seldom-touched "winter stuff" drawer: Five pairs of gloves (ranging from those cheap wool ones with leatherette palms to winter work gloves), four scarves, three wool hats, and a baklava. Uh, bacala. Uh, balaclava. Eccchhhht!

* One year, I got an illuminated ice scraper in a workplace grab-bag. I already had two or three barely used ones in my car, so I gave it to my mom for the "regifting" pile . . . fancy generic items she could wrap up and give to nephews and nieces and family friends. Provenence forgotten, it ended up being given back to me a few years later. I brought it with me to grad school, and gave it away to some frantic asian grad students trying to free their car after a Pittsburgh ice-storm.

** One aunt gave me a Visible Frog kit for Christmas when I was six. Scared the shit out of me. I would have preferred a scarf, or even socks.

#129 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 09:06 AM:

Okay -- moderately to severely hypothermic person. I'm assuming deep shivering, acting goofy, lips and nailbeds blue, but no actual freezing and still conscious and able to guard his own airway.

Note: I am not a doctor, and cannot diagnose or prescribe. The following is purely for purposes of discussion, and not medical advice for any particular person or situation.

Take that person inside, strip him, re-dress in warm, dry clothing, wrap him in a blanket and feed him lots of food (stuff with fat and sugar) and drink. Warm apple cider is wonderful stuff. Warm apple cider with a shot of maple syrup in it is even better. Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Allow the patient to rest. (Note: The sugar is what warms the person, not the warmth of the beverage.)

The body heat method of rewarming -- well, if you need to add heat (active rewarming, contraindicated when the patient is unconscious) and that's what you have ... it's what you have. A nice hypothermia wrap is better. (Hypothermia wrap: Strip the patient. Wrap in mylar blanket. Wrap in wool blanket. Stuff the whole into sleeping bag. Transport.)

(If I were trying to rewarm a person, I'd put heat packs on their carotid arteries, but that's just me.) When we're doing wraps for snowmobilers, the heat packs go at groin, armpits, and neck.

Immersing someone in warm water is great if you want them to pass out on you, or maybe go into cardiac arrhythmias. When you would use warm water is on an isolated frost injury (frostbite) if there is NO CHANCE of refreezing. In that case, you'd rewarm the affected part in lukewarm water, in a basin large enough to ensure the part doesn't touch the sides, then bandage exactly like a burn, and splint. (If there is a chance of re-freezing, keep it frozen ... even if that means cutting a hole in the bottom of the sleeping bag to allow the frozen feet to stay outside.)

If you're trapped in an ice cave filled with flowing melt water for days on end ... every half hour or hour you massage your buddy's feet, and let your buddy massage your feet. Prevention is going to let you keep your toes. (I've seen the photos of Argentine troopers' feet who hadn't taken their boots off for thirty-plus days during the Falklands war. Not pretty.)

#130 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 09:29 AM:

Frostbite.

BTW, cold injuries are permanent. A previous cold injury makes a patient more susceptible to subsequent cold injuries.

Lillian Gish suffered permanent nerve damage in her hand from filming Way Down East (D.W. Griffith dir.); she was genuinely trailing a hand in water while genuinely lying on an ice floe at White River Junction, Vermont.

#131 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 10:18 AM:

Jim,

Thanks for the rewarming advice, it had the side effect of answering something I'd been wondering about, since I don't keep jello around and thus no warm jello: yes, a tisane (herbal tea, no caffeine, and something harmless like mint or rosehip, not weird medicinals) would be okay, but it should have sugar or honey in it. I often have apple cider in the house in cold weather--but I always have some random herbal tea bags, for when I want warmth (usually for my throat) and am limiting caffeine intake.

#132 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 10:40 AM:

Any advice on learning how to fall safely? I've hurt my left knee several times by falling on ice, and it's obvious that I'm falling wrong.

People might be interested in Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales--it's an overview of survival in desperate (mostly wilderness) circumstances.

#133 ::: Walt Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 10:51 AM:

Jim -- You wrote "The body heat method of rewarming -- well, if you need to add heat (active rewarming, contraindicated when the patient is unconscious) and that's what you have ... it's what you have. A nice hypothermia wrap is better. (Hypothermia wrap: Strip the patient. Wrap in mylar blanket. Wrap in wool blanket. Stuff the whole into sleeping bag. Transport.)"

It doesn't seem to me that a hypothermia wrap (without the addition of heat packs) would add heat, but merely slow/prevent the further loss of heat.

So, if one cannot transport immediately, and does not have heat packs, would that make the body heat method better than a hypothermia wrap?

Walt

#134 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 11:26 AM:

Janet: I was here for the blizard of 96 (or ws it 95?) and have been through 2 connecticut winters that saw -45F nights. It got so cold that a few trees exploded.

It's certainly relative. And I have, as I might have mentioned, extraordinarily good circulation. It's better than lots of insulation IMO. I can stand extreme hot and fairly cold weather.

And, of course, I dress in layers. Tights, multiple layers of socks if neccesary, waterproof boots, hats, a scarf, a shirt, a sweater, an inner lined jacket, and an outer waterproof coat to use as a wind break.

I'm considering upgrading my hat to something a little warmer. Right now, I've got a nice wool fedora, and have to rely on a scarf over my ears and nose. I'd really like to get a nice hat that would insulate, act as a wind barrier (not knit) and cover my ears.

I'm probably due for a trip to REI or some similar shop, and several hundred dollars of purchases.

#135 ::: Adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 12:09 PM:

Josh: IIRC, that was the blizzard of '93. I remember the year because it was the year I graduated from college. Which isn't important -- but is the same year that we were all celebrating the fact that our senior comps were done (still in need of defending, but more or less finished) and gathered at a buddy's house for warm beverages. I then tried to walk home in said blizzard and did OK until I tried to cross an open, fairly flat quad that I assumed was covered in snow. My initial plan was to walk around it but I noticed that the person in front of me wasn't buried hip-deep in the snow and seemed to be having little trouble crossing. I assumed that the deeper stuff had blown into a drift somewhere else and plunged ahead. As it turns out, the snow was hip-deep and the guy in front of me was wearing snowshoes. This thought (to look at the tracks of the guy in front of me) finally entered my mind after I was halfway through the field, which should have been evidence that I was already a bit hypothermic. At about that point, I started to think that it would be nice and cozy to simply curl up in the snow and take a little nap. I'm still not overly certain how I made it back to my apartment.

Which is the long way of saying that I'm pretty sure that was '93. And that at 22, I was more of an idiot than I'd imagined at the time.

On the "Frozen Charlotte" YA book -- Lila, I don't think that's it. "Missing Melinda" sounds delightful, mind you, but doesn't strike me as the right book. Thanks, tho. And now I have something else to look for in used bookstores.

#136 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 12:32 PM:

I grew up in eastern Montana, keenly aware of the dangers of Ma Nature. Thanks for the timely reminder, Jim.

When I was a small child, our neighbors wife and two kids died when their car slid off the road in a storm. They were about a quarter-mile from our ranch. It might as well have been ten miles, for all they could tell, though.

#137 ::: Paula Kate ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 01:28 PM:

Susan - Quilted petticoats are period. Any fabric you like + wool batting if you can find it. Or wool outer layer + cotton batting + any inner layer you like.

But try to find wool batting. (In New England, quilting stores should carry it, or Trust Google.)

#138 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 02:36 PM:

Adrienne: I then tried to walk home in said blizzard and did OK until I tried to cross an open, fairly flat quad that I assumed was covered in snow.

During a similar blizzard the year before, I was at a party that was laced with alcohol in a house in the woods in Western Massachusetts. I woke up near dawn, about a mile from the house, pretty much naked in snow that was past my waist when I stood up.

Before you think this turns into some sort of horrid tragedy where I lose half my fingers: no. No damage at all. I looked at my fingernails and they were just turning blue, so I must not have been out there very long, or maybe the snow really did insulate me a little from the cold. I found my clothes hung on various shrubbery around me, put them back on, and hiked back to the house. I don't know if I got some kind of special adaptation to the cold somewhere in the genetic line, but I've always been specially impervious to hypothermia and frostbite.

On the other hand, I nearly died from heat stroke on an 80-degree day.

#139 ::: Tae ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 05:29 PM:

It doesn't seem to me that a hypothermia wrap (without the addition of heat packs) would add heat, but merely slow/prevent the further loss of heat.

So, if one cannot transport immediately, and does not have heat packs, would that make the body heat method better than a hypothermia wrap?

A hypothermia wrap would primarily prevent further loss of heat, but it would also allow the body to rewarm internally, metabolically, without losing it to the skin surface.

Honestly, preventing further loss of heat by wrapping up and keeping them in a warm, humidified room until EMS can transport to the appropriate place is the best you can do.

If they are conscious enough to take liquids orally, then you are now actively rewarming internally, which is good. Otherwise, make them a burrito and leave 'em be. The cold state, ironically, is protective. It's when they rewarm - how fast and from where, is when the problems begin.

Rewarming from the outside in if done too rapidly can lead to cardiac arrest - the blood from the periphery warmed from ambient heat or skin-to-skin contact will still be colder than the blood in the core of the body. Once than cold(er) blood hits the heart - v. fib, baby.

#140 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 05:39 PM:

Shudder! This thread is confirming lots of my life choices. I can't stand the cold, want no part of it. I also don't like being wet. I don't go outside in winter unless I really can't avoid it. I park the car indoors at home and right by the front entrance to the building at work. For the most part, I shop, dine and recreate in places where there is convenient parking.

I try to remember to refill the gas tank when it hits the half-full mark, and keep a blanket, shovel, road salt, first aid kit, flares, and a corkscrew in the car. Of these, the corkscrew is the thing that get used the most often. Once I visited an author for dinner, and took a good bottle of wine with me -- and found that she didn't own a corkscrew. The trauma of that experience has taught me that a good corkscrew is the one essential piece of survival equipment my lifestyle requires.

#141 ::: JennR ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 05:58 PM:

Jim: BTW, cold injuries are permanent. A previous cold injury makes a patient more susceptible to subsequent cold injuries.

Yep. I start wearing gloves when it gets down to about 40F. I frostbit two fingers on each hand when in college (building snow statues, no alcohol involved). There's also a difference between a dry cold and a damp cold. I find that I feel colder in SE Michigan than I did in the northern UP, even though the air temperature is much colder up North.

I've also found that a previous injury of any sort makes a patient more sensitive to cold. I had back surgery in August, and this is the first winter in years that I've had to break out my winter jacket before it got below 20F. If I don't wear a winter grade jacket, my back gets really annoyed. (I've compromised, since my winter jackets are really too warm for the rest of me, by wearing a down vest over a windresistant anorak.) I have proper layers that I wear if I'm going to be outside for very long, but with fresh back surgery I'm spending as little time as possible outside in the snow and ice. (While I like my surgeon, I'd really rather not see him again. :) )

#142 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 09:18 PM:

Learning to fall properly; I could teach you. Or -- more practical -- look up the nearest GOOD aikido or jujitsu or judo dojo (school) near you, walk in, and watch. If this is what you want to learn, go do it. If all you want to do is learn to fall properly but you couldn't care less about the rest of it, talk to them. See if someone there is willing/able/allowed to give you private lessons in falling. (You will have to pay for them.)

About ten years ago I gave such lessons to a woman in her sixties who had broken both wrists falling foward on a tennis court. She was lucky she didn't trash her kneecaps, too. We had about six sessions; I taught her how to fall sideways and back safely.

Many years ago I took a very hard fall on a concrete sidewalk. No damage, no pain -- not even a scratch. Years of practice validated in an instant.

#143 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 09:49 PM:

I apparently am a natural genius at falling.

Perhaps it is because I give myself lots of surprise practice.

#144 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 10:33 PM:

I grew up in the balmy climate of Ecuador, went to college in Los Angeles, and found Austin, where I'm currently living, to be bizarrely cold in the winter. Woe is me, with the temperatures that actually hit freezing on occasion. And now I'm planning on moving to...Pittsburgh.

I'm taking many, many notes from this thread, and checking the typical weather patterns for that city carefully. I've never had to cope with real cold weather before, and I'm sure I have no idea how to do so. Time to learn now before I injure myself and inconvenience others through sheer ignorance.

#145 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2005, 11:02 PM:

Fade:

I went to grad school in Pittsburgh . . . two winters worth.

You should learn to deal with damp, icy winters with near-zero cold snaps and pretty serious snow storms. Boots, gloves, thermal underwear, hats, scarf . . . stock up now!

As I recall, I never missed a day of school despite some pretty serious blizzards.
My school had its own coal-fired power plant, and never closed. The city knows how to deal with snow, so the plows go out early and keep running. The public busses handle things well too.

Ah . . . I recall one weather-related cancellation. An employer meet-and-greet session was cancelled. But the pizza wasn't. So me and three or four other seniors hung around and ate pizza waiting for the (forgotten high-tech firm) recruiters to show up.

#146 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:20 AM:

Stefan:

I have hats! And a scarf. It's perhaps just as well I recently took up crochet. Now I have somewhere to aim all my strange urges to turn perfectly harmless yarn into swathes of stuff. I don't think I've ever even seen thermal underwear, but I'm sure that, like everything else in this beautiful modern world, I can order it online.

Does "the plows go out early" mean "drive like it's just rained", or am I going to need to learn how to drive in actual snow? My driving skills are shaky enough in ordinary conditions that this could be interesting. (These warning stories are looking suddenly more vivid to me, as I just found out today that I am, indeed, moving, and probably in late January. I still find the whole concept of seasons faintly bizarre. Why should the weather feel compelled to drastically change, and every year at that? For all the science that tells me this is how it goes, witnessing it is still surreal.)

#147 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:34 AM:

Fade you're in for some ugly surprises. One thing to remember, drive slower than you think you should, keep your distnce from the person in front of you (more than you think you should...) and you should be okay. This wil keep YOU from sliding into someone.

Keep your (and all occupants of car) seatbelts / child seats in use. Because if, despite your caution, someone hits YOU (this happened last week in our household, BTW), your seatbelts/kids' car seats are your best friend.

(to all those who actually know us, a chica ran a stop sign in front of Jim ("I saw the truck, I did not see the small white car behind it...") and totalleld his Escort. Her insurance paid us off and now he's got a relatively new Intrepid. (2002, we paid less than usual because we've bought more than one car from them....)

He is okay, no one was hurt in the accident, but he was in his seatbelt AND he braced himself against the seat when he realized he could not possiby stop quickly enough. THe airbags deployed and he allowed that it made the air in the cab of the car pretty uncomfortable until he rolled the window down.

#148 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:14 AM:

Re: Driving in snow: Even more than hiking, if the thought occurs to you, "Should I turn back?" or "Should I stay home instead?" the answer is "YES!"

-------------

The thermal wraps allow the patient to rewarm himself, just like Tae said. The patient (presumably still shivering) is a heat source, and will supply the energy to rewarm safely, from the core outward. The preferred treatment for frostbitten fingers is to have the patient put them in his own armpits to rewarm (assuming there is NO CHANCE of re-freezing them).

Oh, and I personally have gotten frostbite. A line on the inside of my right wrist, where there was a gap between the sleeve of my parka and my mitten that I didn't notice while I was holding C-spine on a snowmobiler on top of a mountain at forty below. It was a very thin line, which blistered up like a burn. The skin was lighter in tone for about a year, but it's faded now.

Oh, and one of our ER doctors likes solo winter hiking. He's an older man, no family. His motto: "Only the last one sucks."

#149 ::: Allen J. Baum ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:36 AM:

Re: Reynaud's Syndrome

I have a mild case of this - I tend to get it after cooling down from running, when I'm cold and my shoulders are all hunched up. One or two fingers turn completely white and cold, and it takes a while to warm up again.

My sister-in-law (not stocky) gets it much worse - her entire hand gets white, and when the episode is over, it's quite painful - sort of like thawing out a very cold body part (duh). She's talked to a doctor about why she has it, and the answer was your basic "It's a mystery".

I've tried holding a cup of hot liquid to rewarm my hand - it doesn't seem to make that much difference.

#150 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:41 AM:

You'll still need to drive in snow . . . and know when NOT to drive. The plows clear the major roads. Doing it "early" means keeping the highways and boulevards and major avenues clear AS the snow is falling.

You can buy thermal underware almost anywhere: Target, K-Mart, any department store. Right in the underware aisle, or possible sporting goods. Stretchy, strangely textured fabric, full arms and legs. I just bought an extra set today. $11.00 for a top and bottom.

The fellow across the hall moved here straight from India. Never dealt with cold or snow before. After some debate I decided to knock on his door and warn him against driving in the morning. (We're due for an ice storm.) He works in the Intel plant right up the road, so he can walk. Someone else clued him into hats and gloves and such. His main order of the evening was emailing photos of the snow flurry to the folks back home.

#151 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:46 AM:

Back when I was in college, I made a cape for those rainy, windy days in Southern California. I made the thing because I could not find anything that didn't have HUGE arm holes (can we say drafty?) and was long enough. I added almost a foot to its length and made it without armholes at all. It was thin corduroy and lined with cotton twill. I discoverd it should have been the other way around, so I disassembled it and put in a layer of ripstop nylon. It didn't stop the corduroy from getting soaked in the rain, but it meant I was still dry underneath. Come September, the new kids just graduated from high school would laugh at "little brown riding hood." Until the first time it rained. They were left fumbling in groups, trying to get an umbrella unfolded without banging someone else's umbrella, or trying to figure out how to use a notebook as raingear, while I pulled up my hood and went traipsing out into the rain, nice and simple. And even as thin as it was, it was remarkable how warm I was if I stood with the hood up and my back to the wind. It was thin because most of the time, I was layered underneath. It was just there to stop me from getting wet all over.

Some years ago, LandsEnd did a thing on polar expeditions. They got one of the south polar expedition people to give his list of layers. There were five seriously industrial strenght layers in his polar garb. What I remembered as applicable to anything short of polar conditions was the first layer (something to wick away moisture), middle layer (wool, knit, thick) and outer (wind resistant).

Until about ten years ago, I didn't sweat much. This meant I overheated in anything over 75 degrees, and wore deodorant not antiperspirant in the summer. The only time I wore an antiperspirant was in the winter, because I would just sweat enough to get my underarms wet, which would then get me very, very cold.

It also taught me how important your feet are to regulating temperature. My internal temperature regulator was faulty (isn't any more), so when it got hot, first thing I'd do is strip off my shoes-n-shox. When it got cold, I'd put sox-n-slippers/shoes on before adding any other garments.

Another anecdote: Some years ago, the RenFair in Southern California moved from Agoura (blazingly hot) to Glen Helen Park (or somebody Helen Park). The first weekend of the first year, everybody came to RenFair dressed for Agoura -- shorts and t-shirts. It was delightfully British weather and all us tourists froze. My husband had purchased a pair of leather piratical gloves (long cuffs) and had me put them on. Nothing else had changed in my garb, but I was significantly warmer with the gloves on. (That was also the weekend the beer sellers had no takers, the hot-coffee-and-danish people had a mile long line, and the hot pretzel guy sold out by 11am.)

#152 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:49 AM:

Re: Driving in snow: Even more than hiking, if the thought occurs to you, "Should I turn back?" or "Should I stay home instead?" the answer is "YES!"

Slightly off topic, but reminds me of what I said to a friend at a wedding. When the caterer comes up to you and asks if they should serve dinner now, don't say "I'm not involved with the wedding." The answer to food is always "YES."

#153 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:37 AM:

Also, "Are you a god?"

#154 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 05:42 AM:

My 2c worth:

Flares - eh, maybe. A friend of mine put up eighteen flares when he was trying to get help for a couple of hypothermia victims. There was a checkpoint team on pretty well every hill around. None of them saw anything. They don't work very well in falling snow or high wind. Don't rely on them.

Survival blankets - YES in big letters. They cost a couple of $CURRENCY, they take up virtually no room, they weigh nothing, and they work very well indeed. I have one that has lived in my jacket pocket for the last two years. Put it in there and forget about it (well, not actually forget, but you know what I mean).

Wear a hat, or at least carry one. And don't forget scarves; you lose a lot of heat from the back of the neck, especially if you have short hair.

Beware overheating as well. If you have on all your warm kit and then you start moving fast and working hard, you will not only sweat buckets, you may also go down with heat exhaustion (even in cold weather; the Paras had at least one heat case in the Falklands, in wet, windy conditions, temperatures right around 0C/30F, as well as plenty of hypothermias). And then how stupid would you feel?

Look after your feet. I have been on exercises where the casualty rate approached 50% from cold injuries, and almost all were people who did not look after their feet. Keep wiggling your toes if you are sitting still. Put on Goretex oversocks if you have wet boots - it will keep your dry socks dry and your body heat will dry out your boots to an extent. Use foot powder liberally - it helps keep your toes dry. Dry your socks whenever you can. Look after your boots -keep them clean (helps the waterproofing), use dubbin, use insoles.
Remember the Willie & Joe cartoons of the two GIs? One of them has Joe sitting in his foxhole, saying:
"Willie, yestiddy ya saved my life, and today I'm gonna repay ya - here's my last pair of dry socks."

And finally, if you have had a cold injury before, you are now much more susceptible - so be more careful.

#155 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 08:05 AM:

ajay -

If you put survival blankets anywhere they are subject to rhythmic motions, the aluminium wears off at the folds. I'd strongly recommend annual replacement of the carry-everywhere blankets.

Well, really, bi-annual, because having them in the summer is a good idea, too -- they keep rain and wind over very well for their weight and do well enough for 'keep the injured person warm' applications.

There are survival bag versions, too; a bit more expensive but easier to make sure no part of you is sticking out.

#156 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 08:36 AM:

Thanks for that, Graydon. I hadn't thought of that - it's still in the wrapper, but I suppose it could still get worn. I'll get another one. I've been checking the rest of my kit at least annually, but didn't think of the blanket.

#157 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 08:43 AM:

Ajay --

Benefits of using old ones as curtain-substitutes. It's really obvious where the thin spots are.

#158 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 09:35 AM:

Does "the plows go out early" mean "drive like it's just rained", or am I going to need to learn how to drive in actual snow?

"The plows go out early" means that they start plowing while it's still snowing.

Note, however, that this applies only to major routes, and that some of the roads that you think are major routes, aren't. So, yes, you really need to know how to drive on actual snow. The quick version is: slower than usual, with more space than usual between you and the car in front of you, and start your braking sooner than usual.

And Pittsburgh has nasty winters, I fear. We don't (usually) get all-winter snow; instead we get three or four serious snowstorms (we've already had one). Normal lows are in the single-digit-Fahrenheit range, but there are cold snaps that are lower, sometimes much lower, every winter. We also get a lot of days where it goes above freezing for a few hours, just long enough for everything to melt into slush that then freezes again at night.

All that being said, at least it's scenic here and there are lots of opportunities for aesthetic appreciation of snow-covered trees. :)

. I still find the whole concept of seasons faintly bizarre. Why should the weather feel compelled to drastically change, and every year at that? For all the science that tells me this is how it goes, witnessing it is still surreal.)

When I lived in San Diego for a year, I had exactly the opposite reaction. Whaddya mean it doesn't get cold here?

I didn't live there long enough for the silliness of people in parkas at 50 F to wear off. And now I'm back in a place with sensible seasons, so I'm happy.

#159 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 09:47 AM:

Nancy L. wrote:

Any advice on learning how to fall safely? I've hurt my left knee several times by falling on ice, and it's obvious that I'm falling wrong.

What Elizabeth said. The ability to fall safely is the most-used skill anyone will take away from aikido, judo, and jujitsu. Everyone falls down. Not everyone has to kick a** and take names.

I once got tossed over the handlebars of my bicycle at 15-20 mph. I was forced into a car and the handlebar hooked a rearview mirror. The bike stopped. I didn't. I remember turning in the air and slapping. I walked away with abrasions and a cut finger.

#160 ::: John Peacock ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 09:52 AM:

I once got tossed over the handlebars of my bicycle at 15-20 mph.

Yeah, I second this experience. I had a couple years of judo plus theatrical sword-fight training (a summer at a Ren Faire). I was riding my bicycle in Madison (and I was going fast) and some moron in a car pulls out in front of me. I swerved too fast, the front wheel went to 90 degrees, and I went over the handlebars. I had a slight scrape on one elbow and a ruined front fork. Reflexes are wonderful!

John

#161 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 09:53 AM:

So, Graydon, how is the pot business these days, anyway?

#162 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:00 AM:

What we usually look for in bicycle accidents is: Head injury, abdominal injury, upper extremity injury.

#163 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:10 AM:

Allen J. Baum: Gee, your "mild" Reynaud's Syndrome makes mine seem almost nonexistent! Do you try to tough it out for a while? I gulp down hot beverages from warm cups as soon as the fingernails turn blue, and wear gloves in what a lot of people here still think of as t-shirt weather. But maybe I'm just luckier than I realized -- though not compared to my nearly weather-proof husband.

My greatest weather "this can't be real" moment came on my one visit to NYC in August, straight from the Bay Area. Their air-conditioned buildings felt like a normal summer, while outdoors someone had turned the heat on way too high.

#164 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:10 AM:

Ajay --

Tiny hovel apartment; breakers which blow if people in adjacent apartments plug in electric kettles at the same time. Terrible, terrible location to even contemplate grow lights.

Also, no air conditioning, and a huge expanse of south facing windows. Hanging mirror mylar across said expanse really cut down on the tendency to heat-induced torpor. (And having to lie awake at night listening to the wee tiny fridge crying in frustration.)

#165 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:37 AM:

My rules-of-thumb for driving in winter conditions:

1) You must change speeds very slowly.

2) You must change directions very slowly.

3) If you absolutely must do both at once, you must do them *even* *slower*.

#166 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:38 AM:

Nancy, re falling safely: as Lizzy & Mark already said, find someone who's taken aikido. They are REALLY good at falling. I am a taekwondo practitioner myself, but from friends and relatives who do aikido I understand that they spend most of the first year on How To Fall. My TKD teacher also studied aikido and judo, and walked away uninjured from what could have been a VERY nasty motorcycle spill, thanks to a good breakfall.

Adrienne: try taking your search for the YA book to Book Sleuth at http://forums.abebooks.com/abesleuthcom . These folks are GOOD.

#167 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:46 AM:

Graydon: Ah, I understand. Sorry - in my small, damp, chilly island habitat, heroic measures to keep the sun out aren't really necessary. Nature supplies us with ample clouds.

(Didn't really think you ran a pot business anyway. NB to anyone, er, watching from a .gov address: HE DOESN'T REALLY GROW POT. IT WAS A JOKE. PLEASE DO NOT TAKE HIS HOUSE AWAY.)

#168 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:05 AM:

Re: Driving in snow: Even more than hiking, if the thought occurs to you, "Should I turn back?" or "Should I stay home instead?" the answer is "YES!"

And also if it's freezing rain: the answer should be stay home, before you go out into the street.

Learn how to get out of snow or mud when driving. (Low gear, very gentle application of gas so as to have some traction, and don't get into it a second time if you can possibly avoid it.)

#169 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:05 AM:

Fade: There is this thing called, quite inappropriately, "freezing rain". The name's confusing because it has nothing to do with rain, except briefly initially, when it is rain at 0C, perfectly easily dealt with as ordinary cold rain. The vile thing about it is that it lands as a layer of ice all over everything, which can be a centimetre or more thick, sometimes five centimetres. Roads and pavement/sidewalk get like ice rinks. There is no friction. The best places to walk are old semi-cleared snow, because the surface is uneven, even with ice on, so it's not much worse than rocks at the beach. But even with good boots and the best will in the world it's horribly slippery. Even when they clear the roads, driving is dangerous. If there's freezing rain, stay home if you can.

As for boots, Caterpillar, the earth-moving equipment people, make great boots.

#170 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:08 AM:

Learning to fall correctly may be the one true life-saving skill a bicyclist needs. I was told the story of a young cyclist barrelling out of a side street, smacked by a car and went head over heals to land on the street behind. The child wasn't killed by being hit. He was killed when his head slammed the pavement and snapped his neck. No helmet's going to stop that one either.

from friends and relatives who do aikido I understand that they spend most of the first year on How To Fall.

Thank you for that. I'm signing up the first of the year. "Hi, I'm here to learn to fall. I don't care about belts or competitions. I care about surviving weak ankles." I realized some years ago that I'm afraid of heights not because I'm afraid of heights, but because I'm afraid of my ankles giving way at the worst possible moment, sending me over the edge. I can now approach well barricaded edges without fear. (I still grip the railing tightly when someone walks behind me, but that's a different fear.)

#171 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:10 AM:

Speaking of indoor survival in cold climates: It's a good idea to keep a teapot boiling all the time, to add moisture to the air. When cold air warms up, it warms up dry and dry air rips the heck out of your mucus membranes (not to mention sucking the water right out of your body through your lungs and skin).

#172 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:11 AM:

ajay, he lives in Canada. That's a civilized country; they wouldn't take his house away.

#173 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:23 AM:

Hmm, maybe I will sign up for Aikido after all. It was that or Krav Maga.

And Fade: I can't stand the idea of living in a place without seasons! As a nature-worshipper, the change of the seasons is an important (maybe the MOST important) way I connect to the Mother. And I like my winters dramatic and life-threatening, because otherwise people only have an intellectual understanding of their own mortality. Needless to say, NYC is a bit disappointing in that regard.

I got hypothermia once. I was bundled up in layers and all, even though the outer layer on my legs was jeans. Hat pulled down to my glasses, hood over it, big! thick! scarf wrapped up to my glasses, below-the-butt down coat, probably sweaters.

All of which was as nothing to the -80F wind chill that night. Walked a couple miles to the apartment I shared...there was kind of a party going on. I remember I had actual solid ice on my glasses (from my breath freezing). I could respond to my name only with "Guhh."

Fortunately, this was in Michigan, so everyone knew what to do: strip, wrap, feed warm liquids. I was fine. Learned a lesson too.

#174 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:24 AM:

Lin: Aikido has no competitions (one form of it does. If you aren't sure, ask. Most Aikido dojos tell you up front, no competitions, we're non-competitive.) Belts and ranks -- don't worry about it. Enjoy the training. The first 10 years are the hardest. (Joke. The first year is the hardest. But I've been doing it for 35 years so the first ten years have kind of compressed into one.) If you LIKE falling (called ukemi), you're going to be fine. I happen to love it. Remember that frustration is part of the learning process, and be very, very patient with yourself. If you tell me where you live, I can maybe recommend a dojo. But the best way to find one is the phone book. WATCH first. If you like what you see, good. Don't join anywhere that has "contracts." More advice available -- let me know if you want it and we can do it by e-mail.

#175 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:30 AM:

Xopher --

First, I would have to have a house....

Ajay --

Our weather oscillates between visits from the Florida Low and the Lady of the Ice, come down from the Beaufort Sea. Cloudy with the former, not so much with the later.

Fade, et al --

If Pittsburgh gets lots of freezing rain, there's a product called Ice Walkers which are effectively urban crampons -- high tech hobnailed sandals designed to go over your boots and make walking on ice and wet ice practical. I use mine once or twice a year, and they spend the winter living in the bottom of whatever bag I'm lugging to work. They're not very expensive -- about 35 CDN -- and very, very useful for those times when walking uphill to the bus stop just has to happen.

#176 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:33 AM:

Does "the plows go out early" mean "drive like it's just rained", or am I going to need to learn how to drive in actual snow?

In addition to what everyone else has told you, you must learn how to handle a skid. If you drive in snow and ice and slush, you will skid sooner or later, no matter how careful you are. And Pittsburgh has hills, and many old, twisty streets, not all of which are paved with asphalt (iced-over brick is nasty).

Talk to some businesses in Pittsburgh that offer defensive driving courses and explain you want to learn how to drive in winter. Failing that, ask a native with good drving habits. Failing that, take your car to a big, open, empty space (like a deserted mall parking lot) with snow/ice/slush and drive in circles until you learn how to turn, brake, accelerate, and handle a skid.

#177 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:38 AM:

Lizzy L: I'd like to know more. xopher_hatton (at) yahoo dot com. NYC area; best access to Manhattan. I live in Hoboken but have no car.

#178 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:02 PM:

Lizzie L: Thank you. I don't like falling, but I do it far too often. I'd feel better about it knowing how to do it right. Fell on slippery floor, landed hard enough to find out the "funny bone" can also be found in the knee area, and spent a minute or two completely unable to explain to the helpful people that I didn't need 911, I needed time. And the last full-body-splot, in full view of coworkers, would have been less bloody if I'd been able to fall correctly. I live in the Chatsworth area, north-west end of the San Fernando Valley. I go to the gym at least twice a week to work out with a personal torturer (yes, I call her that to her face, she thinks it's funny), do belly dance and t'ai chi, and would love info on a good akido dojo.

#179 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Lin: there's also something to be done about your weak ankles. Talk to a physical therapist. Not only do weak ankles increase your risk of falling, they also transmit instability to your knees and hips. If your ankles are sufficiently intact that you are able to walk, they can be made stronger and more stable by appropriate exercises. (I am studying to become a physical therapist assistant; does it show?)

Re aikido, here's a great FAQ:
http://home.earthlink.net/~jimbaker6/aa/askjim.htm

#180 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Lin - my trainer's last name is Doering. Sometimes I call him Hermann Doering.

That's what we pay them for, isn't it?

#181 ::: Emily H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Having broken two bones in the last year (one fall from a bike, one fall from stepping into a hole while walking), aikido sounds like an awfully good investment right now.

I wish I had known all this about hypothermia for the years I lived in Montreal. I wore jeans every day, and was only convinced to get long underwear when my jeans froze to my legs. I was tremendously lucky to have only one mild instance of frostbite and no hypothermia.

#182 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Something I heard about cotton once [context was summer, but applies here]: if you're wearing cotton, and sweating, it's COLDER than wearing no shirt at all.

Also, as far as "driving in snow", something I recommend:

find a large empty parking lot and do some intentional skidding (low speeds!) where there's nothing to hit. Learn what the car will do and what it feels like and what your reactions accomplish.

. . .I just noticed Aconite recommend this, two posts up. I second it.

As far as clothes, something I learned in October of my first year at McGill University: Nothing looks stupider than frostbite.

#183 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:29 PM:

Sandy - wouldn't that be good in the summer? Colder is better when you're too hot, right?

#184 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:30 PM:

Weak ankles: my PT and I are working on that.

The full-body-splot, BTW, happened when I discovered that in Auburn, Indiana, the dirt the grass is growing in is not at the same level as the sidewalk, or even close to the top of the grass. I stepped half on the sidewalk and half on "the grass," and found the dirt was a lo-o-ong way down.

#185 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 12:45 PM:

Re: Freezing Rain = falling/breaking something

Yak Traks -- rubber and metal, can be worn over regular street shoes. I call mine my "chains" and they live in my backpack during the winter.

Last year I found out that freezing rain coats everything -- I walked outside and had a gleaming layer of ice over my winter coat in less than 5 minutes!

No choice about being out in it -- I was headed for the bus home...

#186 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:06 PM:

Yog - I'd like to learn more about the A-V Shunt, but everything I've found on the web is either about artificial means of accomplishing it, a paper on pathological occurrences of it (in that context it's also called a 'fistula', apparently), or an entry in this discussion. Can you recommend any sources for further reading on the cold-adaptive version?

#187 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:08 PM:

Xopher: Try searching under Cold-Induced Vasodilation (CIVD).

#188 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Fade,
If you're still reading this thread... I highly recommend practice snow driving when you have the chance. Find a large parking lot and practice some skids. Not high speeds, just enough to begin to skid. 10-15 mph and hit the brakes.
Your first skid is very scary and it's better to experience it before it matters. There's a technique to dealing with skids, turn your wheels toward the direction of the skid and gently touch the gas to get traction before trying to change direction.
Practice is kind of fun. The real thing gets your heart racing.

#189 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Thanks, I found more under that. None of them so far seem to address the issue of Europeans having it and others not, which is the point I'm most interested in, but I'll keep looking.

One of them was a Doctoral thesis titled "Contact Cooling and it's Effects on Manual Dexterity."

In a DOCTORAL THESIS. Her committee should be SHOT.

#190 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:48 PM:

"Well, she's only at Loughborough University," he remarks, with an Oxford sneer.

#191 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 01:55 PM:

That's funny - Michael's comment is listed after Xopher's on the home page, but it shows up before it here.

On Cold-Induced Vasodilation (which is completely new to me), it would be interesting to know how much "European ancestry" you need to have before it kicks in. I can well imagine that many African-Americans could have it, for example, because they also have European ancestors.

#192 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 02:08 PM:

On the A-V shunt IIRC there is some literature on the related topic of sled dogs and such standing on ice with their paws being allowed to run cooler - zoned temperatures with heat exchangers.

Many times I've lost enough feeling in my hands that I had to do things by sight. For instance, no idea how it works with fuel injected engines but swapping out really hot spark plugs has helped me get a gasoline engine started - presumably the spark plug vaporized some gasoline.

On jeans, the only personal contact (more the parents than the teenagers) I've had with nice everyday people meeting the fool killer that way it was four male high schoolers stylish (for their neighborhood) in Levis and Jeans Jackets who went out joyriding on a bluebird day - bogged down, tried to dig out until sweaty then decided to walk out and leave a perfectly good vehicle.

My own practice driving on snow and ice is think vector - I'm committed to this direction for this distance with this entering speed and I vector between spots where I can correct as by scrubbing off speed in deeper snow or changing road grade or braking/turning on a relatively cleared patch - nothing like turning onto a plowed road and speeding up in relief to lead one into the ditch. Given that I'm driving a 4X4 I chain the front wheels first - easier anyway with better clearance.

Any thoughts on anti-coagulants - such as might be in a kit for heart attack/stroke - for coming out of frostbite? When the plasma starts leaking from the burn?

#193 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 02:14 PM:

Birds -- pretty much all birds, this appears to be basal to theropoda -- have counter-current heat exchangers in the blood flow to and from their feet.

This is why ducks, etc. can walk on ice for hours and not freeze their feet off.

Something else for the list when adult somatic genetic modification gets practical.

#194 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 02:18 PM:

Aconite and Michael: Thanks for the advice, and I will look for driving schools once I get there, or at least get practice in large empty lots. I stayed sensibly inside when we got freezing rain here a few weeks ago, but Austin shuts down completely in those sorts of circumstances; I suspect Pittsburgh does not.

I'm taking many notes here, and carefully bookmarking this thread for later reference...

Xopher: I learned to respect Mother Nature in the form of flash floods, earthquakes, heat stroke, dehydration, and poisonous snakes. I can apply the same cautious, sensible approach to those things to seasons, with appropriate new rules. But it's a bit odd to try to switch my lookout for Ways I Could Die from "stay out of the deep jungle areas, wear rubber boots, always go swimming with a buddy in the rivers" to "dress in layers, stay inside, learn to drive properly."

#195 ::: Geri Sullivan ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 02:25 PM:

I'll second Michael's suggestion about practicing skids. Way back in ancient times, my first boyfriend had the really annoying habit of purposely skidding when turning onto side streets during winter driving. He never came close to hitting anything else or going into a ditch, but I always found his little skidding game to be stupid hot-dogging in his part.

After I started driving, I discovered it was really easy to handle skids because I'd had so much experience feeling a car going into a skid, and, equally importantly, the feeling of a car coming out of one. That familiarity gave me immediate feedback, helping me turn the wheel and handle the other controls exactly as needed to regain control of the car.

I still think the deliberate skids in real driving were stupid hot-dogging, much though I personally benefitted from having sat through scores of them. Much better to practice in an empty parking lot...being sure to stay well clear of light poles or any other objects there.

Other winter driving reminders: since it's in the shade, the pavement under overpasses is often icy when the rest of the roadway is clear. Quickly flooring the gas pedal isn't a good way to get unstuck; it's a good way to ruin your transmission. Know your car; know yourself. Reassess each as the years go by and drive accordingly. (My 51-year-old eyes deal with nighttime driving much differently than even my 48-year-old eyes did, and I'm changing my road-trip patterns and preferences to match.)

#196 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 02:43 PM:

...Austin shuts down completely in those sorts of circumstances; I suspect Pittsburgh does not.

No, it really doesn't, unless the storm is all of terrible, unexpected, and quite late or quite early in the season.

You do have to look out for people doing the inexplicable "What? It snows here?" thing, though. Happens every darn year--people acting like they've never seen frozen water before, and driving like idiots in consequence.

Lest I sound like a doomsayer, though, once you get a little practice you'll be fine.

#197 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 02:47 PM:

On the subject of "steering into the skid." Maybe it's my lefthanded nature, but I have never understood which direction is "into." If my back wheels start moving clockwise, do I turn the wheel left or right?

#198 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 02:55 PM:

I have to drive in the snow & ice sometimes. I'm lucky to have an AWD vehicle (but I stil drive carefully).
One thing I learned is that you have to get your foot off the brake when you take a turn (slow down before going into the turn). Otherwise you will fishtail or skid.
The other thing is that you can't always see the icy or slippery spots. Assume the road is slippery unless proven otherwise.
And lastly, don't drive behind tall vehicles that can brush against snow-laden/frozen branches.

#199 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:04 PM:

The other thing is that you can't always see the icy or slippery spots.

Better known as 'black ice'. In daylight it may look like wet pavement. Hazardous because it doesn't look like ice. (I had it in my back yard once: dripping hose + sudden and long cold spell = black ice for a week. Fortunately I didn't have to cross it.)

#200 ::: J. Cheney ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:06 PM:

I'm a desert kid, and find this all terribly fascinating.
I now live in Oklahoma, and we have the above mentioned "freezing rain" and "ice storms".

They are, in their effects, truly nasty. Worst personal experience: truck driving by in opposite direction splashes dirty water across my windshield, suddenly I'm driving blind due to a half-inch thick sheet of dirty ice.

Ice storms bring down trees, which in turn bring down power lines, leaving some homes without power for weeks in the dead of winter (for us).

Is this a phenomenon that happens up north as well? Or is this just an Oklahoma thing?

#201 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:10 PM:

Turn the steering wheel in the direction you are skidding -- i.e. if your back wheels are going to the right, turn the steering wheel to the right, if left, then left.

It really helps if your Driver's Ed class has simulators, so you can get the feel without actually endangering anything.

Be aware that bridges and overpasses freeze before other road surfaces -- I found this out the hard way one morning.

What had been plain rain when I'd taken my husband to work at oh-dark-hundred had become freezing rain on the way back.

I was on the freeway and didn't realize the overpass was a sheet of ice until I was actually on it and skidding. This was a really long overpass and every time I turned into the skid the car went into another skid in the opposite direction.

I finally got control of the car when I'd dumped enough speed -- and somehow managed not to hit anything while doing so! I kept the car's speed at something like 5 mph from that point home, as the rest of the road was becoming slick.

Imagine my horror as my car is creeping up the hill to the apartment when I look up, and coming down that hill doing donuts is a very large Mercedes Benz...

#202 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:11 PM:

"If my back wheels start moving clockwise, do I turn the wheel left or right?"

Left. . .I think.

The goal is to get the car pointed the way it's already sliding.

If you're sliding straight [by definition] and pointed right, you want to turn left.

But not, of course, too far, or you overcorrect and fishtail.

The two main times I've spun out were both fishtails. Once, in snow, at hour eight of a trip to Montreal for Valentine's day in a blizzard. Normally it's a seven hour trip, and I was about halfway, and tired. So when the plow I was following turned off, I didn't really adjust.

Second time was a rainy road, and a deer, and a car that was already not steering exactly straight due to an earlier accident. Also my fault.

[I swear, I'm a better driver than this sounds like I am. It's just you're hearing the high points of 20 years. ]

Anyway, I swerved to miss the deer, overcorrected, and did a perfect Dukes of Hazzard bootlegger turn all the way AROUND the deer, slammed into the curb lightly with my front tire, and HARD with my back. Mangled the rear axle, which for some reason wasn't designed to be hit from that particular angle.

No animals were hurt in the making of that accident.

#203 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:12 PM:

On the subject of "steering into the skid." Maybe it's my lefthanded nature, but I have never understood which direction is "into."

I may be wrong, but I think it means letting the steering wheel go the direction it's trying to go for a little bit instead of trying to jerk it back right away. If you're skidding the steering wheel kind of has a mind of it's own.

#204 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:17 PM:

Fade Manley,

Everyone above who has told you to go to an empty parking lot is right on spot.

I learned how to handle cars in the snow by being a stupid teenage and getting my car to spin completely around in circles.

And remember that in bad weather, lower gears are your friends. When going downhill in a snowy road, brake using your transmission--drop to a lower gear. I'm not 100% certain how things work with an automatic transmission, but I would assume you can use the lower gears just like with a standard transmission. Drop the engine into first or second gear. Then when you're going slower, pump your breaks.

You'll pump your breaks because you'll remember from spinning around in the parking lot that slamming on your breaks is how you get the car to go into a spin.

And plan your route around hills. Learn the area so you can take several low graded hills to your destination instead of having to drive on a steep hill. Starting on a hill in the snow usually qualifies as No Fun At All.

#205 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 03:55 PM:

You do have to look out for people doing the inexplicable "What? It snows here?" thing, though. Happens every darn year--people acting like they've never seen frozen water before, and driving like idiots in consequence.

And here in southern California, change that to rain. I'm a native and I can say with impunity that people here do not know how to drive in the rain. And the flatlanders who head into the mountains ... without chains, without a clue! Snow is supposed to stay on ski slopes, doncha know. *sigh*

#206 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:01 PM:

Better known as 'black ice'. In daylight it may look like wet pavement.

My one and only experience with black ice was in the Santa Monica mountains, going up and over from the San Fernando Valley into West LA/Santa Monica. There's a spot that always has a thin layer of water running thru and over it. Right smack in the middle of the intersection it went from thin layer of water to thin layer of ice. The only warning I had was sliding sideways when I expected to go forwards. Fortunately for me, I slid on thru it. I also went down the street a ways, pulled over and got over the twitchies. As I started up again, I found that there was now a really nice marker in the middle of the ice -- an SUV had gotten itself stuck and turned around, not having gone fast enough to slide thru.

#207 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:02 PM:

You do have to look out for people doing the inexplicable "What? It snows here?" thing, though. Happens every darn year--people acting like they've never seen frozen water before, and driving like idiots in consequence.

Heh...they do it for the first heavy rains of autumn here in Scotland. We don't get enough snow here for people to get their Idiot Quota out of the way with the frozen stuff, so they spend it on the liquid.

"If my back wheels start moving clockwise, do I turn the wheel left or right?"
Left. . .I think.

Seconded.

Your choices are to spin round and round as you skid, or to travel in a roughly normal orientation until you slow down or hit some traction. Turning the wheel toward the direction you're skidding means the front of the car stays in front. Turning the other way means you're driving a merry-go-round. Sod's law says when you find that patch of gravel you'll be pointed sideways or backward and can't take advantage of it.

I didn't practice in a parking lot (in the snow-free Bay Area? How?) before I skidded on the icy pass through the Sierras. But steering to keep the car straight felt right, and led me to the gravel before I went off the mountain.

#208 ::: J. Cheney ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:04 PM:

For Lin:

About 18 years ago, El Paso Texas had 22 inches of snow (that was the day my nephew was born, so I remember).

About 200 cars were abandoned on Mesa street that day, and 5 city busses.

That's not being able to drive in snow.
(My brother-in-law still managed to get to the hospital in about half-an hour, though)

#209 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:05 PM:

Lin and I are posting in stereo, clearly. It must be the telepathy of the weak-ankled. (My best fall included a roll back to my feet. In business dress. I got applause from the other side of the road.)

In defense of the Rainy Day Idiots, the first heavy rain of the season does float all the oil out of the crevices on the roads and make them extra-slick. On the other hand, the Rainy Day Idiots should know that.

#210 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:08 PM:

The way I remember it is "steer the way you want the car to go to straighten out" but not too much and certainly not with the foot on the accelerator. I figure the reason they call it countersteering is because the direction you want the car to go is invariably not the direction the car is actually going in during a skid situation. (My other strategy is to avoid driving if I possibly can.)

As a fellow left-hander, I can sympathize. I find myself doing things backwards relative to right handed people all the time unless I think about it and make a specific effort.

#211 ::: suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:10 PM:

...and chiming in on the buddy system thing, pick a buddy who's not an idiot, so that when you go missing he realizes it right away, not the next morning (in January in Maine). I'd still have a little brother if he'd had better sense in picking his friends.

#212 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:10 PM:

In Seattle, it's snow and rain that throw people off. The snow-related confusion I grok, but the rain? Not so much. Probably because it doesn't actually rain here so much as sputter, dribble & drool, but still...

Oh, and the lemming-like addled looks that erupt when the sun comes out? "Oooohhh... what's that" == instant gridlock on I-5. Forget it. Sheer madness. All of which is goes a long way towards explaining why I've tried to wean myself off driving since I rarely need to on a daily basis.

#213 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:12 PM:

There's a tendency to assume that deserts don't get cold. My parents had photos of Desert Hot Springs (CA, near Indio, elevation about 300m +- 100m) with several inches of snow, one year in the late 1940s. It's a lot lower elevation than El Paso, IIRC, but still ....

#214 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:16 PM:

Oh, right, speaking of deserts and hypothermia... If you have to sit/sleep on the ground, put your blanket/barrier between you and the ground. The ground will suck the heat from your body faster than anything. And in the desert, there is no moisture in the air or clouds in the sky to keep the heat in. The temperature in the Mojave can go from 110F degrees during the day to below 50F degrees at night. If you ever wondered why cowboys sleep on top of their blankets in the movies (or at least in some movies), that's why.

#215 ::: J. Cheney ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:21 PM:

Yes, the desert can get cold.

Froze my but off in the Outback (fortunately not literally, as James McDonald described). Happpened to get in on a freak cold snap, and had sleeping bags rated only to 32 degrees. I will never again take the weatherman's word for overnight lows again.

Didn't lose any of my butt, but learned it's very difficult to sleep when you're that cold. I gather that when it becomes easy to sleep, then you're in real trouble.

#216 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:35 PM:

The way I remember it is "steer the way you want the car to go to straighten out" but not too much and certainly not with the foot on the accelerator.

There's this physics thing that makes it easier to remember:

The car goes forward because it pushes down on the road, and the road pushes back up on it, and they stick together with this thing called static friction, which is basically the friction that operates when something is not sliding. When the surface of the road gets really slick, it gets easier for the road to let the car slide rather than push back on it nice and solid-like. But you can use this to help you out: the faster the car wants to go, the more it pushes down on the road. So if you accelerate a little as you point the tires in the direction the car wants to go, the engine adds force and pushes harder down on the road, adding a little bit of friction. If the wheels are lined up in the right way, the car goes forward on this new trajectory. If they are lined up away from the motion of the car, the car slides more.

(This is one reason why you should drive a little slower in slippery conditions: you never know when you're going to need to add a little gas to get through a situation like that.)

Then you can correct your trajectory, fast, because usually you are aimed the wrong way. If you grew up in snowy places and learned to drive in the winter as I did, you're probably no more than a few degrees off course. If it took you a while to catch the spin, you're backwards in oncoing traffic.

The key is to practise enough that you can catch it earlier, when you first feel the wheels start to slide, rather than having to go through the whole "which way do I turn the wheel again?" thing when you need to be acting.

Another thing: the heat of your tires melts snow and ice and makes them slicker than they would be if you were walking (consider the slipperiness of a wet ice cube versus a dry one). Don't rely on what looks like a walkable surface being drivable if you have hot tires.

#217 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:37 PM:

My family went camping in the Yosemite back country one summer (mid-August, midsummer in that area), a lake south of Tuolumne Meadows at somewhere around 9600ft. It was getting down to 18F at night. We were sleeping in tents (ours was an ex-parachute), in sleeping bags on ground cloths, wearing sweatsuits. (We kids learned how to change clothes in a sleeping bag. It's an occasionally-useful thing to know.)

#218 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 04:52 PM:

JC: The way I remember it is "steer the way you want the car to go to straighten out"

Okay! That makes sense! Thank you.

#219 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 05:01 PM:

Just a couple of random comments on survival gear (etc.):

* Military surplus stores are a good place to get things like mukluks. However, you should avoid the Army cold-weather gear you'll find there--it's mostly inferior knock-offs and stuff that didn't meet milspec. The Navy and Air Force gear is almost always better (not to mention more civilian-looking, for those who'd rather not go into the office looking ready for ReForGer).

* Your emergency-winter-survival kit needs to include a small metal mirror, a good light source--and a pair of sunglasses. The glare from snow and ice creates muscle tension and headaches that can make just-starting-to-be-impaired-by-the-cold judgment even worse.

* Hypothermia can also result from rapid air temperature drops; I've seen a couple of cases at moderate altitudes (2500m) when temperature went from 45C to 25C in a couple of hours. If you're exercising during that period and then stop (e.g., set up camp for the night), congratulations--you're vulnerable. I've heard of (but never seen) mild hypothermia cases in the central Arabian peninsula, so don't assume it's just in North America and Europe!

* Every 1000 feet above sea level expands the hypothermia danger range for ambient air temperature by 3 degrees Fahrenheit (if I'm remembering the formula correctly--it's something close to this). This is not just because the air itself holds less heat; it's because the lower oxygen concentration results in greater blood flow to the lungs to keep blood oxygenated, which pulls blood away from the extremities. Thus, Denver is more dangerous than Oakland with identical weather.

#220 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 05:31 PM:

I remember being at a Pagan gathering in the Berkshires, and playing medicine ball with an extreme form of Shirts vs. Skins - Sky vs. Clad. It was a warm morning. Naturally the Skys won (you'll realize why when you think about it).

Well, one of those cold fronts blew through, and the temperature dropped like 40 degrees in a matter of 20 minutes. People were walking by shivering in their cloaks; I was standing around naked and perfectly comfortable. Eventually I put on a pair of shorts and instantly felt cold.

#221 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 05:50 PM:

Re: Winter driving-I've found that my car's most likely to skid after I've stopped for a red light or stop sign. I have to start up again reeeeallly slowly.

For whoever asked if we get ice storms up North: The Albany NY and Adirondack areas sure do!

#222 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 06:15 PM:

I'm disabled, so I don't go out when it's snowing, icing, too cold, or too hot. But when I fall, I use the way recommended for gimps:

1. Don't try to break your fall.
2. Cover your face with your hands, elbows in.
3. Relax as much as possible.
4. Try to fall so your body is as lined up as possible.

And then there's the rules about getting up again.

Like bridges and overpasses, wooden ramps to the front door also freeze first.

#223 ::: Tully ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 06:23 PM:

Amen on sunglasses in emergency kits.

Four wheel drive does not give you extra brakes. You still have the same number of wheels on the ground as the next person, no more. Next snow or ice storm watch the roads from a safe distance to see this principle at work. (Morbid amusement #771)

#224 ::: LeeAnn ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 06:27 PM:

J. Cheney - Oklahoma has its own special kind of ice storms. It also has its own kind of vehicular morons. I can say that with impunity - I was one for 27 years. Oklahoma also has very poor roads, so I recommend staying home. Are you in central OK? If so, stay off the I-240,I-35 clusterf--- of an interchange. That's deadly in optimal weather.

#225 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:04 PM:

Re: being disabled and falling.

When I was a kid my Dad started an adaptive equipment company (Mead Creative Products.) He made something called a Vestibular Board. It was on rockers, and a kid could stand (or in my case, kneel) on it and rock it back and forth while trying to stay balanced.

It was supposed to teach balance, but it also helped me to learn to fall "properly," without panicking. I don't know if it would help an ambulatory person or not, but maybe...?

#226 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:12 PM:

Lin: How close are you to Burbank?

#227 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:45 PM:

Can someone chime in about driving in snow with an automatic?

I learned how to drive just over two years ago, when I took a job at a college outside Boston. I grew up in Toronto, so I have a healthy respect for the snow and some understanding of driving in it that served me well, including just leaving the car in a garage and taking the train when the first snowfall of the year two winters ago (ie my first snowfall ever with a car) turned out to be a bona fide snowstorm. I'm pretty good at getting out of skids, and better at just not getting into them, and my schedule is flexible enough that I can usually time my commute to minimize traffic (Newtonian mechanics is fully predictable; other drivers aren't, especially in Boston). But...

The one thing that I haven't had a lot of practice with and am still apprehensive about is getting stuck in snow. I have a front-wheel drive, automatic transmission. I know that I have a couple of low gears (first and second), but I don't know how to put together gear + acceleration + anything else to get out of being stuck. Mostly I've been relying on doing a careful job of digging out, but I'm concerned that some day soon I'll get stuck on an unplowed road. Anybody have good advice on how to get unstuck for someone without a manual transmission?

Oh, and my obligatory contributions to driving tips for Fade: The aforementioned 'if you must drive when there's snow on the ground, try to time your trip to minimize other drivers.' And be especially careful when you are turning off a main road onto a side street; it's easy to do a fairly rapid turn from a street that is basically just wet and then go skidding as you hit the snow.

#228 ::: J. Cheney ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:47 PM:

LeeAnn:
My husband usually drives that exchange everyday. Today he drove straight down Western, missing the 7 car pile-up. Little bit of ice, everyone freaks.
(Drive from Edmond to Belle Isle)

#229 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 07:53 PM:

You do have to look out for people doing the inexplicable "What? It snows here?" thing, though. Happens every darn year--people acting like they've never seen frozen water before, and driving like idiots in consequence.

At least you have to look out for them; in Washington DC when I was growing up they were in the majority. Granted it's a borderline city, where the coldest I remember it being when I went out to deliver the morning newspaper was 26F; but it got significant snow most winters (and a line-snapping storm every ~3), so why was it a standing joke that the USSR would attack when DC was paralyzed by half an inch of white?

Speaking of indoor survival in cold climates: It's a good idea to keep a teapot boiling all the time, to add moisture to the air. When cold air warms up, it warms up dry and dry air rips the heck out of your mucus membranes (not to mention sucking the water right out of your body through your lungs and skin).

The problem with a teapot is that it doesn't hold enough water to run all night. I've used a humidifier for >25 years, partly for my voice but mostly because I can feel better without steadily sipping water for several months straight. And Boston isn't particularly harsh; you should have heard the grumbling the year Smofcon was in Colorado Springs (~6000 feet, temperature not much below freezing but the air was almost Saharan in the rain shadow of the Rockies).

#230 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 08:43 PM:

I grew up in the Alaskan bush, out east of Fairbanks, on the Yukon River, a little bit south of the Arctic Circle. John McPhee came and interviewed my folks while researching his book "Coming Into The Country"; my dad's quoted extensively. It gets colder than fifty below (F) every winter. I've sat on a plywood outhouse seat at seventy-two below zero, and yes thank you, it sucked quite badly. Plywood on bare tender flesh at that temp feels much like white-hot steel -- it's an instant searing pain indistinguishable from fire, although it's slower to cause damage. Which is the long way of saying, I've been cold.

Lots of Alaska stories. Let's just say, I learned that when my father started muttering "There are strange things done in the midnight sun..." under his breath in a certain tone, I would know that no matter how cold we were, we were gonna be getting colder before we got warmer.

My worst case of hypothermia? In San Francisco, on one of those 40-to-60 degree rainy days. Helping a friend put gas plumbing under his house. Whole day spent in unheated crawl space... crawling around in two inches of cold water on top of Visqueen (sheet plastic) ground barrier. Brrr.

I'm well-adapted to cold in one sense; my body is very good about shutting down circulation to extremities and maintaining core temp. So I was shivering only lightly by the time our plumbing project was done. I took a long hot shower, put on dry clothes, and felt toasty warm as we set off to Olive Garden for dinner.

Whereupon my body decided crisis was over, and began shunting all that cold blood in my extremities back into the core. By the time I got my hot cocoa in the restaurant, my hands were shaking so hard I was slopping cocoa on myself. I was groggy and could barely read the menu. Classic hypothermic symptoms.

Some thoughts on gear. The Sorel boots mentioned above were a staple growing up. They come in several grades, and all but the most expensive grade go stiff at about forty below. When stiff, they don't allow your foot to flex, which makes walking very difficult. Same is true of most Sorel competitors.

Wool versus cotton is less important at sub-40 below temps. Yes, sweat is a problem, but generally only if you work. You *don't* work in extreme cold, because if you work, you breathe hard, and the extreme cold dry air will do things to your lungs that make them hurt a lot, which tends to encourage you to moderate your activity. Extreme cold equals extreme dryness, too. Wool holds moisture, but retains (limited) insulating properties when damp; cotton will wick moisture away from your skin and allow it to evaporate, if your environment is dry enough. Thermal-weave cotton is particularly good about that, which is fortunate, since that's what cheap long johns are made out of.

My usual garb, growing up poor in those conditions: cotton thermal-weave long underwear. Cotton denim blue jeans. Below thirty below, or below ten below if snowmobiling, add a pair of wool army-surplus snow pants. (Insulated Carharts work pants would be my choice today, now that I'm more prosperous.) Cotton sweatshirt over the thermal-weave. (T-shirt instead of thermal-weave top above about twenty below.) Wool sweater over sweatshirt below about forty below. Heavy parka with hood and fur ruff. Knitted wool or poly watch cap; ski mask below about forty below or when snowmobiling. Cotton sport socks, wool socks over cotton socks below about thirty below, and Sorel boots with felt liners. Substitute moosehide mukluks for Sorel boots if it's so cold the Sorels are going stiff; add another layer of socks. When wearing mukluks, exercise *extreme* caution to prevent getting feet wet, as they offer no moisture protection. Not a problem while outside on dry land, but winter overflow on creeks and rivers can kill you quick when wearing mukluks. (Think "To Build A Fire" by Jack London.) Also, if you wear snowy mukluks inside, allow snow to melt, then wear them back outside, you're in a world of hurt.

Growing up, we would sneer at the fancy textiles in the REI catalog. Some of that was sour grapes; we couldn't afford them. But a lot of those fabrics are synthetic and go stiff (or even start crumbling) at extreme low temps. Cotton sucks in warmer cold weather (twenty below and up) but is awesome when well-layered at colder temps. Wool is better but expensive and not very durable. Alaskan women I have known consider silk long johns to be the ultimate luxury, but if they make 'em for big and tall men, I've never heard of it.

As a stupid teenager (is there any other kind?) above thirty below I would wear nothing but blue jeans and a sweatshirt, plus Sorels and parka when going outside. I learned that when the large muscles in my thighs started to hurt like long knives were in them, I needed to start heading home; once they went completely numb, I had about twenty minutes before they stopped moving. At this point my core body temp would still be fine, and I would be comfortable. Once inside, my extremities would start to warm up, the blood would start circulating, and the hypothermic symptoms would hit. All the cases of hypothermia I earned in sub-zero weather hit me after I was "safely" back inside. Not so the cases earned in the rain and wind. Give me the choice between forty degrees and a driving rain, or still and clear at sixty below zero, I'll choose sixty below every time.

One further observation: wind chill calculations are meaningless in truly cold weather. I've seen sixty below zero with a sixty knot wind, but I've never seen a wind chill chart that goes that low. It doesn't matter. Wind chill is a measure of how fast exposed flesh freezes. When it's truly cold and the wind is blowing, you simply don't expose flesh to it, any more than you'd expose flesh to a blowtorch flame. They feel about the same; your body won't let you do it unless you have advanced guru training from the mystical east.

#231 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 09:13 PM:

Whenever I have felt nostalgic about winter weather lately, I check out 75 South, the blog maintained by Simon Coggins wintering over at Halley Station (British Antarctic Survey). I have always been fascinated by Antarctica but in my current situation am rather doubtful that I will make it there in person soon.

A good recent set of posts, relevant to this conversation, covered Antarctic camping, showing just how much you carry on a Nansen sledge to make sure you get home safely. Simon also listed the layered approach to warm sleeping in the Deep South:

To keep us insulated from the snow surface we have many layers below us. First a wooden sleeping board to remove some of the lumps, then a foam Karrimat, next an inflatable Thermarest and finally a big, furry sheepskin rug. On top of that goes your down sleeping bag and if that's still not enough you have a fleece bag liner and sleeping bag cover. The sleeping bags are proven down to -50C and come complete with a down-filled cowl which surrounds your head and can be closed down to just a small hole for breathing.
Based on my own winter camping in Michigan, it sounds toasty.
#232 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 10:58 PM:

Glove question!

It's been cold but dry in Portland the last month or so. I've been packing light cloth gloves (gardening gloves, actually) in my jacket pockets. Just fine for dog walking on chilly mornings and evenings.

Today we're having a drenching, cold rain. Really miserable. I switched to slightly heavier wool gloves. This evening they were still damp from my morning walk. A miserable experience.

I have waterproof gloves, but they're all really heavy duty. Cold-weather work gloves, really. I'd have to remove them to do anything.

Any ideas?

#233 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:31 PM:

Stefan - Get thee to REI and purchase a pair of thin polypro gloves. The ones I have are from Mountain Hardwear and were $25, IIRC. Lots of dexterity, some wind resistance, lots of insulating power when wet and quick drying.

They're a touch thicker than glove liners, and not as puffy as "real" gloves. Perfect for the damp Northwet.

#234 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:48 PM:

"Insulated Carharts work pants would be my choice today, now that I'm more prosperous."

In place of the jeans? Or in place of the snow pants? or in place of both?

#235 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:48 PM:

Stefan - These are the gloves I suggested.

Daniel Boone - Try Cabela's for large sized silk long underwear, they go up to 3XL.

#236 ::: Kayjay ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:48 PM:

I was riding my bicycle in Madison (and I was going fast) and some moron in a car pulls out in front of me.

John, I had an almost identical bike accident (including the city). Let's hear it for reflexes, and boo hiss to stupid drivers (of which this city has many).

#237 ::: Tae ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2005, 11:59 PM:

A lot of info about Raynaud's

The two sentence read: alpha-adrenergic induced vasopasm. Treated with alpha-adrenergic blockers or nitroglycerin paste over affected areas.

#238 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 01:38 AM:

Thanks! There's an REI between home and work, in the new, uh, shopping experience destination.

#239 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:04 AM:

This may be a silly question, but is there a way to tell if you've had frostbite? I know what my worst cold experience was (she says, shivering and having lost a lot of dexterity because it's night and the heat is on less) and I usually say it was frostbite because nothing else seems right.
Memphis, either the 1999 or 1998 Liberty Bowl Parade, playing tenor sax with a director who forbade gloves. I didn't get a note out because it was too cold to touch the instrument; I'm not sure what the brass players did. For months, I couldn't do things like turn on a light or open a milk jug because the ridges hurt my fingers so. And no one believed me-- granted, I was a whiny freshman, but still.

#240 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 09:10 AM:

Sounds more like frost nip than frost bite to me.

Frostbite is freezing damage to the tissues; cells being destroyed by ice crystals (and by dehydration, as the water sucks out of the cells to form crystals between 'em). Watch for skin that's mottled, pale, hard to the touch. Look for blisters, blebs, and blackening later.

Frostnip is a cold related injury where the blood flow is restricted due to cold, but no actual freezing occurs. You can take permanent nerve damage due to prolonged lack of oxygen to the cells. Look for pale, red, or light blue patches with loss of sensation. This is most common in fingers, toes, and along the cheekbones. Treat immediately by getting out of the cold. (Here's where you put your fingers in your warm armpit, or your warm hand on your cold face, or your cold feet on your partner's warm abdomen.)

#241 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 10:38 AM:

Been meaning to ask: so why is it bad if you're in the cold and stop feeling cold? What's going on?

#242 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 11:04 AM:

I wrote: "Insulated Carharts work pants would be my choice today, now that I'm more prosperous."

And Larry Brennan inquired: "In place of the jeans? Or in place of the snow pants? or in place of both?"

Short answer is "in place of the army-surplus wool snowpants." I'm unlikely to omit the jeans; insulated Carharts are too likely to come off during trips indoors.

#243 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 11:23 AM:

Been meaning to ask: so why is it bad if you're in the cold and stop feeling cold? What's going on?

I'll leave the scientific answer to someone who knows the physiology. In a practical sense, what's going on is that you've just lost all your survival urgency; you're not miserable anymore, which means (given that your brain also may not be working right) you're likely to do something stupid, like take off your clothes or say "No worries, I can make it if I just keep walking." In other words, you're about to die.

I cannot endorse strongly enough Jim's advice: "If the question ever arises in your mind, “Should I turn back now?” the answer is “YES!”"

I was taught growing up the the weather doesn't kill people. What kills people is an excessive commitment to "sticking to the plan". Forging onward when things are going to shit is what kills you. I once knew a hippy dogsled-driving fur trapper who believed in an earth-mother diety he called "Momma." A lot his hair-rising wilderness tales concluded with "...and that's when I decided Momma didn't want me to go any further, so I built a fire, pitched my tent, and went home next morning." You don't fight the weather, not if you want to live. Whatever you're doing out in the cold, you have to be ready to *instantly* recognize that your plan has gone awry and it's time to shift gears from "accomplish what I planned when I woke up this morning" to "get warm and get home, try again tomorrow." The truly difficult lesson to learn is that sometimes "get home" is the plan that will kill you, and you need to dump it in favor of "get warm."

#244 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 11:37 AM:

Debcha -- Automatics handle snow really well. Just go really really easy on the gas. I drove home from work in a heavy snowfall last Thursday in traffic that was just crawling along, and kept the car in second pretty much the whole way. There are two steepish hills on my way home. For those I put the car in first and just barely touched the gas. As long as I was really gentle the car took the hills just fine, while the other cars around me were all having trouble. I drive a Honda Accord with all-season radials. If you're nervous about winter driving use snow tires or even ice radials, but I don't think they are necessary.

The same thing if you get stuck: be really gentle. When I get stuck (which I haven't been in many years) I put some cat litter (or salt) around the tires, put the car in first, and barely touch the gas. If that doesn't work, I can rock the car out of snow (going from first to reverse and back, over and over).

#245 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 11:39 AM:

Cassie, your band director was an ass. Gloves make a band look classier. My daughter's high school band wears gloves in California (didn't when they went to Hawaii, but they modified the uniform in other ways too). And they win a lot.

#246 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 12:10 PM:

4WD in deep snow (or other bad stuff).

One big problem is that you are effectively trying to climb out of your own ruts. Gentle turns help. Also try backing up so you're rolling before hitting the end of the rut.

Check for how yoo lock your differentials. Many 4WDs have a limited-slip differential between the axles. Otherwise, a differential feeds the power to the faster-moving wheel. No differential at all, and you have problems turning the vehicle unless the wheels can slip, but you have traction if one wheel can grip. No centre differential, between axles, either locked or limited slip, and any one wheel can spin without losing traction -- you still have the other axle.

I've not driven a 4WD with auto transmission, but the basic rules are the same. Drive gently. Low-range can help, but it's easy to be in too low a gear, and try to put more power through the wheels than they can cope with. An automatic transmission has some advantages, particularly the torque converter will smooth out the start and gear changes.

General advice: if you can't see the surface that is going to carry your vehicle, whether water or snow is the problem, be very careful. Roadside ditches are the danger in heavy snow. It makes a huge difference to have all four wheels on the ground.

#247 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 12:40 PM:

If you're nervous about winter driving use snow tires or even ice radials, but I don't think they are necessary.

Pittsburgh's only an hour from where I live. Snow tires are pretty important. There are too many hills and it snows too frequently to get away with all-season radials unless you are really good at driving in the snow, and willing to bash your wheels into curbs.

Though I have to admit that Pittsburgh doesn't have quite as many roads where if you go off the road you'll either smash into the hillside or fall into the river/creek/ravine. Or both.

#248 ::: Laurie ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 12:57 PM:

This is a timely topic considering the Transit worker's strike in NY today. Many people walking and biking who normally do not. Hope y'all stay warm!

#249 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 01:07 PM:

Laurie: and who may have the idea that the same solutions will work as on the last strike...which was in April.

The Mayor walked the Brooklyn Bridge at dawn (a tradition for Mayors on the first day of a transit strike; it's been done twice now). He was severely underdressed and walked REAL FAST.

#250 ::: Greg Ioannou ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 01:08 PM:

Michelle's right. It depends where you live and what you drive through. I live near downtown Toronto and work downtown. I have a 10-minute drive, with only one nasty hill to contend with. Until three years ago, I used to get dragged to Montreal and the Laurentians a couple of times each winter. I wouldn't consider driving through the mountains without snow tires.

As Dave points out, you are driving out of your own ruts as soon as you head into fresh snow. That's not really an issue when you are doing city driving -- there's always someone ahead of you. But you do have to be careful to follow the path the other cars have made. Veer off into the fresh stuff and you'll be in trouble. Just follow the car in front of you, and you're usually fine. Unless that car slides off into a ditch or has some other misadventure, of course.

One more thing: when I'm driving in heavy snow, I turn off the music in the car. I want to be able to hear if the other cars are racing their engines, spinning their tires, or otherwise getting into trouble. I want to avoid whatever trouble they've found, and to be careful to give them lots of space. I only turn on the radio to get traffic or weather reports, then turn it right back off again.

#251 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 01:22 PM:

Lizzi L: close enough! send email to me directly at lindaniel@usa.net. If anybody else out here wants directions, send me email.

#252 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 01:24 PM:

Fade -- one weird thing to look out for in Pittsburgh is the Unwritten Law of Left Turns. Be extra cautious at intersections! If you are first in line to go straight across after the light turns, look out for the guy on the other side with his left turn signal on. Natives will almost always let the FIRST guy in the left-turn lane go across before they go straight. Just an odd local thing. You don't have to do it, but people will know you're Not From Here if you don't. But just watch out for that other guy -- he may start across in front of you. He's not nuts, it's just a 'Burgh thing.

You need to be extra careful at intersections in bad weather, anyway, because it's harder to stop and start back up safely. Allow a lot more time to pull out than you normally do -- don't assume the guy coming the other way will be able to stop or even slow down.

Yep, we're having a little snow right now in Oklahoma. And it's just not the same as Pittsburgh snow.

#253 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 01:47 PM:

What kills people is an excessive commitment to "sticking to the plan". Forging onward when things are going to shit is what kills you.

And it's true, no matter the weather, no matter the "plan." Remember, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and the weather can be the enemy.

#254 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:06 PM:

"One more thing: when I'm driving in heavy snow, I turn off the music in the car. . . " Good point.

In addition to all the excellent reasons given, I have a limited amount of sensory processing power and am a terrible multitasker. Normally radio noise is not a problem, but if I'm REALLY concentrating on the road, I have to turn off the music to free up resources.

#255 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:07 PM:

What's going on when you start feeling warmer is that you're losing feeling in your limbs, you're out of glucose in your blood, your mental status is going down fast, you're about to fall asleep all toasty and warm, and a trapper will find you in the spring.

#256 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:16 PM:

you're about to fall asleep all toasty and warm, and a trapper will find you in the spring.

Possibly not the very next spring. Or even in the same century (think Ice Man!). It depends on how close to civilization you are.

#257 ::: claire ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:19 PM:

I have been following this topic avidly the last few days and used most of the tips when I had to walk three and a half miles this morning because of the transit strike. Of course I couldn't find my leggings and ran into the "just jeans" problem.

You can bet leggings were puchased this afternoon for the long slog home tonight.

--claire (an old union girl who is mightily trying to sympathize and not freeze body parts off)

#258 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:20 PM:

Greg - thanks muchly. Your comments help me feel much more confident about my little car (Mazda Protege) with its automatic transmission. I live in central Cambridge, so I mostly do city and near-city driving, and I think my all-season radials are doing okay; there is rarely snow remaining on the roads that I normally drive on more than a day or two after a storm, except in the parking spaces by the curb (hence my concerns about getting stuck). And I tend to fly in the winter instead of driving - better to wait out weather delays in a nice, warm airport rather than being stranded on the road in the thick of it (and on the Boston to Toronto trip - I'm heading home for a few days at Christmas - most of the bad weather seems to be that lovely lake-effect snow south of the lake, so you can skip lightly over it if you fly).

#259 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:46 PM:

It's snowing like a hamster here, big fluffy light stuff.

Now I'm going to put in a commercial plug: I get my stuff at Ducret's and Bouchard's, a couple of local sporting goods stores. (Yes, those are French names. This is a heavily French-Canadian area.)

At least one of them does mail order. In case you wanted to help support folks who live where it gets Darned Cold.

#260 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 02:50 PM:

That link for Ducret's is, um, not Ducret's.

#262 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 04:51 PM:
What kills people is an excessive commitment to "sticking to the plan". Forging onward when things are going to shit is what kills you.

Too true, especially in flying. We're now moving into the "Small plane missing in Sierra -- family flying home after holiday" season here in central California.

#263 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 05:15 PM:

It's threads like these (and holidy phone calls from family in Chicago) that remind me that there are compensations for never being able to afford to buy my own home, and/or permanent lung damage from smog.

But just so I'm not gloating, I will tell you that hot chocolate never tastes quite as good when the outside temperature is above 60 degrees f.

#264 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 05:28 PM:

I actually like getting cold. I have no evolutionary explanation for this.

I wear winter clothes, and don't go far from shelter, but I do walk around in the cold unnecessarily.

#265 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 08:07 PM:

REI doesn't make polypro gloves in women's sizes. Any alternate recommendations?

#266 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 09:33 PM:

Janet: Law of Left Turns, so noted. (It sounds like an admirable tradition to me.) It's nice to know these things ahead of time; it took me ages to get used to the difference between the "at the yellow, the two cars that have pulled out into the intersection turn left" rule from where I learned to drive, and the "if it's not a protected left turn, good luck, sucker" rule here in Austin. I wonder if I can dig up a website that collates these sorts of local unwritten rules. Would be far more useful when moving than the usual information on what industries are most common in a city, or the hours for the local DMV.

Marginally more on topic, I went to a department store today and got a warmer, water-proof jacket, and took a look at the (surprisingly expensive) long-johns and the like. I noticed that all the winter coats were already at half off. Having vaguely heard that seasonal items are usually only sold before the season they're intended for, not during (which isn't a concern when I only buy jeans and socks anyway), does this mean that by the time I get to Pittsburgh, I'm not going to be able to find cold-weather clothing? Because if that's the case, I'd better start taking tips from this thread and stocking up on such things now.

#267 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 10:21 PM:

Cordelia's Dad do a nice version of the "Frozen Charlotte" song on their excellent album Comet (they call it "The Frozen Girl"). The album also includes "George Collins," so it's a double hypothermia special.

#268 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 10:27 PM:

When I get stuck (which I haven't been in many years) I put some cat litter (or salt) around the tires,

Construction sand (i.e., not sandbox sand, which is very fine) is also useful, and cheaper. Standard advice used to be that a bag in the trunk helped traction, but that's less useful with the increase in front-wheel drive.

What kills people is an excessive commitment to "sticking to the plan". Forging onward when things are going to shit is what kills you.

Too true, especially in flying. We're now moving into the "Small plane missing in Sierra -- family flying home after holiday" season here in central California.

Oh yes. When I was flying, the axiom was that more people were killed by getthereitis than any other two causes; John-John is only the best-known case.

#269 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2005, 10:44 PM:

Too true, especially in flying. We're now moving into the "Small plane missing in Sierra -- family flying home after holiday" season here in central California.

In bad weather, it tends to result in discovering what one of my friends calls 'cumulo-granite clouds'.

#270 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:07 AM:

Sierra Trading Post has an extremely wide (if sometimes haphazard) selection of cold-weather clothing; at the moment, this includes men's and women's gloves made of various types of leather (lambskin, sheepskin, deerskin, etc.) with insulated linings, such that I almost miss living in a climate that renders such things (largely) unnecessary.

Which reminds me-- I vaguely recall reading an anecdote that even in warm-weather deserts where the air temperature never drops below freezing, it's possible to obtain ice by leaving a large, wide container of water outdoors exposed to the night winds and letting evaporative cooling do the rest. Anyone know whether this is actually true? The general principle is certainly sound-- I once ended up encasing a rotovap flask in an impressively thick coat of ice by forgetting to turn on the water-bath heater-- but I have no idea about this particular application....

#271 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:14 AM:

How well do all of those 'moisture wicking' insulating yet breathing polarteck-type workout clothes work?

After reading this thread I was at my local REI and saw their large collection of high-tech clothes (some at very hi-prices). If they really work as inner layers, they're tempting. It'd be nice to go out for ordinary cold-weather activities without dressing like the StayPuft man.

#272 ::: Sam Dodsworth ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 05:59 AM:

I vaguely recall reading an anecdote that even in warm-weather deserts where the air temperature never drops below freezing, it's possible to obtain ice by leaving a large, wide container of water outdoors exposed to the night winds and letting evaporative cooling do the rest. Anyone know whether this is actually true?

Yes, it's true. In "The Harvest of the Cold Months", Elizabeth David quotes a long description from 1620 of ice-making in the Persian city of Isfahan. The prevalent winds there are from the north, so they dug long shallow trenches shaded from the sun by east-west walls(*) and let water freeze in them overnight.

I think the ancient Egyptians did something similar, but my only source for that is a story by Howard Waldrop.


(*) Approximately. There were a lot of tweaks to increase efficiency and the full descripton runs to several pages.

#273 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:56 AM:

Kathryn:

How well do all of those 'moisture wicking' insulating yet breathing polarteck-type workout clothes work?

Some of them work awesomely well. My first exposure was a Polartec headband. I wore it running in weather that was well below freezing, and my head stayed toasty warm. When I returned home and pulled it off, I was shocked to find that the entire outer surface was beaded with moisture from my perspiration that had wicked out. I now have a full suite of various wicking synthetics that I wear when doing winter outdoors activities (running, x-country skiing, and snowshoeing). The catch, as you pointed out, is that they can be pretty expensive, and I generally find them to be overkill for daily use, so I don't have an entire wardrobe of them. I suggest you keep an eye out on the sale rack of your local sports outfitter; I picked up a terrific pair of fleece-lined running tights a couple of months ago for a fraction of their list price.

#274 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 10:01 AM:

Don't put entire faith in hi-tech clothing. Back when I took my Wilderness EMT course, the instructor (a retired SAS man) had slides from one of his adventures: the frozen corpse of an ice-climber on Mt. Washington who hadn't turned back when the weather got foul. "Look at those goggles," he said. "You could finance a trip to Denali for what those cost. Look at that jacket. I would have sold my granny for a jacket like that forty years ago."

The point being that if the conditions are too rugged ... the best clothing in the world won't help.

#275 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 12:39 PM:

Half-faced Hel will have us all, who do not go burned or deep into water, and is patient with the knowledge, so that there are none who should feel obliged to hasten to her silent country where the cold has stilled all things.

#276 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:58 PM:

A few notes on gloves etc. I use a pair of lightweight synthetic glove liners, as my usual wear about town gloves. They aren't pretty, but they are suprisingly warm, and a whole lot less expensive than the fancy gloves at REI. (I also have a few pairs of those but they stay home unless needed -- it's annoying to go to the grocery store with a pair of gloves and come back with one.)

Those stretchy fleece tops and things (with the caveats about good sense noted above -- the best clothes in the world won't save you from a case of stubborness or stupidity)at REI can be absolutely wonderful. Expensive but a worthwhile investment if you like to recreate outside, and would like to do so comfortably (depending on your definition of comfort). The important thing to remember that if the wind is blowing, wear a windblocking layer.

Finally, I went to college in the Seattle area. I will gladly take sunny and subzero, over grey and raining any day of the week. Blech.

#277 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:37 PM:

This is a very useful and informative thread. (Pittsburgh was a fine place to be a kid in the winter, especially if your street was a cul-de-sac and your front yard was a sledding hill, but my parents had a different take on it!)

Please, please, as you sit at the computer reading this: think of the people in Pakistan where the earthquake hit in October. They're facing winter without shelter, by the millions. Take the price of one pair of gloves or another gift for your sister-in-law, and consider donating it instead. There's Oxfam, Mercy Corps, UN agencies -- many organizations trying to help.

#278 ::: kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 09:18 PM:

Kate- a good reminder, especially for those of us who think of winter as "that shiny place I drive to, and then, when done with winter, I drive back..."

debcha- thanks, I'll keep an eye out for the sales.

#279 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:18 AM:

I picked up a pair of those stretchy REI gloves. They got good and wet during my evening walk, but as advertised stayed warm.

I just tried them on now. Still damp, but drier on the inside than out and, well, "not cold." I suspect they'd warm up in a few minutes. I'll know for sure in a half hour, when I take the dog on her last chance to pee walk.

I getting the urge to build some kind of sock and glove drying machine. A sort of tree of PVC pipe with holes drilled in the branches, planted in a warm air blower. It would make a nice project for MAKE. The trick is the warm air source. Fans are easy and safe to rig up. Heating elements, less so.

#280 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:21 AM:

God . . . Pakistan.

Millions of people huddling in crappy tents, or *tarps*.

I gave $500 to Mercy Corps, but it seems like a drop in a bucket.

#281 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 09:38 AM:

Having vaguely heard that seasonal items are usually only sold before the season they're intended for, not during (which isn't a concern when I only buy jeans and socks anyway), does this mean that by the time I get to Pittsburgh, I'm not going to be able to find cold-weather clothing? Because if that's the case, I'd better start taking tips from this thread and stocking up on such things now.

If you get here in mid-January, you'll still be able to find warm things, though your selection will be limited. By February, the stores will be getting into spring stuff.

#282 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 11:31 AM:

"I think the ancient Egyptians did something similar, but my only source for that is a story by Howard Waldrop."

I went, "Yeah, they did! It was really cool! . . .wait, that was the same story."

I would trust the research in his fiction over the research in most people's nonfiction. And I love his writing.

Is there any way, O ye publishing types, to get his stuff back in print?

#283 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 11:44 AM:

You can have my copy of Strange Things in Close-Up when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands, but Heart of Whitenesse might cheer you up some.

#284 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 11:59 AM:

Stefan Jones:
I getting the urge to build some kind of sock and glove drying machine. A sort of tree of PVC pipe with holes drilled in the branches, planted in a warm air blower. It would make a nice project for MAKE. The trick is the warm air source. Fans are easy and safe to rig up. Heating elements, less so.
In a dry house, you shouldn't need heat, but low-watt lightbulbs work well as the heat source.
Start with a wooden box as a base with the fan and optional lightbulb. Get some PVC pipe and fittings. If you use waterpipe, there is no need for flanges - make your own from thin slices of the PVC pipe that you slit to make a "C" and then glue around the pipe (above and below the board). If you want a quiet fan, 220 volt fans still run on 110 volts. 110 volt muffin fans from computer racks work well, but can be loud. You don't need a lot of airflow, but the fingers may not get all the way dry.
If you have lots of boots and gloves to dry think about making a Parson's Bench with the blower box for the seat, and flexible tubes coming out the bottom for the boots, and pipes coming up behind the back for gloves.

#285 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:30 PM:

I have a sock and glove drying machine in my house. It's the same as my towel, jeans, and underwear drying machine, and right above my sock, glove, towel, jeans, and underwear washing machine.

Despite this, I have a great notion to build the machine John Houghton just described. Damn you, John, and thanks!

#286 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:31 PM:

...the urge to build some kind of sock and glove drying machine

Or, for the less handily-inclined, commercial products are already available:

http://ecom1.sno-ski.com/product75.html

#287 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 01:38 PM:

Ah, I hadn't thought of a lightbulb. Good idea.

#288 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 02:05 PM:

John Houghton: If you have lots of boots and gloves to dry think about making a Parson's Bench with the blower box for the seat, and flexible tubes coming out the bottom for the boots, and pipes coming up behind the back for gloves.

I have a mental picture of the unplanned offspring of a bench and a pipe organ, which can be played by placing and removing different kinds of footwear on the pipes.

#289 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 02:19 PM:

getting the urge to build some kind of sock and glove drying machine

What, don't you all have hot air registers to lay your gloves and boots on/in front of?

#290 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 02:27 PM:

My apartment has a few hot air blowers. I could make a rack that stands in front of them, but then I'd have to keep them on all the time. That could get pricey.

The gas stove I had in Pittsburgh was great for drying stuff. The pilot lights kept the top nice and warm around the clock. Pots, pans, small bits of laundry all got propped or hung over the stove at one time or another.

#291 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 02:42 PM:

Michelle K: What, don't you all have hot air registers to lay your gloves and boots on/in front of?

Mine are, weirdly (and inefficiently, given that heat rises), on the ceilings. Not on the walls near the ceilings. No, on the ceilings themselves. Can builders be flogged for sheer stupidity?

#292 ::: Nancy C ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 02:51 PM:

mmm, the new house has a hot water radiator right in the entrance hallway. Wonderful for warm gloves.

Yay for new houses!

#293 ::: Renee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 05:56 PM:

One thing I haven't seen mentioned in this discussion is dressing to the way *you* live. It's all well and good to get the best pair of gloves out there, but they won't do you any good if you--like me--can't stand to wear them for longer than 30 seconds in a row.

I live in Calgary, where the temperature will normally dip below -40 C at least once each winter, possibly for a week or more. For years, I've dealt with cold hands--blaming it on poor circulation, mostly, because I'd have thick mitts or heavy gloves on and would be walking wherever (I have no car) with my hands balled up in the palms because pain was spiking through my fingers. (A-V shunt in effect, maybe?)

Part of this is due, no doubt, to the fact that I fidget. A lot. I'm constantly going through my pockets or my bag for stuff, and that often means taking off a glove or two, for the sake of manual dexterity. That means heat loss, though, and heat loss means pain.

Now I wear those cheap poly/Lycra gloves, the ones you can buy for a buck or so just about anywhere. I keep several pairs in my pockets (three, at the moment). They're thin enough that manual dexterity isn't a big problem, AND... I can put my hands in my pockets without fighting the pockets or taking the gloves off. They aren't particularly warm, but for the way I live? They're warm enough.

YMMV.

#294 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 04:31 AM:

A timely read; I will be going to both Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park within the next 8 weeks. Thank you! I'll get my woolies out of the back of the closet and freshen them up for the trips.

Curious - is there a way to determine if one has the A-V shunt without getting cold? My siblings already think I'm out of my gourd; trying to get all of us cold and checking for aching hands/feet every 8-10 minutes just so I can see if any of us (mixed European/non-European) wound up with the A-V shunt may get me a sit-down and good talking to.

#295 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 08:59 AM:

Xopher:
I have a sock and glove drying machine in my house. It's the same as my towel, jeans, and underwear drying machine, and right above my sock, glove, towel, jeans, and underwear washing machine.
If your gloves aren't water-resistant. Doesn't get my ski gloves very dry. Won't work for the boots at all.
Debra Doyle:
Or, for the less handily-inclined, commercial products are already available
Where is the fun in that? Do you need results in less than geological time? There are dozens of commercial driers for home, car, and commercial use. In the Ski Pro locker room, there are some handcrafted ones and some commercial ones that handle many boots at once. For around 200 ski instructors.
I do need to pull apart my car boot dryer and fix the motor, or build a new one with some tiny 12v fans I have lying around.
Renee:
One thing I haven't seen mentioned in this discussion is dressing to the way *you* live. It's all well and good to get the best pair of gloves out there, but they won't do you any good if you--like me--can't stand to wear them for longer than 30 seconds in a row.
Glove use is, of course, based on both task and personal preference. My warmest ski gloves are too warm for all but the days I shouldn't be skiing. Glove liners and multipart glove "systems" work well for me, but I also use cheap winter work gloves for riding on rope tows. (In the Sunday River learn-to-ski area there is a paddle tow (continuous wire-rope with some plastic paddles to hang on to) but I frequently need to grab directly onto the wire to follow a student up the hill. This tears apart expensive ski gloves.) Then there are the nitrile or neoprene exam gloves for the ski patrol part of my winter.

#296 ::: Louise ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 02:48 PM:

mk - everyone has these AV shunts/anastomoses, but the response (the hunting reflex) varies between ethnic groups. I can't get the article, but see this abstract here...

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=12712346&dopt=Abstract

However, it looks as if individual cold-exposure history is also fairly important (which I presume is what's causing the ethnicity data on a longer time scale - Inuit apparently have great CIVD), so if your siblings shove you outside in frustration for long enough it may help!

And Jim - thanks for starting this thread, as I'm off to Scotland shortly, and not all that used to cold conditions.

#297 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 04:17 PM:

Looks like I mostly missed the "winter in Pittsburgh" thread, but here's my two cents as a native Pittsburghery:

If you live in or near the city, near the bus routes -- and if you're at one of the universities (Pitt, CMU, Duquesne, or Carlow), a lot of the buses go right by your school -- you may hardly need to drive at all. Streets in the city, especially main streets and more important side streets, are often slushy rather than snowy, though sidewalks can still be snowy or icy when streets are OK. Boots with good tread are handy. I never needed the crampon-like things Graydon mentioned but I know people who did have them. There are a lot of steep hills in the city but you may get lucky and not need to navigate them much.

Temperatures in winter in Pittsburgh *can* get as low as -20 F (about -29 C), but can also climb into the 60s (high 10s C). And it can drop precipitously in a few hours from the 50s to the 30s. So if it's a nice day, don't get overconfident and leave your jacket at home. Take it just in case.

This winter so far has been abnormally cold -- today is the first day in December where the temp has climbed above the normal. Some years are milder. Most snowfalls are relatively small -- "relatively" meaning folks in some places in North America would think that's hardly any. More than 4 inches at a time is a big snow here. We've had, in my life, exactly two storms that dumped 30 inches on the Burgh, and one of those was when I was a week old, so my "memories" of it are actually family stories handed down to me since I was the central character. (My mom and I were snowed in at the hospital over Thanksgiving weekend... Some day I'm going to have to post that story.)

Layering clothes is good. Having to peel the long underwear off once you get to school or work is a bit weird. (Silk or other thin long underwear may be more comfortable in this situation that the usual, cheaper, cotton or polyester knit stuff. Long undies can also double as pajamas, by the way.) Having several types of jackets/coats to cover the range of temps from "cool" to "frigid" is helpful, though maybe not doable on a student budget. Cardigans or other removable sweaters or sweatshirts as a middle layer can help make a thinner jacket more suitable for really cold weather.

And don't forget flannel sheets. Very comfy in cold weather! Not jarringly chilly (especially to your toes, unless you wear socks to bed) like regular percale sheets can get.

#298 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 04:23 PM:

"Pittsburghery"?!? -- an errant y crept into the word during an edit. Y I don't know. :-)

Oh, and the 60 degrees can happen in February. It can happen on Christmas. (It has. A few times we've even had 70 degree weather in midwinter.) Then it can snow a few days later. That's just winter, mind you. In summer -- July and August -- it can get into the 90s and (fortunately, rarely) even the 100s.

#299 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 04:39 PM:

Here in northeast Georgia USA we've had a whole week of sunny, still days with highs in the upper 50s to low 60s and lows in the low 20s. It drops FAST after sunset.

#300 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 07:03 PM:

mk, Volcanoes NP ain't so cold, but it's very misty at times. Haleakala is 10,000 feet up, and can get really really cold, so at least a down jacket is recommended.

#301 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 08:23 PM:

Thanks Louise; I had been wondering about the ethnic distribution. I'll skip testing the siblings, although it wouldn't do them any good to shove me outside - it's currently 80 degrees F. Not that I'd be able to convince any of them to hang out in a walk-in freezer with me for 30 - 40 minutes, anyway.

I'm going to make sure I have layers for both parks. As the homeless population here in Honolulu can tell you, it doesn't have to get *cold* to be dangerous - a little wet plus a little wind can make one a little dead. I'll be doing some day hikes in Volcanoes, and while I will have an Eagle Scout with me, I'd rather not be one of the hikers who go missing in Hawai'i. A good number of them go missing because they go in unprepared.

#302 ::: Adam Ek ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 04:18 PM:

> If the question ever arises in your mind,
> “Should I turn back now?” the answer is “YES!”

I was driving in a bad snow storm once. I was following a snowplow, so the road didn't seem TOO bad, but I was still wondering if I should get off the highway at the next exit, about half a mile ahead.

Then the snowplow slid off the road.

I know how to read a SIGN when it's staring me in the face. I took the exit and checked into the closest motel.

#303 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 06:53 PM:

Adam Ek: I took the exit and checked into the closest motel.

More than 10 years ago, I was heading home (Merced, CA) from a wedding in Claremont. (The reception was held on campus, at the department of Biblical studies. This was when most of us sat, drinking and talking, on some crates in a hallway -- crates we later found out held the photo plates of the Dead Sea Scrolls that would become rather famous the following Monday.) I was heading north on I-5 in a Subaru, and the mother of the bride was catching a ride home with me.

We listened to weather reports as we drove across the San Fernando Valley and up into Canyon country, wondering if we would beat a winter storm across the Grapevine. There was some light snow as we passed Magic Mountain, which got steadily heavier as we approached Castaic, the last chance stop before the rugged section. We heard that the CHP was closing the freeway north of Castaic and pulled off at the next exit. We knew that the fast food restaurants and motels in Castaic would quickly fill up with everyone waiting for the 'Vine to reopen. Instead of waiting around, we headed immediately back to Magic Mountain, where there was a decent Marie Callenders' and a Hilton Garden Inn (Courtyard clone) that was opening that very weekend. Knowing what was coming, I hurried to the front desk, made reservations for that night (which we could cancel up to 6pm) and had lunch next door. We camped in the roomy lobby of the motel and watched the other refugees start to trickle in. (The management was very grateful for the early warning we gave. Dinner was on them.) We checked in at 5:30pm when it was clear we weren't going anywhere that evening.

Up the road, most of the out-of-towners were either sitting in a McDonalds or parked under an overpass, hoping to head home soon. They got to spend the night right there as the CHP did not open I-5 up until early the next morning. (It could be worse -- some were stranded in Gorman and Lebec, up on the Grapevine itself.) We had a lovely drive home after a good breakfast.

It's not only a good idea to keep track of the weather forecast before you travel through some areas, it is a good thing to understand what that forecast means, and what to expect if bad weather hits. We knew from experience, that when the Grapevine closes, it will take them a while to get it open again, and that it was futile to sit at the CHP roadblock and wait for it to open.

#304 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 11:44 AM:

Re: Winter extremes in the Midwest.

-20F -- Christmas 1983 here in Columbus, Ohio. AFAIK that's the lowest temp on record for that day in Central Ohio.

60F February 1973 (I don't remember the exact date) but it was my Freshman year at college, and some of the student body went out streaking that evening...

Blizzards: January 21st, 1978 -- I don't know how many inches we got, but the powers that be shut down the whole city.

There was so much snow the plows piled the snow in the center lanes of one way streets. The resulting walls were higher than the cars, which made things interesting when one had to change lanes or turn...

But my least favorite winter weather is the ice storm, which we were blessed with for Christmas Eve last year. We got lucky, we lost power at 5AM and had it back by 4PM. In some areas of Ohio, it took 3 weeks to get all the lines repaired.

#305 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 12:13 PM:

I've spent too much time on this thread.

I saw Narnia last night, and enjoyed it, but all I could think during the river scene was "Aw c'mon, they're not even shivering!"

I can accept magic wardrobes, talking animals, etc, no problem, but that totally shot my suspension of disbelief. ;)

#306 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 12:26 PM:

I know how to read a SIGN when it's staring me in the face.

Yeah, that one was subtle, like a fire hydrant appearing in midair and clanging to the pavement.

#307 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 01:37 PM:

Melissa Mead; That was my reaction, too. Actually, my reaction was more immediately for the closing line, " 'Here's your coat?' What good will that do her? It's soaked through, just like yours!"

#308 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 03:56 PM:

I kept wanting to give Tumnus a coat too, but I figured fauns might have better cold tolerance.

#309 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 05:15 PM:

Assorted comments:

I had the same reaction to the river scene in Narnia... sigh. And while basically I enjoyed the movie -- it did some scenes very well -- I have a lot of small (but, I like to think, telling) criticisms of it. I did like the professor a lot, though.

I was in Cleveland OH in (I think) 1967 -- it snowed on June 1. I moved to Chicago that year. (Why? you ask. Graduate school at University of Chicago. 5 years later, San Francisco. Better. Much better.)

On the other hand... a friend of mine was visiting the Bay Area from Scotland two weekends ago and informed me with some irritation that he hadn't expected to be colder in Alameda than in his home country, and he didn't at all appreciate it.

#310 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2005, 07:56 PM:

mk: I gather you're another Hawaii resident?

I think Linkmeister's advice is good; I've visited both, and I remember Haleakala as being substantially colder, though Volcano can get a little chilly at night. Be prepared and then you can thoroughly enjoy your trip - both places are mind-blowingly strange and beautiful.

The other Hawaii-related point I wanted to throw into the discussion is that the common advice to lost hikers to find a stream and follow its bank downstream really depends on the geography of where you are. In some places, such as Hawaii, it's one of the worst things you can do.

In Hawaii, trying to follow a stream from up in the hills stands a very good chance of getting you killed of exposure. Any stream you pick to follow is very likely to lead you in short order down a steep and wet scramble (which you may not be able to get back up) and into a narrow ravine with overgrown sides of friable rock (which you can't climb, and where your cell phone or radio if any won't work, and where searchers can't easily spot you from the air) and ultimately along some tiny and unmapped stream valley (probably having to wade and so getting wet and cold) ending up at the brink of a waterfall over a sheer cliff some hundreds of feet high. Searchers end up finding a number of lost hikers each year in such situations, sometimes in time and sometimes several days too late.

Stick to the trail. If you realize you have gone off a trail and aren't 100% sure of the way back, you are probably better off simply staying put and calling or signalling for help.

#311 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 02:02 AM:

Another thing about Haleakala; there was a story in the Advertiser a while back about the crowds who mob the place at sunrise, only to disappear without really looking around at the exhibits, taking advantage of the ranger talks, etc. One of the suggestions was to miss the crowds and go at sunset. You get the same breathtaking view with plenty of parking, unlike in the pre-dawn hours. Obviously that depends on how long a nighttime drive you're willing to make afterwards, but a mid-afternoon trek up the mountain might make sense.

#312 ::: mk ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 03:09 AM:

Clifton - yep, born and raised, moved back fairly recently. I haven't been to Maui or the Big Isle for, oh...wow, decades. Have been to both parks before, though, and my father told me about the first time we went up to Haleakala for about 5 minutes. We were all wearing light clothing and slippers; my parents were usually smarter than that, just not that day. Linkmeister, I have been pulling for a sunset trip but I am going with three other people and am being outvoted in favor of joining the herd. I am dorky enough to insist that we stay for a few hours and will threaten to swallow the car keys if I have to.

One of my favorite "perils in paradise" hiking mishap stories was a guy I knew in college - another born and raised here, mind - who decided he was too drunk to drive (good) and decided to walk back home, up Tantalus, from downtown (not so good), and that it would be best to stay off the road (...), wound up breaking a leg and going missing for two days less than a mile from his home.

#313 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 01:21 PM:

mk, I was curious, so I looked it up. The silversword doesn't bloom till June, unfortunately. I've never seen one in bloom, despite several trips to Maui in my 27 years here. Hmm. I could talk myself into another trip if the competitor to Aloha and Hawaiian actually succeeds and reduces airfare.

#314 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 04:38 AM:

As a contrast, we're having a worryingly warmish New Year here in New South Wales. Lots of inland areas have been having above-40-degree (104F) days for a while -- traditionally they hit both higher summer & lower winter extremes than the coast -- but today (New Year's Day) the forecast for Sydney was 41, and it's actually hit 44 (111F), which is 20C (68F) above average, with the traditional coastal summer humidity up beyond 80%. Now it's 8.30 at night, and still 40C. We're half-waiting, half-dreading a Southerly Buster that's heading up the coast, dropping the temperature behind it down to a safer 25C (77F), but freshening up fires with its wind (80-110kph 50-80mph??), and pushing them around in a different direction.

There's quite a few bushfires around, some of them have been going for a while, but so far it looks like (dv, inshallah, touch wood) not as bad as some of the past years really bad multi-fire situations, only a few houses & properties destroyed, no serious human injuries. I really don't know how the firefighters and people out defending their homes can work in that heat, running around well-covered to stop radiant heat & direct burns, with the smoke & added fire heat. Things sound a bit more serious in the State of Victoria.

It's moving to also hear how the years of practice have honed co-operation between government, like the Department of Community Services, and the volunteers of the State Emergency Service (just finished celebrating their 50th anniversary) or Rural Fire Service, and groups like Red Cross and Salvation Army, and local government authorities.
Because fires tend to happen in the main holiday period, some people travelling get trapped when roads are closed -- the F3, our main road north from Sydney, was shut down with 6-8km of traffic on it -- and have to find shelter in unexpected places, and others need to be evacuated from their holiday homes in an unfamiliar place. There are always a few nongs who cause trouble, but mostly it does seem to bring out good in people. I'm not sure how things might develop if, like New Orleans, a really difficult situation went on for much longer.

#315 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2006, 08:08 PM:

I found out about Sorel boots here, so I'm reporting back. (I don't know if anyone is still reading this thread.) I was looking for boots that would be really warm and waterproof for long walks through slush and standing around bus stops in the cold. 3 weeks ago, I was very happy with my new boots -- the kind Sorel calls "Waterfall." I thought the only problem was they didn't make them in Vicki's size. But this morning, I discovered a leak in the right toe. My old boots leaked in the same place. I wonder if it's me, or just a standard place for boots to leak. Now I get to find out how good Sorel is about warranty response.

#316 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2006, 03:45 AM:

A day late and a dollar short, but I'd like to share a bit of wisdom from an elder that really saved me a lot of grief:

The thing about those ice-grabbing elastic thingies you put on your boots is, they slide around and fall off; then you fall down. So don't buy them. Invest in a pair of heavy-duty waterproof boots with fleece liners, such as Sorels. Then have the boots studded at a tire shop. (Two tire shops in Kodiak will do this at $10-$12 US per pair. The price should come down slightly in the Lower 48 or anywhere else that is not at the end of the line.) Properly studded boots are still waterproof, but hallelujah, you don't fall down anymore! If you spend a lot of the winter walking around in wet slush over jagged ice, this is a GODSEND. Note, however, that you will sound like an entire box of Grape-Nuts when you go indoors and your boots will leave little pockmarks on linoleum.

Jenny Islander
Kodiak, Alaska

#317 ::: jan erickson ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2006, 11:45 PM:

I am looking for the most flexable,windproof,waterproof,warm gloves on the market for my daughter who works outdoors in the dead of winter in Minnesota for hours on end caring for horses.So far nothing we have tried keeps her fingers warm, or she needs to remove them to be able to do up and undo buckles on blankets and such. She also wears wool socks with her Mucklucks and still complains her feet get cold. Any suggesstions on something else to try would be very much appreciated. The skin on her fingers and feet is beginning to peel I think from getting so cold so often. I hope people still read this thread.

#318 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:00 AM:

Feet ... let's see. Does she have a vapor barrier going down there? That might help. Or, thin silk or poly-pro socks, with wool socks over them, then the mukluks.

One thing that I use, that I've come to love, are the little chemical heat packs that go inside your boots and gloves.

For the hands -- wool gloves with leather shells, inside ski mobilers' gauntlet-style mittens might work. You can pull off the mittens (or use 'em with a slit-palm so the hands can come out there), but still keep warm inside them. Again, try the heat packs.

The secret really is in layers.

#319 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:04 AM:

Oh -- it's probably time for a funny EMS story.

Today's story is the trucker who got out to take a whizz and accidentally touched the fender of his truck with his ... well, there he was, stuck. Embarrassingly. Painfully.

Solution: cup of hot coffee dumped on the affected part, then transport and treatment for frostbite.

Moral of this story: don't let any bare ... flesh ... touch metal when it's cold out.

#320 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 12:27 AM:

Jan - layers are key. For both hands and feet, she needs at least two layers. For gloves, check out glove liners - she'll need a pair that's thin enough that she won't need to take them off when doing the buckles and things. They have various characteristics, so she might need to experiment to see which work best for her needs. Over the liners, she should wear another pair of gloves. I'd look at ones designed for skiing and winter climbing, because they'll be warm and designed for wind and waterproofing. Depending on what she's doing, I might even consider three layers - liners with a grip surface, a lighter fleece glove, and then a wind/waterproof/heavy mitten on top - your fingers keep warmer in mitten than gloves, because there is less surface to dissipate heat.

For feet, layers again. A thin liner sock (I'd recommend silk, polypropylene, or one of the newer "max" fabrics, not wool), covered with a heavier wool sock.

I hope she's also wearing a good warm hat during these outings - that will help keep her in good health, too.

#321 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 02:36 PM:

It was bitterly cold while taking the dog for her last-walk-of-the-day the other night.

Having just seen "Happy Feet," I fantasized what I would do if I was suddenly teleported to Antarctica, maybe a mile from a research base (with a sign blinking "GET HERE SOON OR DIE").

My jacket pockets were stuffed with dog-crap bags, and I figured they'd be my only hope. One of the larger ones could make for a hat (my jacket has a hood, but every bit would help), and multiple ones could go over my hands . . . along with a handkerchief over the one holding the dog leash.

The dog would have to fend for herself, but she's pretty shaggy.

#322 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 03:05 PM:

"Meanwhile, in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota..."

#323 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 04:26 PM:

Note well: for those of us on public transportation, hypothermia becomes a risk at much higher temperatures than we expect. The closest I've come to dying happened by missing a once-an-hour bus and getting caught in one of those April squalls that can hit without warning, bringing sleet and hail and stiff breezes. I was soaked through a wool and leather coat, and the wool blend skirt and sweater I wore under that; water ran down my tights and into my knee boots. I would have been wisest to turn my back to the wind and keep walking, but by the time I should have thought I was too cold to do so. And it was twenty minutes until the next bus.


Luckily, the driver of the bus recognized my symptoms, and did everything he could to warm me up, but I've become much cagier about leaving with a garbage bag in my purse so I can avoid getting soaked that way again.

#324 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 05:35 PM:

May I again recommend frequent warm, sugary drinks? Mulled cider is about perfect.

#325 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:00 PM:

Let me second the use of heat packs, either the one-time packs or the reusable ones made of sodium acetate.

The latter are also entertaining, because when you snap the disc the liquid starts crystallizing. Remember to let it mold to a useful shape before it hardens.

In stores like REI or online, the disposable hand and foot heat packs are roughly $1 per pair. A quick look shows a bit cheaper for bulk boxes on Ebay.

Checking on froogle, I see there are gloves made with heat-pack pockets (see "Seirus Women's Heater Mitten"-- I have no knowledge of this brand, just an example).

#326 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 06:18 PM:

If I tried my hand at poetry, especially in English, it'd probably be as atrocious as those "Roses are red / Violets are blue" things (*), so I'll spare you. Still, Kathryn from Sunnyvale gave me the idea that I should collect the titles of all the spam that makes it to my email and see if they could each be turned into one verse of a poem.

Or maybe not.

==========

(*) "My dog is dead / He smelled my shoes" is my favorite among the variations I ever encountered, and this one was in a cartoon about the movie version of Masters of the Universe.

#327 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2006, 08:15 PM:

Warm sugary drinks are a wonderful thing, but the corner I got stuck at may be further from the nearest espresso shack of any point on any Intercity Transit line (well, excluding the long stretches between the Amtrack station and Red Wind Casino).

I've solved the problem by resigning from the job that made me take that bus.

#328 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 10:49 AM:

350,000 without power in icy Midwest

• Residents without electricity with temperatures in 20s
• Storm blamed for at least 19 deaths
• Guardsmen go door to door to make sure people safe

Hypothermia kills.

#329 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 12:28 PM:

To keep your hands and feet warm, first do everything you can to keep your core and head warm -- don't give your body cause to cut down circulation to the periphery. So hat, turtleneck, scarf or equivalent. Windproof shell over everything.
Feet get layers of sock over sock liner. Make sure they're not too snug, we want to encourage circulation. Chemical or electric warmers are good things. Sneaky trick - I steal some of the thin "nylons" that shoe stores leave out for trying on shoes with to hold the chemical warmers in the right position on my foot (I'm squeezing into ski boots that are VERY snug). Electric footbed warmers work well, but are pricey (even with my "professional discount"). Electric socks are less costly, and probably work well, they're just too bulky to put in ski boots. Look in snowmobile and hunting stores.
Hands get layers of gloves and mittens. Polypropylene glove liners, fleece inner gloves, and mittens with a chemical warmer pocket. If you need the dexterity of bare fingers, try using heavy duty exam gloves as an inner layer (I keep a couple of pairs of NeoPro ER gloves in my ski patrol pack just because of the warmth potential of the thick rubber). If your hand are guaranteed to get wet, wool is better than polypro for wet warmth. Keep chem warmers or even Jon-e lighter-fluid fueled warmers in your pockets to re-warm your hands before putting your gloves back on. Use Bag Balm or equivalent on your hands to waterproof your hands and to keep the epidermis from drying out and cracking or flaking.
Keep well hydrated -- cold air sucks moisture from you even if it's raining. The colder the air the thirstier it is.

#330 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 12:32 PM:

My electricity was out for about 5 hours on Friday, starting at roughly 2pm. This is of the bad for me because, while my furnace is gas, its thermostat is not. If it had come down to it (or had been much colder out), we could have lit the burners on the stove and closed off the kitchen, but I am extremely glad we didn't have to. I'm in Pittsburgh, which isn't quite the Midwest. I think by the time the front got to us it had, luckily, spent most of its fury, but we still had some nifty gusts and falling trees.

A buddy lost quite a lot of food when his fridge stopped working, though I still don't understand why he didn't just put everything out the window--it was cold enough outside.

#331 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 01:17 PM:

Carrie #331

This sounds like an excellent reason not to get one of the new-fangled gas stoves with electronic controls and electric lighter. The manual says the thing will turn off the gas if the power fails.

#332 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 01:27 PM:

Joann: Yeah, we could still cook as long as we lit the burners with a match (once I hunted down a book of matches that would spark). I wouldn't have wanted to risk trying to light the oven, though, for all that the stove's old enough that it might have a mechanical thermostat.

Having the entire operation of the stove depend on electricity, which is in my experience the least reliable utility, strikes me as suboptimal.

#333 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 01:36 PM:

Carrie #333

The least reliable utility around my current house seems to be cable of whatever description. (Please understand, Time Warner, I do not mean to offend.)

It *is* true that although the electricity is buried, it goes out sometimes; the excuse we were given was wires stretching because of dry heat. And pieces of substations have been known to explode or crap out during ice storms.

#334 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 01:50 PM:

Oh! I wasn't thinking of cable as a utility. :) I meant electricity, water/sewer, natural gas, and phone.

I have never had any of the other three go out for any reason other than me not paying the bills, but electricity is not so reliable. I do wonder, though--if it's a function of the wires being up on poles, one would think phone service would be vulnerable too.

#335 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 04:24 PM:

Modern gas stoves will shut off the oven without power - since lighting the gas is done by a hot coil. The spark-start burners should still work with a match, but check with the manufacturer to be sure. You should still be able to find gas stoves that have pilot lights, or are dual-mode. I have been recently lusting after one of these beautiful wood-fired stoves, although I have no use for it at the moment.

Even though it is apparently no longer an option for new installations, I am quite fond of my gas-fired steam heat that only requires the electricity generated by the thermocouple in the pilot light to run the valve. The thermostat has a battery, but that's because it has setback timers (which I "misuse" -- I've got it set to lower the setting back to 50° four times a day, it only gets set higher than that by hand) it works perfectly fine during power outages, even when I'm not home.
Carrie #331,
Even a pretty poor refrigerator should be able to keep its contents cold for 5 hours in Pittsburgh, if not in Death Valley. I expect your friend was being a bit overzealous is dumping the food.

#336 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 05:36 PM:

The only reason the phone's ever gone out (except the time I put my parents' bills in the piano seat when company was coming or similar) was when we got DSL (since replaced by cable modem) some years ago. It was their first installation, and they forgot to switch the POTS back on when they left.

Phones somehow seem to be attached more sturdily, or the wires aren't as fragile, or something.

That said, if you have wireless phones (which we got when we got two stories) they will go out immediately if the electricity dies, unlike regular phones.

#337 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 06:46 PM:

Carrie S., joann,
Phone and TV cable survive better than power for a couple of reasons:
The electric lines are at the top of the pole for safety reasons (you don't want people climbing past it on the pole to get to other services), and are the most vulnerable to falling trees and parts of trees. Electricity also has the problem of having problems cascade both upstream and downstream of the original problem (wire shorts to ground causing transformer to overload, causing upstream switching station to overload, etc.), sometimes to spectacular effect (major blackouts affecting boroughs, cities, states, or regions).

Most telephone is still individual copper wires running all the way back to the exchange. Even problems for your neighbors on either side may not affect your phone service. Fiber-optic service survives pretty well, but failures come in bulk, and may take a long time to repair. Fiber also has the problem of the batteries dying in the fiber-to-copper roadside box if the power has been out for a long time. fiber-to-the-home has a similar problem with the battery that gets installed in your house. If you get direct fiber, leave at least one old (line powered) phone connected to the old copper run, and don't let the telco remove the copper. That phone can still dial 911.

#338 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2006, 07:30 PM:

"leave at least one old (line powered) phone connected to the old copper run, and don't let the telco remove the copper. That phone can still dial 911."

Yup. During the earthquake out here on October 15 Oahu lost all power for quite a while; every portable phone we had was useless. I have at least three line-powered phones in the house, though, so I could get/receive calls.

The things cost about $9.95 these days, so I'd add that to the "emergency equipment" stock.

#339 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 08:39 AM:

That said, if you have wireless phones (which we got when we got two stories) they will go out immediately if the electricity dies, unlike regular phones.

Yeah, so I discovered. :) I got home Friday, tried to turn on the lights and failed, picked up the phone to call Liam...realized what was wrong.

Fortunately ours was the last block that was affected, and a friend lives just across the alley.

#340 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 08:49 AM:

This thread reminds me why, although I enjoy White Christmas, I don't miss the white stuff. Ah, the days of my youth, fingers and toes getting numb waiting for the school bus, or using the snowblower to get the thick layer of snow out of the way, only to have the city's snowplow come by and block the way with the stuff it shoved off the street...

#341 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2006, 09:50 PM:

Pants found in woods could belong to missing man

Hypothermia kills.

And if you're driving in snow country, carry supplies.

#342 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 01:27 PM:

James, my partner and I were discussing the Oregon case, and we think this gentleman is no longer among the living.

Why is the media treating the finding of the garment as a hopeful sign?

#343 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:11 PM:

Because the media doesn't know what it's talking about?

It is hopeful in that you have a definite location to use as the center of your search.

It's a very bad sign in that the fellow is probably doing that paradoxical undressing thing (as mentioned above in this thread, #85), and has buried himself somewhere (under leaves? under snow?) where he'll be found in the spring.

#344 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:22 PM:

The latest report is that they've found a lot of small items of clothing (not his) he was carrying, apparently laid out to say where he was or was going. They're worried because at least one item was stuff he was 'last seen wearing'. They're dropping supplies in the area where heat traces were last seen, in hopes he'll find them.

In another report, several people have apparently said that maps, especially on-line maps, of this area are deceptive, even for locals: the road looks like it's good, but it isn't. They want that corrected, before anyone else gets lost.

Apparenly the guy who's lost is a major gadget reviewer for CNet, and fairly well known.

#345 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 03:55 PM:

Damn.

MSNBC just announced that James Kim's body was found in a "snowy canyon."

#346 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:06 PM:

Sadly, the news just announced that he's dead.

I was about to comment on an article written by the outdoors writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. His guide for safer driving in winter includes the important point: don't split up. Whatever decision you're about to make is better made with another person examining it.

I suppose that if you're by yourself in a bad situation, you should write a note to yourself- in the largest print and smallest words possible- reminding you what to do.

#347 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 04:22 PM:

How sad for his family. It's probably going to take a long time for them to come to terms with this. Once I heard that they found his pants, it was pretty clear that it was all over.

The news is also on the top page of CNET.com, which I suppose, in some small way demonstrates that the tech industry is ultimately composed of real people.

#348 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:01 PM:

Larry,

When I read yesterday about the clothing, I also thought it meant bad news.

However, I noticed that one of the two local papers wasn't willing to write about that implication, not right away. The San Jose Mercury soon quoted an expert about how hypothermia could make a person feel warm. The San Francisco Chronicle focused only on how it could be a message- a deliberate (not accidental) pointer of his direction.

Here's the guide to winter driving I mentioned. He writes about verifying directions. I know this is very important for California and the West: The Western US is filled with forest service roads that can get mislabeled (online or offline) as regular paved roads. Don't trust online maps. Don't trust AAA*. Verify.

* On one roadtrip, we were travelling here in California (western foothills of the Sierras, south of Lassen Volcano Nat'l Park). Note how Hwy 89 loops out east before hitting Hwy 70. Our AAA map showed a road and a town (Caribou) straight south from the lake to Hwy 70, saving the east-west miles.

Well, Caribou was a set of vine-covered lumps in a small vale, complete with two or three small children just sitting on a fence, watching. The 'road' was unpaved, narrow, and went zig-zagging down a cliff before reaching a power-station on the river the road then followed.. We were up for the adventure (I just drove hugging the upslope side of the road), but if drivers needed it to be the road AAA said it was, bad luck there.

#349 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Always ask the locals. If there aren't any locals ... consider you might be in the wrong place.

#350 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:24 PM:

Does anybody from California the Stolpas?

#351 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 05:58 PM:

Serge @351

Oddly enough, I had just figured out that this comment on a recently reactivated thread (Common Fraud) referenced them. Uncharitably.

I think I saw the movie.

Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for people like the Stolpas and the Kims, having driven and lived in some of the lonelier and more dangerous parts of the California wilderness. It's very easy to forget how very alone you can end up out there, and how thin the margin is between life and death once you're there.

I hope his wife has a good support network to help with the survivor guilt, which may very well be severe in this case. I hope the inevitable trolling comments get munged in the Wayback machine*, so that when his daughters get old enough to Google* for their dad they don't see them.

------
* or future equivalents

#352 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:01 PM:

Serge,

Yes- it was a big, big story here in the Bay Area: a family of 3 (2 adults, 5 month old) disappears in a storm when trying to drive from the Bay Area to Idaho. Their story is here: part 1,and part 2. They lived, but with significant frostbite damage to both adults.

Hwy 80 is the largest east-west road over the Sierras. If it's closed due to a storm, the other roads are going to be worse. The Stolpas headed north to another crossing, but once in Nevada, on the east side of the mountains, they got trapped in snow.

The Bay Area has a Mediterranean climate. Northeastern California's climate is similar to Wyoming. Sometimes coastal-Californians forget this.

#353 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:10 PM:

Question for the group:

Is it safe to store a can of Sterno in the trunk of a car for extended periods?

I have a small of canned food back there, as well as a change of clothes and some dollar-store rain ponchos and the like.

I thought it might be nice to have something to warm stuff up on.

(I know there are solid fuel pellets available for this sort of thing.)

#354 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:11 PM:

Yeah, abi... And it is easy to forget how sneaky things can be in a snow storm. Someone almost died a few hundred feet from my parent's house circa 1970. Our street was one of the town's main countryside roads, but things were so bad that cars couldn't move forward anymore. One man decided to just pull over and take a nap in his car. While he was sleeping, the snow piled up higher than the top of the car's roof. People were able to dig him out in time, but he almost died from asphyxiation.

#355 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:28 PM:

Sterno is just jellied alcohol. The worst it can do is dry out. I can't see any reason not to carry it.

(But if you use it inside the vehicle I will personally come to your funeral after you die of carbon monoxide poisoning and mock you.)

#356 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 06:53 PM:

#356. "Duh!" :-)

I would just want a way to melt / boil water and heat up soup . . . not for heating.

* * *

Something I've seen for sale that you could also put together yourself as Christmas gifts:

A nalgene water bottle filled with survival gear. You could probably fit:

Strike-anywhere matches.
Space blanket.
Rain poncho.
Hard candy.
Cheesy crackers.
Fuel pellets.
Compass.
Notepaper, pencil.
"Swiss Army knife."
Tissues.

#357 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 08:09 PM:

#357

I was thinking about this too, small-sized items that make a difference... Consider also

A survival guide with the basics.
Mirror.
Multiple tiny LED lights (the ones the size of 4 stacked quarters) with clips. (Hard to break, and the ones I have even work underwater- they don't short out.)
Whistles.
gloves (non latex).
Thin nylon skullcap-style hat (I use them for bicycling under my helmet- they cut down on wind chill, and fold down tiny. I'd think one would be useful under the poncho's hood)

Then slightly larger items which are useful:

Candles: even one candle in an enclosed car provides a little warmth and light, enough to reduce how often one has to run the engine.

I also realize this could be part of comment to an open thread: gift ideas I've gotten from ML and the fluorosphere.

#358 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 09:16 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @353: The Bay Area has a Mediterranean climate. Northeastern California's climate is similar to Wyoming. Sometimes coastal-Californians forget this.

The northern most part of California extends further north than the southern most part of Canada.

#359 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 09:45 PM:

See also my Jump Kit page.

For the car, add flares, a wool blanket, sleeping bag(s), water. (You can live for a long time without food as long as you have water.)

The rule of threes applies:

Three minutes without oxygen
Three hours without shelter
Three days without water
Three weeks without food

#360 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 09:47 PM:

@359,

Wow, I didn't know that (although I should have, given my recent interest in confluencing). Middle Island, the southernmost part of Canada is at 41-41', and Yreka (a bit south of the border) is at 41-43'.

Did you know Canada has a hot desert? The Osoyoos Desert is a spot of Sonoran ecology that wandered up to Canada during the last warm period and remained in the thousands of years since.

#361 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2006, 11:24 PM:

@361: Wow indeed... a meaty response to my thin soup of a post. Thanks for the links! (No, I did not know of the Osoyoos Desert.)

#362 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 01:39 AM:

Kathryn @362
Yreka, if anyone is curious, is pronounced "Wyreeka".

#363 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 01:51 AM:

The Wikipedia entry for Yreka (which I always thought was a Mountain Man mispelling of Eureka) doesn't mention its most important attributes*: It is on I-5, and has gas stations.

* To travellers, at least.

#364 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:02 AM:

Jan back at 318 --

I'm a few days late with my suggestions for boots - I had Sorel boots that saw me through 17+ years of -40 every winter. I added a pair of fuzzy insoles and they were wonderfully warm and comfortable. Sadly, the soles cracked last winter, and we had to part ways.

That being said, this time I went with Baffin's. They are fabulous (so far). We've only had a week or two of -30, so they haven't had any really nasty weather, but my feet have been nice and warm in the boots. I plan on spending longer periods of time outdoors, so I went with an expedition weight and style boot. Otherwise, I would have stuck with a Sorel.

Good luck, to you and your daughter, with staying warm and dry.

Tania

#365 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 04:36 AM:

Yreka is also home to the Yreka Bakery. I've heard that next door to it is an art gallery called the Yrella Gallery.

#366 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 08:14 AM:

The story of just what James Kim was trying to do is now coming out. From this morning's SF Chronicle: (italics mine)

Kim died after picking his way nearly to the end of the steep, 5-mile canyon in the Siskiyou National Forest west of Grants Pass. Wearing tennis shoes, a jacket and sweater, he had left his family on Saturday, following a logging road back the way the family had come, winding around a ridge, first south, then west.

After walking 3 to 5 miles along the road, he turned east into the ravine, apparently to follow the creek in the hope that it would lead down to homes.

That used to be a recommended survival tactic, but it has fallen out of favor because people who try it usually become more susceptible to hypothermia.

Trackers followed Kim's footprints through dense forest and over slippery boulders from one side of the creek to the other.

"I can only describe him as an extremely motivated individual," said Joe Hyatt of the local Swift Water Rescue Team, which tracked him along the creekbed. "There were areas where the only option for us to pass through was to enter the water and physically swim."

Kim was almost certainly dripping wet. It's not known whether he realized he was approaching the Rogue River, but authorities said he wouldn't have found civilization even had he made it to where the creek empties out.

"Following water downhill" may work someplace, but it isn't a good survival strategy here in the West, especially in the coast ranges. The Rogue is a protected wild and sceinc river -- and if I read the map correctly this creek drains into the main wild section -- little if any permanent human presence for miles and miles in rough country. In these coastal mountains, the rivers are often the difficult routes, down in canyons, and you may not find many people until you hit the coast, if then. Follow roads -- and have something better than a AAA map.

Time to retire that strategy.

#367 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 09:13 AM:

That Chron also mentions other options that might have saved him (e.g. continuing to walk down the road where they got stuck -- see article for details). This case is full of bitter ironies and tragic mistakes, with the survival of the wife and kids a very bittersweet "miracle" indeed.

#368 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 10:43 AM:

Follow the road, unless there isn't a road. If there isn't a road, follow a river until it reaches a road.

Hypothermia leads to making bad judgment calls. Try not to get hypothermic.

We've had folks follow roads in the wrong direction, away from the main highway instead of toward it. It's easy to get turned around.

I've read about a case of a gent, lost up in Canada, who crossed the Alcan Highway five times before he finally died in the forest. If you reach a road, stick to it.

#369 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 01:44 PM:

If there isn't a road, follow a river until it reaches a road.

Possibly in the east- not on this coast, where there are logging roads that lead to other logging roads that lead to a network of logging roads that make no sense even with a map, in blocks of steep terrain running on for hundreds of square miles with no settled country. And where there are rivers which run for a hundred miles with no bridges, settlements, or shelter, and many dangerous cliffs and falls.

On the west coast in the mountains anywhere north of San Luis Obispo, The Rules, as set down by my dad, who drove trucks starting in the thirties, are these:

Don't leave the main road unless you are absolutely familiar with the back roads, and have a good reason to do so. Shortcuts kill.

If your vehicle breaks down, don't leave the vehicle unless you have a specific goal and know exactly how to get to it. You're safer waiting in the car than you are on foot. Blankets, water, food, road flares, flashlights with extra batteries, radio separate from the car radio, all are fine, but the important thing about a car is it's waterproof and windproof, and keeps all those things dry and useable.

Don't leave home without telling people where you're going, and when you'll be back, and what road you're taking. Don't change plans without telling people.

To those I've added, after too many trips over the Cascades in winter:

Don't leave a safe place to travel in bad weather just because you have to be somewhere Monday morning.


#370 ::: y ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 02:44 PM:

OregonLive reports, "Despite its impassable snowdrifts and single-lane, Bear Camp Road is offered as the preferred route on some Web sites and on-board-directions software available on some new cars, most of which have no business in those mountains in the winter." I can confirm that Google Maps offers the Bear Camp Road route right now. Google makes great software, but don't trust your life to it!

A little googling gives a more trustworthy report: "Regarding Bear Camp Road (also known as Merlin-Galice Road, Forest Service Road 33); This is NOT a highway and is not a maintained thoroughfare! Although on some maps it may appear to be a more direct route to Gold Beach, it's not a highway in any sense. It's a forest service road, closed in winter, and is mostly one-lane with no fog lines, no guard rails, no shoulder, and plenty of wash-outs, mudslides and potholes. Cell phones don't work in much of that area and after you pass the Agness turnoff, there is nothing but wilderness until you get to the other side of the mountain range at I-5."

#371 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 03:12 PM:

Y, another rule can be derived: Don't take an unfamiliar road through wilderness if it doesn't have a town marked at the end of it (especially west of the Cascade crest, going west).

#372 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 09:21 PM:

#370, 372,

On western roads- Here's an example I know well, from an area not too far south of Yreka: the wonderful loop road going around Mt. Shasta.*

It's a lovely area**- Shasta is always moving in and out of visibility, the other 'hills' are up to 8,000 feet in elevation (5k feet of rise). There are giant obsidian glass mountains. Further south on 89, Burney Falls pours over and through the rock walls. Definitely an area that'll get tourists.

If you look at the hybrid map, you see the main paved 2-lane highways, plus named roads, which, if you look slightly longer, are actually forest service roads. Might not seem to complicated, and the main fs roads are reasonably maintained dirt, not rocky ruts.

Now look at the plain map view. Note the hundreds of light grey lines, zipping and zagging across the main forest service roads. 98% of these will be obviously not a useful road. The 2% could confuse a driver, especially if there is rain or low visibility.

I know these roads can have snow through May. We drive them with both detailed paper maps and a gps plus laptop with maps. Tourists though, they could get lost, or take a side-road that ends up not being good for ordinary cars.

* Mt. Shasta, the stunning volcano rising 11,000 feet from the surrounding valley, is just 200 feet short of being the tallest mountain in California.

** those are lenticular clouds, although folks at the 3 crystals shops in town may tell you they're the Lemurians' spaceships. Truth.

#373 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 09:43 PM:

the wonderful loop road going around Mt. Shasta

Lovely indeed, Kathryn. An austere kind of loveliness. And the lava tubes are neat too.

#374 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2006, 09:53 PM:

My parents owned a cabin in the middle elevations of the Sierra, between Sacramento and Tahoe, for about fifteen years. You can't tell from the Google map (or the satellite view), but the roads aren't necessarily paved ["Barrett Pass Road" "Pollock Pines, California" will get you the area].

We were told, if we got lost in the forest, to go uphill, because we'd get to a road or a house within a couple of miles. Downhill was the shortest route to trouble. (Gilmore Rd, at the time, was paved to just west of the irrigation canal, just west of the ridgeline; west of there, it was private road, gravelled, and on a downhill grade that was difficult for four-wheel-drive to climb in snow. Barrett Pass (then a joke name: Barrett was the name of a man who had to pass along it to get to his property) was barely more than dirt.)

#375 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 01:12 PM:

On the front page of the Olympian this morning there's a report that the road which led the Kims into the back country was officially gated; someone had cut the lock and pulled the gate back into the brush.

Remember, for this next paragraph, that I am someone who yarded Christmas trees out of Forest Service land before I started grade school (legally, except for the whole child labor aspect of things).

Stupid red-necked sons of a bitch. These are the people who act as if the federal land should be managed for the fun and profit of its close neighbors, without regard to either the larger society's long-term goals or the safety of the land itself. They cut Christmas trees and firewood without a permit and pirate cedar from bogs and streams and by doing so screw up instream flow and nutrient balance. They hunt out of season, shooting from their pick-ups and spotlighting deer. They dump old refrigerators and dead cars, and otherwise act as if all the laws apply only to other people.

Usually when they kill people it's by forest fire or stray rifle bullet.

(Ranting, sorry, but DAMN)

#376 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2006, 01:49 PM:

JESR, that sounds like the kind of people who were moving into the area of my parents' cabin in the seventies. They were the ones who let their kids and their dogs run wild, rode dirtbikes wherever they felt like it, and wouldn't pay the road maintenance money when it was due. And then complained because the neighbors didn't like them.

#377 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2006, 12:59 PM:

I just got new boots for my younger daughter for winter road-hiking.

What we got: a pair of Columbia Sportsware "Cascadian Summit" boots (rated to -25F), and a couple of pairs of J.B. Field's "Icelandic" wool socks (Thermal, x-high cushion, rated to -30F).

Where we got 'em: a store in town, Northern Outlet (formerly known a Bouchard's), about a half-mile from my house.

(What I wear: either Dunham "White Tail" leather boots or Red Wing model 815 leather boots.)

#378 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 03:50 PM:

Looks like the cold may claim another 3 people in Oregon. (I hope not, but the situation looks grim.)

Could someone please tell me why anyone would try to get to the summit of a snow-covered mountain in December? From what I'm reading the climbers were "lightly equipped."

This, in an area that's experiencing a kick-ass winter storm. Lots of folks without power -- I'm guessing this just makes the situation worse.

I really hope no SAR people are injured trying to find and rescue these men, and that everyone else in the area manages to stay safe and warm.

#379 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 03:59 PM:

Lori, I'm still trying to figure out why 'experienced climbers' would go up there at this time of year without being prepared for this kind of weather. Or why they'd try climbing a mountain in that area at this time of year, period. (I hear that all of the Cascade volcanoes are subject to sudden bad weather, almost any time of year.)

#380 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 04:46 PM:

P J Evans, well, I'd be leary of climbing *any* volcano in that area at any time. If I remember my geology, all of the volcanoes in that area tend to be the type that goes "boom" when they erupt. And I don't think Mt. Hood is, ah, dead yet.

Just saw the news report that people have died from the storm (not the climbers).

#381 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 05:49 PM:

Lori @ 379/381 - I saw a news interview with the brother-in-law of one of the climbers who made a point of declaring that the missing men were all "men of faith." Perhaps they were counting on personal divine intervention?

As far as climbing or hiking on volcanos goes, I wouldn't worry about it. They're well monitored and tend to give warning before going boom. One of my favorite hikes ever was up the cinder cone at Lassen Volcanic National Park in way-northern California.

I suppose it's just one of those things you can't worry about too much, like plane crashes.

#382 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 05:54 PM:

Larry @ 382:

Ctein has a nice picture of that cone on his website, from a slightly different angle, with snow.

#383 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 06:01 PM:

PJ Evans - That is a nice shot, but I think the angle is nearly the same. Ctien just had a better camera with a longer lens and more talent. (FWIW, it's illegal to go off the trail in the cinder field.)

#384 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 15, 2006, 06:04 PM:

I wouldn't know, I've never been to Lassen. Some day. (Preferably not the one it decides to blow up again!)

#385 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2006, 10:25 AM:

Unrelenting wind and cold in Pacific Northwest

Firefighters in Kent, Washington found 33 people from four families suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning Friday night, fire Capt. Kyle Ohashi said. They had taken their barbecues inside to cook or heat their apartments as temperatures dipped into the 30s.

They were taken to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and all were expected to survive, Ohashi said.

#386 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2006, 12:49 PM:

33 people, 4 families, 1 city. There's got to be a back-story to that. I won't speculate since I haven't lived in Seattle long enough to be making snarky comments about the people who live along the Valley Freeway.

The thing that really shocks me (aside from the shocking lack of common sense) is that the victims had to be taken to Harborview, which is about 25 highly congested miles away. In cases like this, do they usually take the victims to a local hospital and then transfer them, or does someone on the scene say, "Oh boy, St. Bumblebutt can't possibly help these poor folks, better send them directly to the designated critical care center."

#387 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2006, 03:45 PM:

Does Harborview have a hyperbaric chamber?

#388 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2006, 04:25 PM:

Harborview is the regional Level 1 trauma center for Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. I couldn't find out with a quick search, but my bet would be on them having one, if there's one in Seattle.

Harborview is also a teaching hospital for the University of Washington. If you remember the book about a doctor's residency from the early 60s, I think, the doctor Alan Nourse and the hospital was Harborview.

#389 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2006, 04:30 PM:

Harborview does, as does Virginia Mason (also in Seattle). It doesn't look as if Swedish has one, and the same goes for Valley Medical Center which is the closest major hospital to Kent. I guess that explains the long-distance transport.

Still, 33 people are a lot for presumably one chamber. Two if they send some folks to Virginia Mason.

#390 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 10:41 AM:

(Boggle) They took their barbeque grills INDOORS to cook/heat?

I'm sorry, I'm having trouble fitting my head around this one. Not only carbon monoxide poisoning but how many of the houses went up in flames?

If none did, I think that counts as a major miracle.

#391 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 11:14 AM:

Lori - Yep. Barbeque grills. Indoors. It turns out that some of those folks were in the same apartment building, too.

It's apparently been mostly cases of recent immigrants from warmer climes trying to stay warm while the power was out. Still, I'd think that the understanding that open, unvented fires indoors are a bad idea would be universal.

#392 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 03:25 PM:

*Sigh*

Maybe we need to steal a trick from Telenovelas, and have soap opera characters die from CO poisoning. Or have some Judge shake his / her finger at a mouth breather who tries the same trick.

#393 ::: Thel ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 04:15 PM:

JESR, that's exactly what I thought when I heard that the lock was cut. I grew up in southern Oregon near the route the Kims originally planned to take. Almost every year we had hunters just drive up our driveway and get out to go hunting.

Did you hear the follow-up news that the gate never was locked for the winter? When BLM employees went to lock it, they couldn't verify whether anyone had recently travelled down it, and opted to leave it open rather than possibly lock someone in.

#394 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 04:21 PM:

Meanwhile:

Climber search narrows to treacherous 'Gullies'

A search of the first snow cave, near "The Gullies" found none of the three climbers Sunday afternoon. But rescuers found rope, two ice axes, a sleeping pad and two sets of footprints.

One set led toward the summit, where they vanished in the wind; the other led downward in what appeared to be an aimless circle, Detective Sgt. Gerry Tiffany of the Hood River County Sheriff's Department said.

Friend Keith Airington, who introduced James to climbing when both were students at Texas Tech University, told The Dallas Morning News the footprint pattern makes sense.

Airington told the newspaper his friend probably abandoned the first cave, then became disoriented and delusional as the bitter cold took its toll.

"He probably figured it was his last chance," Airington, told the paper. "He knows they were looking for him. At some point you know you have to do something ... or you're not going to make it."

#395 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 04:33 PM:

Yesterday's coverage of the missing /w/h/i/t/e/ /w/o/m/e/n/ climbers included people who kept saying how experienced and well prepared they were. I keep wondering just how well-prepared they actually were. Yeah, I'm sorry at least one of them is dead, but - climbing a mountain in the winter, especially taking the more difficult route, isn't really smart, no matter how many notes you leave saying where you're going and how many people you tell ahead of time. (I actually had hopes they'd get to the guy with the cell phone in time.)

#396 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 09:22 PM:

Random answers, without reference to proper question numbers, because life is too cold and complicated:

1. "Why Harborview?" Yes, they had to go past Valley Medical to get to Harborview, but not only is Valley Medical not a trauma specialty center, it's rather small, and, if the pictures I've seen are accurate, access was compromised by downed trees (this is the IKEA exit from 1-5, which is under construction, and under a bunch of senile alder trees that break regularly).

Why charcoal and other unsafe heat sources? Because most apartment buildings and a large number of private houses are heated by electricity and most people don't have back-up bottled gas or kerosene heaters; I don't, although that's mostly because I haven't found one that I think is safe to use.

2. Why climb in winter? OY. Because it's vacation time, and because people who have planned around average weather are too attached to their plans and insufficiently attached to their lives. There is no safe season to climb the Cascade vocanoes (Willi Unsoeld, who bivouacced over night just below the summit of Everest, died in May, about thirty years ago, on Mt. Rainier) but the cold of winter is often safer than either fall or spring because the snow is less likely to avalanche.

In general, though, the big problem is making plans and sticking to them without regard to changes in the weather.

3. About the gate the Kim's drove through: yeah, I heard it was left open. I've heard that BLM tends to be less hard-assed about these things than the Forest Service and Weyehaeuser, for instance; I know NFS is infamous for locking people in and checking back at infrequent intervals.

#397 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: December 18, 2006, 11:29 PM:

Also, glacier ice is harder and much safer in the winter.

Climbing a big mountain is always dangerous. Bad weather can come from any direction, and most of those directions you can't see it coming because the mountain is in the way. You have to be prepared to bail out at a moments notice, and to improvise shelter and conserve your energy if you can't get down fast enough. Whether you go in summer or winter, whether you carry lots of gear or go light and fast, you're taking a calculated risk. No matter how good you are, it can go bad. But then you're also taking a calculated risk driving from the airport to the trailhead. At least flying is safe.

#398 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 09:52 AM:

Pardon my morbid curiosity, but I'm confused by reports that they had to identify the dead climber in the ice cave via his personalized wedding ring. The place must not have preserved him like a body in cold storage, but what did it do? Shrink, swell, cover with frostburn...? And he hadn't been there all that long, compared to the months it may take to reclaim the other two bodies (assuming the worst, as the searchers seem to be doing by now).

#399 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 19, 2006, 09:19 PM:

Mountain weather has always been changeable. One example that the John Dill of Yosemite SAR (YOSAR) uses is:

On October 11, 1983 a climber on El Cap collapsed from heat exhaustion.
On October 11, 1984, a party on Washington Column was immobilized by hypothermia.
You can expect this range of weather year round.

Rain is also an issue here. The area around both Yosemite and Tuolumne valleys is largely exposed granite or rather thin soil. Rain runs off immediately and some of the climbing routes, especially around Tuolumne, quickly flood as much as a foot deep. Dill has been warning for years that one day someone will drown on a climb in Tuolumne. I don't think he is joking.

#400 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:05 AM:

Weren't we just discussing volcanic activity in Cascadia?

#401 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:08 AM:

How to build a snow cave:

Snow Cave HTML

Building a snow cave

Blizzards (has pictures and diagrams, and lots of other information on winter survival)

Quintze Hut (one of seven primitive shelters in the same article)

Dig a Snow Cave (good illustrations)

Now my instructions for making a snow cave:

Find some open ground. Shovel snow into a heap as tall as you are, in a half-spherical shape. Disturbed snow compresses and hardens, making it possible to dig out, where loose powder as-fallen will collapse.

Once you have the shape, take a bunch of small sticks, 10-12 inches long. Stick them into the top and sides of the pile.

Go to one of the sides (90 degrees to the prevailing wind) and tunnel into the side of your heap, as low down as you can get. Go inside, then scoop out the interior. Keep going until you start to see the ends of those small sticks -- that keeps you from digging right up through your roof.

Leave an elevated sleeping platform.

Put a hole all the way through in the top to vent the place, so you don't smother.

Now that you have the basic cave, you can make a walled-and-roofed tunnel at the entrance, just by packing snow.

There you are. Stay put unless you have a really, really compelling reason to move to another location. If you're expecting to get rescued, if it's at all practical, go outside and make three trenches in the snow, oriented north/south, three feet wide by thirty feet long, ten feet apart (more or less). Those are obvious from the air.

Remember to stay hydrated.

You might want to try this once or twice in your back yard (including the spending-the-night-in-it part) just to see how long it takes and what it's like.

#403 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 01:12 PM:

James #403:

Every year during tornado season, an Austin TV station partners with the biggest local grocery chain to sell these radios at roughly $30. We have a slightly different (read older) model, along with a cranked Eton radio that gets weather, regular radio, and TV bands.

The only downside to these things is the occasional Child Abduction Emergency alert that they forget to cancel, and there it sits with its little red light glowing all night.

#404 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 01:03 AM:

Apparently the Seattle Times printed a multi-lingual warning on its front page advising against using alternative heating methods that could result in CO poisoning. I still don't like the paper (owned by activist, anti-tax wackos who love Bush), but they still deserve some kudos for this.

My only gripe - it should also have been in Amharic - we have a significant Ethiopian population. And a question - what the heck is that language on the lower right?

#405 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 03:18 AM:

That language starting with "haddii ay" seems to be Somali-- a search finds a Seattle power&light brochure in the first hits.

#406 ::: Jenny ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2006, 11:07 PM:

This story, reported in today's Guardian, takes 'you're not dead until you're warm and dead' to extremes.
A thirty-five-year-old Japanese man took a cable car up a mountain to have a barbecue with his colleagues on the summit. He decided to walk down alone, got lost, fell, broke his pelvis and was stranded without food or water. He was found three weeks later, with a body temperature of 22 degrees celsius and only the faintest pulse - but he regained consciousness in hospital, and appears to have fully recovered his faculties. He remembers nothing after the second day. The doctors who revived him think that he had somehow managed to slip into a state of genuine hibernation.
See story here.

This seems so amazing that I wonder if there is some alternative explanation, such as that he suffered from amnesia and was actually conscious for some of the time and had water and shelter - but three whole weeks survival in the open? with a broken pelvis? Hey, maybe the forest spirits took care of him. If he really did survive all that time without water and at such a low body temperature, the question is: why does human hibernation not happen more often?

#407 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 10:21 PM:

From CNN today:

Mountain expeditions in capris and bald sneakers are bound to end in disaster.

Clearly this person never read Making Light.

#408 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 10:39 PM:

James, maybe they'd have better luck if their sneakers were hairy?

#409 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 28, 2007, 11:24 PM:

It's apparently been mostly cases of recent immigrants from warmer climes trying to stay warm while the power was out. Still, I'd think that the understanding that open, unvented fires indoors are a bad idea would be universal.

A recent charitable publication I read (and now I can't for the life of me remember which!) spotlighted an effort to provide cheap indoor cookstoves for families all over the world. Simply enclosing your cookfire and piping the smoke out of the house reduces lung ailments, cancers, eye problems, and the need to go scrounge all day for anything that will burn. It isn't just a matter of the lack of money for a stove, either; apparently, many people just didn't know that woodstoves existed. The model illustrated (different models used different local materials) was built of used bricks with a sheet-metal pipe and what looked like two recycled heavy-duty barbecue grills.

Anyway, yeah, that meme is less widespread than one might think.

#410 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2007, 03:05 AM:

I just realized that this might be the best place to ask this question:

I am working on a story in which a group of people has camped out in a lighthouse and absolutely does not want to be found. The lighthouse is 50 feet high with a spiral staircase going up the inside wall and a hatch at the top that allows access to the lens. There is an Arctic entrance (door>small room in which to dump boots et cetera>door>interior). The windows do not open. They have a tiny collapsible woodstove that is powerful enough to heat a four-man tipi* and they are burning dry hackberry branches in it. Can they safely operate the woodstove inside the lighthouse with the top hatch open and the doors shut? If they get nervous and decide to close the hatch to hide their smoke, how long before they start feeling the effects? At that point, would they be too out of it to open the doors?


*Yes, they exist. They pack flat and weigh less than my cat. I want, I want, I want!

#411 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 12:18 AM:

What's the air volume inside the lighthouse? How air-tight is it?

Is it absolutely essential that they operate the stove? (If I didn't want to be found, first I wouldn't be in a area with high tactical value, and any building has high tactical value. Second, I wouldn't be using any heat source.)

#412 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 01, 2007, 01:49 AM:

>What's the air volume inside the lighthouse?

Roughly 15,000 cubic feet.

>How air-tight is it?

Well, it's weather-tight. It's an automated lighthouse maintained by the Coast Guard and it's on an island in the Great Lakes, so I presume that it's built to be left alone for months at a time. The only openings in the lighthouse are the hatch at the top and the Arctic entry.

>Is it absolutely essential that they operate the stove?

They are camping through a winter with many days of sleet. There are between 8 and 12 of them; while they can share body heat, there are babies who need to be kept warm and they need to cook.

>(If I didn't want to be found, first I wouldn't be in a area with high tactical value, and any building has high tactical value.

It's as far as the refugees could get. The site has some advantages. The lighthouse is on the other side of its island from the mainland, so you have to know it's there. There is no anchorage; anybody coming to stay must either paddle a kayak a minimum of 9 miles or sacrifice a sailing craft. There is only one beach; the rest of the shore is vertical and backed by virgin or second-growth hackberry forest, which is woven together by unusually large poison ivy vines. There are no trails or other structures remaining on the island from the days when the lighthouse had a keeper. While the area does ice over for part of the winter, the ice is infamously treacherous to travelers. All publicly available information about the island emphasizes the poison ivy, guano, biting insects, and navigational hazards.

Also, conditions on the mainland are rapidly going to Hell.

>Second, I wouldn't be using any heat source.)

This is a fanfic set in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse (beginning with Dies the Fire--go, read, enjoy!). Briefly, on March 17, 1998, something or someone changes conditions on the surface of the Earth (and a short distance above and below it, astronomically speaking) so that our modern technology simply does not work. (For further details, consult the FAQ at smstirling dot com.) The only way to find a heat source in the Emberverse is to use your own senses.

My fanfic began as a thought problem. Densely populated areas in the Emberverse mostly become death zones after the freight stops rolling and the power goes out. How close, I wondered, could a small group of ordinary people be to a major death zone and still survive the chaos? I have already taken it from thought problem to partly written draft, but I recently realized that I hadn't considered carbon monoxide and I didn't know how to answer my own question.

#413 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2007, 09:20 PM:

1) I refuse to read anything by Shit-for-Brains Stirling.

2) Who/what are they worried about? There's nothing in that setup that allows anyone to detect the heat-source. As long as they keep the fire from visibly smoking they're okay. They're in far more danger of detection from merely being in a structure.

3) I'm aware of folks who've survived long periods in glacial ice-caves with constant meltwater (no fires possible at all). The trick is every half-hour, everyone massages everyone else's feet.

#414 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2007, 10:54 PM:

I refuse to read anything by Shit-for-Brains Stirling.

I'm sorry to have touched a nerve. Consider the subject dropped.

#415 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 01, 2007, 09:53 PM:

Next recommendation: A Crazy Creek Chair.

Keep your butt of the cold, cold ground, and makes a dandy improvised splint in an emergency.

#417 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2008, 09:00 AM:

Utah couple rescued after 12 days missing in deep snow

Thomas Garner, 40 and his 38-year-old wife, Tamitha, cut the seat cushions in their pickup to fashion snow shoes and lit carburetor cleaner to start fires in sub-zero temperatures, Sheriff Mark Gower of Iron County, Utah, told CNN.
#418 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2008, 09:11 AM:

Why is it that stranded people wait till they are out of food or fuel before deciding that they need to self-rescue? If you're going to be trying to cover difficult terrain you'll need calories to keep going, this need is multiplied when it's cold out.

#419 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 06:52 PM:

Woman buried in snow for 3 days found alive

(CNN) -- No one expected to find Donna Molnar alive.

Searchers had combed the brutal backcountry of rural Ontario for the housewife from the city of Hamilton, who had left her home three days earlier in the middle of a blizzard to grocery shop.

#421 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2009, 10:13 AM:

Here, we've just gotten warm. The cold air moved east through the night. A predicted high of 18 F seems almost summery now.

#422 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2009, 10:50 AM:

Whereas here in Los Angeles, we're having a small heat wave (and the Santa Ana condition is in its second week). I saw someone at the (temporary) ice rink downtown yesterday, skating in a sleeveless top. The freezing equipment was having some trouble; I could see wet spots on the surface, as they brought out the Zamboni.

#423 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2009, 12:42 PM:

Agh! Now I'm going to have a Stan Rogers earworm for the rest of the day...

#426 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2009, 01:39 PM:

John Houghton wrote at #419, on February 07, 2008, 09:11 AM:

Why is it that stranded people wait till they are out of food or fuel before deciding that they need to self-rescue? If you're going to be trying to cover difficult terrain you'll need calories to keep going, this need is multiplied when it's cold out.

(Yes, I know it’s an old post, but it seems a point worth addressing.)

Well, because if you are in a place with food, fuel, and shelter (even just a non-working car) you don’t need to “self-rescue.” You’re reasonably safe, and quite likely to either be found by others, or have conditions improve, much faster and more safely than if you try to “self-rescue” by walking out in a winter storm with just what you can carry.

That’s why Jim emphasizes carrying emergency supplies in your car.

A car is bigger than you, possibly brightly colored, and much more likely to be seen by rescuers than you are when traveling on foot. It provides shelter. It can be stocked with far more emergency supplies than you can carry when trying to “self-rescue.” It can be scavenged for a wide variety of useful things (such as using upholstery to improvise warmer clothing). It can provide a safe “home base” even if you need to leave it for short periods of time to gather useful items (e.g., firewood) from your environment.

Consider how many of the stories linked to in this thread have a point where rescuers have found the car, but haven’t found the people who drove it.

If you have a few days’ worth of supplies in your car, odds are good that others will find and rescue you faster than you can self-rescue. And if you’re in such a remote location that people can’t find you or your car in couple of days, odds are good that you’re in a remote enough place that you can’t carry enough supplies to allow you to self-rescue effectively.

Plus, odds are good that you don’t have the knowledge or skills to effectively self-rescue in a situation where you’re so remote that no one will find you before you use up supplies in the car.

For the situations in this post – a winter storm, leaving you stranded on a remote road – staying in your car, bundling up in your emergency blankets, keeping your feet warm and dry, and perhaps lighting a fire to signal for help and melt drinking water once the storm is over is your safest “self-rescue.”

If you remember Jim’s “rule of threes” (three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food) it makes more sense.

If you’re in a broken-down car in a snowstorm, you’ve got shelter. That gets you past three hours. If it is a snowstorm, you’ve got a source of drinking water (melt snow). That gets you past three days. Even without food, you’ve got three weeks to wait for rescue, before you reach the point where it is worth gambling on the 3 hour rule for shelter by walking away from your car.

And “self-rescue” can involve many more useful things than wandering off in a storm with nothing but what you can carry. In the three weeks with shelter and water but not food, you can both make yourself easier to find, and gather resources to help you survive until you’re found.

You can light signal fires, mark signs on the ground of an open field to attract rescuers in the air, tie colorful rags to act as flags, making you easy to see. You can blow your emergency whistle or bang a stick on your car hood to make noise, or hang up your keys and other odd bits of metal as wind chimes, to make noise to attract searchers.

You can gather and stockpile firewood, and build a sheltered spot to keep your fire, so that you have a source of heat at light even if another storm moves in. You can fill garbage bags with dry leaves or the like, to use to help insulate the space you’re staying in. You can look for a reliable source of drinking water, and perhaps wild food (berries, scavenged meat from dead animals?) to help you survive until you’re found. You can carefully explore the immediate region around where you are stranded, being careful not to get lost from your broken-car-shelter (rather than trying to walk out and moving far from the resources you already have) to see if there is help nearby. You can experiment with survival techniques you may have heard of, but never tried (such as lighting a fire by rubbing sticks) in order to help conserve the resources you have (make the book of matches last so you have them for later, if needed.) You can use your time and ingenuity to take the things you have (e.g. the tires on your car) and make the things you need (cut up and tie to your feet to create footwear with better traction.)

The question should be, not why people wait so long to “self-rescue”, but rather why many people abandon effective shelter and a source of supplies thinking they can “self-rescue” unsheltered and with nothing more than what they can carry?

#427 ::: Sherwood Botsford ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2009, 08:53 PM:

Add ons to this:
1. Just because it isn't freezing doesn't mean you're safe. You can die faster at 40 F than you do at -20.

2. The big chillers: Temperature -- Wet -- Wind. Each one amplifies the effect of the others.

3. If you can't wear, or dislike wool, then use polypropylene or acrylic clothes.

4. Dress in layers: A polypro wicking layer keeps you comfortable. One or more layers of fleece keep you warm. A nylon wind shell keeps the wind from taking that warm air away.
I take a toque to insulate my head. My wind parka has a hood for wind proofing my head. At more than moderate windchills, I also have a scarf to protect my nose and cheeks.

5. Know the initial symptoms of hypothermia: the umbles.

* Fumbles. You're clumsy. Fine motor skills go first.

* Stumbles. Large motor control fails. You trip easily, misjudge footing.

* Mumbles. Speech is disconnected, incoherent.

Your body will shiver uncontrollably while you are dying. When the shivering stops, you are either warm again, or you probably can't be saved outside of a hospital.

6. Get in the habit of pre-planning certain decisions. E.g. If we haven't reached the junction by 1 p.m. we will turn around. No ifs ands or buts. Just do it. After having a close call where I almost lost two of my party, I now decide before I go over a pass what my turn around point is. Being tired hits your judgment. At the end of a day's hiking, I figure my judgement is impaired about two beer. A 3000 foot elevation climb = another beer.

7. Dehydration increases your susceptibility to both hypothermia and frostbite -- blood doesn't circulate as well. Metabolism slows down.

8. At the end of a long day, many people have a drop in blood sugar. The symptoms of low blood sugar and hypothermia are similar. However the treatment is also similar: Hot sweet liquids. The big difference you'll find is that LBS responds in about 5 minutes, while hypothermia is slower.

9. Set up and USE a buddy system. You ARE your brother's keeper.

10. Skinny people cool faster. Small people cool faster. Think this way: How far is the center of their gut from the surface?

11. Carry extra food. I now carry 1 peanut butter & jelly sandwich for each 2 hours I plan to be out plus 1 extra. Plus another extra to give away. Plus...

12. Carry a change of insulation: At minimum:
a fleece, spare socks, spare mitten liners, spare toque (knitted hat)

13. If a group traveling by snowshoe or ski in winter I also insist on taking a foam pad, sleeping bag a tarp, rope, firestarter, pot, and materials for making a hot drink. If you have an accident that stops travel, you have two concerns: Keep the victim alive. Keep everyone else alive. The above equipment will allows you to slide a victim quite easily over a packed snow surface.

#428 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2010, 08:20 PM:

An interesting article about hypothermia, from the January 1997 issue of Outside magazine, (via 3quarksdaily)

#430 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 05, 2012, 01:59 PM:

Next nor'easter expected in the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area Wednesday/Thursday. With the predicted winds and temperatures, wind-chill will put the weather below freezing. Rain won't help matters much. Stay dry. Dress in layers. Eat and drink sugary things.

#431 ::: Nonie ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2013, 11:59 PM:

When trying to explain snow driving to newcomers, I've had the best luck telling them that you have to drive the car like a boat:

* It'll be slow to start moving, so don't rush it.

* It'll be slow to slow down, so figure on taking half a block to brake even from low in-town speeds.

* And it'll be slow to turn, so be especially careful on curves and at intersections, or you could end up hitting someone, smashing into a tree, and/or skidding off the road into a ditch you may not be able to get yourself out of.

Of course, that explanation only works for people who *have* handled a boat/canoe/etc. But it's amazing how quickly it makes sense to them if they have.

--Nonie

#432 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 23, 2013, 02:04 PM:

And today's medical news:

Turns out that fibromyalgia is related to temperature regulation. The hypothalamus, the A/V shunts, and everything.

This is major.

#433 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 04:05 PM:

Which explains why my fibro gets worse when the weather turns cold. Finally, a pathological reason for the pain.

I remember when they tried prescribing Valium for the problem...instant zombie.

#434 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: October 24, 2013, 04:16 PM:

And that gives me a good model for why massage can be helpful for people with fibro, and some clues on how to work with that. Thank you, Jim!

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