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December 21, 2008

Fimbul Winter
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:09 PM *

The first thing to say is that “global warming” doesn’t mean that everything is hotter. The term means “more energy in the atmosphere,” hence “more extreme weather in general.”

Right now I’m sitting here in northern New Hampshire looking at a prediction of twelve to eighteen inches of snow, backed by a strong wind, followed by extreme low temperatures. This morning, at 2 a.m., , when it was two degrees out (but -9° F (-22.8°C for our international friends) counting wind chill), we had a lost hiker search out past Norton Pond which got Pretty Darned Cold for us rescuers, let me tell you).

Here’s the prediction for tonight:









It isn’t too bad right now. While the road is solid white, I can see the streetlight across the street from my office window.

Right, then.

Approximately 30,000 people in my state have been without power since a week ago Friday (this being Sunday as I type). Th Union Leader is reporting that the power company is requesting police protection for its power crews. (When we went to pick up Pip from college (after her finals were delayed from Friday, to Saturday, to the following Monday) we stayed at our favorite cheap hotel (in a renovated Civil-war era shoe factory by the river in Manchester, run by guys from India). The parking lot was full of cherry-pickers from a power company in Maine.

Regular ML reader Arachne Jericho lists her preparations in Things to Do Before Snowpocalypse Hits. (Yeah, I admit it, I was egoscanning, and the Snowpocalypse post provided the inspiration for this post.)

The important Red Mike posts are:

The book that I recommend is Medicine for the Backcountry by Buck Tilton and Frank Hubbel (two guys I actually know).

That’s if, on the minus side, bad things happen to you and yours.

On the plus side, today’s the solstice. Which means (for us northern latitude types, in a tradition that probably goes back to the Cro-magnons) PAR-TAY!

(At this moment I am drinking Russell’s Reserve Rye. It is very good. (But I’m having no difficulty whatever in saying “transubstantiate.”))

Comments on Fimbul Winter:
#1 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:08 AM:

Re: "“global warming” doesn’t mean that everything is hotter"

There were whose who were trying to get people to use different terms for it, and were trying to come up with an alternative nomenclature, but once a meme is widely spread, trying to rename it is herding cats. The only real hope we have is to get textbook makers for grade school and high school to use a different term, so that "Global Warming" slowly gets replaced.

And of course, its not just a few people who are scientifically illiterate enough that you will never convince them that record low temperatures in Europe are caused by global warming. At least the lack of serious snow in the past couple years in NYC serves as a reminder to those I talk to that things are a changin'.

#2 ::: ruth ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:29 AM:

Hooray white xmas; Boo going to work in the morning.

I love the snow muchly, even when it means I have to shovel the front porch every couple of hours and the snow is deeper than the dogs legs are long and the horses look like they're wearing hockey masks. But for this storm, I am seriously crossing my fingers for thundersnow.

Plus, every time I look out the window I think of "Just Like the Ones We Used to Know" by Connie Willis. Thanks, Howard.

#3 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:52 AM:

Here in Seattle, all flights are canceled due to something like a foot of snow over the past several days. It's still flurrying. The buzzword is Snowpocalypse 2008.

I've been staying at home today, but yesterday I went out shopping. It was the double-whammy of last-minute Christmas shopping and mid-Snowpocalypse food gathering.

Well, at the very least, I hope the snowpack hangs around long enough to fill our reservoirs in the spring.

Happy Solstice, all!

#4 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:55 AM:

No snow down here, but we're due for 40mph gales and wind chill in the teens tomorrow.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:14 AM:

We got some snow here earlier this week. Then we got sleet on top of it. Then we got 40 F. and rain, which removed a lot of the crust. Now tonight the wind chill's going to take it down to -2 F., and the same tomorrow day only it'll be -3 F. Good thing I sanded the front stoop and the sidewalk. Even better thing: I'm working from home. I don't envy Patrick the approach to the Flatiron Building. The winds at its base may no longer be the stuff of legend, but they're still fierce.

Tonight I could believe we're suffering an attack by the forces of darkness and cold. The day ended around five o'clock, and the wind's blowing so hard outside that even though we live in a very tight building, I can feel a slight breeze coming through the closed and locked windows.

I expect this means the roses blooming in my back yard -- Caldwell Pink, a.k.a. Pink Pet -- will be frozen solid. More extreme and changeable weather? Oh, you betcha.

Jim, anent your earlier suggestion in chat that we should get drunk together and say "transubstantiation" a lot: We can both say "transubstantiation" when we're blotto. Our problem is that getting drunk makes us think saying "transubstantiation" a lot is a good idea. Down that path lies Middle English -- you know we would, especially if we roped Doyle into it -- and the composition of entries that were best forgotten.

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:17 AM:

Does "how high your hamster has bermed up his cage litter on the sides of his igloo" count as one of those "furry caterpillars = cold winter coming" things? If so, we're in trouble.

#7 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:19 AM:

Total mess in the Greater Portland area. Usually heavy snow doesn't last long here, but the below-freezing temps are just hanging in.

I'm really not sure what to do in the morning. There's a good chance the office will be closed. If not, I make take the busses . . . if they are running. Arrive late, leave early, so I can get home in time to walk the dog.

Next challenge is to get to the airport Tuesday night. Argh, and get my dog to the kennel.

#8 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:38 AM:

Up a bit from Portland, Canada's Banana Belt is under a layer of alien white stuff. The novelty wore off several days ago, but it keeps arriving...

Canada is apparently white from coast to coast this week. Yipee. Victoria's not supposed to have real Canadian winter, dammit...

Pics here and more here.

#9 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:52 AM:

The snow keeps coming in Seattle. Saw some very nice raccoon footprints in the snow.

I'm all about not-driving-in-this-stuff. Hoping I'll be able to fly down to the Bay Area on New Year's Day....

#10 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:11 AM:

As Stefan Jones said, we've got snow in Portland.
I was shoveling the sidewalk in front of my house, and my neighbor across the street was sweeping off her porch steps. We said "hi". Then she said, "What a good idea! I should get a tool like that." I looked at her in puzzlement, and she held up her broom and a plastic dust pan, and I realized that (1) she was stooping and using the dust pan to clear the snow, and (2) she didn't know the term "snow shovel".
It's not just that we don't have snow plows, snow tires, or the ability to drive on snow. Many of us haven't even heard of snow shovels.
Of course, that works fine when we get an inch every year or two.

#11 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:45 AM:

Sitting here in Yakima, hoping I can make it back to Seattle tomorrow...

David Mannheim, #1: researchers have long used the phrase "global climate change".

#12 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:12 AM:

I've bitched about the snow in open thread 117, and on Cliff Mass's weather blog, and taken photos of quail and redwinged blackbirds through my filthy dining room slider. The house is suddenly warm tonight, because the snow is built up around the foundations and piled on the roof.

I'm pretty fed up with it all, thank you. I've seen the like in the Puget Sound area once before in my life, in the early seventies. There was a real blizzard here in the late forties. Last winter it was drowning rain and the year before deadly wind and rain storms. Two summers in a row have been... weird: rain when it wasn't due punctuated by fleeting humid heat.

The Boxing Day ice storm in 1996 was a whole different dimmension of bad: it fell, and then it didn't thaw, and there was no electricity. The road back to the hay barn runs through 75-year-old Douglas Fir, and to get in to feed the cattle and pigs, that first day, took every daylight hour and a chain saw and bulldozer.

I am hating on businesses which stay open in this weather; five of our last six power outages were caused by people driving into power poles.

#13 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:15 AM:

I am so glad for the Gulf Stream. No snow in Bedfordshire yet at all this year, and even Yorkshire has reportedly been snow-free for a couple of weeks. Temperatures around 5--10C.

It's a bit chillier down South of me and across the Atlantic, it seems.

(I like snow, but I'm glad I don't get the amount you get over there. Given the UK's grind-to-a-halt reaction to 1cm of snow, half a metre of it would probably cause the nation to collapse into mass starvation and eating of back issues of the Daily Mail.)

#14 ::: Harry Payne ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:39 AM:

Nix, #13: I can confirm that Leeds has been enjoying temperatures of 12C / 54F as of yesterday.

Randolph, #11: Researchers haven't been using "Climate Change" for nearly as long as "Global Warming". You'd have thought after the Ice Age scares of the 70s they'd have known the press and general public would have automatically interpreted "Global Warming" as "ZOMGWTF we're all gonna BURN aieee..."

#15 ::: Liz D ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:31 AM:

Elsewhere it is being called Snowmaggedon

#16 ::: Mark ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:47 AM:

Central Connecticut is in the heart of the Zombie Snowpocalypse - we had about eight hours clear of falling particulate H2O from Friday noon to sometime overnight Sunday/Monday. Not sure of total accumulation but when I went to clear my car for this morning's drive at 5.30 last evening, the front end of my car disappeared seamlessly into a drift. Can't see the road clearly from my window, but the schools have called a 90' delay....

#17 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:54 AM:

Reporting in from Edinburgh, Scotland, home of a whacky anomalous micro-climate ...

We just had the coldest November in thirty years; a couple of weeks of sub-zero (Celsius) nights in a row, spiking down to -6 at night (-10 with wind chill), and it almost snowed in town. (Out in the countryside it was another matter, with power cuts and the usual.)

Now it's warmed up to ten degrees -- a decent spring temperature -- but we've had two or three days of gales and it's been raining sideways.

And the Met office is predicting another sub-zero cold snap late in the week.

That's the great thing about Scottish weather. Don't like it? That's okay -- something different will be along in an hour.

#18 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:04 AM:

It's been a beautiful few days here in Noord-Holland. I biked to the toy store with the kids for a few final Christmas items in a dress, tights, boots, and a wool jacket. No scarf, no hat, no gloves. Sunshine and clouds, a not-intolerable edge to the wind.


#19 ::: glenda larke ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:21 AM:

Come to the tropics. I am sitting here in the evening in a T-shirt. It's a lovely 25 celcius. Thinking of all you guys. We don't have a heater system anywhere. Actually, come to think of it, we don't have any blankets either.

And am SO glad I am not where you are now...

#20 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:38 AM:

Glenda@19: To each his or her own, I suppose. I've lived in the tropics. It's why I now live in deep snow country.

(Three showers a day just to keep from turning into a puddle of sticky sweat. Cockroaches the size of Volvos. Mosquitoes the size of Black Hawk helicopters. Twenty-eight varieties of frog, twenty-seven of which were poisonous. And mildew on everything that didn't move and some things that did. I did not like it, Sam-I-am.)

#21 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:49 AM:

I vote we rename Global Warming to 'Late Climate Unpleasantness', with the bonus that we can then ascribe the cause to States Rights.

#22 ::: mpe ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:17 AM:

I’m having no difficulty whatever in saying “transubstantiate.”

But can you say "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "British business visitors"? Those are usually pretty good indicators...

glenda larke @19 - When I did my Caribbean stint, 27 C was cardigan weather. 25? (shivers)

Debra Doyle @20 - Yes. Also, dressing straight out of the shower because there was no point trying to get dry. That's assuming there was water for a shower.

(Two miles uphill in the snow each way, etc, etc.)

#23 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:25 AM:

The alarmists would have us believe that it will get "dark" when "night" comes. Just look out the window! It's so bright I have to pull the shades! "Night" indeed! Silly alarmists!

#24 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:27 AM:

Re weather -- I'm suspecting Arizona's going to have a wet winter. As long as the jet stream stays more-or-less in the pattern it is, we'll get storm after storm. Yay for us. Sucks to be the rest of the country, though.

I'm planning on planting a garden as soon as the desert greens up good. I planted one in September and a plague of locusts ate everything to the bare ground. For real. My garden was the only green thing for miles ... I'll think of you guys with snow up to your belts while I'm tending my peas.

#25 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:38 AM:

This year we appear to be having a rather quiet summer here in Perth, Western Australia. So far, for the whole 22 days of December (summer), we've had one day where the temperature hit the old 100F mark (well, 38.4C, which is close enough). There have been a grand total of four days so far which have been over 30C (which is about the point where I start thinking "hmm, nice weather").

Of course, compared to this time last year, it's been positively tropical (last year had only one day over 30C prior to 23 December). Then again, last year the gods didn't appear to have got the memo about it being summer until the 23rd, and didn't action said memo until the 25th (40.7C on Christmas Day. 44.2C on Boxing Day). Roll on Summer! (please?)

#26 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:17 AM:

People planning to fly out of PDX or SEA this week should double check with their airlines before trying to get to the airport. Friends planning to be here for Christmas have had to cancel their plans. flights canceled on Saturday, and Sunday, and they were told that there was absolutely no chance of getting a flight before Friday.

#27 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:28 AM:

Oddly enough, we've had two snow days in north London this winter. Nothing massive, but fun nevertheless. It's also been pretty cold at times, so of course (this being Landlordstan) the timer control on my boiler failed.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:51 AM:

In Atlanta wind chills have driven temperatures down to 5 Fahrenheit (two days ago it was in the 60s, in two days time it will be, so the National Weather Service people down in Peachtree City say, back up to the 60s), meanwhile it will struggle up to the 40s today.

#29 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:58 AM:

A bit over a foot of snow on the grond here in Western WI and temps in the -10 – +10 range, in other words nothing out of the ordinary. I honestly wouldn't mind having another 20-30 inches of snow.

#30 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:04 AM:

My friend Catherine -- she who is responsible for the phrase "Exploding Shampoo Plot" -- is getting her Ph.D in environmental science.

She has stated that it is her professional opinion that the weather is nuts, and it's the global warming.

Meanwhile, we had snow here in NC before Thanksgiving. No measurable accumulation, but still, snow falling from the sky. I don't remember that happening ever before in my life. Then it got hot and muggy and we had severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. Then it was 60 degrees and rainy for a couple weeks. It'll be down in the teens tonight, and then back into the 60s by Christmas.

NC has always been good at 30-degree temperature swings within a single day, but it's getting ridiculous.

We've really, really, really got to get global warming under control.

#31 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:04 AM:

All quiet, here in Scunthorpe. No rain, no snow, a few pretty nurses.

From the cloud movements, I think the wind must be a bit fierce.

Since I cannot edit what I wrote for NaNoWriMo, I am scribbling ideas for a sequel. I think some forget the significance of ballroom dancing in the 1930s.

#32 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:06 AM:

It's sunny and 10 below in Minneapolis, a bit early for such cold weather. It doesn't usually get below zero until around New Year's Eve.

The snow is pretty, now that it's all shoveled. More will come tomorrow or the next day. This is why I have three snow shovels.

Winter is early and severe, but nothing we haven't coped with before. I feel terrible for people in the Northwest who aren't prepared or equipped for it.

#33 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:27 AM:

Debra @20:

Cockroaches the size of Volvos.

this kind of Volvo?

#34 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:33 AM:

I don't understand places that shut down for 1cm of snow! I understand places that don't get snow very often not owning enough plows and not stockpiling enough sand/salt to cope with it; that makes perfect sense. It's the situations where we don't send our plows out, we just drive over it, where some cities shut down completely, that I don't get. Bizarre local customs (both ways, of course)!

As Magenta says, -10F (or -12, depending on who you listen to which hour), solidly cold. But as a child we could count on -20F in pretty much every winter, with the very occasional -25F to -30F. (That was outside the metro area, south but not far enough south to make a difference.) And I'd never heard of the concept of closing schools "for the cold" until last decade.

Not much snow here; though enough to declare a snow emergency Friday. So all the streets got plowed to the edges, which is good. I shoveled 4 inches or so off the front walks Saturday morning, then touched that up Sunday morning (there'd been more blowing than new snow).

Been quite a while now, week or so, since I was able to get into the car in the morning without scraping the windows. I mind that more than shoveling actual snow.

Disruptive as this storm is being all across the country (and how often do we have shared weather experiences all the way across?), I still find the title of the post here just a bit extreme!

#35 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Wet in Los Angeles - we had snow down to 2000ft last week, and it hadn't all melted by Saturday morning. (I think that's the storm that's in NH now.) There's another one coming in for Christmas.

#36 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:54 AM:

#34, David -

I've recently begun to wonder if the places that don't shut down are places that avoid the trouble we seem to have in Atlanta. It rains a few hours, then it turns cold enough to snow, which leads to ice under the snow, and if it turns sunny for a few hours before going cold again, it is possibly on top of it as well. That's an entirely different can of worms from just snow.

That's my excuse, anyway. *grins*

My other justification for staying home in snow is that I wouldn't fly with a pilot who only makes 1 flight every two years, therefore I won't drive in snow with drivers (myself included) with that little practice. I don't run out to buy milk when I hear "the s word," because in my experience impassible roads will be mostly safe the next day*, and I can go without for that long.

*See Fragano's post #28.

#37 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:58 AM:

My uncle from the south Bay Area reported that his 7-year-old grandson (my second cousin) enjoys shoveling snow at the family's Sierra vacation cabin. When I told my husband, he said that growing up in Maine he and his brother only liked to move snow if they were building forts or igloos, but it would seem more interesting to someone who only sees it once or twice a year.

Here in Prescott AZ the stuff rarely sticks for long, so this native Bay Arean gets to watch it mostly as something interesting that lingers on the mountains (picturesque!). This week is supposed to be a mix of rain and snow, so we *might* have a sorta white Christmas.

But my brother-in-law and his wife live in New Hampshire, where the power outages were so bad they had to go spend time with their grown son while home froze over. No fun at all. Sympathies to all here who have to cope with the nastier versions of winter.

#38 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:01 AM:

So far, Philadelphia has had a lot of rain and some cold weather, but the timing has been such that there's no ice to speak of. I think this is somewhat warmer and wetter than usual.

The story about a woman who'd never heard of snow shovels reminds me of a bit I can't place about a man who was so sick of the ocean that he put an oar on his shoulder and started walking until he got to a place where people asked him what it was. And that's where he spent the rest of his days. Anyone know the source?

#39 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:05 AM:

Honestly I just wanted to point out that I first heard the term 'fimbulwinter' in THE MIGHTY THOR, around issue 350.

#40 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:10 AM:

I've heard that story about the Orthodox St Elias, and I think one or two other versions.

#41 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:11 AM:

My library closed early on Friday, and after walking home in the snow (it's a lovely walk of about a mile and a half), I've basically holed up in my apartment. I have plenty of food and nowhere I needed to be, and given the ever-changing weather (Mamaroneck NY), I thought it was best to stay indoors, and leave the roads to those who needed them. If I had needed supplies, I would have bundled up in my warmest down jacket and other appropriate attire and walked to the supermarket with a backpack (about a mile away).

Which brings up an interesting question. I was skimming the posts looking for tips for staying put as opposed to trying to get somewhere else during an emergency, and I couldn't find a lot. My plan, should the power go out in the winter during a storm, has always been to bundle up warmly and stay put. I've got food and water, a gas stove that I can light with a fireplace lighter (manual valves, electric lighter), and the usual assortment of first aid supplies and battery/crank powered radios and flashlights. Is there anything else I should have available/be thinking of? The last time my building had a major power outage, they threw a party and I know people (including me) will be checking up on everybody.

#42 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Hilary, you might also consider getting:

-- a 12 volt battery with inverter (you can get these at Walmart or your local auto store.) They're used for jumpstarting cars and powering small appliances/tools. Cost about $50-$100. You can power a small appliance, a low wattage light bulb, or charge a laptop or cell phone from one. Handy.

-- Bottled water, in case your water goes out. (Frozen, or the building's water tank is empty.)

-- Battery powered alarm clock, if you need to go to work on time in the morning.

#43 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:21 AM:

Koske@36: Ice storms, or just moderate freezing rain with some snow over it, can certainly create very different (and much nastier) conditions than what I think of when I say "1cm of snow". Avoiding the icy conditions is one of the wins of living as far north as I do; we almost never have ice storms, or freezing rain that doesn't melt essentially immediately. When we *do*, it's a mess -- partly because some people don't initially realize how much more dangerous than snow it is.

#44 ::: Kintair ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:30 AM:

David @ 34
Delurking for a moment (Hi folks, never posted here before - usually feel way outclassed)
Those of us who live with snow all the time tend to forget that those who do not live with are not prepared for it. So what would be a little snow fall for us is a major disruption there. Most of the people who are out there driving have no winter tires (probably often don't even have all seasons) the snow is probably wet and melting and freezing to make sheet ice, coupled with very few of the drivers knowing how to drive in the ice and snow. This can bring a city to a literal crashing halt. (I know I used to say the same thing all the time - until a friend pointed out that there is really no comparison for 2 cm of snow in say Vancouver and 2 cm of snow in Edmonton - in one it's a light snowfall and minor irritation, in the other it can be the casue of moajor power disrution, freezing waterlines and a major surge in traffic accidents.

#45 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:34 AM:

From Boulder, CO: Cold, we got. But, "Snow? What snow?" Harumph.

#46 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:38 AM:

#42, David -

It really doesn't happen that way everywhere? I wasn't sure on that point.

I'm not positive because we get wintery weather so seldom, but my memory suggests that we never have snow* without the freezing rain or ice storm because otherwise it just isn't cold enough for the snow to accumulate on the roadways.

Does anyone have a good site for looking at historical weather, or suggestions on a method to use for Googling for such? I *think* it didn't snow in my area enough to affect the roads last winter, but I can't remember whether the last time was two winters ago, or three, and I'd like to find out if I can.

*Snow that affects the roads, I mean. It technically snowed here week before last for about an hour, but it evanesced before it hit the ground and so it doesn't count for the discussion we're having.

#47 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:42 AM:

#44, Kintair -

Welcome! One of the things I love about ML is how eventually the conversations roll around to things that I don't feel outclassed in. I think my gateway topics were mostly about food. *grins*

#48 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:49 AM:

Leva @42

I have the other two things and a battery backup for my computer (and about 100 ways to charge my cellphone), but that inverter sounds intriguing. I shall look into it when I have some extra cash again.

I have the advantage of being able to get to the garage without going outside, so some of my emergency gear just sits in the car on the theory that if I need it, I'll be able to reach it.

#49 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:54 AM:

Heh, I should have said the snow a couple of weeks ago "sublimed" (which is a very poetic science word) rather than "evanesced" (which is a very nice poetic word.) I got them mixed up. Sorry!

#50 ::: Stevey-Boy ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:12 PM:

Central PA is cold, but we missed most of the snow. We had around 3" of mixed precipitation that is now so solid I can walk on it without leaving an impression, let alone sink.

Kintair @44: Welcome. May the flood gates now open.

#51 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:15 PM:

Another voice from Pugetropolis/Cascadia. I see about 3 inches out there right now.
Having grown up in a more northerly region I am always surprised, after 3 decades, the way this place shuts down when it snows. I would have never dreamed of being without suitable footwear, especially those ice thingies you put on your boots but they aren't crampons. I also have put visquene over the single window of my cave-like apt. and tape around the inside of the doorjamb, as well as a rug in front of the crack below, and it makes all the difference. I had been in the habit of stocking up on food so that wasn't so much of a problem. Our building has been very lucky in these past years about keeping power.
The biggest snow I remember around here was in Dec. 85 I believe...about a foot, and I had been fool enough to go mall-crawling and had the worst time getting home. I learned my lesson!
Xmas and New Years of '96/97 were marked by a Crystal Freeze...I could come up with no better words for this phenomenon which somehow I had never seen before despite my subarctic youth...the trees all turned into glittering chandeliers, and single blades of grass where sheathed in 1/4 inch of ice as clear and perfect as blown glass.
But the most common form of winter havoc around here is windstorms. If it gets over 30, it seems [and that is nothing for me], there's downed trees and power-outs all over the place. 2 years back over a million souls were powerless for a while, if I recall.
But the thing I fear most is sneak ice. When the pavement is below freezing but up above it is warm enough to can't even see the ice form and then next thing you know you land on your bad knee. Supercooling, I guess, just as with the crystal freeze. If I stayed on the grass or dirt I'd be fine, but I can't always get where I need to go without pavement. At least the tractional devices help some.
Happy [late] solstice!

#52 ::: Arachne Jericho ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 12:33 PM:

Glad you found inspiration in my little blog post, Jim!

We didn't get 1cm of snow here, we got several inches. In an area that doesn't have salt on hand, and less power in the snowplow area, this is quite a mess indeed (and would have still been a minor mess back in the Midwest).

Currently I'm a bit snowbound on the island, since all my car wheels want to do is mostly spin. They had to shut down most of the bus routes on the island, including the one that takes me to the ferry for work. So I'm working from home and all that, mostly because I have no choice.

The power went out yesterday, although I was able to get in a few last internet licks because of a UPS in the basement network closet, but it was a nice, quiet, cold day for reading under the Mighty Brite (which indeed is mighty bright). I played with my crank flashlight/radio (totally have multiple flashlights after my experience in '06 without power for 7 days) and was glad I had the foresight to get hard cash in my hands during the pre-Snowpocalypse preparation.

Of course, now all the annoying electricity is on again, so I'll make myself about a dozen cups of tea and some hot soup.

#53 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:06 PM:

Hilary, if you have access to your car (i.e., it's garaged and not sitting on a street where it could be snowed under or smacked by another passing car skidding on ice) you can get an inverter for your car for around $20-$30 at any truck stop. Mine fits in my cup holder, plugs into the cigarette lighter, and has two 115 volt plugs. I routinely run the laptop off it while my boyfriend drives. I've also run small appliances off it at times, when camping or if I need power during an outage.

Handy, if you absolutely NEED power.

Re: snow messing a city up. About seven or eight years ago, I was at PV mall in Phoenix and they announced over the PA -- on Christmas eve -- that it was snowing outside. Mind, this was flurries, it definitely wasn't sticking, and it wasn't even thick enough to obstruct visibility. Everyone ran outside to look ... people decided to drive home ... and then the accidents started happening.

As best I could figure, people were so stunned by the snow that they were staring up at the sky and not watching where they were going.

#54 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:19 PM:

Would like to point out that, although flat-land furriners cast aspersions at NW cities for shutting down when we have "2cm" of snow, there was about that much new snow here between midnight and 7:30am today, atop five times that from noon to midnight yesterday, on top of more than a foot (what, 30cm, about?) in the past six days. Part of that is ice- in Portland, the part on the bottom is about two inches of plain grey ice-storm ice- and the interlayers include zero friction powder snow.

When it snows here, more normally, it's wet and turns to ice as it falls (the skiers call it Cascade Concrete) and it's gone in forty-eight hours, max. Once in a while we get a single huge dump of the wet stuff that stays around for days, and the road crews can make incremental progress against it. Having snow fall over a lot of days in a week is very rare, and since each dayroad crews have to start over clearing the most important routes, people in the common cul de sac ridden suburbs are looking at the first/last half mile or so of their commute being unplowed and icier every day from being driven on.

Then there's the matter of avalanche danger in the Cascades, which is why Snoqualamie (I-90) is closed. The powder snow and ice layers are inherently unstable; the difficulty of keeping the road surfaces below the pass clear means that clearing away avalanches above is twice as difficult: avalanche control only works if the crews can clear the roads of what slides down onto them.

#55 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:21 PM:

glenda @ 19: No thanks -- I spent two years of hell living on St. Kitts, and then 3 years in southern Louisiana (Baton Rouge, where le bon temps ne laissez pas), where the coldest places were in the freezer aisles of the groceries. I like weather, I love the winter -- living in constant summer was unnatural -- and I live close enough to work that I could potentially walk there, if absolutely necessary. (I'd take the big 4-wheel drive first, before I walked, and drive the beltway, as I've done before, passing all the fools who never learned to drive in the snow*).

Doyle @ 20: Mosquitos lived in my only closet, because it was located in the bathroom, which was the room furthest inside my "apartment". I gave up using the closet and piled everything on my table. Did you have centipedes too? My cats chased the cockroaches (aka palmetto bugs) as well as the centipedes, for which I was grateful. I hate centipedes, with a burning passion that exceeds the burning pain that occurred when a centipede crawled up onto my bed at 0400 and chomped my ankle.

Connie@ 21: Here is your Internet, and a cookie.

David D-B @34: Even a mild snow can shut down an area which just doesn't have to deal with snow on a regular basis. I went to college in Maryland, and 4 inches of snow was enough to stop things dead. In contrast, where I grew up, even 6 inches of snow wasn't enough to cancel school, although (depending on conditions) they might delay the opening time. Compare both locations to Buffalo NY, where one of my former technicians grew up; he claimed that an overnight snowstorm of several feet was cleaned up enough in time for him to go to school the next morning. Since Buffalo gets large amounts of snow every winter, it's not surprising that they are efficient and experienced at removing it. The suburbs of Maryland, other than western (i.e., Garrett County), not so much.

*I grew up in the mid-Hudson Valley of NY, on a dead end road that got plowed last, so I learned to drive on hilly snowed-in roads.

#56 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:23 PM:

Just went back over the "cold blows the wind" thread, which I will re-read later to make sure, and wondered how an experience of mine some years back would fit in. It was a form of internal hypothermia. I had caught some sort of crud-going-around and was on the way out of it so back at work again [indoors, heated.] Didn't feel too good in the aft so whipped out my forehead thermometer. It stayed dark, no part showed any color. Even after I tried to warm said forehead with my hand. I then remembered I had an oral thermometer in my kit in my toolbox. Well, it never went above 94. I recall my co-workers were on my case about something else and I was not in a mood to discuss it. I said my temperature was several degrees low but no one seemed to care. I bagged it and went home for the day...drank something hot and took a hot shower and crawled into bed. Awoke in a couple of hours and I was all right. But I had never heard of anyone having a negative fever. It sounds like this is something one might need to take into consideration if someone is unwell.
--And if you deduce that I needed a better set of co-workers, you are right.

#57 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:24 PM:

We had our Christmas/Solstice open house yesterday, which after the solid blizzard on Friday - we have sculpted drifts in our backyard - I thought would be safe. Of course it snowed Sunday morning, but it was really the wind that caused the problems. Whipping and throwing the snow up everywhere. There were white-out warnings across most of the west end of Lake Ontario.

Still, about two dozen people made it out. Mostly those with small children who had been cooped up with them for two days. They needed to go somewhere. The snow on my front lawn is now piled to nearly my height. I guess it's officially winter in Hamilton now.

#58 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 01:48 PM:

We're not sure how much snow we have here in Worcester, Massachusetts, since it's that lovely sort of light snow that drifts. Say knee-depth in some places, an inch in others (but not anywhere I've had to walk). I took our formerly-outdoor cat to the back door to show him the snow; he ran up two flights of stairs, and I had to carry him back down and into the warm part of the house and reassure him that we weren't making him go out in it.
We haven't really had to shovel the sidewalks, since they still have enormous branches on them from the ice storm back on the 12th. By the time winter vacation hits on Wednesday we will have had eight snow-and-ice days here in Worcester, which isn't good. On the plus side, we built our sledding ramp from one snowstorm (usually it takes a couple at least). Our back yard is roughly terraced, with a five-foot stone wall at the back of the driveway and a two-foot one about eight feet in back of that. We throw snow off the end of the driveway until the pile's as high as the wall, smooth it down, add more snow and push someone down it on a sled to test it. I was not able to persuade either of the children to test it this year, but now that it's reasonably safe they've been playing on it for hours. This is the only time I've had to myself in a week and a half.

#59 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Down here in Charlottesville, VA, it's currently about 30°F, supposed to warm back to the 40s and 50s later this week. Nice blue sky, though, given that most of the last few weeks have been pretty rainy. We had a brief "first snowfall" several weeks ago, that I only saw on the ground because I got up early.

#60 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Adding to JESR @ 54. Urban planners in Seattle also believe in the liberal use of traffic calming devices such as tiny traffic circles in the middle of random intersections and slalom-like curb projections in the middle of a block.

There's just such a circle at the end of my block. Quite a few cars have lost all traction in their rear tires as they attempt to swing around the circle. I moved my car to the middle of the block while I could.

One other note about the snow here - often small snow squalls drop pellets of what appear to be very compact snow. This immediately mashes into a slick surface on the street. Combine that with San Francisco quality hills, no salt and minimal plowing, and the results are just insane.

The only really hilly winter-belt city I can think of is Pittsburgh, and I wouldn't want to try driving there in an ice storm.

Here's a set on flickr showing the snow (mostly in the city of Seattle) and how we've been dressing for it. (Note - some minor mooning and naughty words written in the snow.)

#61 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:17 PM:

No snow currently in the greater Baltimore area (and a good thing, too, since as Ginger points out above suburban Marylanders are astonished every single year at the cold white stuff falling out of the sky), but it's windy, and cold as a mother-swyver.

Tomorrow night I get to drive the length of the state between here and WV, through all manner of uncertain meteorological phenomena. (The I-68 corridor is always a lot of fun around midwinter; a couple of years ago we got hardly any snow, but a great quantity of pea-soup fog coming down the mountains from Cumberland. Not the fastest we've ever made the trip.)

#62 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:25 PM:

Whew. Office was declared closed this morning. I'm currently being productive via the magic of VPN, with help from a dual-monitor linux box that's finally proving its worth.

The Indian fellow who parks next to me tried to pull his BMW into the drive, and got utterly, totally stuck 1/2 way out. He gave up eventually.

After breakfast I cleared a path behind my car (with a broom, and entrenching tool to lift off plates of ice) in case there is an emergency. I backed up and pulled forward a dozen times to create a sort of packed ramp.

(And I tried to clear around my neighbor's beamer, but it is so low to the ground that I'd be afraid to use the shovel around it.)

The lady who runs the kennel I'm dropping Kira off at tomorrow tells me I WILL need chains to drive down her road. I'll probably put them on this afternoon and drive around the parking lot to get a feel for how they work.

#63 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Larry Brennan, traffic circles: I can haz them. Check out Lacey on Google Earth: there's one between me and the freeway, and two more between me and either Fred Meyers or Shipwreck Beads. Of course my driveway, currently lurking between thigh-high drifts, is a veritable amusement park even in good weather: ninety-degree right turn off the street, down six feet in forty feet of run on a sort of causeway, through the Walter Smith Memorial Mud Puddle which has eaten, over the years, three cattle guards and probably ninety yards of pit-run, drainfield rock, black driveway gravel and, at intervals, the tag end of hundreds of loads of concrete. Sharp left turn up the hill (45 feet of gain in elevation over 100 feet of run between a barbed-wire fence and the well, which my father dug with a bulldozer and shovels, and which is pretty much a chasm or possibly an abyss. Sharp right up-hill turn into the car sized flat place where we park. On Nisqually silty sandy loam, slopes 5-15%, so the thaw might well leave me with no driveway at all.

I know when I'm lucky; one of my best friends lives at the low point in the Madison Valley, and had a flash flood in her basement two years ago. But on the whole, short of hitting the lotto and making a heated concrete surface between me and civilization, I'd prefer snow in ephemeral ornamental lots.

#64 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Well, in LA it's drizzly and windy. This morning I noted that the trenchcoat/scarf combo that was warm enough for England last month was not quite warm enough for Hollywood.

I'm not complaining.

My immediate family are all in Illinois.

While sometimes I miss the cozy-wrapped-in-blanket, having-a-nice-tomato-soup-and-grilled cheese-sandwich feeling you can only get when hiding from crap weather, I do not miss it enough to move somewhere that while cheaper, would require me to dig my car out, walk on treacherous icy pavement and deal with frozen snot and foggy glasses for several months out of the year. I would love to see my dog's reaction to snow, though.

#65 ::: Andrew Woode ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:35 PM:

# 38; this sounds like Odysseus, being told the following by the seer Tiresias:
(Odyssey 11: 118 etc)

"But when thou hast slain the wooers in thy halls, [120] whether by guile or openly with the sharp sword, then do thou go forth, taking a shapely oar, until thou comest to men that know naught of the sea and eat not of food mingled with salt, aye, and they know naught of ships with purple cheeks, [125] or of shapely oars that are as wings unto ships. And I will tell thee a sign right manifest, which will not escape thee. When another wayfarer, on meeting thee, shall say that thou hast a winnowing-fan on thy stout shoulder, then do thou fix in the earth thy shapely oar [130] and make goodly offerings to lord Poseidon--a ram, and a bull, and a boar that mates with sows--and depart for thy home and offer sacred hecatombs to the immortal gods who hold broad heaven, to each one in due order. And death shall come to thee thyself far from the sea, [135] a death so gentle, that shall lay thee low when thou art overcome with sleek old age, and thy people shall dwell in prosperity around thee. In this have I told thee sooth. "

(Quoted from;query=card%3D%23124;layout=;loc=11.51;
the Greek is at

#66 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:37 PM:

Last night our local TV weatherperson actually put up a screen which showed the overnight lows, which was unusual. They dipped into the high 50s (F) in the upper elevations (Waimea on Maui, for example).

My blood has thinned from living in the tropics; that's three-blanket weather in this house.

#67 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:39 PM:

Ginger@55: No centipedes, but many large spiders. The small lizard who lived somewhere back of our computer table we tolerated because he ate the spiders and other insects. He was, alas, unable to do anything about the ants that set up a colony in one of our boxes of floppy discs.

We lived in a 9th-floor apartment, so we were spared the snakes. Not so lucky was the friend who lived in base housing and once found a green mamba under the washing machine in the garage.

(And do I want to go into how every single cut or scratch would become infected if it wasn't instantly doused with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide? I came away from there with a fungus infection on my ankle that didn't fully go away until I'd spent two consecutive winters in the cold northeast.)

#68 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:40 PM:

Emergency gear in a vehicle: make sure it is secure. In a crash it can bypass all the wonderful efforts of the engineers.

#69 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 02:51 PM:

I'm so pleased to have discovered a stash of winter wool boot sox that disappeared sometime before moving to New Orleans, I am guessing. I hadn't thought of them for a long time and then could not figure out what had happened. They hadn't worn out as far as I could recall.

I guess I'd put them away when we moved because i wasn't expecting to need them.

They turned up yesterday, and I'm pleased. Some of them go up over the knee even.

Love, C.

#70 ::: Cat Meadors ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:26 PM:

Here in DC, it's just cold. But in Austin yesterday, it was 78, today it's 35, and tomorrow it should be around 60. My mother-in-law is rather upset about her garden.

I've been in Dallas twice when it's snowed. It's nice, living in a place that's surprised annually by snow, to find people who are even worse at dealing with it than we are. Two major problems - one, they don't have all-weather tires, and two, they don't know basic snow-driving facts like "don't stop while going uphill". Whereas here, at the first sign of flakes, we all run out yelling BREADMILKTOILETPAPER! and then smash into each other because all the SUV-drivers think "4-wheel drive" means "impervious to the laws of physics".

#71 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:33 PM:

I've been thinking of taking all my scraps of sock yarn and knitting myself a set of wildly-striped, but warm, long johns. The only real reason I haven't is the thought of all - that - ribbing, to allow them to fit gracefully in the upper regions.
Is there any such thing as a coat-equivalent for the legs? My problem with long underwear, in situations where I'm going to be changing between indoors and outdoors frequently, is the overheating legs. Can't really take your pants off except in the houses of people you know really well, and don't want to sweat into all your winter gear. Is someone out there selling leg parkas?

#72 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:37 PM:

I spent last week in Fayetteville, NC (my son is finally home from his tour in Iraq and I went there for the "reunion ceremony" at Pope AFB/Ft. Bragg) where it was warmer and dryer than my home in the SF Bay area. I had prepared for the trip by packing many turtlenecks and sweaters to compensate for my lack of a real winter coat and found myself over-prepared.

I read recently that my old home-town in the Mojave Desert of SoCal got some significant snowfall, it's beautiful to see the desert in the snow, and real snowmen in yards instead of the spray painted tumbleweed ones, but I'm glad I don't have to deal with it. The LA times has some great pictures showing the Antelope Valley and Las Vegas areas after the snow.

#73 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:40 PM:

Cat #78:

It was 78 in Austin day *before* yesterday. Yesterday it was about 38, and blowing an intermittent gale, so take off 10 degrees for wind chill. We chopped down the lantana a couple of weeks ago after they started turning black from the second hard freeze.

We're feeling sort of cheated, as we had intended to go down to San Antonio and mess about on the Riverwalk, but felt the temperatures to be just a bit nippish for doing that as a sustained thing. After today, an interval of Cooking (followed by Eating) sets in, so now we can't consider the trip until after Christmas. Even more cheated-feeling-making is the expected 75-or-so high on Christmas. (Mind you, I'd prefer to do without the almost-ice storm we had a number of Christmases back.)

#74 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 03:44 PM:

#71, Ledasmom -

I don't have a good answer, though I did consider making a polarfleece overskirt one year. If it was a wraparound style with a little elastic and a button or two, you could add and take it away as needed, and any coat now goes to your ankles.

What I think about now (especially when I'm wearing wide-leg jeans, when it would work well) is a close-fitting legwarmer that you hide under your jeans but can (theoretically) remove by just taking off your shoes.

Hm. Knee-high polarfleece spats with a zip up the side?

#75 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:07 PM:

Ledasmom @71 --

They're called "wind pants"; the link is to a midrange example at Mountain Equipment Co-Op.

Wind pants generally have zips and snaps all the way up both side seams, so you can get them off with your coat even if you need to leave your boots on, but I generally find this is an unnecessary feature for urban use.

I have three different pairs; one's rain pants, really, not good for freezing temperatures, one's general purpose, fine for waiting at bus stops or tramping around town, and one's for purely winter conditions, though a notch down when I got them from expedition grade and thus about three notches down now. (The breathable fabrics keep getting better.)

The usual "Skadhi's skis, it's cold" approach is long johns, fleece pants, wind pants; moderate cold omits the long johns. If one's just headed out and about, in non-drastic winder conditions, put the wind pants over your regular pants. If you're going out into deep snow, gaiters to keep the snow from getting up the pant leg (because you more or less have to put the wind pants over your boots, not in them, with the possible exception of really cavernous double-liner arctic grade mukluks) are recommended. Keeping a pair in one's bag (the ones I linked to roll up and fit in a litre stuff sack, no problem) during winter is a good plan in case of colder-than-expected conditions.

#76 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:08 PM:

RM, David:

The exact issue with an inch of snow in a place like Atlanta has been pointed out - even if you are perfectly comfortable with it, others aren't. Add the hills that make up Atlanta, and you get the conditions that led me to do a couple thousand dollars of damage to my parents van, and total it. I was driving near Ponce de Leon, on a small residential side street. I had never driven in snow, was a bit freaked out, made a couple errors in judgment as another car came to a 4 way stop intersection without stopping, I tried to hit the brakes, and slammed into a tree. Thank god no one was hurt, but that doesn't mean that it's safe in Atlanta for other drivers when there are tens of thousands of other people like me who don't know what they are doing driving in snow.

Until recently, I was working at Credit Suisse, and I have to say, the walk from the F train past the Flatiron Building, across the park, today, is something I'm incredibly grateful not to need to do.

#77 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:21 PM:

I'm at my office about 3.5 miles from home. The chains were a pain to put on but worked great. I'm not sure if I would have made it out of the parking lot without them.

The only scary thing on the road were other, bolder drivers.

RE keeping warm: Whatever you do, don't join the Cult of the Snuggie.

#78 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Doyle@ 67: I think I'd almost rather have the spiders; centipedes have this nasty way of crawling across one during the night, and are fierce fighters. The spiders on St. Kitts are almost all jumping spiders (and not web spiders, although I did once see a six-foot tall web), and small enough to be considered mostly cute. Their bites were not so cute. I had to bandage my arm to keep from scratching it, and it itched* like a !@#)!(@ for a long time, like the centipede bite.

Geckos and skinks were our best friends. Ants in the tropics are awful -- I lost a cassette tape because they decided to set up shop in it. Blech.

*Back to the mosquitos: we had two types, the ankle-biters and the 20-minute itchers. The ankle-biting skeeters really and truly preferred ankles; I watched one circle me for 15 minutes after my shower, when it was foiled by my towel.

The others were never seen, only the effects of their bites. The area itched for 20 minutes, and if you could keep from scratching during that time, you'd heal without a problem. If you scratched, you ended up with a large ulcerated wheal that took forever to heal.

One of the happiest days of my life was the day I left that island forever. My partner wants to visit it. I keep telling her there's nothing to see, but I know it's inevitable. My only hope is to find a cruise that takes us there, and then spend the day on the ship** while she goes touring.

**Yeah, yeah, I know. I'll end up pointing out all the sights and complaining about the vet students having it easy, unlike when I was there.

#79 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:49 PM:

I wish they would close more things down, here (Minneapolis). It was -18 windchill yesterday (the news said -9 absolute, this morning, when I was gearing up to leave the house.)

lots of people here don't have decent snow gear, because they go from house to attached garage to car to right outside their office door (or parking garage attached to the skyways.) -9 is enough to kill you if you land in the ditch and have to wait long for rescue, if you don't have decent gear. One of my coworkers wore a short skirt and decorative boots and bare legs, last week. BRRR.

#80 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 04:54 PM:

I'm wondering whether the next set of measurements of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation will show any signs of the long postulated slowdown effect of global climate change.

#81 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:02 PM:

Hilary, #48: I can vouch for the usefulness of the inverter; we sometimes have to use one to power the cash register at events where there is no electricity available, and it came in very handy for recharging our cellphones during the power outage after Ike.

Angiportus, #51: Tape around the doorjamb? How does that work? (i.e. what kind of tape, how do you apply it, how do you keep using the door afterwards?)

Ledasmom, #58: Your cat story reminds me of my late beloved Mina. When she was much younger, she briefly developed the habit of being a door-darter. One evening when we'd had a considerable snowfall, I decided to let her out rather than trying to block her. She went out and around the side of the house, where the snow was piled to the depth of her flanks. Bounce, bounce, bounce... bounce... stop and look back over her shoulder... "MAAAAAAAA!" She was much more hesitant about trying to dash out the door after that!

Cat, #70: I have long been convinced that the "bread, milk, TP, and eggs" phenomenon is an unacknowledged form of sympathetic magic -- people are trying to chase away the white stuff by buying white stuff. And boy howdy, do I agree with you about nutso SUV drivers! I've had them pass me doing at least 50 on packed-snow-over-glare-ice when I was tooling along at 20 or so... which at least gives me a chance of being able to recover if I hit a bad patch.

Ledasmom, #71: Try Land's End or L.L. Bean -- I think they both sell snow pants that go over your regular pants.

This is our main collection point for flashlights -- there are a few more that didn't make it into the picture. When there's a chance of power outage, we distribute them all over the house so that nobody is ever more than a step-and-reach from one. Oh, and I strongly recommend springing for at least one 3-watt LED flashlight. We have several of them, and they make the old MagLite standard look downright wimpy. A couple of battery-operated camp lamps are also nice to have.

It's currently running about 38° in Houston with intermittent drizzle; not that cold in absolute terms, but dank, and miserable if you have to be out in it for any length of time. Tomorrow it's supposed to hit 65, and 70 is predicted for Christmas. Oy.

#82 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:08 PM:

Ledasmom #71: "Is someone out there selling leg parkas?"

I grew up on the Arctic circle, and my first response to this was a less charitable version of "Of course they do!"

We just called these "Wool pants" because what we used were olive drab military surplus overpants made of scratchy heavy wool. You just pulled them on (and off) over your blue jeans as you moved in and out of heat.

These days they are all kind of fancy, with polar fleece linings and windproof synthetic outer shells and zippers or velco so you can open them at the sides easily instead of pulling them on and off like pants. (Snowy frozen boots can make the old-fashioned way difficult.) But anyway, some kind of insulated overpants are essential gear for anybody who is trying to be outdoors for sustained periods at temperatures below F -10 to -20. (Twenty below is the absolute limit, IMO, for getting by with blue jeans and cotton waffleweave thermal underwear -- colder than this, you need a third heavy outer layer if you'll be out longer than about twenty minutes.)

If you're actually *working* outside in such temps, of course, you want insulated coveralls, the full body kind that zips to the neck. Carharts makes a very durable set.

#83 ::: Montana Writer ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:08 PM:

One of the predictions of global warming science is more precipitation, or less, and wild extremes of local weather. All it means though is a rise in the global mean temperature, which we have and climbing, thus, snow in wagga wagga isn't evidence against global warming/climate change as much as some try to make that weak claim. At least now they'll have no audience in the White House.

It's hanging below zero in Montana.

#84 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:09 PM:

Ledasmom @ 71: I'm visualizing quilted chaps.

#85 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Randolph, 11, David Mannheim, #1: researchers have long used the phrase "global climate change".

I'm fond of the phrase global climate CHAOS, with a stage-German accent*, and rising inflection and volume on CHAOS. Spittle flecks optional.

*Frex: Professor Dementor. Works well on lines like "pan dimensional vortex inducer." Oh, youtube frex here. Drag the scrolly thing to about the middle.

#86 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:23 PM:

While I admit that it's probably wise to have something warmer than just pants at -10 Fahrenheit, I have been out in such temperatures for longer than a few minutes without anything on the lower half but pants, socks and boots (and underpants, you silly people). Around here we sort of get used to our thighs going numb during the winter.

#87 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:35 PM:

Randolph #11: researchers have long used the phrase "global climate change".

I dunno, I always though of "climate change" as the despicable euphemism that Rethuglican global warming deniers used when they were smacked around enough by the facts, but still couldn't quite admit that they were wrong all along.

#88 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:36 PM:

*thought (drat ML's lack of after-post editing!)

#89 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 05:54 PM:

Don @ 85, Earl @ 87:
My recollection of the discussion was that the phrase "Global Warming" was easy to understand, and simple. We need a better, easy term to replace it with. "Climate Chaos" has the same type of ring, but doesn't make the accuracy counter click quickly enough for my taste. "Climate Change" is too neutral, and again, doesn't clarify that humans are doing anything.

We're looking for a catchy version of "Accelerated climactic change due to humans that causes significant chaotic changes in weather patterns."

#90 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:03 PM:

I don't have a good answer, though I did consider making a polarfleece overskirt one year.

My sister once made a polarfleece *dress* one winter in Yorkshire.

#91 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:05 PM:

Daniel Boone @82, the thing about insulated Carhardts is that it takes a very long time to break them in so that they bend easily at the knee and hip. I finally decided that it was less miserable to be cold in jeans over sweatpants over tights than exhausted to a degree unanticipated by mortal woman from charging around in pants that didn't bend while climbing up and down hills.

Rain and foul weather gear is a constant struggle during calving season; you never know when you'll need bare hands and arms to do obstetrical procedures, and Carhardts are about the only thing which doesn't die from barbed wire encounters. Snowmobile suits work for some applications, however.

#92 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:33 PM:

Hmm, about 14 inches of snow here now - we had quite a bit more overnight in the Portland area than was predicted. And my flight is cancelled, so at least for the moment I don't have to stress about driving to the airport (but I have a backup reservation for tomorrow, so we'll see how that goes).

I was poking around today looking for road closure information, and discovered that my county (approximately half a million residents, 727 square miles, most of the land area is rural but most of the population is suburban) has a whopping seven sanding trucks, four with snowplows, and four graders. I'm amazed they've been able to keep up as much as they can. The problem with this storm is that it just keeps snowing, so there is always new to deal with.

#93 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:38 PM:

Nancy L, #38: "I'm marching inland from the shore, over m' shoulder I'm carrying an oar,
When someone asks me: 'What - is that funny thing you've got?'
Then I know I'll never go to sea no more, no more,
Then I know I'll never go to sea no more!"*

#94 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:39 PM:

I have a sister who, in her teen years, refused to wear anything over her blue jeans because she considered them essential to her fashion presentation; it could be sixty below zero and no telling how many pairs of long johns she had on, but it was denim she was going to show the world. And sneakers, when she could; but she'd compromise and put on boots below about twenty below, or when working outside.

#95 ::: Emily ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 06:59 PM:

Hrm, I should have worn my rain pants out today. I've got the sort of body that even if I'm walking briskly gets quite chilled with just pants and long johns in the 0 to -10F range. I don't have the very best long johns tho... silk instead of wool or polypro, so they're warmer than cotton but not *enough* warmer.

I don't go out much when it is 0F or less. I'm used to 20F being cold, and there's a helluva difference between needing blizzard conditions to get frostbite, and needing a gentle breeze. There's also a helluva difference between getting wet is a Bad Idea and getting wet is a Get Shelter NOW Damnit situation. Since I get pretty dumb when I'm cold, I try to stay inside so I don't have a *chance* to be dumb.

It was a great relief to find that my knee vaguely resembles functional again tho. Walking on ice with a badly sprained knee is an excitement that I never want to experience again. I knew I used my knees a lot for stability on glare ice... but experiencing *how* much has not been fun.

#96 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:15 PM:

Based on Nancy L's note @ 38, it sounds like the ice transition line went right through the city of Philadelphia. Up where I am, we *did* get ice yesterday, which made Sunday morning driving hazardous, and also glazed the tree branches.

Most of the glaze was off the streets by midday, but the ice stayed on the trees long enough to make for some positively enchanting looking treescapes by late afternoon, with the sun reflecting off and refracting through the ice on the branches. It wasn't as much ice as I've seen after ice storme further north, but we still made sure not to park under any of those pretty-looking trees.

(We're in Mount Airy, about 8 miles northwest of Center City, and about 300 feet higher in elevation.)

#97 ::: glenda larke ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:27 PM:

Debra @ #20 - all that, plus civets in the roof, cobras in the garden, kingfishers outside my window and butterflies the size of dinner plates.

I'm going for a swim today. In an outside pool.

#98 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:39 PM:

I'd be tempted to coin the term Global Entropy Trap to describe the mechanism we're beavering away to build for ourselves, but I doubt it would help.

#99 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 07:58 PM:

#38 The Odyssey

#100 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:03 PM:

Charlie Sross @ 17

That's the great thing about Scottish weather. Don't like it? That's okay -- something different will be along in an hour.

Which might explain why so many Scottish emigres settled in the Pacific Northwest, especially Portland; that describes our weather pretty well.

JESR and Stefan Jones and janetl described what happens to Portland in a heavy snowstorm; I'd emphasize that this is the worst such storm I've seen since I moved here 30 years ago. I've been told by natives that there were more such storms in the years before that. There's an additional problem here: hills. Altitude in the city of Portland varies from about 30 ft. above sea level to more than 1100 feet above. My house is at a little over 500 feet; we have had nothing but snow for precipitation over the last week; my younger son, who lives on the other side of the city at about 100 ft, told me that he was seeing freezing rain most of Saturday.

The biggest problem in snowstorms here is the drivers who don't know how to drive in snow; most of the time I stay off the streets in snow when I don't need to go somewhere, just because of them. This time it's been a little different. Last week, during the first couple of storms, I was commuting to Hillsboro for the last week of the job I was laid off from; that's a little less than 20 miles door-to-door; the freeways and most of the sidestreets were fine, once I got off the hill, and even that wasn't too bad if you took it slow and didn't do anything stupid.

This week I'm very glad I don't have a commute to make; the freeway is a mess, requiring chains everywhere, and the plows have finally come out of hibernation and built big snow banks on the side of the roads. I went out the front door early this afternoon, to continue digging the path to the street out, and found a fully-chained tree-trimming/removal truck stuck in the snowplow's berm. They borrowed my shovel to help dig out.

Now for the bad news. Sunday night the DVR remote needed fresh batteries, so I went into the spare bedroom I use as an office, where I keep the battery charger. I found a steady stream of water coming out of the ceiling light fixture, and a sopping wet carpet. Eva quickly hauled in a recycling bin to catch the water while I took the fixture off, to find that the water was coming from above the ceiling. Clearly we'd had a water line to the kitchen above the bedroom break. We immediately called an emergency plumber, who said he'd be out when he could, as he was still waiting for the tow truck to pull him out of a ditch. I shut off the main valve inside the house, but the water kept coming, so we called the water company and asked them to send someone out to shut off the main at the water meter.

Shortly after we called the water company, the power in the neighborhood went out**. The water company guy showed up about 15 minutes later and we hunted for the shutoff in the snow, but couldn't find it. By that time, the water leak had reduced to a trickle, so I was pretty sure the shutoff in the house had done the trick and we'd just had to wait until all the pooled water in the ceiling had dripped out.

At this point we were generally disgusted with the world, and tired of it all; we opened the shutoff long enough to save a few pitchers of water for us and the dogs, and went to sleep. During the night, the power came back on; I woke up, saw that the light in the living room was on again, and went back to sleep.

About 8 AM we were awakened to a series of thumps, sliding noises, and subdued crashes. I ran into the living room to find that a small pine tree (maybe 30 feet tall) across the driveway in our side yard, had come down on the deck outside our living room. Limbs are resting on the roof, on the deck, and on the driveway, but as far as I can tell there's no damage to the roof. The satellite dish is covered by branches, and inoperable, but we've got about 100 hours of programming on the DVR we haven't seen yet, so that's not a serious problem.

The good news about my (just bought last week) car is that it was in the carport under the deck, and was unscathed, though there are branches of the tree whose needles end less than an inch from the rear door. The bad news is that I can't go anywhere for awhile because the tree blocks the driveway completely and I can't get the car out. And the tree service says it will be tomorrow at the earliest before they can get a crew out here. The tree didn't take any live power lines (just a line to the street lamp which is on the distal side of the circuit from the power, so not live), but the fire company (whose station is about 1/4 mile down the road) came out and put yellow tape at the front of our driveway where the line came down. Since we don't have any live lines down, and we still have power, we're at a lower priority than people who don't have power or heat.

Since I don't have to go to work, the tree is not a big deal as long as I can get out by Thursday morning to take Eva to the airport so she can go back to help get her mother moved into a full-time care facility. But I sure hope we can get a plumber in here soon.

* And we have mountain ranges on both sides of the valley that Portland sits on the edge of; the Coast Range goes up to about 4500 feet, and the Cascades go much higher; Mount Hood is over 11,000 ft. high, it's about 40 miles from the city.
** I was afraid for a minute that the water had got to the wires and tripped the breaker, but a look out the window convinced me otherwise. So I phoned the power company outage line, and, sure enough, more than 400 customers were affected by this particular outage.

#101 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:09 PM:

Up in northwestern Western Australia, around the Kimberly, they're keeping an eye on what Cyclone Billy is doing. Presently bringing rain, welcome for water supplies but tropical heat & humidity less welcome.

Sydney's summer so far is coolish & variable, e.g. 19C (66F) one Friday, 35C (95F) the Saturday. (That's Melbourne style weather! Vide Mr Stross' @17 above re Scotland.) Spring here bled into Summer – mostly 20C (68F) to 25C (77F), not too humid – I'm happy with that. Totally freaked out by idea of living with killing cold, tho'.

“Previously in ML” – Climate Terminology.

#102 ::: Dragoness Eclectic ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:13 PM:

The others were never seen, only the effects of their bites. The area itched for 20 minutes, and if you could keep from scratching during that time, you'd heal without a problem. If you scratched, you ended up with a large ulcerated wheal that took forever to heal.

Hmm, if you were in the Deep South, U.S.A, I'd say those were chigger bites. I had the joy of experiencing those last summer while looting a choice thicket of wild blackberries of their fruit. The bites behave exactly as you describe, and you never see the chigger because it is a near-microscopic red bug-thing.

Do they have chiggers on St. Kitts?

#103 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:30 PM:

As usual here in Athens, GA, if it's wet, it's warm, and if it's cold, it's dry. So no snow, but it was 23 degrees F on the morning dog-walk. Not the coldest I've seen it here (that would be 0 degrees F back in the early '80s), but cold enough.

Charlie @ #17, my father used to say of the weather here, "Don't like the weather? Wait a minute!" (It was 70 degrees F here less than a week ago. Today's high was 36F.)

Kintair: welcome, and post more often!

David @ #89: "Fucked-up weather"?

#104 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 08:36 PM:

Someone wanted to know about the tape around my door. It does not interfere with opening the door; I will try to make it clearer.
My place has an inward-swinging door. The doorjamb is a wooden frame that has a raised strip of wood running around the inside of it midway thru, to keep the door from swinging out too [and anyone peeking in]. This strip, I read somewhere, is technically called "stops". I noticed that I could feel cold air coming in thru the crack between the door and the jamb, because the door did not fit tightly against the stops. So I got out a bunch of masking tape I had, and put some on the occluding surface of the stops as well as that of the doorjamb. I was sure that 1/32" or so would do it, basically make a snugger fit tween the door and the surfaces it is supposed to touch or almost-touch. I was right. There is no cold air coming thru now.
I wasn't all up on my classics, so I was surprised to find out that the oar story goes back that far--but with stories as funny as that, it maybe isn't so surprising after all.
As for my inverted fever, I have been told that this was not unique. I forget whether it was on one of these threads or elsewhere that I read the mnemonic "stumbles, fumbles, mumbles and grumbles"--which I may've had a mild case of that day. Anyway, if someone in a warm place is not well, check their temp and if you find that their body heat has all retreated to the core, well, I guess, treat for hypothermia just the same as if they'd been out in the snow.
One of my favorite authors, H.P. Lovecraft, had a worse version of this problem--his internal thermostat was faulty so he was effectively cold-blooded, or partially so--a bad situation for an astronomy lover in New England.

#105 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:15 PM:

Angiportus @104 --

The term for "partially cold blooded" ("tries to maintain a constant body temperature, but can't quite manage it either all the time or in all circumstances") is poikilothermy; those creatures for whom this is true are poikilotherms. I had a housemate once who was (and remains) a plausible hominid poikilotherm.

Actual bradymetabolic ectothermy in New England, well, there's a reason for the general shortage of lizards and skinks in those regions. :)

#106 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:37 PM:

Dragoness @ 102: Good question. We did have lots of mosquitos. If they'd been chiggers, I would have been inundated with the bites, and I only had single ones at a time. I stayed mainly indoors, and that's where the bites occurred.

Trombiculids are geographically located in North America and Europe, but there's no mention of the Caribbean countries.

The presentation of each bite -- single, with a small red welt -- like the other mosquito bites led me to consider these to be another species of mosquitoes. Chiggers tend to bite in groups, as you tend to walk through a nest of them. Like ticks, they also lurk in tall grasses, and I generally didn't go into vegetated areas, even the back "yard". Ticks were plentiful, though. I once picked off about 25 ticks from my young cat, all from her neck. She must have walked right into a newly hatched nest of 'em. One was even an albino tick.

Blech. Now I'm all itchy.

#107 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 09:54 PM:

P.J. Snow got down to about (based on observation) about 1,800. As of last night there is still some on the hills (I presume the rain did it in this morning).

Last night's sunset in Pasadena was wonderful. The sky was robin's egg blue, with streaks of cloud; the color of good salmon, above the greening hills, all marbled with fingers of white in the rifts the runoff makes.

Because of the oddities of the cut-off low, I got reports of snow falling (which didn't stick, at all) at sea level, in Malibu.

David Dyer-Benet: The 1cm of snow thing doesn't bother me. I live with heat/drought. A week of >100F/40C is trivial to deal with. But I know places where a couple days of that causes people to die. They aren't used to it. Don't know how to cope with the dehydration/overheating.

If they got snow more often, they'd know how to deal with it. Since they don't: and they don't, the best course of action is to sit tight and ride it out.

Having spent my early years in a place which had more than a few days of -10F every year (which migh stop the bus to school, and so we walked in that case... a couple of miles to school (down hill most of the way home, when it was warmer. It was about half a mile to the bus stop... in the opposite direction), the idea of closing schools for the cold is strange; in places which are equipped to deal with it.

One of the things I miss is "tunnel tag" which we played in the hollow between the woods and house (about a 1/2 acre of low ground, dipping and rising, to the woods). In the late winter, when the days would thaw the top snow (deep drifts in the hollow, 3-5 feet) we would walk with care on the morning ice. When we were well spread out we would hop (I was 6-8) and break into the undersnow.

Then we'd dig tunnels to catch each other. A numinous light, strange sounds and the thrill of discovery when another tunnel was discovered.

Kintair: Welcome. You are in no way fighting above your weight.

re "Sneak ice" I have a former girlfriend who hit a bridge which had developed black-ice. Got sideways and (having grown up in LA) didn't get the front tires lined up to the roadway (she'd survived a similar sort of thing in a patch of collected dew in LA, but that was spinning, not drifting). At the other end of the bridge, the road was tractile again. The off-angle tires grabbed and the truck did one and a half rolls, leaving the road.

She was wearing a seatbelt, and so it was a scary story, not a horrible one.

Lee: I'd take some wide (3", but two is probably enough) masking tape. With the door open I'd put a piece on the inside face of the door, with about 1" on the wood. Then I'd mate it to a piece placed on the face which goes into the jamb.

That would give 1-2 inches of seal, which won't stick to the jamb, and will reduce the loss of warm air/influx of cold.

#108 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:04 PM:

Terry, I couldn't see mountains today. (It was raining on the north edge of the San Fernando valley this evening, and only partly cloudy on the south side.)

Doorstops: You can get insulation made for door stops. It's a roll of narrow foam with an adhesive backing. Peel the backing and stick it on the inside edge of the stop, so the door will compress it when it's closed. (Do that on all three stops. The threshold requires a different method.)

#109 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:07 PM:

Lila @ 103:

I think that the phenomenon is a bit more complex than that, which I can't expect a UGA grad to understand ;) (I attended Tech)

Seriously, it doesn't fulfill the criteria; it neither emphasizes that the issue is a long term, climactic one, nor does it reference human involvement. Also, it can't be used in the classroom.

#110 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:08 PM:

So: After spending a token few hours in the office (The VP of the department was there! And he saw me working! One of maybe three people who made it in!) I drove home. Again, overconfident SUVs were the main hazard.

Walked the dog, who fortunately lost all interest in frisking about in the snow after she'd taken a dump.

After dropping her in the apartment, and brushing off another set of stairs, I walked across the boulevard (Cornell Road, for the locals) to get a junk food meal. (I've been running out the groceries in preparation for a trip.)

And on the way back . . .

. . . skiers. Two teens, cross country skiing. On the sidewalk. In Hillsboro OR.


I'm definitely taking the train to the airport tomorrow. I don't want to risk hitting a toboggan on the highway. Or a mammoth stampede.

#111 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:20 PM:

David @ #109, there's a concept called facetiousness that I guess y'all didn't cover at Tech....

(Some of my best friends and relatives are Tech graduates. Also I only did my last 2 years at UGA, so not so much with the bleeding red and black.)

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 10:52 PM:

P.J. I can't see the hills either, clouds consumed them.

As to the door flaps... I was under the impression this was for the entire door, not just the bottom.

#113 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2008, 11:24 PM:

*waves to everyone in the PNW*

I grew up in Toronto and temporarily moved to Seattle, from Cambridge MA, a few months ago, so I know what driving in snow entails. Which is why I haven't been driving on my local unplowed, unsalted, now snow-packed streets since last week (I read in the P-I that there are 27 snowplows for the city of Seattle). I feel validated in this decision every time I see someone spin their wheels on 45th, or skid a bit sideways in the parking lot of the QFC.

I do live next to the aforementioned grocery store, and a block away from a coffee shop with WiFi, where I've been holing up with my laptop (the UW suspended operations today, so going in to my office wasn't even an option). After the last week, I'm definitely on a first-name basis with the baristas.

Mostly I am bummed because after waiting and waiting for enough snow to go snowboarding, there's now too much snow to safely leave the city. Hoping to get out later this week, though.

(for the locals, I live in Wallingford)

#114 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:11 AM:

A week ago when the snow started here, I saw the most perfect snow vs dumb driver setup:

Large American pickup (Ford F-series or similar) with a home-made camo paintjob.

Facing north, deep in the southbound ditch.

Physics: 1. Macho: 0.

#115 ::: Rosa ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:11 AM:

j h woodyatt @ 80 - if the gulf stream gets messed up, or this cold snap hits DC, then the vague feeling Obama gives me, that we have the dream president from 60 Days & Counting, will be matched by the dreadful feeling that we've hit the rest of that trilogy's horrible tipping point.

(of course, in the books, heroic concerted worldwide private and government action averts tragedy at the last moment. But I don't trust that narrative.)

#116 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:24 AM:

At this moment I am drinking Russell’s Reserve Rye. It is very good.

Aye, that it is. Straight up or in Sazerac form? (It's one of the better Ryes for Sazeracs).

#117 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:40 AM:

debcha, if I had to be snowed in anywhere, Wallingford would be high on the list. Walkable and with plenty of places to hang out.

I have slaughtered my small hope of a normal Christmas by checking "where's my stuff" on Amazon. It's not anywhere near here.

#118 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:01 AM:

JESR: Believe me, I'm totally aware what a luxury it is that I don't have to get in my car to do things like get groceries. I am starting to go a little stir-crazy, though, and UW just announced that they are closed again tomorrow. I miss my printer.

#119 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:16 AM:

I'm up on Whidbey, and while we have the snow, we don't seem to have the crazy drivers. I've been out each of the last 4 days, and I've seen exactly one car in the ditch. We've got 12 inches on the ground, and a few on the roads. We do have plows here, but they take everything down to bunny slope grooming quality. So when they haven't gritted it, It feels like you're driving down a ski slope.

I parked the ugly truck at the first hint of snow and ice, and I'm driving the sensible family car. I'm not going to tempt physics with a full size truck and 2wd. This truck has already had an experience with that, before I bought it. It's got a grey GMC front end and a blue chevy rear end.

#120 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:19 AM:

Alex @ 90 - Your sister should come to Seattle and market a whole line of polarfleece sun dresses. They would probably sell like hotcakes.

Waves to debcha @ 113 from scenic Ballard. I went to grad school in Rochester, where it took 48" in 48 hours to shut the city down. Here it takes a mere .48". The easy walking distance QFC closed a few months ago to make way for yet another condo, so I drove to the Ballard Market on Saturday. Pandemonium is a reasonable word to describe the scene, although all the employees were their typical friendly and helpful selves.

#121 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:22 AM:

Bruce (stm), #100, boy, that's a lot to have happen. I hope it gets fixed soon, and not too expensively.

I have a steel door, so masking tape doesn't work there. The sides and top are okay, but when the builder's foreman put the original ramps in, he also put in a domed threshold so it would be easier for me to roll things in and out. That lets air in, so I have a "sweep" on the inside that closes against the threshold.

At the point that it was 5F here tonight, our power went out. After I got the flashlight from the desk and called Public Works and then arranged for my elderly upstairs neighbor to be picked up by his son-in-law to keep from falling in the dark, I happily settled down to my Eee. Power came back on in 90 minutes and I moved back over here to continue online.

Tomorrow is supposed to be about the same as today and I have PT at the other end of the county. I think I'm wearing a hat and scarf.

#122 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:02 AM:

JESR, eric, Larry Brennan, others: We should think about Making Light by the Sound (when mobility in the city is considerably less impaired, of course).

#123 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:27 AM:

I ran across an interesting solution to no-heat-in-the-apartment over at the Poor Skills LJ. If your utilities are set up so that you can lose heat without losing hot water, and you lose one but not the other, camp in the bathroom with the door closed. Fill the tub with HOT HOT HOT water and sit next to it. The person who tried this had electric heat and lights, but gas hot water, and she said that she and several other people were warm all night during a long winter blackout. Also rather squashed, but better that than freezing.

I've got a question. Has anybody found anything that will keep a toddler's hands warm while still allowing her to manipulate objects? No matter what I put on my then- and present toddlers' hands, they start to hurt after about 15 minutes at 40 degrees F or cooler. Double-layer polyfill-lined mittens are too stiff for little hands. I've tried acrylic fleece and thick, soft acrylic knit, I've tried cotton gloves inside synthetic mittens--do I have to bite the bullet and buy super-expensive wool ones? And then how do I keep snow from balling up on them?

#124 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:30 AM:

Jacque @45: From Boulder, CO: Cold, we got. But, "Snow? What snow?" Harumph.

Who's complaining? You're complaining? I'm not complaining. :-P

You know what really sucks about Boulder in the snow? One of the most bike-friendly towns in the U.S. suddenly becomes aggressively hostile to bikes: the snow plows shove all the snow into the bike lanes, so we gotta either share a real lane with the cars (whose drivers get tetchy about it) or share the sidewalks with the pedestrians (which can be awkward if you're a respectful bicycler and downright dangerous if you're not).

Probably the worst bit is the permanent choppy ice floe on the west side of 30th just north of Ras Kassa's, where the bike lane ends for southgoing traffic and the sidewalk turns into a multi-use path. I'm sure there are people on lovely fat-tire off-road bikes who can navigate that. Me, I gotta get off and walk it. It's a problem at most crossroads, but there it's like permafrost until May.

Y'all know about the snow on the Gulf Coast two weeks ago Thursday, right? My mom calls me up: "We got the perfect snow this morning!" I have to fact-check her: "Remind me: you're not out of town or anything? You're in Metairie?" She was just grinning ear to ear over getting two hours worth of snow that morning, just enough to get the beautiful Winter Wonderland look without the dangerous driving weather. By evening it was all gone again.

The North Shore wasn't so lucky - power out all day. I learned later from my inlaws that east Texas had gotten treated to freezing rain, sleet, wind, snow, and hail. And power outages for them, too.

#125 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:34 AM:

Hee. Forgot to add to the Snow Down South anecdote: The Metairie Park Country Day alumni contact people sent us a link to this lovely slideshow they'd done. Lots of photos of my old campus under all that white stuff to the tune of the 5th & 6th grade chorus singing "Here In My House" during the annual holiday caroling event. Awwww.

#126 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:57 AM:

#65 ::: Andrew Woode:

Thanks. I thought it might be Odysseus, but I wasn't sure.

#77 ::: Stefan Jones:

A little cynicism about the snuggie: I don't think I saw anyone walking in a snuggie, and if it's long enough to keep your feet warm, it's long enough to trip over.

#96 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom:

There may have been a blip in the ice transition line around Philadelphia-- we're more than a bit of a heat island.


I'd noticed in Delaware that if I didn't scratch a mosquito bite soon after it happened, it didn't itch, though the red welt took just as long to go away. No ulceration if I did scratch, so I don't think it was chiggers.


I kind of like "global weirdening" for what's happening to the weather.


Any suggestions about walking safely on ice?

#127 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:46 AM:

Any suggestions about walking safely on ice?


If you must: Grippers.

#128 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:48 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz #126: Any suggestions about walking safely on ice?

One thing I've made sure of over the years is to not ever have a health insurance coverage gap, to the extent of even borrowing money to pay for hideously expensive post-post-COBRA premiums.

#129 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:38 AM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 124

My older son called from his place in Baton Rouge when the snow came down, laughing about the reaction to it. He grew up in Portland to be sure, but he spent 5 years in grad school in western Ohio, so he gets a little room for condescension.

Earl Cooley III @ 2^7

Preaching to the choir here. The scariest phrase in the English language these days is "pre-existing condition".

#130 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:12 AM:

#127: Two stories about walking children to school in Worcester on days when the ice was not bad enough to delay school; either that or we'd had lots of snow days already:
1) My mother, visiting from inland Washington, set off with my older boy to school. Our house is uphill of everything, including the school. They showed up again in fifteen minutes, having been unable to safely reach the bottom of our street.
2) Me, walking both children to school. We were only able to move by holding on to hedges, walls, etc.; that is, we would have been able to move without holding on to such things, but not stop. On parts of the sidewalk I would slide down about three feet, gracefully crash into a tree, and then have the kids slide down one at a time.
I don't remember how I got back up the hill.

#123: The only cure for snow balling up on wool mittens is to teach your toddler to shake the snow off frequently, and even that doesn't work very well. They do keep the hands warm, though. What you need is a knitter or crocheter; wool mittens are cheap as heck if homemade, since the amount of yarn that goes into toddler mittens is teeny. If you luck into a knitter who makes gloves and has leftover lightweight alpaca, I suspect that's the best for warmth combined with ease of movement, unless you're even luckier and find a knitter with leftover qiviut. I'm not sure there is such a thing as leftover qiviut, though.
My kids would never wear mittens until the temps dropped below freezing. Cold hands never bothered them much, possibly because, between them, they have as much common sense as the sort of housecat that runs into walls. Now that we have a longhaired kitten I wonder how well she'd spin up into yarn; there's at least two mittens' worth of fur on her already.

#131 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:36 AM:

Nancy @ 126 -
Any suggestions about walking safely on ice?

High-temperature flamethrower.

#132 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:41 AM:

Back on Sunday it was a crisp, sunny day (low 40s F), and our big, shaggy cat kept clamoring to go out and lie on the sunny porch or roll on the concrete. Normally he's quite content to be an inner, but I guess the first day of winter spoke to his Norwegian Forest Cat genes. Yesterday was gray and a bit snizzly, and he was quite happy to stay in and sleep on the bed. (He's there now, even though the first wave of storm has passed and the sun is out.)

Husband decided to stay in yesterday evening too, though he had an invite (with "spouse or significant other") to a local party. We stayed home and watched "Exodus" instead.

#133 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:01 AM:

Falls on ice plus lack of insurance might be part of the reason I have bad knees now. In the so-called richest country in the world.
I would have used that specialized tape for my stops and jamb but in fact it was too thick. Masking tape that I already had did the trick. Kicking a spare rug in front of the threshold saved me buying a sweep.
A cat, though, that's tempting...I have seen knitted goods made from cat fur and in fact someone gave my mom a cap made from fur clipped from her standard poodle. I am making do with a nice Pendleton wool shirt that mom lined with rayon.
I've got those hobnailed things that go under my shoes [actually look kind of like little allen heads underneath.] They help with ice, but I gotta take 'em off the minute I get in the store.
And with some kinds of ice I still wish I had real live crampons. Then again, a flamethrower would be nice, but you'd want to watch it; exploding concrete can be scary.

#134 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:21 AM:

Bruce @129: re - southern reactions to snow

Sometime during my high school years, those being the first half of the '90s, there was noticeable snowfall in the New Orleans area. My mom and I differ on whether this happened two years running, or just the once; if just the once, it was either the year of, or the year preceding, the day that the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain froze for about a hundred yards out. Anyway, at various times during those/that winter(s), we'd be outside at school between classes and someone would look up, swear they saw a flake, and start shouting "Snow! Snow day! Close the school! Let's go home!" and then everyone would laugh, because even for us swamp cookies, that would be absurd.

I clearly recall the neighborhood kids and I trying to "sled" on garbage bags down the levee after the snowfall I'm remembering. It did actually stick, but there wasn't nearly enough of it to make the process work.

#135 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:54 AM:

Re Warm Mittens: My wife buys wool sweaters of questionable style from the thrift store, then felts them in the washing machine. They make wonderful mittens, slippers, hats and other kiddo things. My 2 yr old wears a women's petit sweater that's been felted, and it just shrugs off whatever he can pour on himself.

As for power outages, we've had our share. (2 yrs ago, 89% power uptime over 2 months) Our favorite coping equipment pieces are: propane or wood stove for heat, gas on demand water heater. On the smaller, less appliance oriented side of things, those little stick on LED lights are great. The batteries last forever, and they kick out enough light to see what you're doing. It's like being in a full moon. We've got a set of those, and a couple mini maglite sized led flashlights. They last a year on a set of batteries for going out at night to get wood and stuff, so we know where they are and there's always enough juice in them.

And yeah, making light by sound.

#136 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 12:43 PM:

Nancy @ 126 -
Any suggestions about walking safely on ice?

I have had every pair of heavy winter boots studded at the tire shop these ten years or more and I no longer fall down, except when the ice is an extremely thin glaze that nothing will grip. Indoors, I sound like a bowl of Grape-Nuts, but I don't actually mark the floor unless it's linoleum. And I don't have to worry about losing my ice grippers in a snowbank, figuring out where I put them over the summer, having the rubber straps crack in extreme cold, etc., etc.

You have to have really heavy-duty boots, though: Sorels or better. Otherwise you will get holes in your soles.

#138 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:14 PM:

For extended power outages, another thing that's useful are those chemical light sticks -- you know the ones you snap, and then they glow for hours? They give out enough light to navigate a house by (carefully) or function as a night light, are nontoxic, can't start a fire, are cheaper than batteries and last almost as long.

You can get them real cheap off ebay, too.

If you're hunkered down in the dark during a storm or after a disaster, they're just awesome. They give off just enough light to drive the shadows away and make it less spooky ...

(Note: I'm not sure how they react to cold temps. It just doesn't get that cold here!)

#139 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:21 PM:

We have one of these battery-powered weather/am/fm/television receivers. I see the price has dropped to $20; there's a good reason. With the upcoming switchover to digital signals from your local tv station, it will become useless for television reception. The digital converter boxes you're offered coupons for must have power to run, and this thing is battery only. Moreover, it has no RCA inputs to plug the box into, even from the one battery-powered converter that's currently on the market.

It'll still pick up the weather and am/fm signals fine, but essentially it's going to be a heavy tabletop radio. Rats.

#140 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Jenny Islander @#123, and also If you luck into a knitter who makes gloves and has leftover lightweight alpaca, I suspect that's the best for warmth combined with ease of movement, unless you're even luckier and find a knitter with leftover qiviut.

As a matter of fact, I knit and have quite a lot of leftover alpaca/silk blend in a light weight yarn; it's almost certainly enough for several pairs of toddler mittens. If you'd like to make a deal, something could probably be worked out. :)

#141 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 01:55 PM:

@Leva Cygnet #138: My husband rewired the back bedroom a couple of weeks ago and of course the power had to be shut off all evening. So we gave each of the kids (ages 4 and 2) a light stick and they had a wonderful time exploring the house. I think in the end they were pirates and the Island of Lost Treasure was on our big bed, or something.

#142 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:09 PM:

Leva Cygnet @ 138

are cheaper than batteries

Not if, as I do, you use rechargeable batteries wherever possible. The batteries cost a bit more, and you need to amortize the cost of the charger over a lot of uses, but I've used the same charger and batteries for several years now, and the batteries are still working. This also reduces the hazardous waste you generate because you throw out fewer batteries.

#143 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Nancy @ 126, wrt walking safely on ice: Yak Trax. I have the Walkers; the Pro are even better, or so I hear. All I know is that I can walk confidently across icy patches that would have had me cringing (and probably falling) before I got these. I bought mine after having slipped and fallen on an icy sidewalk last January, breaking my ankle in the process. I'm determined not to repeat such an incident, and here in Cleveland, avoiding all walking on ice is really not an option.

#144 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:26 PM:

Earlier in the year I found, in a "moving sale" pile by the dumpsters, a tea-candle latern. A black wooden frame with four frosted glass panels and a mount in the bottom for a tea candle. The panels have a clear Chinese character in each side.

I tried it out on Friday, when a really big blow was forecast. Rather pretty; less light than a bare candle, but more "useful".

I tried putting a hand-cranked LED flashlight in it. Very neat, but I had to hold the lamp by hand to get the angle right.

I might try to make a lantern/holder specifically for LED flashlights.

#145 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:28 PM:

re: knitting and reusing sweaters

There's a store in Toronto called Preloved which takes old wool sweaters, cuts them up, mixes the pieces up and creates new, funky sweaters, mitts, vests, etc. Their stuff is great, and caused one knitter friend to dive into the store when she wasn't intending to shop at all. If they every get their website all the way up I'd suggest anyone who likes knitting take a look at it. They have great stuff and it appeals to my thrifty side. There's a bit on the site now, but not as much information (or pictures) as I would like.

#146 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:38 PM:

Bruce, I've got a solar battery charger and rechargeables too but it's more for TSHTF disaster planning than mundane, "Oh, the power's out ... again ..." rural living. The problem with rechargeables is they have to be recharged, and they lose their charge pretty quickly if stored charged. YMMV.

(Would one of the chemistry minded people here tell me of nicad and/or lithium batteries would keep a charge longer if stored in the freezer?)

Chemical lights work nicely for situations where the power's out overnight. :-)

BTW, the web cam at the bottom of this page:

is fun to watch if you're a weather geek. This guy's house is one subdivision over from my father's home -- about five miles away. That's the Mogollon Rim in the distance (if the view isn't obscured by snow -- it was white out conditions earlier, you couldn't even see the flag pole in his yard) and the area's close enough to the Rim and high enough in altitude (6000 feet or so) that it gets some interesting weather effects.

A ranch with a nice weather station about eight or ten miles from this webcam clocked 100+ mph winds last March when a front came through ...

#147 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 02:52 PM:

We always make wool mittens extra-large here so they can be fulled before wearing; the ones I'm doing right now are extra-extra-big, meant to be seriously shrunk in the washer. As aficionados of wool mittens know, they shrink in any case and one ends up with a left and a right mitten from two that were identically knitted. If they're not knit generously they get too short and leave one's wrist exposed, not a comfortable situation for cold weather.
One of these days I'm going to knit myself a set of felted mittens with an inner knitted cuff, the outer cuff made very generous in size to go over the coat sleeve and the inner cuff keeping everything in place underneath. The cuff is knitted on after felting - the mittens I'm knitting now have a post-felting cuff knitted on but no outer cuff. They are considerably too big for my hand and will be shrunk to fit a six-year-old. When shrinking this much, it's advisable to use a pattern designed for it; columns of knitting shrink much more than the rows.
The great thing about felted knitting is that any minor flaws disappear into one lovely thick felted fabric.
One of our local yarn shops carries a Samoyed-mix yarn (that is, Samoyed mixed with other fibers, not Samoyed mixed with other dogs), in with a bunch of other stuff made from the most wonderful combinations of odd fibers. The hank of Samoyed yarn looks a lot like a Samoyed, if you squint at it.

#148 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @124 Who's complaining? You're complaining? I'm not complaining. :-P

I'm complaining. Bitterly. Still dry as a bone. Feh. If we're gonna have the cold, I want some snow, dammit.

You know what really sucks about Boulder in the snow? One of the most bike-friendly towns in the U.S. suddenly becomes aggressively hostile to bikes.

(Settles into rocking chair, spits store-teeth into a water glass.)

Why, young-un, I was ridin' my bike in Boulder snow back before there were bike-paths. In street-tires, no less. (Huh? Have I done this lately, since I'm now rich enough to ride the bus? What, are you crazy!?)

My personally favorite glacier is the one on Iris, between Chisholm & Bridger. I swear, I have an anticipatory heart-attack every time I go past that, even on foot.

#149 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:30 PM:

Leva Cygnet @ 146: The problem with rechargeables is they have to be recharged, and they lose their charge pretty quickly if stored charged.

Rechargeable alkaline batteries hold their charge for years, and also deliver 1.5V instead of the 1.2V of NiMH and NiCd (which makes flashlights run a lot more brightly). They're not too easy to find around here, though.

#150 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Jenny, 123, one reason toddler hands get so cold is that they are cold and wet. Slightly wet snow soaks through acrylic or fleece in about 10 minutes. If the snow is dry and powdery, it doesn't soak through as fast...but that generally means it's much colder. (And the hands are going to get icy as soon as the kid starts playing in really liquid slush. You probably know that, and the child will need to learn it sooner or later.)

Short fingers have hardly any leverage to move gloves that are even slightly stiff, so materials that make adult gloves warm and waterproof with only moderately-impaired dexterity can prevent a small child from moving her hands at all. Or they might let her clench her fist, but not move her fingers independently. I have no idea if you can find latex/nitrile/vinyl gloves anywhere near small enough...but if you could, they might provide a moisture barrier on top of acrylic or polarfleece gloves. Nobody sells gloves like this because they're not at all durable (the outer layer will tear after 1 use) and they feel weird if you wipe your nose with your hand while wearing them. But I've worn latex gloves over polarfleece, both in dry air and when making snowballs, and it kept my hands quite a bit warmer than polarfleece alone. Goofy-looking, though.

#151 ::: Beth Friedman ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 03:39 PM:

Ledsmom @130:

There is no such thing as leftover qiviut. Not at those prices. Trust me on this.

As for kitten fur, if you'd like to send it to me, I'd be happy to see if it's spinnable. I suspect it'd have to be mixed with something else because it has a short staple without much "cling" to it, but I could give it a try. I've had my spinning wheel for nine months now, and I'm starting to feel confident in my abilities, so this would be an interesting challenge.

#152 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Somebody mentioned Spinning Wheel?

(C'mon, somebody had to do it)

#153 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 04:56 PM:

Jenny Islander @123 -- I don't know if they're any better for toddlers than other kinds of mittens, but have you thought of thrummed mittens? ISTR that in calls for charity kids' stuff to places where it gets seriously cold, these are welcome.

#154 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 05:09 PM:

#127, James MacDonald:

Any suggestions about walking safely on ice?


I was walking near the University of Washington with a California native, and she yelled at me, "Ohmigod, what are you doing?! You're walking on the ice on purpose!"

My reflexive habits, left over from childhood, had me stomping on the glazed-over puddles to shatter the ice. I hadn't even given it the slightest thought. (fellow Fluorospherians who were children in snowy climes can probably attest to how peculiarly satisfying this is - like winter's bubble wrap).

#155 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 06:39 PM:

My reflexive habits, left over from childhood, had me stomping on the glazed-over puddles to shatter the ice.

Isn't that what it's for? Either smashing, or else skating on? Sort of worrying when your dog falls through it into England's best trout river, though. (NB, the survivors were picked up.)

#156 ::: Andy Brazil ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:24 PM:

Climate weirdness is right. Here in Norfolk, UK we still have flowers out, and I didn't feel the need to button my coat this morning. 20 years ago we had 8ft drifts every winter, and I had a snowbox for when we were cut off; this year we've had a couple of inches which lasted a week, and last year we didn't see snow at all.

Oh, and two days ago I saw a butterfly.

#157 ::: David Manheim ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:28 PM:

Lila @ 111:
Yea, and I was only at Tech my senior year of high school, so it probably doesn't count.

#158 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:33 PM:

The lightsticks do have a shelf life. Based on experience heat is more damaging to them than cold (though they glow less brightly in the cold too).

They are good for about a years storage in the trunk (here in LA), at most two years in a cool garage/cupboard.

#159 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:35 PM:

debcha, that sounds like a grand idea. Some time things look less like old movies of the Chilkoot Pass.

Which: [rant]The worst driving and walking conditions here in Lacey are not on the roads, they're in parking lots and other private property. Businesses which have cleared snow so people can get in and out safely are very much the exception, not the rule. Cleaning sidewalks, driveways, and parking lot/apartment complex driveways is not a governmental responsibility. Stop complaining and start shovelling![/rant]

However, I now have presents for my husband and son, who bought me a new digital SLR, so I am less et up with guilt; however, my feet may never thaw.

#160 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 07:44 PM:

...Cracking the ice on puddles, and wondering 1] how come the ice formed with all those weird sharp angles in it, 2] how come there's a space tween the bottom of the ice and the top of the water below?
When I lived in Seattle itself, I was once privileged to see Green Lake frozen over. I forget how thick, but not enough to support a person. When folks threw pebbles onto the ice, it made the weirdest squealing sound. Later, when it broke up, the wind made the ice fragments knock together and tinkle like thousands of tiny bells.
Now instead of a lake, there's a river, which doesn't freeze but comes into spate sometimes [don't get me started.] But in times of cold, it gets mist-wraiths floating over its surface, an eerie sight when encountered after dark.

#161 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 08:08 PM:

Meanwhile, as many of you must have seen in the news, we had a 5 1/2 foot water main blow under River Road. They had to bring in helicopters to rescue people from their cars, and then had to rescue one of the rescuers too. It was Hypothermia City. The one good thing was that they saw it happen and didn't have to search for the break (though they were slightly stymied in cutting the water off because one of the valves was under the water). This summer we had another break in a remote section of a county park, and it took six hours just to find it. We had negative pressure for about an hour at our house, so we had a boil order for three days.

#162 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 08:45 PM:

Angiportus @160 said: When I lived in Seattle itself, I was once privileged to see Green Lake frozen over. I forget how thick, but not enough to support a person.

Hmm, I have a sad memory of what may have been that same year. When I was a child growing up in Federal Way (south of Seattle), circa 1978 or so there was a very cold winter where some of our local lakes froze over. One in particular was very small and did freeze enough to support people - I remember my dad ice skating on it (he had old skates - I didn't have any, so I just slipped around on the ice). Unfortunately, it didn't stay that cold, and people kept going on the ice for longer than it was safe. A girl I knew from school was at the lake with her family, and the ice broke under her. Her dad was able to get her out, but he was stuck in the water for too long (heavier, so the ice would break when he tried to climb out), and he died.

I don't think I've been on a frozen lake since then. Not that I've had many chances, but I'm definitely very wary of lakes and ice.

#163 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:12 PM:

oliviacw @ 162 ...
It's interesting what sort of training about adverse conditions you take for "normal". I think we were taught how to extract ourselves after falling through ice from a very young age (essentially (a) don't fall through ice in the first place, (b) slither and roll, (c) use something like a ladder/branch-with-leaves/something that spreads your weight around, and stay low) ... but I wouldn't recognize a tsunami alert if I heard one (although I'd like to think that everybody running for higher ground would be a hint...)

#164 ::: Doug Faunt ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:13 PM:

I hope I never have to try to ride my motorcycle in the snow for any serious reason, but taking the bike off-road in sand and mud is pretty good training. I took my F650 GS down to Hollister Hills and did a day's worth of exercises, many of which involved losing traction.
OTOH, both the bike and I are prepared to fall down and get back up.

And my rule for two wheels is I'll not ride if all three of these conditions exist: December, rain, dark.

#165 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 09:41 PM:

oliviacw, that was, indeed, the winter of 1978; I had just dropped out of graduate school, was budgeting cigarettes versus bus fare, and walking everywhere, which since I lived on Beacon Hill near what's now made getting home a challenge. I remember that drowning.

#166 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:01 PM:

C.Wingate, #161, Here's an article with video on the "wall of water" on River Road.

#167 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 10:27 PM:

oliviacw @ #162

When I was out yesterday doing my cat sitting stuff, I passed a father and son playing hockey on one of the little cement ponds that are in the median of Ward Parkway.

When part of my mind went, "has it been cold enough long enough to do that?" another part of my mind said, "Idjit, if they broke through it's 1.5 feet of water. Up to their mid-calf maybe."

#168 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:10 PM:

I've been in Silicon Valley for two of the three ground-level snowfalls that've happened in the past four decades. For the one in the 70's all the kids arriving at school went out on the field to throw snowballs and make tiny snowmen, and the school delayed when classes started. I'm thinking there was at least a 1/2 inch of snow, that time.

The valley is warmer now. Back then we regularly had ice on the (kids) pool and dogs' water dish.

We pay for this weather in earthquakes. There are parts of California with four seasons and deep snows*, but for that you have to pay in volcanoes.


* I remember one blizzard up by Mt. Shasta with 3 feet of snow in a few hours. The mountain itself has 5 glaciers and gets many meters of snow each winter.

#169 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2008, 11:23 PM:

Summer Storms @143

These are reputed harder to have come off due to sideways motion on ice than the Yak Trax are, and generally grippier in the bargain. (But, alas, more expensive.)

Having grown up in the Ottawa valley, I have a stupid amount of practice walking on ice, and Jim is right; if at all possible, don't do that. If you do have to do that, traction devices or not, never fully straighten your knees and plant your feet straight down, rather than the usual heel-roll-toe. This is tiring, but vastly preferable to the dented head from a complete traction failure while your feet are headed forward.

#170 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 01:06 AM:

Doug Faunt @ 164...
I hope I never have to try to ride my motorcycle in the snow for any serious reason, but taking the bike off-road in sand and mud is pretty good training. I took my F650 GS down to Hollister Hills and did a day's worth of exercises, many of which involved losing traction.

Better dry snow than sleet or ice. I've ridden through snow on motorized and human powered two wheeled devices, and the snow's not all that bad. Ice... awful. Sleet... possibly worse than ice, since it's just as slippery, and you can't see a damn'd thing while you're getting soaked to the skin, no matter what you're wearing. Bah.

#171 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 07:06 AM:

Apropos @164, @170 ... how do Segways cope with ice or snow?

#172 ::: Ledasmom ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 08:25 AM:

We have those traction thingies to put on the boots so you don't slip on the ice. I don't wear them unless it's impossible to get up the hill without them, because I like sliding on ice. I especially like being able to move slowly down the sidewalk while standing completely still.
I've found that I'm most likely to lose my balance if I'm holding somebody's hand (children, usually).
Mittens for children: I forgot angora. Angora is expensive, yes, but if you get the real thing (not angora blend, but pure angora or angora with just enough nylon to help the yarn hold together) it takes very little angora to make a warm mitten - one knits it loosely. In general the hair-type animal fibers (angora, alpaca, llama and so forth) keep you warmer at a lighter weight than wool does, and also tend to turn into a more flexible felt.
Spinning kittens: Kitten didn't appreciate having hands plunged into her fur in an attempt to determine the staple length. It appears to be about two inches on the body, longer on the tail. At her age (about eight months), it's not baby-kitten fur, but it's beautifully soft.

#173 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 08:55 AM:

#127, James MacDonald -

Walking on glazed puddles to smash the ice? Heck, I do that here in Georgia! I don't get as many opportunities as some do, but yes, absolutely.

(My favorite cold-weather thing is when the ground is a little wet and freezes and the ice makes crystals that sort of stand up in little dirt/ice pillars. They get about a three-quarters of an inch high, and they're great fun to examine and to stomp down. Finding them is the trick, because until you step on the area, it looks like just slightly odd dirt. Very rarely, you'll find these after the weather has changed, and they've dried that way. So neat!)

#174 ::: G. Jules ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 09:44 AM:

One of my Earth and Planetary Science professors used to call global warming the present experiment. (As in, "We don't know what happens when atmospheric CO2 triples, but the experiment's already started.")

I've always just gone with anthropogenic climate change, which (a) nails down the anthro part, and (b) preempts the jackasses who want to argue about how Boise, Idaho was colder last year than in 2006 and what do I think about that, huh?

Walking on ice: during the massive ice storm in Maine back in the late 90s, my father made my mother a pair of ice boots by taking tiny metal screws and screwing them into the treads of an old pair of hiking boots. They worked fairly well. (Staying off the ice would have been better, of course, but they'd been iced in for three days at that point, and they needed to be able to get to the brook for water and the woodshed for wood.)

Re: wool mittens: I second the suggestions for felting/fulling. I'd get someone to knit them three sizes too big (and four sizes too long), felt the crap out of them, and then go over the outsides with an electric razor to remove any remaining fuzz. I have a pair of alpaca mittens that have been slowly felting, and as they felt they pick up less snow (although I have not shaved the fuzz, which is turning into a tremendous halo around the mittens).

Re: spinning cat hair: I've spun fur from my parents' long-haired Maine Coon mix, mostly as a proof-of-concept. It takes a great deal more fur than you think it will but it's doable. The downside is that the fur has a short staple, felts quite easily, and has very little crimp/resiliance; I think mixing it 50-50 with wool would make it much more usable.

Also on the topic of things to do with cat fur -- this is arguably kind of gross -- you can make a little felted ball out of the cat's fur. (Out of my parents' cat's fur, anyway.) Brushing her generates huge piles of fur, so I once tried forming it into a ball and rolling it between my palms. It felted into a neat little ball, and without any soap or heat.

#175 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 09:53 AM:

Nicole @ 134: I was in Baton Rouge from 1991-1994, and the snow fell in 1993 for sure. If there was another year, it wasn't consecutive in this period.

Walking safely on ice: Stomping on the puddles is an excellent maneuver, particularly when there's some water beneath. Popping the ice like bubble wrap is an added benefit. Skating carefully across it works too, if you know how to skate. When I was studying martial arts intensively, I learned to walk differently; essentially I was always balanced for a kick with every step I took. This made walking on unexpected slippery surfaces less dangerous, although it requires doing kicks in class about 4 nights a week, so YMMV. Good boots have good gripping soles, too. Finally, there's the best method of all: avoid the ice and walk in the unpacked snow. (I find packed snow to be much more difficult to maneuver through, especially after I injured my foot and could not allow my ankle to be flexed in any direction.)

Wall of Water: the local television reporter on the scene in Bethesda was interviewing one of the rescuers, and asked him about training for water rescues. He said yes, they'd trained for this -- "..not on the road, but yes, we trained for water rescue". He also explained that the rescued people "for the situation we were in, they were pretty calm".

And back in the studio, one of the anchors noticed that the windshield wipers were still going on one car. The other anchor said "I don't think that's going to help him."

#176 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:01 AM:

Earthquakes--we got 'em. Preparation and recovery therefrom might be a good topic for a future thread.
During snow-less cold snaps, I have seen the bare ground take on a porous appearance, which seems due to expansion of ice amidst the dirt. This might also explain the gap tween ice and water in a puddle, but not sure.
The worst kind of ice is the kind you don't even see. Because the ground temp got real cold, or was cold to start with, then it rains and there is supercooling when it hits the sidewalk (and there was no problem just 10 minutes back...) The ER's fill up then--and that's just the insured people.
I once knew a cat that'd've been good for a sweater or two...

#177 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:13 AM:

Charlie Stross @ 171 - A friend of mine who lives in exurban Seattle has an answer. Apparently Segways don't stop well in the snow.

Doug Faunt @164, xeger @170 - I've ridden my motorcycle in the snow too, but never by choice. My favorite was crossing the Harlem River on a steel deck bridge during a snowstorm. I got home OK. If I thought I wouldn't, I'd have (grudgingly) left my bike at school.

#178 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:24 AM:

#177, Larry Brennan -

I've never seen one - what kind of arrangement does a steel-deck bridge typically have to provide traction? I ask partly because have this vague idea that expanded steel might be slightly better for traction than sheet steel, but I'm not sure why I think so (do the edges of the holes give you better traction?), partly because I'm fairly certain that's damning with faint praise so there must be an additional arrangement, and because no-one said a steel-deck bridge would have expanded steel anyway.

Clearly the traction would be terrible under those conditions, no matter the arrangement, and I'm betting it is never very good if the bridge isn't dry, but I'm hoping you'll indulge my curiosity with details.

#179 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:51 AM:

I went looking for steel decking images (why should you do the work for me when there's google?) and wow, that's interesting. The Washington State DOT website is very nice, with well-captioned photos for the completed projects.

(I am at work today with no work yet. I'll try not to spam too much.)

#180 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:55 AM:

R.M. Koske @ 178 - I'm by no means an expert on steel bridge decks. I'm wondering where you live if you've never seen one, as they're typically used on draw spans to reduce the weight being lifted.

The open-grate decking can have either a rectangular pattern or a lattice pattern, and has a series of small blunt spikes to provide traction. Since your contact patch is reduced, these decks never have the traction of a concrete, asphalt or composite deck, even when dry. When wet, they can be treacherous. In snowy conditions, some snow will fall through the decking, but this type of bridge is also more prone to icing as it will chill faster than other types of bridges.

This photo (not mine) gives a decent view of the deck of a stell deck bridge not too far from where I now live.

#181 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 11:08 AM:

It's snowing again, and the big Doug fir in the back is leaning a little more than usual towards the house. A crew from the same company that's working on the tree that came down on the deck is coming out in an hour or so to evaluate the fir and see if and what we need to do about it. We've packed a suitcase and looked up motels that take pets; the first crew is going to pull my car out of the driveway before trying to take the rest of that tree down.

So if the fir comes down, we may have to go away for a few days, and I could be out of contact for a day or two. But I don't think there's any danger to us or the dogs, just one more problem that this storm has visited on us.

#182 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 11:17 AM:

Charlie #171 ... how do Segways cope with ice or snow?


The year the Post Office tested them in Concord, New Hampshire, for delivery vehicles (as opposed to guys on foot carrying bags)... resulted in the New Hampshire Post Office not adopting them.

#183 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 11:18 AM:

R. M. Koske--The closest steel-deck bridge to me, here in Nashville, is on US 45 in Paducah, over the Ohio River. It's carefully marked to a speed limit of about 25MPH--and it feels, when you drive over it, as if a skid is possible at any moment if you disregard the speed limit. When I'm going up to Missouri and I want a cheap thrill, I cross there rather than on the new bridge on
I-24. (On the other hand, if I want to have a post-apocalyptic experience, I go over to Cairo,
Illinois instead.

#184 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 11:26 AM:

Larry Brennan @ 180

but this type of bridge is also more prone to icing as it will chill faster than other types of bridges.

We have a steel bridge* in downtown Portland, that's nasty enough in icy weather that it's been closed several times during ice storms.

* Called, imaginatively, The Steel Bridge.

#185 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 11:32 AM:

#180, Larry -

Thank you!

I live in Atlanta. I probably have seen them, but only on vacations, and I couldn't recall any. Unless you're on the coast, there's no need for a draw-span bridge here, since most of* the Chattahoochee River through Georgia doesn't have the size to accommodate anything bigger than a fishing dinghy with an outboard motor, if that. I there are some draw-span bridges on the coast, but I don't get out there too often and I remember them more for the "draw span" aspect than the steel decking.

*I'd say "all of" but I'm not certain on that point.

#186 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 11:38 AM:

Chris #116: Straight up or in Sazerac form?


A proposito, I'm on duty tonight, and we have "wintery mix" in the forecast. I hope everyone in my area of operations has a safe and happy holiday.

#187 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 12:05 PM:

Good god, it's snowing again.

Somewhere in Seattle, there's a very pale lady on a sleigh, offering little children Turkish Delight.

#188 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 12:19 PM:

Ooh, candle ice! (I've seen it, and it is indeed odd seeing moss and grass on top of ice.)

This page links to a lot of webcams for the PNW and parts of California. One of the ones for I5 in California is at an alpaca rance in Tejon Pass - in good weather, you may see alpacas. Another has a view (maybe) of Mt Shasta - one day last week it was sunny and cloud-free, and it's spectacular in those conditions.

#189 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 12:35 PM:

debcha @ 187 ...
Somewhere in Seattle, there's a very pale lady on a sleigh, offering little children Turkish Delight.

Only little -human- children, however...

#190 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 01:14 PM:

I feel tempted to caption the photo Larry Brennan linked to "pigeons got traction!"

I woke up to rain on the roof, and persist in a state of liminality: it rains, and then the temperature drops and it snows, and then it rises and it rains... the Pacific Ocean and Continental air masses are at war right over my roof. Since that line also defines the main approach to SeaTac, 60 miles NNE, it does not say good things for getting planes in and out for Christmas Eve travellers.

I've been told that there is to be a gathering tonight at my Uncle Mervie's house, as is our habit. All I need is envelopes to put photos in. Big envelopes for big photos. Assuming we can drive on the roads by that hour.

#191 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 03:24 PM:

David Manheim @ 89:

My recollection of the discussion was that the phrase "Global Warming" was easy to understand, and simple. We need a better, easy term to replace it with. "Climate Chaos" has the same type of ring, but doesn't make the accuracy counter click quickly enough for my taste. "Climate Change" is too neutral, and again, doesn't clarify that humans are doing anything.

I'm a bit late to comment here, but what about "Climate Disruption"? I've heard a few people using this, and it seems to fit the bill: it's gotas negative connotations, and implies that someone is doing the disrupting.

#192 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 08:40 PM:

debcha @ 187

The sleigh is drawn by reindeer so I think up north/northwest of Ballard is your best bet. Try Swanson's or Woodland Park.

#193 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 09:00 PM:

For some odd reason, my favorite weather website is showing Dec 19th maps (for archival purposes, note that today is the 24th) for this region. The temperatures indicated are much colder; the winds indicated are not as strong.

#194 ::: debcha ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 09:13 PM:

xeger #189 and Margaret #192:

Maybe we could convince one of the lions at Woodland Park Zoo to just, uh, lie down on this large stone table here?

#195 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Wingate/Marilee: fascinating detail; thanks. I am amused by the irony of the \high/ ground flooding; River Road ~0.5-1.0 miles south of there flooded regularly until the entire section was raised several feet (possibly required so the Cabin John Station could be well-located for fires but be sure of not being blocked by floods). I never knew there was a monster pipeline in that area; if the date given is accurate they may have done all the work while I was out of the area.

And I have finally recovered my car from Boston's spate of weather; considering some of the things cited here, $250 and a couple of vacation days isn't too high a cost for a stupid maneuver (you mean they \don't/ plow that bypass just because part of it is a parking lot?!?)

#196 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:07 PM:

debcha @ 194 ...
Maybe we could convince one of the lions at Woodland Park Zoo to just, uh, lie down on this large stone table here?

You guys and your weird ideas about sculpture. What's with that bunch of stone beatrix-potter-esque animals around a table as though they were having Christmas dinner? ;)

#197 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2008, 10:32 PM:

We managed to get out of Portland on the 20th - just before things got brutal. I don't envy the friends who are feeding our cats. They've had to walk, lacking operable bus transport or the ability to drive through that.

One of our friends has his mother visiting. She's staying in a hotel. They've only seen each other twice because walking is the only way to get between her hotel and his house.

Whereas we've made it to Arkansas and I'll be heading to the Bay Area after Christmas. I'm just thanking my lucky stars we picked the 20th instead of the 21st. One of our friends was scheduled to fly on the 21st - and still hasn't gotten off the ground. Part of me wishes I was there for the excitement, but the larger and wiser part of me is grateful to have gotten out. I get to meet much of one of my partners' family for the first time, and I've been hearing about them for years, so it would be a great disappointment to have been grounded in PDX.

#198 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 12:10 AM:

A.J. Luxton @ 197

Trust me, the excitement is overrated. Ask the plumber who was coming to fix the pipe in our house that started leaking through my office ceiling, and got stuck in a ditch a few blocks away. By the time he got towed out he'd given up on doing any plumbing today.

#199 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 12:35 AM:

But aside from the plumbing, the news is good. The big tree is stable, and will hold for a couple of weeks until we can get the crew back to do some trimming. The temperature held above freezing for most of the day; the big clumps of snow have melted out (to the sounds of snowballs and small branches hitting the roof, and going "bong!" off the vent from the bathroom), so the load on all the trees is way down, reducing the risk of any other trees falling over. And they took down the entire tree that was embracing the deck and carport, cut most of it into pieces, and left it by the sideyard, with the driveway open again. The crew will come back in a couple of days to finish cutting it up and cart away all the pieces. Those guys are good.

#200 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 12:37 AM:

Well, we made it about a tenth of the way to Church. Well, we made it all the way to the Korean Presbyterian Church, but they weren't having 5:30 service. The church next to them were just letting out as we tried to disentangle a broken chain from the front suspension; men going to evening prayers at the Islamic Center looked curiously at our car sitting with emergency lights on as the XYs struggled with the broken chain. My son demonstrated a proficiency in bad language I had not previously suspected he had.

We limped home and had roast duck and baked squash and salad and then I posted a bunch of You Tube videos over at my LJ, mostly harp music but not all of it, mostly Christmas music, sort of. This is being a Very Special Christmas.

Also, it's raining here, and I asked my friends list to think of a warm Pacific Front moving in to the Puget Sound region at 8am UTC December 25. It's the only present I really want.

#201 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 12:57 AM:

JESR @ #200, thanks for the links to the videos; I'd never even heard of a harp guitar before, much less seen or heard one played. That's quite a -- well, what? -- amalgamation? Combination? Bastardization? Ah! Union of instruments.

#202 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 01:29 AM:

I've done steel bridges, in the rain, on a bike.

I loosen my grip on the handle bars, get a little onto my feet, and don't make any moves whatever. No pedalling, no turning, no braking, no nothing. The bike will continue to go straight, for the most part. Just let it roll.

I wouldn't recommend it though.

#203 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 01:47 AM:

CHip, #195, and today, a short bit of Seven Locks Rd. just north of where it intersects with River Rd. had a smaller water main break. Why? Too many cars on the road, avoiding River Rd. No water down the street, but the west and north bits beyond that intersection will be closed until next week, looks like.

#204 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2008, 04:04 AM:

Linkmeister, one thing that I love about You Tube is the list of links down the side- I was led to the links I posted by way of a harp version of "Christmas Time Is Here" that was posted on BoingBoing yesterday and wandering around in the related links list on the right side of the page.

I love the flexibility of the open stringed instruments- Harp Guitars or Junior Brown's Guitsteel are just a small corner of what can be done with the form.

I expect I meant to say something else, but I just found myself opening my eyes and staring at the keyboard. Bed, I think, so Santa can come (although Amazon's "where's my stuff" link is a sad sight).

#205 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 07:36 PM:

Mmmm. Late to the party and all the places in the US I can remember having lived have had noteworthy snow recently.

Nicole/Ginger: Baton Rouge 1993 - was that the Spring Break Blizzard? There was one year (either 92, 93, 95, or 96) that it snowed in March in southeast Louisiana and as luck would have it, it was the night I was driving from Baton Rouge to my parents' home an hour east of there. And it freakin' SNOWED.

I remember the 88ish Louisiana snowstorm when the south shore of Lake Ponchartrain froze. Were any of you down there in January oof 80 or 81 for the ice storm? I was quite small but I remember the power being out for about three days.

PDX crew - I missed the Portland 96 flooding but was there for the Snow That Stuck in the winter of 97/98 and again for the Snow That Stuck All Week (tm) in January of 04 which is forever in my mind associated with the pounding sound of my (then) next-door neighbor attempting to chisel the frozen condensation out of his sliding glass door so he could get out onto the patio and smoke.

We got a foot-plus of snow here in Maine last Sunday night, too, but at least up here people are used to moving it out of the way and getting on with business instead of waiting for it to thaw and/or running around screaming OMG WHITE POWDER FALLING FROM THE SKY PANIC !!!!!1111 (ah, my misspent youth - I remember being released from class in 5th grade because there were snow flurries and nobody was paying any attention to anything but the window.) In some ways I'd rather have everything shut down so I could go play in it, but eh, winter happens every year up her and people would get bored with that.

Although my other half did call me at work today (he had the day off, I didn't) to caution me that the mail truck was stuck in a snowbank and the bottom of our road might be blocked when I tried to come home. I took this as a sign that I really needed to go do some emergency economic stimulation retail therapy. Hopefully it wasn't the same mail carrier that got the truck stuck in our yard back in '05.

We live on kind of a tricky street, ice-wise.

#206 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 09:13 PM:

When it comes to predicatable disasters, I seem to be very good at being away when they happen. The fires of '93... I was in Monterey (same for the Northridge quake). Then Seattle to Portland was clobbered in '04, I was stationed at Ft. Lewis, but on leave to LA. There've been a couple of others, but I forget exactly what they were.

#207 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2008, 10:07 PM:

Linkmeister @ 201

My introduction to harp guitar was via Michael Hedges. A couple of youtube links to get you going:

Cello Suite #1 in G Major (Bach)

"Because It's There"

#208 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2008, 10:01 PM:

re 195: According to the Wash. Post River Road is still closed. When they were doing repairs they found a bunch more cracks.

Another strange detail: they used the river rescue boats; the rescuer they had to fetch out with the helicopter had his boat sink. (Yes, in the middle of River Road, they had a boat sink.)

#209 ::: Madeley ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 05:59 AM:

We tend to get snow every winter for a couple of weeks in South Wales, although the past few years heavy falls have been cropping up without much warning. In 2009 it coincided with the BBC popping the TARDIS on Caerffili Castle. You could see it from my house. It was quite lovely.

The week before Christmas 2010, the snow came down as my wife was driving home from work. In the fifteen minutes or so it took her to get through slow traffic from the outskirts of Cardiff to the top of Caerffili Mountain (which, to be honest, is a bit of a shorty as mountains go), it went from clear to impassable. People were abandoning cars left right and centre, usually at the end of some fairly alarming skids.

Obviously, I went up the mountain to get her. I was so much like Batman it hurt.

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