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December 30, 2009

Snowpocalypse Part Next
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:37 PM *

From the New Hampshire Homeland Security Emergency Management email list:

The NH HSEM Field Services has issued a Winter Storm Warning

To ALL Emergency Management Directors:

” There is a significant winter storm predicted for this weekend. According to the NWS in Gray, Me. - “this is a very unusual event … we have not seen one like this in 30 years.” This will be an event that is expected to bring significant snow and wind for the entire state. Gusts of wind may be up to 50 mph.

There will be a smaller system moving into NH very late Thursday night / early Friday a.m. bringing 3-5” of snow. The main storm will be moving in Saturday afternoon and possibly last until Tuesday, with the storm stalling off the coast. The weather models are still somewhat confusing so actual amounts of snowfall (mostly dry snow) are difficult to predict and range anywhere from 6-14” to possible 20-40” further north. Predictability will be more certain tomorrow.

There is also great concern regarding possible coastal flooding.

We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated. HSEM would advise all communities to begin referring to their emergency plans and begin preparedness activities.

Emphases in the original.

This might be a good time for the good folks of Northern New England among the readership to review their own emergency management plans.

See also Arctic Blast From the Past, and follow links.

[UPDATE New Year’s Eve]
To ALL Emergency Management Directors:

This is updated information that NH HSEM received earlier this morning regarding this weekend’s winter storm.

NH HSEM has spoken with NWS Gray. Since most of the area we are concerned about is Gray’s terrain, we will focus on them for a bit. Here is their outlook as of 05:30 12/31/2009:

  • Not much has changed in the last 12 hours
  • Predictability of snow amounts and winds is still somewhat confused due to models ? very confusing storm
  • Light snow today and tomorrow with not much accumulation. May see 2-4” by Friday night.
  • Heaviest impact of the larger storm will be felt late Saturday night into Sunday.
  • 5-10” of snow throughout much of the State with more in the higher terrains and mountains.
  • No significant winds predicted throughout most of state with the exception of the Seacoast.
  • Concern still expressed by Gray for the seacoast area on late Sat. night (midnight high tide) and, more importantly and more concerning is the high tide expected around noon on Sunday
  • The highest astronomical tides will be the one around noon Sunday, combined with wind gusts up to 40 mph (possibly higher) may push the tide 1 to 1 + feet ABOVE FLOOD STAGE. Some coastal flooding and surge should be expected.
  • Combined with wind, may see some power outages on coast during Sat nite/Sunday.
  • By Sunday night/Mon. a.m. tide the winds will have shifted, the tides will be lower.

  • [UPDATE New Year’s Day]




    [UPDATE 02JAN10]
    Urgent - Winter Weather Message
    National Weather Service Gray ME
    340 PM EST Sat Jan 2 2010

    Northern Coos-Southern Coos-Northern Grafton-Northern Carroll- Including The Cities Of…Colebrook…Berlin…Lancaster… Littleton…North Conway

    A Winter Storm Warning Remains In Effect Until 4 PM EST Sunday.

    Look For Snow To Become Heavier Tonight With Winds Gusting To 45 Mph At Times. The Combination Will Result In Near Blizzard Conditions At Times.

    The Snow Will Become Lighter Sunday As Low Pressure Drops South Of The Region. By That Time…New Snowfall Amounts For Tonight And Sunday Will Range From 8 To 12 Inches…With The Highest Amounts Across The Notches. Blowing And Drifting Snow Will Continue Sunday As Winds Gust To 45 Mph.

    A Winter Storm Warning For Heavy Snow Means Severe Winter Weather Conditions Are Expected Or Occurring. Significant Amounts Of Snow Are Forecast That Will Make Travel Dangerous. Only Travel In An Emergency. If You Must Travel…Keep An Extra Flashlight… Food…And Water In Your Vehicle In Case Of An Emergency.

    [UPDATE 03JAN10]
    Urgent - Winter Weather Message
    National Weather Service Gray ME
    923 AM EST Sun Jan 3 2010

    Northern Coos-Southern Coos-Northern Grafton-Northern Carroll- Including The Cities Of…Colebrook…Berlin…Lancaster… Littleton…North Conway

    …Winter Storm Warning Remains In Effect Until 4 PM EST This Afternoon…

    A Winter Storm Warning Remains In Effect Until 4 PM EST This Afternoon.

    Occasional Snow Will Continue Today With Daytime Accumulations Of 2 And 5 Inches Expected…With The Highest Amounts In The Higher Terrain. Winds Gusting As High As 45 Mph Will Create Considerable Blowing And Drifting Snow With Very Poor Visibility.

    A Winter Storm Warning Means Severe Winter Weather Conditions Are Occurring. Significant Amounts Of Snow Are Forecast That Will Make Travel Dangerous. Only Travel In An Emergency. If You Must Travel …Keep An Extra Flashlight… Food…And Water In Your Vehicle In Case Of An Emergency.

    [UPDATE Sunday 03JAN10] Winter Storm Warning canceled.
    Comments on Snowpocalypse Part Next:
    #1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:00 PM:

    May I point out that I haven't been here thirty years yet, so this weekend may turn out to be the worst I've ever seen.

    #2 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:07 PM:

    "Does it ever stop raining in Trondheim, little boy?"
    "I don't know, sir, I'm only eight years old."

    #3 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:35 PM:

    So far, is only predicting "snow showers" for my part of CT. I think I'll get that flashlight set tomorrow anyway, but I'm not going to panic otherwise. Just did the grocery shopping today, so we're all stocked on the requirements for a French Toast Emergency, and we've got shovels and salt.

    Hoping that my northern friends come through with minimal inconvenience and no extended power outages.

    #4 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2009, 11:36 PM:

    Doubly glad I'm in Puerto Rico this week.

    #5 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:00 AM:

    I've just got my fingers crossed. As I said in one of the TSA threads, I'm flying from LaGuardia to Sacramento via Denver on Saturday. I've been keeping an eye on that storm and hoping I get out of NY or that it stays at the "snow showers" they're currently predicting.

    Good luck, Jim. I hope people by you have the sense to stay indoors when this hits and you don't have much call for your services.

    #6 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:09 AM:

    Shouldn't the title be "snowplowcalypse now"? Or "snowpocalypse plow"?

    #7 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:52 AM:

    Are there Arctic Cats or similar vehicles up there? There were one or two up at Thule, and they and the people qualified to go out in them were the only things/people authorized to be out in Phase III storms, in emergency conditions. Other than that, unless the situation were literally lifethreatening, the rule was "stay where you are! Do NOT!!!!!!! go outside!" The bodies of people who went out in Phase III storms, didn't necessarily ever get found or if it were known where they had disappeared (down into a deep cold lake in one case), not necessarily recovered.

    MARCH 8, 1972

    The storm, perhaps the worst ever to hit the Thule Defense Area, was so severe that it set a meteorological record for the highest low altitude winds observed on the earth's surface: 207 mph. The actual wind speed is unknown as the anemometer was broken and blown off at the 207 mark; it is estimated that if the equipment would have been able to survive the storm, the true amount would have been higher. At 9:55 p.m. two J-Site dispatchers, Mr. Wayne Whaley and Mr. John Kurasiewicz, reported 207 mph winds were buffeting Shelter 7. The shelter is about three miles from J-Site. Both men were part of a team employed by ITT/Arctic Services Inc. at J-Site who constantly monitor a remote wind speed indicator for Shelter 7. By comparison, the highest wind speed ever noted on earth was 231 mph on top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire in April 1934.

    The Thule storm originated over the central United States and moved north along the west coast of Greenland. For more than 15 hours - from 4:55 p.m., March 8, to 8:05 a.m. March 9, the storm battered Thule and its vicinity producing one of the longest Phase III conditions ever. Thule Air Base experienced the second highest winds ever seen on the base - 110 mph at 11:55 p.m., March 8. As with most storms, off base locations were subjected to far worse wind and temperature conditions. P-Mountain experienced winds of 115 mph or greater for seven and a half hours from 7:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. and during three of those hours had winds of 140 mph or greater. J-Site reported winds of 115 mph or greater between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. with a peak gust of 146 mph. "Honors" for the highest winds went to Shelter 7 which experienced winds of 120 knots or greater between 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. The average temperature at all off-base locations was -15 F, giving an equivalent chill factor of -75 F. Winds off-base were so strong that they hurled rocks the size of baseballs for considerable distances. Jack Stephens, heating plant operator and weather observer at P-Mountain, has been in the Thule area since 1965 and gave this account: "This has to be the worst storm I've ever seen here. At the worst point, the sides of the building where I work were constantly being pelted by huge rocks and chunks of ice. And for the first time I can remember, even the roof really took a beating."

    Or here's another, (warning, there is a short audio track...)
    an account which includes the words Broken Arrow in it... The pictures are of the base, during the summer (there's light outside...) not the winter and certainly not in the middle of a Phase III (can you say "whiteout" ?). The flat-topped mountain out by/in the bay is Mt Dundas, the anti-air missile and its ilk were long gone by the time I was there, and there are no pictures of the BMEWS Site on the webpage. The Arctic cat was a different model than were there later when I was--I was too short to even consider volunteering to learn how to drive one, they were driven by people standing, not sitting as I recall. has a picture of a scene with no Phase storm, and the same scene during a Phase II. Phase III, would be a whiteout.

    #8 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 02:01 AM:

    Damn, Paula. When I was at the Kwajalein Missile Range from 1975-1978 Thule was always talked about as another one of those sites where we DOD contract workers could find work*; so, however, was Eleuthera in the Bahamas, which seemed a lot warmer to me. I didn't realize Thule could get that bad.

    *Another was Adak, in the Aleutians. I knew damned well I didn't want to live on a windswept island just south of the Arctic Circle.

    #9 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:13 AM:

    #8 Linkmeister

    It never really went below -40.... some veterans of missile capsules in North Dakota said North Dakota got colder.... Phase III storm, though, -those- were -nasty-. Hearing the howling wind through the scanner building and seeing the noise on the radar video displays.... and seeing the snow blowing into the hallway from under the door from -through- the barracks room of someone who had left the 6" X 6" window partly open, that was nasty, too! And in mere Phase I or Phase Alert, with the wing gusting up to 80 and the snow blowing into the stairwell of bus going between the radar site and the base, filling the stairwell with snow blown in through the bus doors....

    #10 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 06:32 AM:

    Yeah, I've been watching that one for the last couple of days. Caribou (forecast office) called it yesterday but Gray (forecast office) held off until last night. I think the difference in calling storm watch was due in part to the Caribou forecast district being more rural (fewer people overall, greater likelihood of people being out on the land / on the water under ordinary circumstances, more lead time required for extraordinary plans) and Gray being more urban at least by local standards (more people -> more opportunities for stupidity; more opportunities to get prepared at the last minute -> less lead time required.)

    As I explained to a gal at the office yesterday: "They're saying it can go a couple of different ways. The good way , we get a foot of snow."

    "What's the bad way?"

    "The bad way it stalls out and we get three feet."


    Topping it all off I'm having technical difficulties this week (awaiting shipment of electronica) but I will try to pop in occasionally so long as we have power. If we lose power for long, well, that's going to get interesting in a hurry (in the Chinese-curse sort of way.)

    #11 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 08:18 AM:

    We, on the other hand, are having Icepocalypse. Time to go break the seal on the car....

    #12 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 08:24 AM:

    I'm not pining for the fjords.

    #13 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 09:20 AM:

    Good thing I'm flying out of Maine today and not tomorrow! Keeping my fingers crossed that Newark will still be moving the planes around through mid-afternoon and after that it's a straight shot to SFO.

    #14 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 10:21 AM:

    Serge @ 12 ...
    Of course you aren't. You were in Oak land, not Pine land...

    #16 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 10:44 AM:

    Paula #7: The actual wind speed is unknown as the anemometer was broken and blown off at the 207 mark;

    Yikes! Down in VA, we've just got what sounds like a not-too-bad ice storm scheduled for New Year's Eve.

    #17 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 10:59 AM:

    We turned out to be mostly on the right side of the ice/snow line, so we have some slipperiness at the house with two inches of rather granular snow on top.

    re 15: Dang. We could have done that in the last storm-- the snow was perfect for it. Must lay hints on kids...

    #18 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:03 AM:

    Spent most of the weeks in the chilly and snowy Adirondacks. -5 F most mornings. I was getting kind of blase about it until we visited the shore of Fourth Lake, and the wind felt like spirits sucking out my life energy through the pores of my face.

    I'm flying out of White Plains on Saturday morning. Fingers crossed!

    #19 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:49 AM:

    I'm sick and tired of the snow. We've had enough for now, and it looks like we're going to keep having waves of it for a while.

    And our furnace is on its last legs (not to worry, the new one is coming Monday...), barely keeping the first floor above 55 degrees. Furnace company is going to provide a couple of space heaters for the first floor and basement because the whole thing will be off all night Monday night.

    Bah. But we're going to a fun New Year's celebration tonight. At a warm house.

    #20 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:56 AM:

    Just heard on NPR that the California snow pack is at 75 to 85% of normal, depending on where you are when you measure.

    More rain/snow, please.

    #21 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:14 PM:

    There is something wrong with the weather this year.

    Edinburgh, Scotland gets snow on the ground about one year in three, for maybe 24 hours. Well, we had snow on the ground in February. And we've had snow on the ground four times so far this December. A number of municipal councils have run out of salt/grit for the roads -- in Scotland, not England (where snowfall is a rarity).

    Did the north Atlantic thermohaline circulation just shut down, or something?

    #22 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:26 PM:

    North Atlantic thermohaline circulation seems to be doing just fine, unless 1 degree plus is considered cold for Dublin this time of year? It might just be, with the prose forecast at saying "bitterly cold", only to go on to supply numbers as low as minus four degrees. Hah, says I, having just returned from Germany where -20 weather didn't stop us from a leisurely walk around the forest.

    As for snow, I had it perfectly this year: 3 or 4 days of heavy, beautiful snow while visiting the family back in Germany, and that's that. There was a confused flurry of snow-like droplets earlier today, but it lasted all of two minutes.

    #23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:29 PM:

    xeger @ 14... Did I ever tell you about the time I was in Manhattan with people at whose place I was staying? That was in 1982. A neighbor who had a crush on the one who looked like Jennifer Love-Hewitt actually followed us all the way from Queens. It eventually got thru to him that we wished he'd go away.

    HIM to HER: "You can go back to Alaska. As far as I'm concerned, you can turn into an iceberg."
    ME: "Better that than an ugly berg."

    #24 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:31 PM:

    And then of course there's Portland (Oregon) where we're recovering from the ill effects of a 4" snow that hit unexpected about 3:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday. Total gridlock - took me 4 hours to make it across town (normally about 45 minutes). I even had chains, but just waiting to get around people who didn't (and most didn't) took forever. You'd think that after the foot of snow we got before Christmas last year, people would be more prepared.

    #25 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:50 PM:

    Daniel Klein@22: "North Atlantic thermohaline circulation seems to be doing just fine..."

    Okay, I *really read that* as "North Atlantic thiotimoline circulation".

    You don't want your thiotimoline to circulate. That's really bad. Once the vortex gets started, the stuff can eat its way all the way back to the Renaissance...

    No, wait, I've got it. Global cooling *is* real -- it's just running backwards. A thiotimoline-laced asteroid crashes in the North Atlantic in 2021, throwing a cloud of debris up into the stratosphere, which causes a "nuclear" winter... in the 17th and 18th centuries. We're working our way backwards through the footprint now; it's thinning out, or not yet thickening in, if you like. In a few years we'll approach the climactic norms for the planet. Better start building the dikes around New York and London. But we'll have to leave sea-gates in them, for when the tidal waves of 2021 come crashing down from the Appalachians and the Alps, blast their way to the shorelines, and converge on the impact site...

    #26 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:58 PM:

    It's an el niño year, folks, with all the wacky weather that implies. But don't complain too much: el niño is why we had almost no hurricanes last season.

    #27 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:24 PM:

    Andrew Plotkin @ 25... That sounds like a sure Hugo winner to me. :-)

    #28 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:31 PM:

    The North Atlantic thermohaline circulation should be relatively OK until the Greenland ice sheet goes. Where we put the Danes between Denmark going under the wave and the establishment of dirt on the currently icy parts of Greenland is unclear, but they will at least have a territorial possession to which they may go.

    Correctly picking when Greenland goes is probably going to be the single biggest determiner of economic success in the current century, looking back from 2100.

    #29 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:36 PM:

    Graydon @ 28... Where we put the Danes

    Claire Danes and Dane Cook?

    #30 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 01:46 PM:

    The local news stations here in Sacramento have started to get really blunt when it comes to winter weather warnings in the Sierras. They range from "Don't go out unless you have to," to the one I heard a couple of years back when a big storm blew through the area: "If you go up there, you will die."

    Given that they were warning about snow and 70 mph winds in the Donner Pass, I don't think the latter was overblown in the least.

    Now if people would only stay off the roads when it's foggy.

    #31 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:02 PM:

    oliviacw @ 24:

    According to the TV news there were over 200 accidents in Portland alone that evening, and hundreds of abandoned vehicles.

    IIRC you moved to Portland in the last few years, so you missed the gridlock of '92. It had all the fun of this last one, plus that fact that the snow started in the middle of Friday afternoon of a regular work week. Of course everybody rushed to get out of work early to miss the rush hour traffic, with predictable results. I was on the near east side of the city, by the river. It took 4 hours (including 45 minutes parked downtown to get coffee and something to eat at a pizzeria, and hope that some of the traffic would go away), to get home to the southwest side of the city, normally a 15-20 minute trip, even in moderate traffic.

    I heard some people claiming 8 hour delays to get home this week, so I guess the drivers were even more frantic. Luckily, I didn't have to go out this time; as far as I could tell watching people drive by my house, the roads were passable if you took some care and drove slowly. In '92 my experience was that much of the trouble was caused by people panicking and driving into things, or panicking and abandoning their vehicles in the middle of the road (I managed to get around one that was left in the middle of a 3 lane road on a steep hill (one lane downhill, two uphill)). ISTM that the gridlock in the areas near downtown was caused by people blocking the intersections at traffic signals, especially on the approaches to freeway entrances.

    #32 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:14 PM:

    Hrm, looks like eastern Massachusetts is going to miss the worst of it, thankfully. I was snowed in over Christmas with my folks, so I don't mind not being snowed in again.

    To everyone in the area of the storm, good luck. Stay warm.

    #33 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:29 PM:

    Andrew, #25: FTW! That made me laugh so hard it scared the cats.

    #34 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:29 PM:

    "I don't care if it rains or freezes, long's I got my velcro tires, stickin' my tires to the road . . ." (tune: Plastic Jesus)

    Studded tires are the way to go, although they should pay their way with a surtax on each one at the time of purchase, to cover road damage.

    They sound like velcro, too. Very reassuring.

    They are especially good for places like western Oregon, where it ices up regularly in the winter, and where snow is always unexpected by most people, and where most people don't know how to drive in our typical winter conditions.

    #35 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:49 PM:

    Andrew Plotkin @#25: awesome! How had I not heard of that most essential of papers before?

    But I do believe you're off by about 8 years. The asteroid is actually coming in 2029, and Russia is planning to mess with our time stream already: Commies to shoot down time-altering asteroid, or something. Clearly their plan is to make much more of Russia agriculturally viable so that Mother Russia can truly overwhelm the world with her multitudes. What the Russians have not considered in their plans, however, is Napoleon, who was only stopped by the harsh Russian winter. So I believe that in 2029, when the Russian launch their nuclear asteroid-nudger, time will stop, and hiccup, and we'll all wake up in under Global French Dominion.

    Mon Dieu! L'horreur!

    #36 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 03:57 PM:

    I realize this is tangential to this winter storm warning, but the next time Jim has time to do a detailed emergency-and-disasters post, one that deals with learning how to develop and use alternate routes would be good. This is something you can do whether you drive or use public transportation (or walk or cycle), and knowing what your choices are well in advance of the emergency, and being familiar enough with them that you can recognize the route in less than ideal circumstances can be very important.

    Along with that is knowing when it's a good idea to shelter in place, and when that might not be the best choice.

    Paula Helm Murray--I hear you about the snow--I'm visiting my mother in KC over New Year's and while most of the streets I've had to deal with so far are reasonably clear, there are all the little places that aren't clear yet, or that have become icy in the thaw-and-freeze routine that's going on. Good luck getting the new furnace in!

    #37 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:03 PM:

    Serge #6: The fall of snowploughs from the sky/Said ending of the world was nigh.

    #38 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:04 PM:

    xeger #14: For that pun you should be birched.

    #39 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:11 PM:

    Graydon #28: Correctly picking when Greenland goes is probably going to be the single biggest determiner of economic success in the current century, looking back from 2100.

    So then the only viable economic strategy would be to control when it happens by picking a date and manually cracking it, right? Covertly pre-position exploitation vectors, soak up the die-off, and win. Ta da!

    #40 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:16 PM:

    Daniel @22: yup, 1 degree is cold for Dublin. Councils across the country have run out of grit, which is okay, because they'd run out of overtime to use the stuff before that.

    As I type, snow is falling out the back garden. The unusual part is that it is sticking. This next-to-never happens in the city.

    #41 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:40 PM:

    Yes, there is a VERY light dusting here in Rathmines too, now. Cool! Go thiotimoline!

    #42 ::: Rick York ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 04:53 PM:


    I just left New Hampshire yesterday. Good timing, I guess. It's raining and chilly here in The People's Republic of Portland (OR). The day before I left Goffstown, outside of Manchester, the high Was 15 degrees and the wind chill was -10.

    Good Luck Jim

    #43 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 05:10 PM:

    Started snowing in Augusta, Maine about 2:30 local time. As of ten or fifteen minutes ago there was something like a half inch (or slightly more) of accumulation, roads slick and full of people who have forgotten how to drive on it and are in a hurry to get to wherever the beverages are tonight.

    I hear sirens. The stupid is loose.

    It's going to be a long night for the public safety and EMS people. Hat tip to Jim's colleagues in the region and I promise to try to stay the hell out of the way. (My booze and I are in the same building now, and we aren't going anywhere.)

    #44 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 06:02 PM:

    Tim Walters @ 2:

    ITYM Bergen. It doesn't rain much at all in Trondheim.

    It's midnight CET. Happy new year! I have to work tomorrow, so no partying...

    #45 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 06:14 PM:

    I've cancelled my usual walk to the pub to see Hogmanay in: the council's run out of salt and grit, the pavements are icy, I'm night-blind in one eye and a knee's acting up, and there'd be two hills to climb. Darkness, ice, hills: I'll take any two, dammit.

    (Oh, and it's -5 out, which is kind of nippy for Embra.)

    Happy new year, everyone. (Grumps, in the direction of the single malts.)

    #46 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 06:22 PM:

    Fragano @ 38... That seems a bit extreme, although not as bad as suggesting torture by fir.

    #47 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 06:23 PM:

    I actually haven't seen anything yet, but I bagged on the local First Night largely because the forecast suggested a possible ice storm, and the sky looked downright threatening.

    Just sitting at home with my fresh-backed bread and a cooling pot of chicken/veggie stock....

    #48 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 07:04 PM:

    Roy G. Ovrebo @ 44: You are right. Bergen is the rainy place. I wish my memory would either work or know it's not working...

    #49 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 08:49 PM:

    Older @ 34--

    Actually, studless snows are quite effective, even more so in Western Oregon than Eastern (we rarely have to deal with freezing fog, and that's the main circumstance I'd have studded tires on for), and very useful since you don't have to pull them but can run with them year-round. Makes driving through the downpours a lot nicer.

    I was walking in the snow on Tuesday and amused myself highly watching the fools try to drive uphill. It was pretty noticeable who was/wasn't winter-driving experienced. Was I going to drive in it? Absolutely not. Too many amateurs out there.

    (I work up on Mt. Hood and am a skier. Used to live in Eastern Oregon. Drive a Subaru with studless snow tires. Marvelous little car. Snow and ice are no problem for us--it's everyone else who worries me)

    #50 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 09:24 PM:

    NoVA was supposed to have 1-3 inches of snow & ice overnight, but there was only about a quarter-inch of ice at 10am and it was all gone by the time I had to leave for my rheumatology appointment. There's supposed to be some snow tomorrow, though.

    #51 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 09:55 PM:

    It is now officially snowing in Dublin. Like proper, throw snowballs at each other snowing. Seriously. Awesome. Everyone at the party here is going outside all the time looking at this new place. What is this city? Suddenly there's a layer of white on the place and no one recognizes it. Fortunately I'd planned on staying home and hosting a party anyway, so no problems of walking anywhere for me. Now, back to snow and red wine. Happy new year to everyone!

    #52 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 10:12 PM:

    @51 - Put syrup on it!

    (Clean snow, that is. For local definitions of 'clean' and also of 'syrup' - maple is traditional but use whatever's to hand)

    *thinks about going outside to set a bowl on the sidewalk overnight to get clean snow so she can put syrup on it tomorrow*

    #53 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 10:20 PM:

    How would snow interact with ambient pollution? I wonder how safe it would be to eat naturally gathered snow cones, especially in urban areas?

    #54 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 10:31 PM:

    Earl— I believe it would act much the same as rain does, where the first one cleans out the air but any subsequent ones should be safe. Check your local air-quality index if you're worried.

    #55 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:04 PM:

    Serge #46: My own preference involves being closer to the beech.

    #56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:30 PM:

    Fragano @ 55... Make sure not to bark your shingles. Or to bark up the wrong tree.

    #57 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 11:53 PM:

    So, don't eat gray snow. Check.

    #58 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 12:01 AM:

    Fragano Ledgister @ 38 ...
    xeger #14: For that pun you should be birched.

    That threat could cause me to take on an ashen hue...

    #59 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 01:32 AM:

    xeger @58: I thought it just shows how poplar you are.

    #60 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 01:36 AM:

    Ginger @ 59... In fact, we're rooting for xeger.

    #61 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 02:09 AM:

    I'm aspen yew, will we ever cedar end of these puns?

    #62 ::: KeithS ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 02:43 AM:

    Rainflame @ 61: Knot likely.

    #63 ::: AndrDrew ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 06:56 AM:

    Oakey, then - ow about just trimming them back?

    #64 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 07:41 AM:

    Why's everybody always pecan on puns? There's nuttin wrong with them!

    #65 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 09:24 AM:

    Happy New Year. Well, looking at the pattern of Winter Storm Warnings I can find this morning, it seems the storm is boycotting upstate New York and keeping its snow to itself until it gets to the other side of Lake Champlain. (Or perhaps NY and VT update their weather alerts on different schedules?)

    #66 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 10:27 AM:

    B. Durbin@54, Earl@53,57:

    How would snow interact with ambient pollution?

    It should be safer to eat it than to breathe it (although `don't eat the gray snow' is a good principle). A lot of the issue is particle size, and I know that when doing experimental exposures to air pollution it's very hard to get it back to being separate particles after you've collected it on a solid surface (probably even harder when you've drenched it with syrup, which isn't in any of our experimental protocols).

    Also,the quantities are pretty small and the digestive has a lot of detoxification processes built in, which will say: "I sneer at these nanogram quantities of peroxynitrates. Give me kimchee or Cajun blackened redfish".

    #67 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 10:56 AM:

    I see we're branching out -- and it goes against the grain to ignore it -- so let me just remind everyone to be careful as ricy roads are slippery. Willow be all right if we're cautious, though.

    #68 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 11:39 AM:

    It's plane to see some folk are already sycamore puns, but it's hard to avoid the kola of the warped fun :)

    #69 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 12:49 PM:

    That's right, oak us in puns.

    #70 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 12:53 PM:

    Mahoe pine these puns will see us well into the new year.

    #71 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 01:17 PM:

    Ginger @ 67: You mean all the drivers should sloe down?

    Well, Hoppy New Year to all (says the ale drinker).

    Charlie Stross @ 45: Sympathies for the loss of the single malts. Hope you at least had a reserve supply at home?

    #72 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 02:51 PM:

    Should punsters log off? Or just use trunkilizers?

    #73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 02:53 PM:





    #74 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 03:55 PM:

    It might just be, with the prose forecast at saying "bitterly cold", only to go on to supply numbers as low as minus four degrees.

    On the flip side, when my wife was studying in the UK, she recalls a newspaper headline "Heat Wave Continues" when the temperature was 72F.

    Here in MA we had a few inches yesterday and expect a few tomorrow. Of course this being New England that could mean anything from hurricanes to meteor strikes.

    #75 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 06:03 PM:

    London: is very cold (forecast -4 tonight), very clear. Late on NYE there was a light dusting of snow, just enough to let people draw on cars without breaking the law. Typical:

    LOAD OF SHITE 2010! and a drawing of a cock.
    COCK and a drawing of a cock. (On our car!)

    Typical of mine: CAR, on a car.

    #76 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 06:06 PM:

    Alex @75:

    We saw SNOW on one car.

    Which is kind of strange, really, since that's not the Dutch word and we're in the Netherlands. But it was a small car, and SNEEUW is a bit long.

    #77 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 08:06 PM:

    I wrote "NOOB" on my friends car during the great Portland snowstorm of 2007 (2006?). But that was back during the days when I could still convince my friends to play World of Warcraft with me, AND it was the same day that the Burning Crusade came out, so I was in a gaming state of mind. /sigh All of our family in Reading and Wales is overjoyed by the snow, and meanwhile, we suffer along in New Orleans with temperatures of nearly 10 degrees. Celsius.

    #78 ::: Angiportus ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 08:11 PM:

    We punsters are not just a splinter group.
    Happy new year, all of you, and here's hope that 7DA and all the years to come are good ones.

    #79 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 11:24 PM:

    Indeed, we ply wood fiercely beneath our thin veneer of civilization.

    #80 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2010, 11:48 PM:

    #28 Graydon

    Denmark handed over control of Greenland to the Greenlanders some years back.

    As for what's under the ice... in some places there is a lot of fresh water (see "Camp Century, City beneath the Ice"). Thule looked like the world's largest gravel pit to me, there was a LOT of gravel/rock, and very little in the way of soil. Here and there poppies grew, and there was actual grass where the Coast Guard Station had once been, west of Thule--there wasn't any grass at Thule. I did see what I think was an arctic willow, quite literally clinging for dear life to a large rock, it looked sort of like a deciduous low ground-clinging bushy thing, NOT a tree. Mostly what the landscape was, was rocks from gavel size on up. Farming that sort of stuff would require the sort of treatment that Heinlein had in his YA book set on Ganymede, was it, of rockchewing equipment etc.

    #81 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 01:27 AM:

    I could un-limb-er my own supply of puns but the late hour saps my ambition. You all who have leavened the discussion thusly ought to take a bough, however.

    #82 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 11:17 AM:

    Nicely put.

    New England weather

    #83 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 02:19 PM:

    #80 Paula

    Farmer in the Sky was my favorite Heinlein juvenile.

    #84 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2010, 10:34 PM:

    As of 10:30 pm local time, it's still snowing. It got heavier and windier this evening - my hubs went out to clear the driveway about 7:30 and said there was six inches since the last time he'd cleared the driveway, and another inch fell while he was doing it. Now you can't tell the driveway was cleared, between the new snow and the drifting. It's very windy tonight and I wouldn't be surprised if there are power outages, but at least it's not ice.

    #85 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 08:23 AM:

    In Westport, NY we got about 4 -5 inches of snow yesterday; expecting 6-12 today. David has to go back to Pleasantville to go to work tomorrow; down there there are high wind advisories.

    #86 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 09:24 AM:

    Good morning, internet.

    It's finally quit snowing more or less but I'm going to have to go downstairs to see how deep it really is because it's drifted up against the back window and all I can see is across the street.

    But I can see across the street, so it mustn't be that bad.

    #87 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 12:12 PM:

    Enough winter. Stop now, plz?

    Last night, just after the last fall melted, Edinburgh got another 10 centimetres of snow -- the fifth snowfall in three weeks. As noted previously: we normally get snow on the ground for about one day in every three years. The city council has now run out of salt and road grit, but the snow isn't quite deep enough for snow ploughs (at least, not in town). Driving and walking conditions are extremely treacherous everywhere, especially on the back streets. And last night the thermometers were down to -9 celsius.

    Did I mention, I live on a moderately steep hillside? There's a skating rink, right outside my front door ...

    ... And they're forecasting another 15cm of snow on Tuesday, and more on Wednesday and Thursday!

    It's enough to make me think about moving to Florida. And I hate hot weather.

    #88 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 12:24 PM:

    Charlie, not Florida! Summer at home, winter in Austin.

    #89 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 12:49 PM:

    Charlie @ 87... Have you considered New Mexico's Albuquerque? Sure, it gets cold in winter, and it snows sometimes, but nothing like what you have to put up with. Summers can be warm, but they're dry. No earthquakes. No tornadoes. Cheaper real estate. And we have probably have a much higher percentage of the local population that writes F/SF than many other parts of the world.

    #90 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 01:01 PM:

    Charlie, over here in the SE US we have a phenomenon called "halfbackers": northerners who move to Florida, decide they hate either the summer heat or the absence of seasons, and move halfway back to where they started from. Asheville, NC is a popular choice.

    #91 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 01:05 PM:

    Charlie Stross @ 87 -- If your usual pattern is one day with snow on the ground in every three years, I'm surprised that you even have snow ploughs.

    We've had at least a bit of snow every day for the last week and a half, but that's not unusual for Ottawa. I think we've had only one heavy snowstorm so far, and one serious round of freezing rain. So far. There's a lot more winter still to come.

    #92 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 01:05 PM:

    Charlie @ 87: a "moderately steep" skating rink? Lovely.

    Howver, be careful about moving to improve weather conditions: my aunt & uncle got fed up of Chicago winters and moved to Galveston, Texas, in 1983 - just in time to get nearly everything they owned wiped out by Hurricane Alicia...

    #93 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 01:14 PM:

    Charlie, allow me to point out that when Serge talks about summer in Albuquerque being "warm but dry," he means Australian-level hot, with temps routinely up around 40°C. That's pretty typical for most of the American Western Desert areas.

    #94 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 01:40 PM:

    Joel, it's one day of snow on the ground per three years in town. Edinburgh is on the coast, sheltered, and has a weird microclimate. Drive ten miles out into the sticks and there's serious snow on the ground every single year. Go two hundred miles further north and if you're out of town you'd be well advised to have a generator, a supply of fuel, and a 4WD vehicle with snow chains.

    #95 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 01:42 PM:

    Ahem: in Charlie-space, anything over 25 celsius (75 fahrenheit) is uncomfortably hot. Anything over -10 celsius (10-15 fahrenheit) is okay, as long as it's safe to walk (i.e. sidwalks aren't covered in black ice, as they are in the absence of grit).

    #96 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 01:43 PM:

    Well, it took some doing but I got the front door open (the snow had drifted against it) and the walk shoveled, and my squirrelfriend got the snowblower going and cleared the driveway, just in time for the light drizzle to turn back into snow.

    So it's not still snowing, it's snowing again. Just for variation.

    I think the storm total is going to be about 15-18 inches since Thursday afternoon, allowing for what settled during the warm band.

    I'm tired of this, but not enough to move to Florida.

    Not yet.

    #97 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 02:25 PM:

    I would happily trade several feet of snow for the three or so inches of ice we got out of what was supposed to be our last blizzard. Snow I like and dealing with it is relatively straightforward. Giant irregular sheets of ice made of sleet glued together by freezing rain and then a 40 degree(f) drop in temp, not so much.

    #98 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 02:57 PM:

    Charlie @87, 95 -

    The choice is essentially between Icers and Kahtoola Microspikes.

    Icers are big, burly metal golf cleats on a velcro strap on sandal; they're meant for substantial walking on essentially flat but icy surfaces. They're not ideal for deep snow (you get snow packing between your boot and the Icer) or rough terrain, but for walking on icy sidewalk they're extremely suitable. They also deal well with the bare patches; enough will cause cleat wear, but there's a replacement cleat kit for cheap. (This is an extremely Canadian product.)

    Kahtoola MICROspikes—to use the depraved marketing capitalization—are a domesticated strain of crampon in about the same sense that a miniature poodle is a sheep dog. They consist of a silcone elastomer loop that holds stainless steel spiked chains over the sole of your boot. They work very well on glare ice, packed snow, and hills. (I have climbed more than one icy slope in them.) They pack well (no sole surface), so getting them into a coat pocket for just-in-case purposes is not an unreasonable goal. Because they really do have (small) spikes on them, wearing them on wood floors, buses, etc. can be problematic, but they're easy to take on and off.

    Either is way cheaper than a bad fall.

    #99 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 02:59 PM:

    My least-favorite winter here was not the year we got 100+ inches of snow (average is ~29 inches), but the year we had fourteen winter storms, twelve of them ice. The worst of those started out as about a foot of snow, then turned to rain long enough for the snow to get slushy, then froze hard. We wound up with nine inches of solid ice.* The only saving grace was that the bottom quarter-inch was still slush, so that if you could break off a piece, you could pick it up and toss it aside. People were attacking it with pick-axes and baseball bats.

    *Note: These totals are right on the coast. Inland a few miles had more like twelve inches of ice by the time the storm was through.

    #100 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 03:17 PM:

    Still snowing. I'm debating over whether to drive the 3 miles to feed the barn cat. I think I should be a good cat mother and do it.

    #101 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 03:39 PM:

    Snowing again. Or still. Here. Even though the winter storm warning has been canceled.

    So far, I've seen worse. I guess the storm didn't stall off the coast.

    #102 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 05:18 PM:

    The current conditions here in central SCotland bring home certain things about American behaviour with winter conditions. For example, the common clearing of drives and pavements. Here people often don't clear pavements, although in past years I've seen the council grit or clear pavements with small tractor vehicles. Since they have apparently not been out this year I can onlys assume cost cutting or lack of evidence for usefulness.
    But also in the last 30 or so years, clearing the pavement has been redundant, because the snow never usually lies for more than a week. I recall many winters in the 80's and 90's where it would snow 2 or 3 times, each time it melted away after a few days. This occaision is the longest period of cold icy weather I can recall in central scotland.

    Which leads to problems, because the pavements have not been cleared since everyone is used to it melting, and now it has partially melted, re-frozen and become compacted. The same goes for the side roads, such that I couldn't move my car today because it was parked on ice.

    My school, being in central Edinburgh, never really say snow enough to ice up the playground more than once a year or maybe every two years. I recall various times since school, for example February 2002 when I had a broken thumb, when there was 3 or 4 inches of snow outside and inside Edinburgh, but after it stopped falling the gritters cleared it enough within a day, and everyone carried on as normal.

    Charlies central Edinburgh microclimate covers an area maybe 4 miles in diameter at most, although more usually I recall snow thickness falling off gradually as you drive from Juniper Green into Sighthill and then Gorgie. The rest of the central belt recieves much more snow, varying somewhat with altitude of course (Although I've not seen more than 6 inches in any one occaision myself and this time it has not fallen at once, just on and off over a period of nearly 2 weeks) but the general pattern for heavy snow in Edinburgh and Lothains was cold air coming from the east or north, which doesn't happen so often, especially in the last decade or two.

    I suspect something unusual is happening with the air masses over Europe and the UK, but I'm not quite sure where to find the information about them all, so will e-mail my dad and ask him.

    I've nearly doubled my winter driving experience these last 2 weeks. Previously the chances for such driving have been so few that I really have not been in practise. I think I can safely say that I am now. On Saturday morning I was driving with friends up from new year in Garlieston. The quickest road to Glasgow was over the hills, albeit an A road, and I expected some trouble. It turned out not to have been ploughed orgritted for a day or two, and after 4 miles we turned back. I didn't want to try and turn around until we found a safe flat area beside a house to do so, and when we did I got out to check the road surface. It was icy underneath partially melted snow. There wasn't more than 3 or 4 inches of snowon ths urrounding fields, but the freeze thaw cycle made the road dangerous, and we turned back.

    #103 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 09:03 PM:

    They are reporting that Burlington, VT got 32 inches of snow over the course of the storm. I am about 16 miles away, but we got maybe 6 for the whole storm. Maybe less.

    #104 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 09:45 PM:

    It tapered off this evening here in Augusta, ME. Four-day total estimated at about 18 inches before compacting.

    Still haven't got anything official for this area. I think they must have taken the weekend off. (either that or someone unplugged the automated weather unit at the airport a mile or so from here.)

    #105 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 09:57 PM:

    Or perhaps all the local weather spotters are also on
    search-and-rescue teams.
    (Link goes to local newspaper article.)

    Seems some young guy took his snowmobile to be serviced Friday evening and hasn't been seen since. With the storm last night the general hope is that he's broken into someone's (unoccupied / unheated) summer property and holed up for the time being, but at this point it seems more likely that he tried to cross the lake on a snowmobile and found a thin patch of ice the nasty way.

    I do hope they find him soon so his family aren't left hanging until spring.

    #106 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 10:07 PM:

    There is absolutely no evidence of the 4" of snow that Portland received the other day.

    I was expecting to get home and find that Oregon would look like New York.

    #107 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2010, 11:38 PM:


    Have you considered New Mexico's Albuquerque?

    I understand the left turns there are moider.

    #108 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 12:37 AM:

    It's been unusually snowy here in the Netherlands, too. It started with a light but disruptive fall on the 17th of December, for which the entire country seems to have been unprepared. Nothing was gritted, and the entire train network slowed to a halt under the unexpected white stuff*.

    That did the usual slush-to-ice thing and melted. And then it all happened again on Christmas morning. We've still got the last piles of that lying around.

    And now it's going to be a hard freeze. We may even reach ice-skating conditions for the second year in a row, which is unprecedented in recent memory†.

    Weird weather.

    * Yes, it's snowed here before in human history. I have no idea why the trains gave up.
    † And I'll probably be out of the country for it, grumble

    #109 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 05:57 AM:

    News reports today say that the UK had its coldest Christmas period in 25 years. Sub-zero temperatures across England (never mind Scotland) set to continue for at least another two weeks; the lowest temperature so far as -17 celsius in Braemore on Saturday night.

    I'm heading for warm, sunny, sub-zero London this weekend. Assuming the airports aren't frozen shut ...

    #110 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 09:06 AM:

    Graydon @98: A friend says that Yaktrax work very well too, and are easy to take on and off.

    #111 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 09:53 AM:

    #87 & #95 Charlie

    Try the Pacific northwest coast of North America, shy of most of Alaska. Vancouver's supposed to be quite nice, and mostly snow-free.

    I wonder if the Gulf Stream is starting to change its general path....

    #112 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 11:34 AM:

    *notes in passing that the phrase "sub-zero temperatures" implies something much colder in America*

    Discussing weather is the one area in which the Fahrenheit scale is distinctly superior to the Celsius. The range from 0 to 100 degrees F neatly covers most of the weather to which one will be subjected in a temperate climate; if you're getting into negative numbers, it's seriously cold.

    #113 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 11:41 AM:

    I second the recommendation for Yaktrax. They've kept me from bad falls for several winters now.

    #114 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 11:43 AM:

    *agrees with Lee*

    Also, Celsius degrees are too darn big. I'm not going to get into my issues with "what does 0/32 mean exactly", as that's common to both systems...

    #115 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 11:50 AM:

    The mnemonic I ran across a while back for Celsius:

    30 is hot
    20 is nice
    10 is cool
    0 is ice

    #116 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 11:55 AM:

    I wish someone would release "The Day The Earth Froze" on DVD.

    #117 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 12:00 PM:

    Pendrift @ 110

    If you check out the MEC user reviews, you will find the Kahtoola microspikes sitting at 5/5 with 30 reviews. You will find the Yaktrax at 3.4/5 with 40 reviews.

    I've never worn them myself but they're reported to be fragile, and to come off easily due to lateral forces. (Which is just what you don't want on icy stairs!)

    Like the microspikes, you need to be able to pull fairly hard at your feet to put Yaktrax on; if you're not up to that, the Icers, with well-thought-out velcro straps, are a much better choice.

    #118 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 12:58 PM:

    Graydon @ 98, in re Charlie @ 87 & 95:

    Or there are Yak Trax. Easily folded to place in a coat pocket, they use metal coils rather than spikes. Don't step onto a slickly tiled indoor surface wearing them or you'll slide, but they're fairly safe on, say, carpet, wood, bus floors and the like, and on ice they're awesome. I slipped on an icy sidewalk and broke my right ankle two years ago and so am understandably leery of slippery surfaces as a result, but when I put these on I can walk across ice as though it were bare pavement. That's what it feels like too - the awareness of having ice beneath my boots goes completely away. I swear by these, and so do the friends who have gone out and bought them on my recommendation.

    And as I look out my window, it's snowing again here in Cleveland. Lightly, thank goodness. We visited friends in Akron last night and on the drive home I wondered if Cuyahoga County's entire ODOT contingent were taking a coffee break en masse. On I-77 between the county line and I-480 you couldn't even see the lane markings in most places - hell, you could hardly see the highway at all, except for the fact that there were other vehicles and tire tracks present as a clue.

    #119 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 01:01 PM:

    I can report that London is officially fucking cold. This level of coldth comes well after bloody cold, after shitting cold, but before frostbite is diagnosed.

    #120 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 01:03 PM:

    Note to self: refresh and check before submitting post if you've left it for a while in mid-edit...

    #121 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 02:28 PM:

    To the capitalised Alex:

    "fucking cold... shitting cold ... frostbite", demands the question, 'frostbite on what?'

    It is forecast to be -6 on the south coast of England later this week. [And yes, I spit on your antiquated Fahrenheit scale]. That, I submit, is bloody fucking cold. At least, that's what I say as I wait for the bus.

    #122 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 02:39 PM:

    Summer Storms @ 118... there were other vehicles and tire tracks present as a clue

    If this were a Roadrunner cartoon...

    #123 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 02:45 PM:

    Carrie, #114: Yes, the coarser graininess of Celsius degrees can be a problem too. 29°C can be either "tolerably hot" or "fucking miserably hot" depending on whether it's 29.1 or 29.9, but nobody ever gives the tenths.

    #124 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 02:56 PM:

    alex @121 -

    -6 C? I think you can readily make a case for "unwontedly cold", but that's barely hat weather.

    Or are you getting weather reports that don't include the wind chill? (-6 C and -6 C with a 60 km/hr wind are very different things from a dying-in-a-ditch perspective.)

    #125 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 03:54 PM:

    Graydon - -6 is certainly hat weather, unless you are very active as I was trying to break up ice on the road at-4 a couple of nights ago. And you must surely be aware that people's perception of temperature is somewhat variable due to experience and physiology etc.
    -4C is sufficiently out of the ordinary for soft southerners as well as feeling worse than a mere 0C. And regretfully our weather forecasts don't always include windchill, although fortunately this cold spell has been accompanied with weak winds, at least in the more heavily populated areas.

    Also, most people don't have the clothing for hanging around in -4, because in the SE of England they don't see it very often. Therefore they will feel very cold and sweary and definitely notice not having a hat on because they are in fact cooling pretty quickly, certainly much more so than a well prepared USA'ian or Canadian.

    #126 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 04:04 PM:

    Guthrie @125 --

    Certainly perception of cold varies a great deal.

    But -6 C without strong wind is "shirt, sweatshirt, jacket" weather. I would suppose that anybody on the Isle of the Mighty has a wind and rain proof jacket or coat of some kind, and a modicum of layering under that ought to work.

    But I suppose it might well be like the Caribbean-extraction grad students in big fluffy down coats in October, all a matter of what you're used to.

    #127 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 04:07 PM:

    Meanwhile, we had a cold November followed by one chinook/southwester/easterly after another. IIRC it was almost 40 degrees F on Christmas Day. Frost perhaps two days out of the Twelve so far. Raining hard right now.

    (Location: Kodiak Island.)

    #128 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 04:19 PM:

    With respect to the Caribbean, it doesn't take long to adapt to the ambient temperature, so that a 40C day becomes "pleasant" and a 25C night becomes "freezing".

    No, not long at all. And when I returned to the US, the ambient temperatures were "well below freezing", around 13, 14C, maybe even 12C at night. My cats, being Caribbean-born, had never been so cold in their short lives. Consequently, I was pinned at night by five bodies attempting to huddle against me, and slept quite poorly. Once summer arrived, in Oklahoma, with temperatures near 40C, we were all much more comfortable..even with central a/c, my housemates (who had also adapted to Caribbean temperatures) and I agreed upon a relatively balmy 24C, which was tolerated by all.

    This morning, at -6C without wind chill, it was noticeably chilly and the wind made the wearing of a good hat absolutely necessary. Currently, at 4 pm, it is 0C, and I expect it will be very pleasant after my day in my office which went as hot as 33C, due to issues with the central controls. (Started at 24C, dropped to 20C, rose to 33C, and is still 30C.)

    #129 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 04:27 PM:

    If, like me, you keep losing your Yak Trax or other snow grippers, consider having your boots studded. You have to have heavyweight boots with thick soles, such as Sorels, and of course you have to know a tire shop that will stud them for you. I quit falling down after I got my boots studded. It cost me $12 and I had to leave them overnight. You do sound rather loud indoors and you should take your boots off before walking on a linoleum or hardwood floor.

    #130 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 04:35 PM:

    Graydon #126 - certainly I've seen a down jacket or two, but the standard sort of jacket and layering which you describe is not sufficient for standing around in -6 and still feeling warm, in my experience. I've stood about in such a combination waiting for a bus or three that never came, and boy was I cold after 20 minutes, even although at that time I was fit and healthy.

    On the other hand I reached the summit of Stob Binnein in ice and snow and a bit of a breeze with only a thermal base layer, gloves and waterproof jacket on my top half. Oddly enough when I stopped I had to put on my buffalo shirt just to keep warmish.

    #131 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 04:54 PM:

    Guthrie @130 --

    Based on Stob Binnein, you know the rule about head/hands/feet losing half your heat, so you're not doing the "big coat, no gloves" thing and wondering why you are cold. (Though certainly a great many people do that, to my continual wonderment.)

    The British Army did a post-Falklands lessons-learned; the informal summary of the report on infantry performance could be described as "We appear to have three body types; big slabs of beef, running snakes, and plugs. In the cold, the big slabs of beef starve, the running snakes freeze, and the plugs keep right on plugging along." My body type definitely partakes of the plug nature, and this probably also affects my perception of cold.

    #132 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 06:11 PM:

    Running snake would describe me anyway. (Although that has been somewhat damaged by chronic fatigue from glandular fever) I suspect some of the moaning about the temperature also comes from lack of familiarity with functioning whilst your hands and feet are semi-frozen.

    Part of the problem in London is that the underground is always 5 or 10 degrees warmer than topsides, not to mention heating in buses, so it is a bit harder to match clothing to expected conditions.

    #133 ::: Paula Helm Murray` ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 06:25 PM:

    Alex, our nights have been below 0 F here in KC.

    But they got the new boiler installed, running and the radiators bled so they are starting to warm up. (See Paula do a Kermit T. Frog wave). I was up all night last night worrying about my house freezing solid over night tonight--I have 10 big steel radiators plus all the plumbing of a 2000+ square foot house. And the furnace people couldn't guarantee getting running tonight.

    But they did. They'll be back to fine-tune it, re-bleed radiators, etc.

    And as a bonus, they will be leaving a radiator key plus they found one under the radiator that's been bench-seated in in Margene's room. Makes it way easier for us to bleed them ourselves.

    #134 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 07:55 PM:

    Guthrie @132 --

    I get 6 weeks of pleasant temperatures in a typical year. (Then either summer comes in or other people are in control of the thermostat.)

    The bus problem, well, that's why one removes hat and gloves and opens the coat, I find. Pit zips if necessary.

    #135 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 08:23 PM:

    guthrie, #134, Graydon likes colder weather than most of us do. The year we were both at Minicon, most of us were wearing regular winter clothes outside and he was wearing shorts.

    #136 ::: Summer Storms ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2010, 10:49 PM:

    Marilee, my husband does that. I've also seen him shovel snow while wearing shorts. I wish I had his ability to feel warm in chilly temperatures.

    #137 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:05 AM:

    Humidity matters almost as much as temperature, at least for hot weather. 30C is pleasant in dry areas like Colorado or Arizona; it's too hot in humid areas like most of the East Coast or Southeast. (I grew up with summers that were often hotter than that, and 90% humid.)

    Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, on a typical summer day, 10-15C is the San Francisco coast, 20-25 is the Bay, 35 is Livermore, 40 is the Central Valley; pick a temperature and you can drive there in less than an hour. On a typical winter day, it's pretty much 10-15 everywhere.

    #138 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:48 AM:

    guthrie @ 132 Part of the problem in London is that the underground is always 5 or 10 degrees warmer than topsides, not to mention heating in buses, so it is a bit harder to match clothing to expected conditions.

    That's nothing compared to my experiences in the USA, which has generally been that in winter they make the buildings too warm to wear more than a T-shirt and thin trousers (a big problem when you're wearing thermals and padded trousers to cope with the outside temperature in Wisconsin in February), while in summer most places are so over air-conditioned you need to put a sweatshirt on when coming indoors.

    #139 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 05:46 AM:

    Marilee #135 - that explains it then.

    Has anyone else found that they experience mild discomfort at the the change of the seasons, in winter to spring and autumn to winter? I think I do (Not that self reporting is very reliable) as a result of the changes in temperature there comes a time when it gets cold enough that I feel cold and out out of sorts, but in a week or two I have adjusted and the coldness doesn't matter. Then the same thing happens in reverse in Spring - it seems quite warm for a while then I adjust and its normal.

    #140 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 07:58 AM:

    Headline found this morning on Comcast's site...

    U.S. Chilled by Freezing Weather

    Tomorrow's headline...

    Clothes moistened by heavy rains
    #141 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 08:10 AM:

    Well may you laugh, but southern England is now threatened by a foot - yes, a whole foot - of snow! It is the end, I tell you, the end...

    Mind you, if we can't pipe in enough natural gas to run the central heating, it might just be...

    #142 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 09:19 AM:

    guthrie @ 139: I get that also--I have to re-acclimatize a bit at every major shift in seasons. I don't have particularly good temperature regulation to begin with, though. It seemed to have been easier on me when I lived in the high desert (eastern Oregon vs southern Finland) and it rather dry, but then again I was younger and healthier, too.

    #143 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 10:08 AM:

    #139, #142, I get the seasonal adjustment thing in the summer. Temperatures get into the summer ranges for Los Angeles (90+F) and I get grouchy and grumpy for a while. Then I adapt. However, anything over 105F, and no adaption is made. I just stay grumpy. Too bleedin' hot.

    #144 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 10:53 AM:

    guthrie, #139: Not exactly that, but I do notice that if I go north in the early fall (mid-September to mid-October), 1 day is enough to reset my climate expectations and comfort level -- I grew up in the Detroit area. Then I come back to Houston and spend the next week complaining about the miserably hot weather.

    #145 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 11:52 AM:

    Oooh! Oooh!

    Middle Tennessee has a winter storm watch posted--we have a prediction for a whole two to four inches of snow between late Wednesay and Thursday! We'll be--OK, I know, we're dealing with what they can get in an afternoon in Minnesota or New England and consider a light dusting.

    It doesn’t sound like all that much snow, but then, this is Tennessee we’re talking about here, so we should expect a complete social collapse, with people being eaten by their pets and bands of feral children roving the streets wrapped in bedspreads and curtains, wielding knives made from car parts.

    On the other hand, it is cold enough that we can count on the snow to stick, which is a change from the usual fall-and-melt routine.

    #146 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 12:37 PM:

    guthrie @139 -- Has anyone else found that they experience mild discomfort at the the change of the seasons, in winter to spring and autumn to winter?

    Germans speak of "Spring Fatigue" (Frühjahrsmüdigkeit), specifically at the very beginning of spring/end of winter. There is some speculation that the symptoms are the result of the body adjusting to more light and warmer temps, but there doesn't seem to be any hard research that I've ever found.

    Interestingly, no one talks about this type of fatigue at other season change times, and there doesn't seem to be a comparable phenomenon in other countries (that I'm aware of, anyway). I was only ever familiar with the English-language-related concept of 'spring fever', which is very positive and energizing.

    #147 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 01:24 PM:

    "...with people being eaten by their pets and bands of feral children roving the streets wrapped in bedspreads and curtains, wielding knives made from car parts...."

    And how, pray, will anyone notice a difference?

    #148 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 02:24 PM:

    Well, usually the feral children are in school, learning to be consumers, but if it snows here (any anount over "a trace"), the schools will be closed (possibly for a week), and the little dears will be out in the streets, acting out what they've seen in the videogames they all got for Christmas.

    We'll be reduced to a howling wilderness of random chaos, and you woun't be able to buy a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, milk in any amount, or toilet paper anywhere between Bowling Green, Kentucky and the northern suburbs of Atlanta. There's also a good chance of a syrup shortage, with people showing up at hospital emergency rooms with diabetic complications from eating the all the French toast they ended up making with the extra bread, milk, and eggs on hand.

    When it's all over people in snowier parts of the planet will laugh at us, and we'll get all huffy and go off by ourselves and exchange stories about what we went through in the Great Blizzard of 2010.

    Significant snow in the Deep South is even funnier than in states like Kentucky and Teneesee--it's treated as the sort of once-in-a-lifetime event a 8.0 earthquake might be; people stand at their windows, and stare, or huddle in small groups outside, staring at the white stuff in utter disbelief. Trips less than two miles in length are discussed in terms of one of Shackleton's expeditions, and people who survive them feel like they are one up on Amundsen. It's usually all gone in two days at most, but those who have been through it conduct themselves as befits those who have been through a life-changing event and are there to tell the tale, rather like the Ancient Mariner, or Ishmael.

    #149 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 02:42 PM:

    Fidelio@145: Well, I'm glad the pets will be okay, anyway.

    #150 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 02:49 PM:

    Having gone through snow in New Orleans, and winter in the Deep South when the temperatures really dropped below normal for the region at this time of the year, lows temps and snow aren't entirely jokes. The amount of snow may be small and it may hang on briefly, but it is still enough to affect the roads and driving of people without much if any experience with the same. Ice is a real problem. The houses are built to preserve any coolth possible, so with all the humidity, it is very uncomfortable.

    Thank goodness for sheep and their wool, and garments made from wool. And cashmere goats, for the matter. And down.

    As you can imagine, trying to heat homes with very high ceilings and many windows and cross ventilation is very expensive.

    Love, C.

    #151 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:07 PM:

    Constance, you're right about that--I joke about it, but a large number of people here in the southern US do not have much, if anything, in the way of real cold-weather gear, and there are plenty of houses, especially in the coastal states, that do not have central heat--not all of which were built before 1950. People also have little or no experience in dealing with prolonged periods of extreme cold or substantial amounts of snow (I think we all agree that dealing with ice in any notable quantity is a problem with few good solutions everywhere) and so the precautions that are a matter of course elsewhere are foreign to them.

    I can understand some of this in places like New Orleans, where a killing frost, let alone a snowfall, is indeed a strange and amazing thing, but it always amuses me that Tennesseans should be so oblivious to their own weather patterns that they are constantly blind-sided by it. I don't expect people here to have studded snow tires, but a general awareness that winter weather in these parts tends to involve temperatures under 40 degree Fahrenheit and may result in freezing (or frozen) precipitation seems reasonable.

    #152 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:22 PM:

    fidelio, #151: always amuses me that Tennesseans should be so oblivious to their own weather patterns that they are constantly blind-sided by it. I don't expect people here to have studded snow tires, but a general awareness that winter weather in these parts tends to involve temperatures under 40 degree Fahrenheit and may result in freezing (or frozen) precipitation seems reasonable.

    Exactly. I lived in Nashville for 26 years, and there was never a winter when it didn't get below freezing for at least a few weeks, and there was at least a dusting of snow every year, snow that stuck every couple of years, and sleet/ice storms every 5-10 years. And yet, as you note, a lot of people seem to be blindsided by it every damn time, and react as you'd expect to see from people on Aruba. I always had one good heavy winter coat and a pair of snow boots in the closet, even if I bought them at Goodwill -- and there was plenty of cold-weather gear to be had there, mostly from people who moved from further north with the (mistaken) idea of, "Well, I'll never need these things again!"

    People in Houston are even worse. While it's warmer here than Nashville, winter temps around 40 are not rare, and we do get snow every couple of years. I can see not bothering with a heavy coat, but layers, people! I go out to the grocery on a day like today, and there are people wearing T-shirts with shorts and sandals, complaining bitterly about the cold. Don't they have long pants, maybe a flannel shirt, a lightweight jacket? Socks, fercryinoutloud?

    #153 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:38 PM:

    Lee, I flew back to Nashville from Kansas City last night (and I am glad to hear that Paula Helm Murray & co. have the new boiler in, because it is seriously cold there right now) and there was a woman at the Nashville airport who had come to pick someone up who was wrapped in one of those two-layer polar fleece throws that were last year's big craft item. You would have thought we were in Miami when they have one of those temperature drops to 45 degrees.

    We're supposed to have a warm spell next week--I guess that'll give everyone a chance to go out and buy Snuggies, which they can wear outdoors and on the couch.

    #154 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:51 PM:

    On the first leg of my flight home on Saturday I sat next to a young guy from Gambia on his way to Memphis to start school. I helped him figure out which gate in O'Hare to head for for his connection.

    He had a sweatshirt and leather jacket and cap made of sweatshirt material.

    I thought about suggesting he get a wool sweater and cap at least, but decided not to. It didn't seem likely at the that Memphis would have the brutal weather it seems to be getting now.

    Sorry kid!

    * * *

    #153 " . . . go out and buy Snuggies, which they can wear outdoors and on the couch."

    Am I the only person who sees "Snuggie" and thinks "disposable diaper?"

    Yeah, I know that they're those ludicrous overhyped sleeve blankets, but still . . .

    #155 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 03:56 PM:

    Constance @150 and Fidelio @151 there are plenty of houses, especially in the coastal states, that do not have central heat--not all of which were built before 1950. I lived in the New Orleans area for 7 years in the late 70s and early 80s. Never saw snow there, but I remember one bad ice storm, which is especially bad where (1) there are rarely sub-freezing temps, and (2) many of the highways are elevated. (That "bridges ice before roadways" bit? There, the roadways are bridges.) And I also remember the Christmas we were out of town for an unexpected freeze, and so unable to leave a faucet dripping to keep the water flowing. We had central heat, but the completely uninsulated pipes underneath our raised, 40-year-old house froze. We came home after the thaw to water pouring down our driveway. But at least all the water was coming from under the house, and not in the walls and such.

    #156 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 04:21 PM:

    In late December 2008, I was exposed to the weird but awesome sight of the Mojave Desert covered by snow.

    #157 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 06:06 PM:

    10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) of snow brought Greater Manchester to a halt today. I live on the solitary bus route into the city centre that *wasn't* closed down at some point in the day, so I was heroic and went into work, where those of us who'd made it in spent the first hour or two frantically juggling resources in an effort to match available clients with available staff.

    The problem is that this sort of prolonged freeze really is a once every couple of decades event, and it is not cost-effective to put into place the sort of control measures that are used by places that consider 10cm to be a light dusting. This is *not* helped by 10cm of snow somewhere that cycles round the freezing point several times in one afternoon being not the same thing as 10cm that won't see the other side of freezing for the next three months.

    #158 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 06:10 PM:

    Having done plenty of running about on mountains, and having lived in Vienna, if I get even colder I'm going to move to shell/polartec fleece/sweat/t-shirt order and boots. Also, I recall astonishing the citizens of various places by not wearing a coat when it was quite warm really; being a Yorkshire ranter it comes naturally.

    It's now snowing really heavily after a first and second attempt earlier in the day. Fortunately, we got my grandfather's funeral away and everyone well on their way before the fimbulwinter hit.

    #159 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 06:37 PM:

    Here in the UK, there's been an unintended consequences effect which has hit snow clearance.

    Back when I was young, there were several dairy farmers in and around the village, and they had small tractors with attachments to shift the cow-shit. Essentially a small bulldozer blade with a rubber strip along the bottom edge. For the occasional heavy-enough-to-be-awkward snowfall, this sort of gear was ideal for clearing roads.

    There were two big changes. Dairy farming stopped being a reliable source of income, because the farmer-owned monopoly was broken up. Dairy farming had never been easy money, but the less reliable pricing of milk meant you had to be bigger to be able to stand the increased risk. And various rules on using farm machinery on the roads were interpreted more strictly. It wasn't that anybody was going to make a fuss, but there was a clause in the insurance policies which came into effect. Nobody would want to take you to court, but it was an illegal use, and so the insurance policy wouldn't cover any accidents or public liability claims.

    So you had a few contractors, using farm-type machinery for highways work, year-round. Things such as trimming hedges. They didn't have enough use for the hardware. And the few farmers who did still have livestock, didn't have enough work of that sort to be worth the extra cost and hassle of staying legal.

    By the early nineties, there were no dairy farmers in North Kelsey, and the village was cut off by heavy snow until outside help arrived. Oh, yes, there were Land Rovers and their like, but most of the population worked in nearby towns, and they were trapped. Not every year, and since they usually did their shopping in a supermarket they suddenly couldn't get to...

    The village shop had a day or two of very good sales, and would then run out of stock.

    The snow doesn't have to be worse to be a bigger problem.

    #160 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 06:54 PM:

    The constant temperature cycling around zero celsius is the real problem. If it'd get warm, the snow would melt and run away. If it'd get nice and cold and stay cold, the snow wouldn't melt, but would sit in gradually-darkening drifts. But with the constant cycling between -8 and +1, it keeps melting and re-freezing into sheets of black ice.

    One of the problems the south-east of the UK has with weather like this is that residential streets get swept last, if at all. But the folks who drive buses or trains can't afford to live in the centre of London, so they're used to driving to the depot to pick up the train or bus -- or catching a night bus. Which is great, until they're snowed in at home in the last-to-be-swept suburbs ...

    (Luckily for me, the habit of visiting Boston in February most years has given me both a suitable wardrobe and experience in applying it to this kind of weather. Right now I'm kind of looking forward to going somewhere so cold that the snow doesn't melt and people are used to clearing the pavement. Just as long as my knees don't blow out first, from all the extra tension involved in walking on ice everywhere.)

    #161 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 06:55 PM:

    Dave - this was also the solution in the Yorkshire Dales in the 90s. WYCC or NYCC would grit and clear the main routes, Mr X Random would do the side streets.

    #162 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2010, 07:13 PM:

    According to this Houston Chron article, Friday's low in Houston may be colder than the low for MacMurdo Station in Antarctica. (I looked them up on Weather Underground, and it's now looking like both will hit 22F, and on Thursday and Saturday it'll be a balmy 28F in McMurdo and 23-25 in Houston.) Of course, it's midsummer in Antarctica and winter up here, but still....

    #163 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 02:54 AM:

    It's here! Southern England lies prostrate beneath up to eight inches of snow! Two miles from where I sit, drivers have been trapped in cars on a main highway for 12 hours. There is panic buying in shops, and more snow to come. Send good wishes, send money, send the Marines!

    #164 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 09:06 AM:

    alex @163:
    Send good wishes, send money, send the Marines!

    It's next year now. Are clowns welcome?

    #165 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 09:16 AM:

    alex, if we send the Marines they'll get stuck in the snow as well.

    #166 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 11:12 AM:

    It is into the sucking vortex of insanity that is London In The Snow that I am doomed to fly tomorrow, around lunchtime. Ieyah! Ieyah! Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn! If I'm not back by Monday, send out search parties, m'kay?

    #167 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 11:17 AM:

    Yes, the snow-melt-freeze-melt-freze cycle is lethal for producing sheets of ice.

    Additionally, in the UK, when we've cleared the snow off the pavement (sidewalk!) outside our drive/house, neighbours, while thanking us (look, no sheet ice), have warned us that the local council says don't do it: if you clear it and someone then falls, apparently you're liable, while if you don't clear it, you're not...

    Julia Jones @ 157
    Bus route from which side (north or south?). I remember wishing for skis in northern Greater Manchester in the winter of 1981/82.

    #168 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 11:38 AM:

    166: I'm actually in the Sucking Vortex of Insanity right now, and I don't think you need to worry. It's not so bad. In fact, things aren't really disrupted that much --
    Great God! Even as I type they are dragging me away! The penguins! The horrible blind penguins!

    #169 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 11:46 AM:

    Charlie Stross @ 166... the sucking vortex of insanity that is London In The Snow

    Reminds me of the grand finale of the sucky big-screen version of The Avengers.

    #170 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 11:59 AM:

    Ah, yes, The Avengers: a classic example of four excellent theses of film making.

    1) You can't assume you're going to like it, just because it has a really good cast. Also known as The Man in the Iron Mask Rule.

    2) You can't assume you're going to like it just because it's a film version of a really good series. AKA The Constantine Rule.

    3) You can't assume you're going to like it just because it's got Sean Connery in it. AKA The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Rule.

    4) You can't assume you're going to like it just because it has an extremely attractive woman in a leather catsuit in it. AKA the Catwoman Rule.

    #171 ::: Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 12:02 PM:

    It must have been about 10-12 years ago when it snowed in Phoenix on Christmas Eve.

    I was in a local mall and they announced it over the loudspeakers. When I, along with most of the rest of the mall shoppers, hurried outside to have a look it was, indeed, snowing. Nothing sticking, just a few ambitious flurries coming down, along with some thunder, and the air temperatures were in the 40's.

    The drive home was a nightmare. It wasn't that the roads were icy, and the snow wasn't even sticking to the grass, but there were a million accidents anyway. My theory is that people were simply staring at the sky rather than the brakelights in front of them.

    It really doesn't snow here all that often.

    #172 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 12:32 PM:

    ajay @ 168: Great God! Even as I type they are dragging me away! The penguins! The horrible blind penguins!

    The blind penguins aren't so bad. The problem comes when they get a bit too friendly with the Great Old Ones during those long, long Antarctic winter nights.

    #173 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 12:40 PM:

    A few years ago here in Raleigh, the weather forecasters told everyone "don't worry, we're going to get a few flurries today, no more than an inch max". Except, it was bitterly cold that day, hovering around 23 degrees at the warmest, with a strong wind. The ground and pavement were frozen solid already, so when the snow fell, all the cars driving on it turned it to water, which instantly froze to the pavement.

    Fortunately, I had taken my wife to the dentist that morning, and we were already safely home when the chaos began. Roads began freezing up, cars began spinning out of control, and worse yet, everyone was still at school or work.

    By the time anyone realized what was happening it was too late; roads were already jammed with stuck cars, every intersection had a crash at it, no one could go anywhere and everyone wanted to go somewhere.

    Some of my coworkers took 14 hours to get home; some stayed at work rather than make the attempt. My wife and I looked out the windows at home and commented on how pretty the snow looked while it was falling...

    #174 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 12:43 PM:

    You can't assume you're going to like it just because it's a film version of a really good series. AKA The Constantine Rule.

    You know, I had precisely the opposite reaction to that film: I did like it quite a lot, but thought it was a "version" of the comic book only by virtue of having characters with the same names and general lifestyles. (Otherwise known as "How I can enjoy Xena and Hercules despite having a more than passing knowledge of the myths and histories they mangled.")

    #175 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 12:49 PM:

    ajay #168: In fact, things aren't really disrupted that much -- Great God! Even as I type they are dragging me away! The penguins! The horrible blind penguins!

    I made the mistake of looking up the phrase "blind penguin" at the Urban Dictionary. (shudder) Must think about Happy Feet! Happy Feet! What has been danced cannot be undanced....

    #176 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 01:13 PM:

    I posted too soon: LCY is closed due to snow on the runway. EDI is still open, but we're expecting a copious cloud-dump in the wee small hours. So I'm probably going to get up tomorrow to discover that the two airports I want are in alternating states of snowed-in-ness.

    (Plus, there's the small matter of one of the performers at the gig Feorag wants to go to on Thursday night having to make it in, with instruments, from Bath. The probability of something being cancelled just in order to fsck up our weekend is high.)

    #177 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 01:34 PM:

    ajay @ 170... Good rules, although two of the movies you give as examples are movies I like. ("Why are we not surprised?") What I remember the most painfully about The Avengers is how the attempts at witty exchanges all fell flat.

    #178 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 03:49 PM:

    Amsterdam has locked up completely after 15cm of snowfall. Martin took 4 hours to get the kids home from a karate lesson, a journey that usually takes 20 minutes.

    I'm not deeply sorry to be out of the country, given that.

    #180 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 04:39 PM:

    I have this dilemma - I am doing a degree in London just now, but don't have to be back until next TUesday. I was planning on getting the train from Edinburgh tommorrow, although my ticket is valid for a couple more weeks.

    But seeing what is going on just now and given I'm renting a room in a late 19th century badly insulated house with single glazing, I think I'd rather stay here in Falkirk in my nicely insulated modern flat and visit a few friends and enjoy the snow. Ok, there's a library book due back but I think I can afford the fine.

    When I put it like that it doesn't seem much of a dilemma. And if I stay up here I get to walk the bulldog puppies as well.

    #181 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 04:48 PM:

    Weather's cold cool brisk but not unpleasant in central Maine (High today 32F/0C, low last night 25F/-4C) and a dusting of snow yesterday that didn't do much but cover up some of the grit.

    The missing snowmobiler has not yet been located, but bottom of the lake is starting to seem unfortunately likely.

    If you enjoy winter sports, pay attention to the safety of your ice.

    #182 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 04:58 PM:

    We've just gone under a "Winter Weather Advisory" here in Central Ohio.* There are "Winter Storm Warnings" due west of us in Indiana. This looks like a lusty storm...

    *Note: the snow isn't due to start falling until after 10am tomorrow.

    #183 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 05:01 PM:

    The missing snowmobiler has not yet been located, but bottom of the lake is starting to seem unfortunately likely.

    [monstrously uncharitable thoughts about snowmobiles and the best place for them with or without their riders omitted here]

    I hope the snowmobiler is found alive and nursed back to health, but that the snowmobile is lost forever. An unlikely combination, perhaps, but one can hope.

    #184 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 06:11 PM:

    Charlie Stross @ 160:

    Even worse than temperature cycling around freezing is when the temperature stays within half a degree (C) of freezing. Precipitation becomes what is not-so-fondly referred to as "winter mix", an unholy combination of snow, sleet, and rain, that typically turns to wet-surfaced ice (possibly covered by wet snow) on the ground, tree branches and power lines. Add fog that freezes to everything and you have a skating rink with downed trees and power lines for an obstacle course.

    This happens in Portland at least once every 3 or 4 years (used to be every year at least once, but that was before the seas started to rise). This leaves a mystery: how is it that people can forget from one year to the next how to drive in those conditions, so much so that the city is gridlocked by accidents and stuck vehicles for hours by a measly 4 inches of snow, so that for some people it takes 6 hours to drive home from work?

    #185 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 06:30 PM:

    #184: Traumatic amnesia. The same thing that keeps Taco Belle in business.

    #186 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 06:32 PM:

    I finally turned on my heater for the first time this season (due to a freeze warning). I've got to say, an extra 10 to 15 degrees F makes a lot of difference in comfort.

    #187 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 08:16 PM:

    Somewhere around -10F to -20F it becomes too cold to use road salt. Ithaca NY used to do it anyway, so the snow on the roads would melt a little in the daytime, and solidify to a nice smooth layer of ice overnight. Often this would be followed by a light dusting of powdery snow just in case you were still planning to walk or drive on it, or needed to chase a soccer ball that had escaped from the game of snow-soccer you were playing on the lawn.

    #188 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 08:16 PM:

    They're predicting bitter cold here in Oklahoma for the next two days -- maybe down to 2F Friday night. There's still plenty of snow on the ground in places, and patches of frozen slush on less-travelled roads. Add some melting and ponding from earlier today when it was sunny and 45 and I can almost -- almost -- see why many school districts are pre-emptively closing for the rest of the week.

    #189 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 08:25 PM:

    Janet Croft (188): There's also the issue of kids standing outside waiting for school buses. Not pleasant at 2F--downright dangerous without the proper clothing.

    #190 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 08:47 PM:

    We're scheduled to be very very cold but just have flurries of snow tomorrow. The van was scooted sideways again today, while I was on the road.

    #191 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2010, 08:54 PM:

    When I lived in Yokusuka, Japan my apartment was on the ground floor of a three-story wooden building. Virtually all tenants used kerosene-fueled space heaters to keep their tiny apartment warm. (For illustration, my "living room" was about 8x10; my "bedroom" was about 4x8. I had no furniture other than piles of stereo equipment, because there was no room for any.)

    In retrospect, it's a wonder to me that building never caught fire.

    #192 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 02:53 AM:

    It did, one day when you were out. They just rebuilt it before you got back. It's the Japanese way.

    Meanwhile, England's snow is now freezing solid, with temperatures below -10 C widely recorded overnight, and further falls in the southeast forecast on top. At this point, if there is anyone out there in Canada who still cares about the Old Country, could they pop back with a snowplough and some decent long underwear and help?

    #193 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 03:06 AM:

    For our friends in parts of the country that don't usually see this kind of weather, the winter clothing store in my town does ship.

    #194 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 03:26 AM:

    Okay, okay, I have learned my lesson. I now know not to taunt to Weather Gods. Can we have the gulf stream back already?

    Apparently this is the worst winter Dublin's had in 40 years. There is practically no gritting going on on the streets, at least as far as I can tell. All secondary streets are simply frozen solid, and have been for a few days now. Bus service has all but collapsed (there's a few going today I understand), and cars are mostly moving at sub walking speed. A friend of a friend boarded a plane at Dublin airport yesterday in the morning, sat in the plane on the runway all day listening to Symphony for Twelve Crying Children and Soul-crushing Mysery, and was finally let off the plane at 6pm.

    Now, to work! I walk to work so I can pretend like I live a healthy life. During any normal non-icy day, that's about 25 minutes of walking. Yesterday it took me about 45. But still, at some perverse level I'm enjoying all this. Maybe another day of this or so, and that'll be good enough for this year, right Weather Gods? Right! I did make an offering of three minutes of pain to you when I slipped and fell on my ass two days ago, so, yeah.

    #195 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 04:53 AM:

    We are bracing for a snowy weekend. The weather front seems to have stalled over the UK, but by all accounts there will be plenty left for us. We still have lots of snow on the ground from -- when? last Saturday? Yeah. Pretty unusual for the Rheinland, which tends to have mild, rainy-cold winters. Roads are OK so far, but some communities are running out of salt and grit. And February is usually our snowiest month.

    Public service announcement: Don't go out to your car barefoot to get cigarettes in this weather. (This guy had a guardian angel on overtime, that's for sure.)

    #196 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:28 AM:

    Bill@187: Surely you mean somewhere around +10 and +20 F? Even Finnish road crews, who are far more enamoured of salt than ought to be legal, no longer bother with it below that. Of course, if you have sub-salt weather once a decade, there might not be the organizational knowledge that you can't always salt everything.

    For what it's worth, it's been alternately -20 F not snowing and +20 F with three inches a day of snow here for the last three weeks or so. This is actually quite nice, because, as someone above pointed out already, at least it doesn't get a chance to melt and refreeze.

    I looked up the costs of the measures which make all this snow not actually bother anyone. For this city of around million people the road clearing was 50 million euros last year. Of course, the cost of equipping private vehicles for the winter is borne by the owners directly. Just the cost of a decent set of winter tires will be upwards of 500 and they won't last for more than five years for the sort of people who tend to drive everywhere.

    Y'all can make fun of us in half a year when our lack of air conditioned anything bites us.

    #197 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:29 AM:

    London: 2-3 inches of white stuff on an ice underlay. -2.1 degrees C under clear skies. As usual, Transport for London has kept the main roads clear but the local councils have left the back streets untouched. A second wave is forecast for tomorrow. Minimum temp tomorrow night = -8.

    Given that I work from home, is it acceptable to run the heating during the day?

    #198 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:32 AM:

    Oh yes, salt; the problem is now that some local councils up north have been salting continuously for three weeks, and they're running low. And the salt mine that provides 50% of the supply is working three shifts, but they're having problems getting deliveries out due to the snow.

    #199 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 07:52 AM:

    the salt mine that provides 50% of the supply is working three shifts, but they're having problems getting deliveries out due to the snow.

    The workers in the salt mines are unable to meet their production quotas? This sounds like a job for... New-Soviet-Man!

    #200 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 07:54 AM:

    Alex #197 - I'm tempted to say you should wear a jacket or two and keep working. But really there's nothing wrong with switching the heating on during the day. Of course it would be nice if your home was properly insulated but I suspect you are renting so it may not be.
    One reason I'm going to stay up here is that the room I'm renting in London is in a late VIctorian single glazed badly insulated house so at this time of year it seems the heating hasto be on 3/4 of the day to keep the temperature above 16C.
    Whereas my nice modern flat, it comes on for 10 minutes every 2 hours or so to maintain 18C.

    #201 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 09:12 AM:

    Teemu #196:

    Salt becomes ineffective on icy roads somewhere around 22 degrees (F). Salt lowers the melting point of ice so it will melt faster, but there's a point where the temperature is just too cold to make a difference. Our DOT sprays a brine mixture on the roads prior to any snowfall to both assist it in melting and to keep it from freezing to the road once it does melt. It's very effective as long as the temperature stays above, say, 25 degrees (F).

    #202 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 09:35 AM:

    John@201: According to the received wisdom here, just salting the road during, before or after snowfall is nonsensical. Snow must be removed by ploughing, salt is used to prevent the wet road from refreezing and forming a perfectly flat and extremely slippery surface of ice. Also local weather patterns make the exact temperature when salt works and when it does not pretty academical, as we can have 20 C/40 F temperature changes in 12 hours in the winter, and they are far more difficult to forecast accurately than the temperature in summer is.

    My gripe with the road crews is that they sometimes forget all this, and try to combat actual snow with salt. It does not work. I guess it might work if this was a desert and we got snowfall in sub-inch amounts, but we don't. As it stands, what happens is that the salt combined with the mechanical action of motor traffic transforms the snow which they forgot to plough away into an impassable mixture of ice, water, snow, salt, gravel, dogs, and small children.

    Those kind of days are when we get real traffic problems. If it's just slippery hardpack, there usually aren't problems for the majority of road users. Of course, human nature being what it is, the first slippery day of the winter customarily includes hundreds of cars off the road when they have put off changing to winter tyres too long. But they are (justly) ridiculed both in private and in public. The less savoury type of newspaper always gets a lot of fun out of it.

    #203 ::: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:00 AM:

    the worst winter Dublin's had in 40 years. There is practically no gritting going on on the streets, at least as far as I can tell.

    We really just aren't equipped or accustomed to this weather. The problem is compounded by the fact that Dublin City Council, and all the other councils, ran out of salt for road gritting. Some amounts are coming from the Northern Ireland salt mines and 4,000 tons of salt arrived in Cork the other day. I gather this is mostly used up already, since he DCC used up extra yesterday to try to clear the afternoon chaos and as of this morning had less than 1 day's supply - further deliveries are expected. Usually the whole island wouldn't get hit and affected councils could get supplies from the other parts of the country. So what there is, is reserved for major roads only.

    Meanwhile the buses are not fitted with snow tyres and were taken off the road in the very slippy conditions yesterday when they started sliding back down hills. It took me 2+ hours to drive home yesterday (normally 1/2 to 1 hour max) and today I walked/bussed it. I wore my outdoor gear (walking boots, long wool undies etc) as I might have to walk home altogether and brought my walking poles which are of some assistance in giving extra traction. It's not the nice crunchy hard frozen areas which are a problem but those smooth ice with a film of water ones. The melting/refreezing issue mentioned above is definitely exacerbating the difficulties.

    The office is in an old Georgian building and although the heat is on I sit right next to a single-glazed sash window. To stay warm I have to invent reasons to go up and down the stairs for things.

    #204 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:18 AM:

    Still working; still not heating. It's not me who's burning all that gas.

    Anyway, New Soviet Man would immediately transfer a shock brigade of gritter drivers to get the salt out, and then discover there were no drivers to spread it on the roads. Then the gritter drivers would be held up getting back from the salt mine by the dozens of accidents caused by recruiting 300 "volunteer" students to drive the gritters..

    #205 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:24 AM:

    Then there's the effect on the landscape of all that salty runoff when everything melts, to say nothing of the fact that large amounts of salt can damage concrete.

    #206 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:31 AM:

    Our home and the neighboring abodes had no running water from noon until 2:30am yesterday. I guess it had finally been brought to the city's attention that this not-going-away puddle in the middle of the nearby intersection might mean a busted water pipe.

    That reminded me of the time, almost exactly two years ago, when we noticed a huge puddle in our backyard. Ah, the fun of digging thru very wet and very cold mud as I tried to find where our watering system had broken...

    #207 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:33 AM:

    Alex @197: switch the heating on. Do you have a pet you can claim you put it on for? *grin*. And keep your feet warm.

    I work from home a lot as well. Problem is that sitting at the desk all day doesn't help you keep warm. That's why I'm wearing padded trousers, T-shirt, shirt and two sweatshirts, and two pairs of socks under the double-thickness fleece slippers. I was using the exercise bike and treadmill to keep my metabolic rate up, but then I went on too many long runs outside while the weather was clear and tweaked a knee tendon. *sigh*

    guthrie @ 200: Even if you own the house (rather than renting) there's a limit to what you can do insulation-wise when it's solid-walled. The snow sitting on the roof of ours indicates that's well insulated, but the walls are a different matter, although we have done our best to insulate those on the inside, with books. We'd like to put external insulation on but expect (a) it will be very expensive; (b) it may be difficult to find local builders willing to do this for a single house (and we may have planning permission problems also, since we're end-of-terrace, not detached).

    #208 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:40 AM:

    alex @192 --

    Snowplows are a long-lead-time item, alas. Though you should still be able to get a coal shovel, which make excellent snow shovels. (Sturdy enough to cope with ice, not so large you'll put your back out lifting great masses of wet snow, usually a decently long handle...)

    You can certainly try for the long johns, though; they ship pretty much everywhere, and have a range of cold weather clothing for everything from "a titch brisk" through "venturi effect wind at altitude".

    I don't think anywhere in Canada still salts, in the NaCl sense of salt, the roads; the metre wide strip of dead plant life at the road margin was making it obvious that there might be side effects. CaCl and various other salts are used instead; still corrodes steel but nothing like as bad for the concrete.

    #209 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:41 AM:

    204: sounds like "Red Son", actually; superhero as metaphor for centrally planned dictatorship. Even a benevolent superbeing finds that it's generally better to let people run their own lives...

    #210 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:42 AM:

    john@201: We (Minnesota) routinely use salt on the roads below 22F, and it clearly works. Other people in this thread have cited other, lower, numbers, which look more like what I think is right.

    Hmmm; this article reprinted from Wisconsin Transportation Bulletin may partly explain it. My summary: Effectiveness of salt decreases rapidly as temperatures go below 20F. It's more effective keeping stuff from freezing at the lower temperatures than it is at melting stuff that's already frozen. The road surface may be well above air temperature due to sunlight and effects of many cars driving over it.

    #211 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:58 AM:

    I don't actively loathe the movie of The Avengers. And there is much I approve of in Catwoman. Both have fine performances, even Sean Connery's scenery chewing.

    Both suffer from performers who should never be allowed in front of a camera without a clapperboard.

    Somewhere between the idea and the start of filming, you need to work on something called a script. Without it, you have nothing. It binds a film together. An actress can study cats as much as she wishes, and bring the idea of a Catwoman alive in her performance, but without the script her efforts are for nothing. I can praise the performance, and regret the waste it represents.

    People such as Halle Berry, Uma Thurman, and David Tennant, have wasted time and effort on some pretty dire scripts. But I'd at least try to read the obvious cross-over fanfic with their performances in the forefront of my mind.

    #212 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 12:02 PM:

    I have a small bag of salt I use to keep the stretch of alley in front of my house clear--I have no sidewalk, but I like being able to get to the car without getting snow in my shoes. Last week, after the city had (as traditional) not plowed the alley and it had frozen into a sheet of semi-solid ice, I decided to put some more salt out.

    A minute or so after I started spreading the salt, I began hearing odd crackling, popping noises. It was the salt, causing the ice to thaw and crack. I have never experienced such a thing before; perhaps it was a unique combination of temperatures and humidity and whatnot. It was only in the mid-20s at the time.

    My bag of salt claims to be effective down to 5F.

    #213 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 12:13 PM:

    Teemu@196, I really did mean -10F to -20F nighttime temperature. It's possible that using salt loses efficiency at temperatures above that, but those were the typical temperatures when we'd get back to university after Christmas, and Ithaca would still be using road salt even though it was egregiously wrong.

    #214 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 12:13 PM:

    dcd #207 - I know older solid wall houses have trouble with insulation, I've also recomended books as internal wall insulation to people before. What confuses me is how despite the benefits of cavity wall insulation being so obvious, and even with grants easily available ( I think I paid £150 total) more houses havn't been insulated here in the UK.

    Teemu Kalvas #202 - the bastard gritters in Edinbvurgh have been avoiding doing any snow ploughing despite there being plenty of slush on the road already. They just drive through it leaving a little grit behind. They used to know better, I don't know what is wrong with them now.

    #215 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 12:21 PM:

    Re: Japanese kerosene heaters

    The construction must be extremely leaky, or there would be deaths from CO poisoning.

    Hey, let's fix the draftiness with weather-stripping! Yeah, a little headachy, wh ...

    #216 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 12:33 PM:

    Dave Bell @ 211... It's not that I loathe The Avengers's big-screen outing. It's just that it left me feeling quite disappointed. Of course, I prefered the TV show's Tara King stories to Emma Peel's, so what does that say about my tastes?

    #217 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 01:30 PM:

    Serge @ 216: Gasp! Emma Peel rules!

    #218 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 03:24 PM:

    Serge #216:

    It means I can no longer trust you--or any of your other recommendations. Alas.

    #219 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 03:30 PM:

    janetl @ 217... joann @ 218... What else can you expect from someone who liked Waterworld and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? :-) By the way, did you ever see the Avengers stories with Honor Blackman? Those were painful to sit thru.

    #220 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 04:35 PM:

    dcb @167 -- I'm on the south side, and on the University bus route, i.e. a bus at least every five minutes during rush hour, over low, flat ground. If *that* route closes down due to snow, it really is the Snowpocalypse. (And it did briefly close at one point.)

    Transport on the north side of Greater Manchester has been... interesting... since Tuesday morning. We've been checking the GMPTE website regularly during the day to see whether it's necessary to start sending people home while the trams are still running at all. This morning as a I walked through Picadilly Gardens I walked past not one but two gangs of men in fluorescent Metrolink jackets poking at the tram tracks -- one lot with crowbars, and round the corner a different light with a propane tank and (unlit) blowtorch, both lots presumably engaged in getting the tram tracks functioning again.

    The forecast for tonight suggests that there may be a lot of late arrivals at work tomorrow...

    #221 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 04:36 PM:

    And just as it's too late to recall the nerve impulse, I see the thinko...

    #222 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 05:12 PM:


    When I lived in an urban area I was very much in agreement with your assessment of snowmobiles; I'm still not particularly attracted to them but in this highly rural hard-winter area they do have their appropriate uses.

    They need to find the guy and his sled, in whatever condition they do, because that lake is water supply for at least one town in the area.

    #223 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 05:26 PM:

    My 'green' Swedish friends are speaking with great smugness of how wonderfully bracing it is to have a normal winter finally, after a run of winters that had temps far above normal (for the nordic lands) and little snow.

    They also think they're superior for getting so much of their heat and electricity from nuclear power -- which I didn't know. How green is that?

    Love, c.

    #224 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 06:00 PM:

    fidelio @ 205: Not to mention the longer-term problems with salinity of groundwaters.

    Julia Jones @ 220: Ah yes, I know where you mean.

    #225 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 07:41 PM:

    How green is that?

    Very green indeed.

    #226 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 07:58 PM:

    Constance @ 223... How green is that?

    Doc Bruce Banner,
    Belted by gamma rays,
    Turned into the Hulk.
    Ain't he unglamo-rays!
    Wreckin' the town
    With the power of a bull,
    Ain't no monster clown
    Who is that lovable?
    It's ever lovin' Hulk! HULK!! HULK!!"

    #227 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 08:06 PM:

    Our storm has been upgraded to 2" of snow overnight. Good thing I don't need to go out until next week.

    #228 ::: affreca ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 10:40 PM:

    Re: Japanese kerosene heaters

    There's a reason the USN provides CO detectors to everyone living offbase in Yokosuka. I was told to crack the window to prevent poisoning myself, and cried to see half my heat go out the window. At least there was enough to warm my living room. Having to carry all your kerosene to your house tells you exactly how much you're burning.

    #229 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 10:49 PM:

    How does table salt work as a substitute for road salt? I have a neglected container of table salt whose sole purpose over the years has been to take up pantry space and to fill my token salt shaker which never gets used (since I stopped adding salt to taste many years ago).

    #230 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 10:58 PM:


    Probably effective on reducing smooth ice in the 20-30F range but it'll get into the adjacent soil and kill your grass / contaminate runoff.

    Being finely granulated it'll dissolve more quickly than road salt usually does, which would probably mean more frequent application.

    And a typical one-pound salt box is maybe enough to do your front steps for one storm. (We buy the rock salt by the 50 lb sack for the driveway, and something else - I think it's calcium chloride - that's more expensive but less toxic to plants, which we use on the front walk where the garden is.

    #231 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:15 PM:

    Serge, it was bombarded by gamma rays...

    #232 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2010, 11:25 PM:

    Paula Lieberman @ 231... Hulk smash punny Serge!

    #233 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 01:58 AM:

    Paula Lieberman @231: Serge has the correct lyric for the old TV Hulk cartoon series (stunningly low-budget TV cartoons as I recall).

    #234 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 03:11 AM:

    Earl@229: Don't do it, you'll kill your garden. It will never grow anything again, until you change the soil.

    It will melt ice, but like Thena says, it's too finely granulated to work well.

    #235 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 03:12 AM:

    Constance@223: Not understanding the other's religious beliefs with respect to things nuclear across the Atlantic goes both ways, I guess.

    #236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 07:15 AM:

    Rob Rusick @ 233... stunningly low-budget TV cartoons

    That's putting it mildly. Yet, it was the first time I had come across comic-book characters who were anything but perfect.

    #237 ::: David Dyer-Bennet ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 10:21 AM:

    Constance@223: Nuclear power has very low carbon emissions.

    Some people would argue it's not so much "green" as "glows blue in the dark"; but that's still a step in the right direction isn't it?

    #238 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 10:39 AM:

    Constance @223 --

    The most basic green numbers are the mass measurements; 20 tons of (natural, un-enriched) uranium is equivalent in power-generation capacity to about 7,000,000 tons of coal.

    You get massively more environmental cost from the coal; from mining hundreds of thousands of times more stuff, from the CO2 dumping to atmosphere, from the black particulate carbon, from the considerably greater than 20 tons of worse waste (coal ash ponds are significantly radioactive and a hell of heavy metals in which nothing can live, it's not like it's a net win on waste disposal, it's just coal is a lot less regulated).

    An equivalent mass of oil isn't quite as big and has somewhat less nasty ash, but it's still well into the millions of tons.

    #239 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 10:42 AM:

    Guess you all told me.

    But, still, um would you want your daughter to marry live by one?

    Love, c.

    #240 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 11:51 AM:

    Constance @239 --

    I live just down the lake from one. (Pickering.) Can't say as I've lost any sleep over it. The smog we get from the coal plants in Ohio I could well do without.

    I'm an advocate of putting small (~50 MW) nuclear power plants inside hospitals. The hospital doesn't lose power in ice storms, etc., they're already certified for handling nuclear materials, and the waste heat can be used to heat (or cool) the buildings. If it works well, start doing the same thing with large office tower complexes, reasonably dense residential neighborhoods, etc.

    #241 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 01:11 PM:

    #240: Oh yeah, great. Put nuclear power plants in the one spot in the neighborhood where there are freshly dead bodies that could be reanimated by atomic rays.

    Still, I'm on board if the morgue freezers have reinforced doors.

    But seriously, I had the same notion, but in addition to hospitals I'd put in little nukes next to essential city services. The water treatment plant, a special power substation that runs traffic lights and cell phone stations, that sort of thing. You'd ideally have a separate-able redundant power grid, but that's the sort of thing stimulus dollars should be building.

    #242 ::: EClaire ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 01:12 PM:

    My dad worked in radiation safety most of his life, from working in the Army nuclear power program to working at power plants in New Orleans and Illinois, to working refueling outages at plants all over the east coast. The amount of radiation that they are allowed to be exposed to, even as workers is tiny. Less than you get from dental x-rays, less than you get if you fly regularly, less than you get from the sidewalk (pavements) if you live in a sunny place. The fear mongering over nuclear power has lead to destroyed ecosystems in Appalachia and people killed in coal mining accidents.
    Also, even after all that time being exposed to power plants, he doesn't yet glow in the dark.

    #243 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 01:18 PM:

    Video from CNN of our friends in England and their slippery day.

    #244 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 01:36 PM:

    Constance @ 239: I grew up within 10 miles of Indian Point (on the Hudson River), and my partner grew up within 10 miles of Three Mile Island.

    I've handled radioactive substances in my research days, including 3H and 14C, and I've taken my share of x-rays (radiographs). Radiation is really not as scary or as dangerous as, say, driving a car. It's a different set of rules to follow for safe use, but not impossible to be safe.

    #245 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 01:44 PM:

    Constance--I won't argue that nuclear power generation has a specific and serious set of risks associated with it that require careful management and oversight (issues which other countries, where regulatory capture is not quite so much of an approved pasttime*, seem to stay on top of). However, besides the carbon emission hazards (as well as the acid rain, and the damage caused by coal mining). coal-fired plants have a waste problem as well. Remember the TVA's little difficulties from late 2008? There are plenty of other chances for that to happen in other places.

    It would be wonderful if we could manage to generate a lot more electrical power from wind and solar sources. I suspect that a lot more could be done to manage this, and that better governmental support at local, state, and federal levels, for everything from zoning issues to tax credits and grants would make this happen faster--and greater production of the needed equipment would make more individual-level general feasible (please can I have a wind turbine in my backyard? or two?). Events like Three-mile Island and Chernobyl certainly have done nothing to make nuclear power generation more lovable, but given good plant design, good oversight, and good management, all of them taking the risks inherent in such systems seriously, nuclear power has to be considered as a viable option.

    *The US is not the only place where this is a risk, but damn! We're good at it. The problems with the USSR's nuclear power program were similar, if you consider the end effect of competing bureaucracies playing for high stakes.
    While we can't be cavalier about the safety factors in nuclear plant construction and management, we shouldn't turn a blind eye to coal's shortcomings--and one of the things people worried about after the Kingston spill was possible low-level radioacyivity in the concentrated ash, as well as all those lovely heavy metals.

    #246 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 02:06 PM:

    I lived within the area that would have been affected if Three Mile had melted down. It was damned scary. If it had gotten further evacuation from NYC was not possible for most of the citizens in time.

    No one will convince me my fear then or now is unfounded, particularly as the nation proves over and over that cutting corners is preferable to failsafe. The tales my brother tells me of what he, the engineer goes through to keep his designs manufactured and installed according the specifications for safety -- and even working! -- on his planes, doesn't make me feel any more sanguine.

    Not to mention nuclear waste. Of course, people who work in the industry have a different perspective.

    But thanks.

    Love, C.

    #247 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 02:11 PM:

    This is one of those perspectives as with open carry of firearms, arming teachers, bringing weapons to church, abortion, etc. that those who are see things differently cannot agree on.

    Thus, I will say no more, and I intend no disrespect.

    Love, c.

    #248 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 02:44 PM:

    Carol @ #215, my apartment was extraordinarily drafty. The building was up against a hillside, so my ground-floor apartment's window was exposed to about four inches of dirt before there was any air at all; I couldn't open it. There was plenty of leakage from its sides and from the space under my door, though.

    But hey, whaddya want for ¥17,000/month? The exchange rate at the time was ¥300 to the dollar.

    #249 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 04:39 PM:

    Fidelio #245 - here in Scotland we have a reasonable chance to become reliant upon renewables. They've just announced licences etc for 2 huge sea wind farms, rated at 4.7 gigawatts, so at say 25% capacity factor, around 1.175gigawatts. Thats a bit less than Longannet power station, the largest in the country, but also the biggest source of CO2 and some nasties. So we might actually manage to make CO2 cuts in the next decade or two.
    We have to as well, because Longannet will have to be shut in a decade or two anyway, its well past its sell by date.

    #250 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 04:54 PM:

    Constance @ 246: I didn't mean to imply that you were in any way wrong; I was only answering the "would you let your daughter marry one" part. As in all difficult topics, we each make the decisions based on our needs and experiences. Your experiences and mine are different, thus our conclusions will not match -- and that is the way of the world.

    #251 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 05:52 PM:

    I was just reading J.G. Ballard's Miracles of Life, and had come to his remark about immediate postwar Britain that "Everything was poorly designed. My grandparents' three-storey house was heated by two one-bar electric fires and an open coal fire. Most of the house was icy..." (he goes on to describe watching his breath in bed)

    Then, my partner walked round the corner wearing two polartec fleece jackets, one over the other, a Patagonia gilet inside and a Deutsche Telekom engineer's issue one outside. While the central heating was running. Complaining about the cold.

    #252 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 06:05 PM:

    She is also the woman whose father worked on the early days of the French nuclear programme, that eventually created the world's biggest electricity industry by power output and the world's best nuclear safety record. However, that didn't stop him from coming home from work now and again in a paper suit after all his clothes had been incinerated after he'd been contaminated with radioactive material.

    Meanwhile, someone lived in our street who worked at a nuclear power station. As a boy in the 80s, I used to avoid the tracks of his car tyres for fear of radiation; my mother was a Friends of the Earth branch secretary and we were out on a recycling collection when the Chernobyl plume tracked over northern England. It pissed with rain, as I recall. (She appeared on television a few days later next to the government radiation monitoring unit that set up in town.)

    I'm now actually quite pro-nuclear, partly through learning more about how really horrible coal is. As a Yorkshire lad in a leftwing family, nobody romanticised coal mining more than me...but when you think of all the horrors involved, the CO2, the arsenic, the heavy metals, the ash...and appalling work accidents, which of course I was aware of, but it took me longer to think about rationally. One remove and some loyalty will do that.

    #253 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 06:16 PM:

    I just went out to pick up my copy of Iorich and HOLY FUCK IS IT COLD. says "28 F, feels like 16 F" (due to humidity) (that's "-2, feels like -9" for most of the world) and all I can say is that when I visited Katie's folks in Washington and there was a foot and a half of snow on the ground, it wasn't this cold. Hey folks in Greenland, give us back our weather please.

    #254 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 06:19 PM:

    Those of you calling me nesh can bloody well come visit here in August.

    #255 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 08:13 PM:

    I can't help suspecting that for a lot of people, the big advantage to coal power is that coal is more often than not mined in somebody else's back yard, and by people of some other, less highly-regarded ethnicity or regional heritage.

    #256 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 08:34 PM:

    Constance, #239, sure. A bit southwest of me here in Virginia, we already have two nuclear power plants on Lake Anna. The folks who live there can water-ski year-round. Seriously, it's been there long enough that problems would likely have shown up by now. I'd live there, if I could afford it. I'd definitely like to have another nuclear power plant there (Dominion Power is threatening giant wires and towers across several mid-Atlantic states for power that originally comes from coal), and we've been moving toward getting that for several years. The environmentalists have stopped being obstructive.

    #257 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2010, 08:46 PM:

    The 'elsewhere' part, I buy, no problem.
    Same for oil: a lot of the people using it have never seen an oilfield, or a refinery, except maybe in aerial photos that hide the dirt and mess.

    #258 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2010, 10:22 AM:

    Well, the snow has finally reached Germany. In our little village, we've been shoveling all day, and it's all fairly powdery, but still very windy, cold, and not really great to be out in. So I was pretty surprised when the doorbell rang. It was the Sternsinger, children dressed up as the Three Kings (accompanied by their moms), collecting donations to aid children in Moldavia and Indonesia. I've been expecting them, but not necessarily today!

    #259 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2010, 11:55 AM:

    David @254: Quite so. Both the acclimatization and body type that will help when it's -10 with wind chill -25 is very different from what works at 35 or so with 90% humidity. [OK, that's 15 or so Fahrenheit, wind chill -3, and 95 or so for the hot.] Ditto for using technology of various sorts (my parka and boots are technology, as are the complex networks of energy supply that heat or cool buildings).

    I can bundle up against the cold (though breathing really cold air is a different problem), but at some point I run out of clothes to remove, and then there are small problems of local mores, and the need for some way to carry keys and wallet, if I leave the house. And probably water and a book, and so on, and then the daypack straps would rub against exposed skin--it's not ideal even with a tank top.

    Oh, I also note that I was in Montreal last week, and came back to New York City on January 4th, and I am fairly sure it was colder when I got off the subway in New York than it had been when I entered the metro station in Montreal. Odd. Fortunately, I was dressed for the cold.

    #260 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 10:06 AM:

    various cold comments --

    The satellite shot showing the Gulf Stream connecting up to the whatever Arctic transport current around Greenland? It could show the Lidless Eye of Sauron slowly blinking open over the ice fields of central Greenland and have less doom in it.

    Contance @247 --

    Making an argument of public policy from personal feeling is pretty much always wrong, irrespective of subject or feelings. Tough to avoid, a lot of the time, but inescapably unhelpful.

    #261 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 11:49 AM:

    Pollution by smog, pollution by ash, pollution by radioactivity, pollution by...
    Reminds me of some line or other from tv, "death by hanging, death by shooting, death by..."
    "the one similiarity is 'death' "

    Power generation by various means is a "constantly adjusting for risk factors" thing. Each generation (frex, horse manure vs automobiles), each neighborhod, each person chooses what risks are acceptable. Or not.

    IMNSHO, the real risks involve decisions based on financial risks rather than environmental/safety ones. Cut costs, increase risks. A lot of people ignore the "pay me now or pay me later" inevitability.

    #262 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 12:15 PM:

    On Yak Trax way back up in the 120s: I received mine today and spent a good two hours walking around town to test them (snow cover of about 1 cm, many bare patches). So far I'm very happy.
    The difference was palpable; I skidded on a couple of patches without them but had no problems on the way back, when I'd put the Yak Trax on. They were easy to take on and off too (speaking as someone of average strength and flexibility).

    #263 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 02:18 PM:

    Lin Daniel @ 261: It's from ST:ToS "I, Mudd".

    Harry Mudd: Do you know what the penalty for fraud is on Deneb V?

    Spock: The guilty party has his choice -- death by electrocution, death by gas, death by phaser, death by hanging...

    Harry Mudd: The key word in your entire peroration, Mr. Spock, was... death.

    #264 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 03:29 PM:

    Joel @263
    Yeah, that one. Thank you. Too lazy to look it up.

    #265 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 03:49 PM:

    A number of local councils in the Netherlands have also run out of road salt. At least one has located and is using an unexpected source of Atlantic sea salt: bath salts.

    According to this article (Dutch), the roads in Etten-Leur are now delicate shades of light green, purple and yellow and smell lovely.

    #266 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 04:36 PM:

    abi @ 265: Not to mention they've gotten softer, with fewer painful dry cracking spots..oh, and their acne is clearing up.

    #267 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 04:43 PM:

    P J Evans #257:

    ‘Elsewhere’, yes.  Electric cars and trucks are sometimes claimed to be Zero Emission Vehicles, ZEV;  a colleague of mine used to call them, more accurately, Elsewhere Emission Vehicles, although as the technologies improve, and there are more sources of renewable energy, the ‘zero’ claim is becoming more credible.

    I’ve seen oilfields and refineries close up, in various countries.  In my experience the level of dirt and mess varies from pristine to chaotic, depending on how much the local government cares about it.  The big multinationals tend to be somewhat better than average in any given country, but the same multinational’s operations can be excellent in one country and shoddy in another (what a small independent is like in a country where a multinational is shoddy, I leave you to imagine).  The Netherlands is a good example of a country where standards are well monitored and enforced (and bribery of the monitors and enforcers is relatively rare), so that the quality of oil and gas installations is generally good.

    Somewhat off-topic, excuse please.

    #268 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2010, 09:48 PM:

    Our recent freeze has brought something home to me about heat vs cold: if we take room temperature as 70F, I'd rather be out in 70+x than 70-x for all values of x up to about 40 degrees.

    (Celsius equivalent: approximately 20 + or - 20. But that doesn't sound as impressive.)

    I told this to Katie, and she tried to argue with me. It is, however, the sort of personal preference that is not susceptible to persuasion.

    #269 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 01:14 AM:

    abi @265

    Last winter, some Ohio roads smelled delicious: Iowa town's roads well seasoned.

    #270 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 01:15 AM:

    Ack. Iowa, not Ohio. I know the difference, honest.

    #271 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 05:57 AM:

    David@268: Although the numbers vary, I wonder if the pattern is the same for everyone. I mean, that given a small difference to room temperature, you'd rather it was warmer, but there is a cutoff, after which you'll take the cold. Even with my polar bear genes, I'll grant this applies to me too, although I would never put up with even 100 F, let alone 110.

    #272 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 07:20 AM:

    David Goldfarb @268, Teemu Kalvas @271:
    I'll take hot—even 110°F—over cold anytime. I once burst into tears one Belgian winter while I was sitting on the couch at home because I was cold (and this despite the fact that the indoor temperature had been set to the high Celsius teens/Fahrenheit sixties).
    While it was no fun being stuck in a full high-speed windowless train for an hour during the 2003 European heat wave, when the outside temperature was 39°C/102°F, I'd still pick that, as long as I had enough water and something to fan myself with. Then again, I grew up in the tropics.

    #273 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 08:02 AM:

    According to my recording high/low thermometer, the max/min outdoors here where I'm sitting was:

    86.0° F at 14:16 on August 18th, 2009
    -29.5° F at 07:29 on January 16th, 2009

    #274 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 08:30 AM:

    My personal-experience hi/lo temps are approximately 105 degrees F to zero degrees F (both right here in Athens GA). I'll take the heat. Cold hurts. (The record high and low here are 107 and -4.)

    #275 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 08:34 AM:

    Pendrift@272: I have lived a year in the US, a couple of years in the UK and the rest of my life in my native Finland, and I have to say that the coldest hundred days of so _indoors_ I have experienced where in the UK. If the indoors temperature in Finland varies by more than maybe two degrees from what you set it to, There Will Be Complaints In The Passive Voice. Of course, if you are the occupier-owner you have only yourself to complain to.

    When I moved to UK at the start of term (early October) and went to university, the first night was pretty dire because it was so cold. The next day I bought a down duvet thicker than everything I had used before put together. (First shopping besides food in the new country!) And I had thought I get to live somewhere warmer. It was a growing up experience for sure.

    Mind you, I liked living there. It just took actually living there to find out what it's actually like.

    But I still moved back, because the English summer is just unbearably hot. (Texans will laugh now.)

    #276 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 08:56 AM:

    We've had running problems with the heat in church this fall, to the point where I was given to remark about the authentic Anglican heating.

    #277 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 12:04 PM:

    Teemu Kalvas @ 275 (Texans will laugh now.) So will Brits! *laughs*. Houses in this country have not, traditionally, been built with insulation in mind, really. We've relied on that good old Gulf Stream.

    Be glad you were not in the old farmhouse I lived in for three years while studying in Cambridge. No central heating. One winter there was ice on the inside of my bedroom windows every morning for about six weeks (I'd stopped up the worst of the cracks in the walls around the frames using foam insulating tape). I slept in a sleeping bag, under my duvet, and with blankets under the sleeping bag. I worked things out so I could turn the light, kettle and (with a bit of a stretch) gas fire on without getting out of bed.

    #278 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 12:08 PM:

    My personal-experience temperature extremes are +118F / 0F. (For a single location: +118F / 22F)

    Not sure which extreme I'd prefer to miss.

    #279 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 12:12 PM:

    Well, as well as the Gulf stream, the traditional solution for coldth in Britain was always "burn more coal!" Then later, burn more North Sea gas!

    I have to say, as soon as I succeed in burrowing into this corner of my living room while taking off my clothes, I'm going to go wild on caulking sealants, insulating tape, and aerosol space invader. either that or I'll set fire to my neighbour.

    #280 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 12:14 PM:

    Be glad you were not in the old farmhouse I lived in for three years while studying in Cambridge. No central heating. One winter there was ice on the inside of my bedroom windows every morning for about six weeks...

    A farmhouse? You were lucky. When I was at university there were fifteen of us huddled into an old autoclave in basement of biochemistry building.

    #281 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 12:21 PM:

    Teemu @271 --

    Left to my own devices, I leave the house at about 18 C. 15 is acceptable. 10 C is too cold for inside (plus, there are feline complaints.) 22 C gets into "warmer than I like". Somewhere starting around 25 C, I'll be going through a litre of water an hour to avoid torpor.

    So I might be a counter-example to your principle of a preference for the warm end of the temperature preference range.

    #282 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 12:40 PM:

    dcb #277 - I wouldn't even say relied upon the gulf stream - more the stiff upper lip, even if it was frozen that way.

    Teemu #275 - can you be more specific about what was wrong?
    For example, I have my thermostat at 18C, and a 12 tog duvet. When staying with grandparents or strange people far away, back in the 80's and 90's, not everyone had central heating, and the usual temperature was more like 17C for most of the day and perhaps as low as 12 during the night. Either requiring a good duvet or sevearl blankets.
    On the other hand, if you were over here 40 years ago, there was a lot less in the way of central heating and a freezing cold bedroom is to be expected and was quite normal.

    And nowadays, far too many people seem to expect the heating to do all the work and have it running at 22 or 24C all day long. I can't sleep properly above 23- 24C so like to keep it cool.

    #283 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 01:01 PM:

    guthrie #282: a 12 tog duvet

    When I saw the phrase "tog duvet" instead of immediately googling it like I should have, I checked its ROT-13 to see if it made more sense that way, and, of course, it didn't. Then, I thought it might be Cockney rhyming slang of some sort. Ah, well. Gotta lurve that there metric system....

    #284 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 02:09 PM:

    Alex @279:
    Well, as well as the Gulf stream, the traditional solution for coldth in Britain was always "burn more coal!" Then later, burn more North Sea gas!

    Not according to Lady Whiteadder (see 4:14)

    #285 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 02:16 PM:

    Cycled to work on the snow today.

    Well, the main road section was plowed and salted and very safe. The compacted snowy bits at either end were pretty good to. The only difficult sections were the slush in the transitions. Other cyclists had made their own ruts in it, and it was hard to keep my tyres under me.

    I used a heavy bike, went slowly, and was prepared to put a foot down if necessary. It came out pretty well, though it took about twice as long as usual. Tomorrow I may bring some heat packs for my hands, but apart from that, it's a surprisingly viable method of commuting.

    #286 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 03:18 PM:

    abi @ #285 makes me wonder if there'd be a way to put a ski on a bike frame in place of wheels, attach a chain to it, and call this form of transportation cross-country biking.

    #287 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 03:26 PM:

    guthrie@282: Well, for one thing, the thermostat had been turned way down because no one had been living there for a while, possibly the entire summer vacation's time. I should have checked immediately, but for some reason it wasn't that cold during the day, and when I figured it out, it took some time for temperature to climb back up. Especially as the building was solid stone, which is slow to heat.

    I don't really remember all the details, it's been 15 years now.

    Most Finns would say 18 C is not an acceptable indoor temperature, but it's all right by me. I'm always trying to figure out how naked it is socially acceptable for me to strip when visiting friends with their 25 C temperatures. The answer of course depends on the friend.

    abi@285: We've had over a month of really great cycling weather (meaning less than 50% extra travel time compared to summer) because it's been so cold that car traffic hasn't been able to melt snow, and it's been packed so hard that bikes don't make ruts in it. Today we had only -4 C and the situation immediately plummeted. If it gets to the point that it takes double the time, even I'm going to call it slow.

    I mean, we have mostly separate bike paths, but the car traffic still manages to melt the snow on the paths enough that bike tyres start to dig in, and the surface deteriorates.

    #288 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 04:01 PM:

    Constance, #246: Of course, people who work in the industry have a different perspective.

    So, I would imagine, do coal miners... and their widows and fatherless children.

    David, #253: Ah, yes -- when Houston gets cold, it also tends to get dank, which is worse. FWIW, it was just as cold in Atlanta over the weekend, but more bitter than dank.

    Debra, #255: I think you have a good point there.

    P J Evans, #257: Hear, hear! (Having just driven past the Baytown stench plume twice. How anyone can live there I have no idea.)

    Teemu, #275: Cold indoors is an order of magnitude worse than cold outdoors. I spent 6 weeks in an inadequately-heated basement apartment in KC during one of the worst cold snaps of the last 10 years, and all I wanted to do was wrap up in fleece and stay under the covers. Even cooking (on the gas stove) didn't help. It gave me a real appreciation for what Garak went thru on DS9!

    One of the silver linings from our Ike adventures is that now most of the attic has significantly more insulation; that plus an entirely re-shingled roof has made a noticeable difference in the indoor heat retention this year.

    #289 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 07:36 PM:

    How Not To Freeze (indoors). Even includes knitting links in the "heat yourself" section!

    #290 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2010, 09:34 PM:

    My cleaning lady was here today and she said the condo was cold. I showed her the 70F on the thermostat, but she still thought it was cold. (They live in a condo in our development, but they're from Texas, probably a warm part.)

    #291 ::: James Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2010, 04:31 PM:

    Looks like a big storm is headed to the Washington DC area. Delta and Southwest have apparently canceled all flights in and out of DC, Baltimore, and Philly.

    16-18 inches expected.

    #292 ::: Bill ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2010, 08:21 PM:

    Yow! It seems to have been quite the storm. Southwest cancelled my Saturday flight a couple of days ago, and now cancelled its Sunday replacement; they're now offering me Tuesday.

    DC seems to have gotten a mere two feet, Philly a record 27 inches, Baltimore about 30, parts of West Va over three feet.

    #293 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2010, 10:16 PM:

    Charlottesville, VA got hit with a foot, more or less, but this is on top of the other day's fall. Both Mom and I lost power for several hours. Seems to be back now. Even Gremlin was intimidated.

    #294 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2010, 02:25 PM:

    Wow, that was a f--k of a lot of snow. About 2.5 feet here in northern Montgomery County, MD. Wow.

    #295 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2010, 02:59 PM:

    (waves to albatross) About 2 feet here in southern Montgomery County.

    I'm a half block off a major through road, and the plow actually came down my block already. But the rest of the neighborhood won't be dug out soon.

    #296 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2010, 08:52 AM:

    Western edge of PG county.

    Somewhat more than 2 feet. Not venturing out on the roads until tomorrow, but just off of a fairly major road.

    (Cleared my car off yesterday. Don't recall ever seeing so much snow piled on top of it.)

    #297 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2010, 04:43 PM:

    The young lady who vanished from I-95 in Maine last December has been found.

    Sarah Rogers' car was found parked along I-95 northbound in Clinton, ME. Two searches with dogs turned up nothing. Tracks led across the median to the southbound side and vanished, leading to speculation that someone had stopped and picked her up.

    Her body was found Saturday, in woods about a half-mile from where she'd left her car. She is presumed to have died of hypothermia. An autopsy is scheduled.

    #298 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2010, 11:10 PM:

    By the way, the missing snowmobiler turned up this week, right about where we expected.

    (link goes to local newspaper, probably only good for about a week because they think people are willing to -pay- for old news. InternetFail...)

    #299 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2010, 07:51 AM:


    willing to -pay- for old news

    I suspect it would be more precise to say that they think that:

    1) Very few people will be interested in old news.
    2) A large proportion of those few will be willing to pay for it.

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