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February 2, 2011

Weather outside: Still Frightful
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 06:40 AM * 140 comments

A snow-and-ice storm from New Mexico to Maine. We’re talking feet, here.

If you’re in the zone, stay safe.

Comments on Weather outside: Still Frightful:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 07:07 AM:

We're expecting 8-12 inches here. Right now it isn't so much snowing as having millions of tiny white ball-bearings falling out of the sky. Very slippery.

#2 ::: Tatterbots ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 07:08 AM:

Let me guess. Six more weeks of winter?

#3 ::: Hilary Hertzoff ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 07:18 AM:

We've got ice. On top of at least a foot of snow. With more snow predicted for the weekend.

I like snow and I'm not sure I approve of this.

#4 ::: Daniel Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 07:29 AM:

I think I'd take ice on-top-of-snow over this ice on-top-of-every-exposed-surface-and-wire.

NJTransit has suspended service on my train this morning. (Some power lines fell down, apparently) The light rail train I'm on presently to get to the train that I now know is suspended has had trouble opening its doors at some of the stops because of freezing rain accumulation.

I'm glad we took out our pine tree last summer, or we'd surely have large branches crashing down in this storm.

#5 ::: CZEdwards (aka the Other Constance) ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 08:19 AM:

Already got our ice and snow, thanks. Sent it east, as we always do. Sorry. More expected on Friday, but I'm not complaining. Cold enough to snow means *warm* enough to snow.

In hyperlocal news: Right now, it's -13F, plus wind. We might break zero today, but I doubt we'll hit double digits. Our furnace is doing its best, but we've got the portable radiators in the critical rooms, and we're both working from home. Both cats are contesting the possession of the tomato plant starting mat, but are losing to my partner's chronically chilly feet.

#6 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 08:31 AM:

Not too be mean or anything but better anyone else but us. We are still not fully recovered from the sloppy heavy snow of a week ago; another ice storm and I think there would be the white upper middle equivalent of pitchforks and torches at PEPCO headquarters.

#7 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 08:32 AM:

As I stood by the bus stop this morning, a few white flakes skittered past from time to time, chanting, in little tiny snowy voices, things like "Snow rules!" "Ph34r 0ur l337 4ccumu14t10n5!"* and "Who's bad?! We're bad!" Then they would hit the bare pavement and realize the real snow action was not in the state of Tennessee and vanish in embarrassment.

We're hoping they don't have many littermates waiting to follow them down.

*You could tell it was l337, because their tone of voice became much tinnier.

#8 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 08:52 AM:

Looking at the weather maps, it looks like my area will be bypassed by the main hit, but have the southern edge of the lows dragging across us.

#9 ::: Dave Langford ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 08:52 AM:

Damn. My little brother the rock star was supposed to be flying from Chicago to Heathrow and had placed a request for a hearty breakfast here in Reading tomorrow. Some hope, from what I hear of conditions around O'Hare ...

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:22 AM:

Having had snow-followed-by-ice already, I know what you're going through up there in the frozen north. Here we've just had rain in large quantities and are going to get more. We're currently experiencing large amounts of bleak, and, after a weekend that spoke eloquently of spring, it's getting colder and colder. Ugh.

#11 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:26 AM:

Not that much snow here in Albuquerque, but the wind chill makes me want to watch MST3K's "The Day the Earth Froze". Oh, and I noticed that some people were quick to say "Har! Har! Al Gore!" elsewhere.

#12 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:28 AM:

Dave Langford: Your Local Correspondent can report that O'Hare is currently utterly closed, all flights today cancelled, and possibly tomorrow; they cannot plow fast enough to keep anything sufficiently clear to take off from or land at.

This fact really, really impresses me, because I used to work at O'Hare, and I saw their snow-plowing prowess in action. If THEY can't handle it, it really does deserve the #SNOMG tag.

Their standard procedure, for those curious, is to run a staggered diagonal line of plows the full width of a runway (I think it's either 4 or 5 massive plow trucks) so that each one is shoving the last one's windrow further over as it goes. Plane lands; plow squad goes VROOOM from one end of runway to another, next plane lands. Their chosen method is to segregate landings and takeoffs by runway, so one is 'in' and one is 'out.'

There are other plows tasked with making a circuit of the taxiways, and smaller plows pushing snow away from the area where planes park next to the terminal building to disgorge people and bags. The most awesome part to watch, though, is what happens to the snow plowed out of the terminal areas: they have boxcar-sized open-topped wheeled bins that they park over the storm sewer drains. Said bins contain warming elements on their bottoms, going up to 38 degrees or so. Several small bulldozers/diggers collect the piles of plowed snow and lift them up, dumping into the bins, which cause the accumulation to melt and go down the drain. Problem solved!

One of the things I love best about living in a dense urban area is that even in the rare cases when weather pastes us SO badly that it will take some time for the city services to catch up and handle it, it's not a massive emergency. In our household's case, school is canceled, and though Daddy's work is open, he can take a partial vacation day and telecommute some hours, so we needn't go out of doors at all except to let the dogs out, and possibly shovel some walks if we feel motivated.

The advantage to expensively running all your main power lines through tunnels under the street is that they don't go out in ice storms. :->

#13 ::: thanate ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:40 AM:

Baltimore is missing out-- we're looking at 50 degrees and cloudy, the better to melt the little bit of snow we got last week with. I guess we can't expect to beat out Philadelphia with cumulative snowfall records every year, and on the balance I'm ok with having power and mobility.

Good luck to those of you in currently colder climbs!

#14 ::: Lauren Harris ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:40 AM:

How come it's 70 degrees in North Carolina!?

#15 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:53 AM:

For those in search of historical perspective. The blizzard called the Schoolhouse Blizzard is the subject of a book called The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin, which makes the joke aboug having to walk to school uphill in the snow seem much grimmer than it usually does. (The book also touches on the problems faced by the early National Weather Service.)

Global perspective here.

#16 ::: jnh ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:56 AM:

And I'm stuck on the wrong side of the storm from my ski area, in [a] hospital, because of confusion between the hospital and my Dr. about my being discharged (I was only supposed to be here for 23 hr observation post procedure). I'm now sprung, but I don't want to be on the road with idiotic drivers (who don't want me to leave appropriate space between me and the vehicle in front, so they tailgate, or try to pass). Even with some non-crystalline precipitation, this is probably going to be the best snow of the season.


#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:58 AM:

Didn't 1998's "The Avengers" show Eddy Izzard in a blizzard?

#18 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:59 AM:

South-Western Ontario had the first blizzard warning in a long time (although partly due to a change in criteria.) Toronto schools are reported closed†.

Ottawa is on the fringes, about six inches or 12-17 cm predicted. One of our first big storms of this winter, so we've had it easy. Cold, but easy on the snow to date.

†The only time in my GTA school days the schools were close, I was really annoyed. I'd slogged through a fair bit of snow, and they sent me back again.

#19 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 10:10 AM:

It's colder in Houston than in New York City. And they're talking about snow on Thursday/Friday.

It ain't natural!

#20 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 10:10 AM:

I'm about 40 miles west of the southernmost point of Ohio (the town of South Point). We've had rain, just a touch of freezing rain, a lot of wind this morning. The wind is now driving a bit of snow. We are not expecting much accumulation.

I gather north of here things get bad rapidly. This would not be a good day to drive to Columbus.

#21 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 10:18 AM:

Currently just rain here on Long Island. I have to work until 9:00 tonight; it's expected to still be above freezing at that point, so my drive home should be okay. Not great, given the ice under the rain, but okay. Tomorrow's commute (both ways) is likely to be a mess, though; the temperature is going to drop tonight and not get back above freezing until sometime Friday at the earliest. I hate driving on icy roads.

#22 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 10:19 AM:

Reading about the Schoolhouse Blizzard reminded me of an incident in Sarnia earlier this winter - a man's car became stuck, he left the vehicle, and was found, dead, 50 meters away. He'd tried to walk the remaining 250 meters to work, but he was found in the opposite direction. Read Jim's posts - they may save your life.

#23 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 10:38 AM:

I have a snow day. I shall eat waffles for breakfast. What luxury! Then I shall get really bundled up and see if I want to drive or walk to HyVee because I am shamefully out of milk.

I didn't really believe in the storm until yesterday. I wanted a snow day, but while everyone else talked about it and worried, I looked at and saw ten inches falling over two days. The forecast went steadily deeper, but I know Iowa City has a weather deflector.

Then, last night, I realized that it doesn't matter how few inches you have if all of them stay in the air at once.

#24 ::: Q. Pheevr ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 11:11 AM:

A snow-and-ice storm from New Mexico to Maine.

And beyond. I can normally see across Halifax Harbour to Dartmouth from my living room window; right now, even the closest part of the water itself is just a slightly darker area of grey....

#25 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 11:15 AM:

Note to the Weather Gods: We get it. Really. You've made your point. Stop now.

Stay warm, you guys.

#26 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 11:51 AM:

fidelio @7: ::falls over laughing::

I can so hear them. Just freakin' perfect!

And in local weather news, Boulder is behaving in classic Boulder fashion. Saturday and Sunday, it was hot. I mean, like, open the patio door because we're roasting, hot.

Monday morning, 4:30am, I wake up to the sound of a car splashing through a puddle in the parking lot. WTF? Um, January? Liquid water on the ground after dark?

So the temperature drops, hits 32°, and stays there. To quote my former sister-in-law: "Slicker'n snot on a brass door knob." (I did manage to get to work without landing on my ass at any point.) More than usual, I was very glad to leave the driving to the professionals. And to be riding in the biggest thing on the road.

Starting around noonish, the temp begins to drop again. Tuesday morning commute: -8.3°F. When I whine about this to a coworker who lives up in the mountains, she comments that at her house, it was -17.

Similar conditions today, except that, like, the novelty has worn off? Okay?

Friday's forecasted high is 47°. I'm kinda surprised the state doesn't just, like, crack in half.

#27 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 11:52 AM:

It was probably foolish to go visit friends last night, but I got home before anything started falling.

Today: ice outside, me + ham/cheese/naan sandwich inside. The only planned change is to put the sandwich one more layer away from the ice.

#28 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 11:52 AM:

Oh yeah, I forgot: and all of this accompanied by an inch and a half of snow. Just enough to make travel dangerous.

#29 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:02 PM:

Six hundred more years of climate chaos.

#30 ::: JM ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:24 PM:

It is the oddest thing to look out my window and see no cars parked on the street, which is a snow emergency route. Considering how hard it is to find parking around here when we don't have a blizzard, I wonder where they all went overnight.

In honor of the weather, I'm going to make a big pot of beans and a pan of cornbread. But I'd probably do that anyway.

#31 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:30 PM:

Meanwhile, in Kodiak, Alaska, it's a frosty but clear morning with a gentle breeze blowing from the west and no snow cover to speak of because it all got rained off. We have had two periods of good sledding so far this year and will probably have at least one more before spring.

We seem to have relatively balmy weather whenever some large swath of the Lower 48 and Canada is getting thwacked, and vice versa.

#32 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:31 PM:

I just wish our local snowplows were less efficient. It isn't hitting here (Buffalo) as hard as was threatened, and I could have made it out the driveway this morning if the street plow hadn't come by and piled a dense ridge of wet snow and ice against the foot of the driveway.

#33 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:32 PM:

Local energy company, in response to statewide power shortfall, is resorting to rolling blackouts. No snow, just prolonged hard freeze, something this part of the world doesn't do well.

First thing I saw when I went in the kitchen this morning was the hummingbird feeder (normally outside) sitting next the sink, contents completely frozen. It's the little things you tend to forget.

#34 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 12:59 PM:

While my home in L.A. remains a toasty 60-ish degrees, Dad's idiot Chicagoland retailer employers have decided that despite all street, mall and school closures to the contrary, they should remain open for business. In case someone needs camping equipment I suppose. Since Dad's already been out of his "real" job (as an architect) for over a year, he doesn't want to make waves. He could use the $8 an hour.

Also, I was glad to hear that Chicago has rented snow-mobiles, so that EMTs can reach people. I believe there were a couple of awful stories out of NYC last month because emergency vehicles couldn't get to residents.

#35 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 01:36 PM:


With a lizard?

#36 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 01:40 PM:

If I were to bitch about the meager 32-degre temperature we got to here in Phoenix this morning, I would probably be considered a cold-weather wuss.

Which I am. So I shall bitch away.

Don't like cold weather, even under the best of conditions. But I had to stand out in the cold for several hours this morning, with a stiff breeze ading a strong wind-chill factor to the experience.

By the time I was able to go back inside my feet were getting numb, my gloves felt like they were filled with broken razorblades, and my face and lips were feeling stiff. (Saving graces: Several layers and a good jacket on the upper body, ear-pops keeping my ears relatively protected.)

Tonight's forecast is more of the same, only slightly colder and just as windy.

Notes for tonight's work uniform: Add thermal pants, dig out the extra-heavy socks, use glove liners as well as gloves, remember to take the silk-cotton balaclava. And don't I have a wool scarf buried in a drawer somewhere?

This is the kind of weather I live in Arizona to avoid.

#37 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 01:58 PM:

Yesterday, after a foot of snow, was lovely. White powder on everything, easy to shovel. The sidewalks and roads were all clear. I walked around Harvard Square and it was fine.

Last night it snowed more and then turned to rain. So now all those perfectly cleared sidewalks are canals of slush. Crossing the street is a call for bathyscaphes.

I am now self-employed, which means it's still a work day. Back to the iPhone mines.

#38 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 02:01 PM:

Steve, #19: I'm just glad we don't have a con this weekend. Scott (up near Dallas) just got back from one, and he's complaining that there's 1/3" of ice all over everything and he can't get the van doors open -- and the ice scraper, of course, is in the van.

Our house is 60 years old and not as well-insulated as it should be. I'm wearing multiple layers; I think my partner is already in long underwear. The kitten (who has a lower volume-to-surface-area ratio than the adult cats) is wanting to spend a lot of time on laps.

#39 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 02:02 PM:

The mosaic The Blizzard of 1888 from the Nebraska state capitol building

#40 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 02:04 PM:

University of Oklahoma has been closed for two days -- and what's really surprising is the library also closed and we didn't have to risk our lives to get in and open up for the few people foolish enough to risk their lives to try to come in. We're expecting to open tomorrow, though universities in other parts of the state have pretty much given up on the rest of the week. At least today it is bright and sunny and still, though still bitterly cold. At the height of the storm, we had thundersleet, and ice pellets were blowing horizontally at my north-facing windows.

#41 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 02:08 PM:

Lee, considering that the kitten has been all sickly and stuff, maybe the mite rates the use of a heating pad, if you have one in the house.

#42 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:28 PM:

fidelio, #41: We don't have a heating pad. But one of the adult cats has now accepted her to the point of being willing to play and to curl up together, and we put a fleece throw piled up on the sofa last night so that she'd have something warm to burrow into if necessary.

We haven't had any problems with the water to the house, but a pipe burst in the garage last night. My partner is out there now, moving boxes of T-shirts (some of which will have to be run thru the dryer) and trying to clear it out to the point of being able to fix the pipe. :-(

#43 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:31 PM:

joann @ #33, I'm guessing you're in Texas too?

Here in Austin, it's definitely cold by local standards, but that's it: no real ice on the roads, or anything but nippy weather. The real problem is that apparently the grid that can handle everyone running their AC in the summer can't handle all the heaters running against this cold, so it's sending around rolling blackouts. Which means everyone's heat keeps turning off. And then needs to run again constantly when the electricity is on to make up for the heat loss, and, well. I'm not sure this is really a good solution to the problem at hand.

I, for one, am getting really tired of the blackouts. I almost wish they'd just turn it off entirely or not, instead of sudden unpredictable off followed by sudden unpredictable on.

#44 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:35 PM:

Take care, everyone. Wrap up warm.

Meanwhile, we've the possibility of a mostly sunny day with a high of 7 C tomorrow - although I'll believe it when it happens. Still, should be nice for my lunchtime run if it's true.

#45 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:38 PM:

Yup, got other friends near Austin reporting the blackouts are frustrating them no end.

It occurs to me that one unit of electricity produces one unit of heat [for the cheap electric heaters that you put in when you expect the owners rarely have to use them] whereas one unit of electricity produces MORE than one unit of coolth (modern a/c is about 5:1 I think.) Also getting from 102 F down to 78 is a lot less than getting from 18 F up to 64.

(Do Austinites start to move slowly at 64 F? Or is that just a southeast US phenomenon?)

#46 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:46 PM:

Fade #43:

I'm not just in Texas, I'm actually in Austin--where i've been for 33 of the last 40 years.

Latest from Austin Energy's blog is that they're easing up on the blackouts. At least I think that's what they're saying, in between mentioning that they're now able to address actual power outages, which they'd said earlier they couldn't do until they'd stopped running blackouts. (And they could start putting timestamps as well as dates on their posts any old time they want to.)

My cat is curled up on the old vellux blanket that I folded up on top of the bed. My house is staying warm, we shut off the sprinklers several weeks ago, and all the hose bibs have cozies on them. My remarkably careless next-door neighbors have, of course, done nothing about all this, particularly the hose part, and I'm waiting for something to break.

#47 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:48 PM:

Sandy R #45:

This Austinite moves more briskly at 64, at least when she's outside. Inside, OTOH, I sort of huddle up and consider my frostbitten hands. All is relative.

#48 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:54 PM:

I rather like Jen Pelland's take on how to handle Boston-area snow removal.

#49 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:54 PM:

The rolling blackouts in Texas were caused, in part, by broken water pipes at a couple of major power plants.

After all the news items about wrapping your pipes and the like, it's ironic that the power plants had these troubles.

#50 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 04:55 PM:

Minneapolis missed this one, thank goodness. We've had plenty of snow already this winter; over 60 inches, as much as we get all season, and it's only the beginning of February.

It's clear and sunny, and 11 above. Really, that's good weather here.

#51 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 05:32 PM:

Hmm. 40 and Sunny here. And I'm only 1/4 the way through the woodpile for the year. I'm just starting the second cord, and normally that happens sometime in December. I don't really understand this year.

#52 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 05:36 PM:

A friend of mine tweets: "If the poor Colorado groundhog tries to peek out tomorrow, his shadow is likely to freeze and snap right off! So what would THAT portend?"

#53 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 06:58 PM:

The Upper Left Coast lucked out this time. The temp was 30°F this morning, which is usually the cue for a thorough deposit of sleet/freezing rain here. Instead we got clear skies and high winds, which made the morning walk cold but not slippery. The last 3 days have been the clearest we've had in quite awhile (after a week or so of dense fog filling up the valleys), and a lot of people have been wondering what that yellow ball in the sky is. Good luck to everyone facing the bad weather.

#54 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 07:47 PM:

fidelio @7: I think that was sleet-speak.

#55 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 08:54 PM:

It was mild and sunny here too, despite those scary-looking lows I saw above us on the weather map.

#56 ::: Wirelizard ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 09:56 PM:

One hundred and six years later, this might look familiar to some of the hosts and regulars here, given the current weather conditions on the East Coast.

If you haven't discovered Shorpy's yet, it'd be a marvelous place to spend a snowed-in evening. All sorts of resurrected photographic awesome.

(weather here is it's usual Wet Coast "5 C but feels like 0 C as a high, and -2 C which feels Goddamned inhumane as a low". No precip of either the evil white or conventional wet variety, thankfully.)

#57 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2011, 10:26 PM:

I was reading a story in the online version of the Plainview (TX) newspaper yesterday. At 1pm their time, it was 10 degrees F, with an expected windchill of -7 to -17. They were lucky, they got only a couple of inches of snow. 50 miles south of them, there was snow and freezing rain. (The snow is welcome, as they're having a very dry winter so far.)

Here in Los Angeles, it's chilly and the wind has dropped to somewhere around 10 mph. This morning, in Fontana (I10/15 interchange area, if you're looking for it) there were five semis blown over by the wind. Fortunately none of them were on the overpasses at that interchange, or it would have been a real mess.

#58 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 12:18 AM:

Houston will be running highs in the low 30s for the next few days, with snow Thursday and Friday. Saturday is predicted to be sunny with a high around 50. Good news for the artists signed up for First Saturday Arts Market!

The garage pipe has been dealt with by the simple expedient of disconnecting it from the main line and replacing the connector with a plug. He never uses it anyhow, so there's no reason to keep it connected. Still rather a lot of clearing-out and re-packing to do, though, and all the shirt stock needs to be back under cover by the time the snow starts. On the bright side, this is forcing a major decluttering of that part of the garage.

#59 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 01:00 AM:

I was just looking at an article from one of our region's major newspapers*, and could not help but think that the headline was mispunctuated. Surely it should have read "Region spared ... this time". We have been fairly lucky so far here (southwesternmost Pennsylvania** and nearby parts of West Virginia and Ohio), despite the fact that this morning I saw grass in my front yard*** for the first time in weeks. Maybe in 2011. It's been covered with snow, but only a few inches. The big storm this week arched north of us; it hit Youngstown but left the Burgh largely unscathed.

*Amazingly, they still have room for stories not having to do with the Super Bowl. (Obligatory patriotic statement for all citizens of our area to add in this time of trial: Go, Steelers! [waves Terrible Towel])

** For this particular purpose, the region does not include areas north of, say, Butler, or much south of Waynesburg. Or east of, um, maybe Irwin (the latter being near where I grew up)s.

*** Said yard being in Weirton, WV, on an east-facing slope which got lots of sunshine this morning before we got another inch or two of snow.

#60 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 01:02 AM:



#61 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 01:40 AM:

I don't miss having real winters here in Northern California, but I do miss having groundhogs. Back when I lived in New Jersey, the place I worked was a big box in the middle of a big field, and a lot of groundhogs lived out on one side of the field. Typically, the groundhogs would come out of their burrows for the spring around mid-March, six weeks after Groundhog Day, whether Punxsutawney Phil had allegedly seen his shadow or not.

#62 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 03:36 AM:

Wirelizard @ 56: Wonderful picture. Apart from the snow, what struck me was the incongruous-looking mix of tall building (Flatiron Building) and horse-drawn transport. Gave me an inkling of what a marvel tall city buildings must have been to a country-dweller, back in the day.

#63 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 09:12 AM:

In the department of I Ought To Have Expected It: there is beaucoup de media coverage, here in Chicago, of how long it took the city to dig out LSD* and free/tow all 900 cars that got stuck on it during yesterday's rush hour.

The north side is largely recovered. Their neighborhood streets are plowed; their sidewalks have largely been shoveled (because large apartment buildings hire services).

However, the darker neighborhoods of the city, in one of which I live, have not yet seen a plow, well after 12hr after it quit snowing.

Daley and his emergency-management authority promised in live press conference yesterday that as soon as (a) it quit snowing and (b) they could keep the arterial main streets clear, they'd start in on the neighborhoods.

Clearly, he meant 'neighborhoods with rich white people living in them,' not brown neighborhoods or poor ones, even white poor ones.

Despite the fact that the people in the rich white neighborhoods can (and did!) afford to take a day or two off work to play in the snow with their kids, whereas my neighbors would be fired if they didn't show up, and are now having to SHOVEL OUR STREET so we can take cars out to the (nicely-plowed and salted, it must be admitted) arterial street.

In 1979, the mayoral race was decided by just such antics. Unfortunately, this year, our incumbent has already said he won't run, and none of the candidates are making a stink. Several of the more savvy ones took their aides and press corps and went into (rich white) neighborhoods to be seen volunteering to shovel sidewalks for the elderly.

* Lake Shore Drive, our beachside expressway. Which gets icy lake blown up onto it in NORMAL storms, nevermind the thing we just had. That 900 IDIOTS thought it was reasonable to even BE on it last night is a wonder and a marvel to me.

#64 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 09:57 AM:

Meanwhile, down in this wee corner of the far Pacific, northern Queensland has just been hit with a category 5 cyclone: Yasi. Nobody killed, it seems, but a hell of a lot of property damage and crop destruction. Third cyclone of the season, and this following disastrous floods.

Hasn't the weather been odd, lately?

#65 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 10:00 AM:

[waves Terrible Towel back at Lois @59]

Getting ready to trek in to work. We are going to open the library part of the day, even though campus is closed. Not as sunny as yesterday, but no wind to speak of, so 9 degrees F should be do-able, given sufficient layering. (Planning on sweat pants over corduroys over pantyhose, and three layers on top plus parka. Ridiculous. This is Oklahoma, dammit, not Maine!!)

#66 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 10:05 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 64... Hasn't the weather been odd, lately?

I called my mom during the Holidays and apparently her Quebec City suburb had only a few inches of snow. Been that way for a few winters. Sure is different from the 10-foot-high snodrifts of my youth.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 10:06 AM:

This frigid winter almost makes me want to watch Altman's "Quintet". Almost.

#68 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 11:03 AM:

here in Denver one of my thermometers actually broke, the bulb cracked. For some peculiar reason this made it read 110 degrees this morning, when the other thermometer maintained it was -2.
The schools had 'cold' days instead of snow days, never seen that before - apparently the school buses (diesel) couldn't be started. I shoveled the couple of inches of snow in -18 or so, which turned my face numb and rigid in the time it took. That's some impressive cold.

I always think of the Jack London story "To Build a Fire" in these temperatures..

#69 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 11:39 AM:

I am, meanwhile, happy to settle for what I've got here: bleak. However, rain is promised for tonight and tomorrow.

#70 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 11:50 AM:

Boulder actually saw a tropical 16°F this morning around 8:30. I actually had to shuck some layers as I was walking to the bus. Still froze my * off on the aluminum (Really!? Who thought that up?) bench at the bus stop.

#71 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 11:52 AM:

Meanwhile, around the Bay region (that's the SF Bay, not the Bay State) the weather website is forecasting 10 days of sun. Please, all of you coping with cold and snow, take care, stay warm, drive slowly if you must drive.

I am trying to type with an 18 pound cat on my lap...

#72 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 12:13 PM:

Doug K @68

What happens is that wax in the diesel precipitates. The UK standard for winter grade sets the waxing point at -15 °C, a bit higher than in continental Europe, and we hit that locally in December. The temperature is a little higher if the fuel filters aren't clean.

I don't know what US standards are.

#73 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 12:22 PM:

Being as I'm off on the left coast, my only available contribution to the weather woes theme is to note that my nephew in Waterville Maine evidently made the human-interest section of the local paper earlier this week by doing what he does all year round: walking to high school wearing shorts. I believe the photo they used was from before the most recent storm -- I haven't checked in to see whether he maintained the practice throughout the current week.

#74 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 12:27 PM:

I remember when they rolled out the new diesel some years back (after testing for a solid year in California), and nothing diesel-powered was rolling; not school buses, not fire trucks, not ambulances, not big rigs.

Mixing the fuel fifty-fifty with kerosene worked until the new fuel standards came out.

#75 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 01:37 PM:

I wonder how the map of "degree of Libertarian political leanings" would compare to the map of "importance of snow removal"? They might inversely correlate, as people realized the importance of some government functions; or they might directly correlate, as people dependent on govt. snow removal felt they got bad service. So probably it won't correlate much, since the service quality is local and hence somewhat random. (Hypothesis).

#76 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 04:17 PM:

#75 ::: ddb :: I wonder how the map of "degree of Libertarian political leanings" would compare to the map of "importance of snow removal"?

I'd suggest that a map of Libertarian Political Leanings would be inversely related to a map of Aware of the Real World.

#77 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 05:34 PM:

Here in London, we're warmer than in Texas - that's rare - but likely to be reversed again in a couple of days ! Had a lovely run this lunchtime, in actual sunshine. Weekend is forcast to be wetter, however, which will be less fun for running (5K Parkrun scheduled for Saturday, and a long slow run on Sunday, I hope).

Drive carefully in the snow.

#78 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 05:39 PM:

@73 I SAW THAT PICTURE! and the name looked familiar, which makes me wonder if I've met the kid... (my other half is involved with the Boy Scouts, which means I encounter scores of Other People's Boys on a peripheral basis, usually in large groups when the kids are all wearing the same thing...)

#79 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 05:47 PM:

James D Macdonald @ 76... I like it!

#80 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 06:31 PM:

ddb@75 - Libertarian leanings generally correspond to people who have either consciously decided that it's ok, and live in New Hampshire, Colorado, or Alaska, or have consciously decided that it's not ok, and live in Arizona or California, mostly in parts of those states where if snow does get confused and accidentally show up, it'll melt quickly anyway. There are exceptions - Nevada has the Vegas people who don't want snow, and the Tahoe people who are ex-Californians who like to ski where the taxes are low, and consider snow removal to be part of the resorts' jobs.

#81 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 09:57 PM:

Serge #11 Re: "Har Har Al Gore.... Not that anyone listens.

#82 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 10:13 PM:

David Harmon @ 81... That's pretty much what I said to that silly person, ending with "Scientists - what do THEY know?"

#83 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 11:55 PM:

Thena @78

I don't believe the nephew does Scouts, but there's band and soccer and who knows what-all else you might know him from. (And furthermore, Waterville is a small town -- doesn't everyone know everyone else?)

#84 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 12:39 AM:

David, #81: I usually point them at stuff like this and this.

The first link is particularly compelling; it shows the northward shift of agricultural hardiness zones just over the period from 1990 to 2006. I wish I could find a few more of these, from both earlier and later years.

#85 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 02:20 AM:

Fade Manley @ 43:

Any reasonably modern AC unit is a heat pump with a good efficiency (3? 4?), whereas the electric heaters are by laws of physics going to have an efficiency of exactly one.

So if you are an equal amount under your indoor temperature than you are over it in the summer, your electricity consumption is going to be that 3 or 4 times higher.

In these contemporary times when AC in houses is cropping up even here in Finland, anyone actually involved with power production will state that the effect of that development on the grid is simply lost in the rounding error and impossible to measure. But that's also because the temperature difference our AC is working against is pretty low, on the maybe 20 days of the year when it exists at all.

#86 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 07:30 AM:

I see here that after Cyclone Yasi passed over the north Queensland coast, packing 270 km/hr winds, most buildings built before 1980 were badly damaged, and some flattened, but (get this) no building built in accordance with post-1980 building codes was structurally damaged by wind. Most lost some glass, and there was some damage caused by uprooted trees being slammed into houses, but all post-1980 buildings sheltered their occupants and were still sound after the storm passed.

Damn government red tape.

#87 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 08:22 AM:

Dave Luckett @86: It's shocking how government regulation, combined with effective enforcement of building codes, can act to prevent people's freedom to repair or rebuild their houses on very short notice, just at a time when there is immense competition for the services of builders and for building supplies. It's appalling that believers in the free market are being kept from their right to exploit this situation until your fellow Australians have been bled for everything they're worth. /Randian idiot

If I understand this correctly, aren't you all just about at the midpoint of the tropical cyclone season? Damn. Just...damn.

#88 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 08:35 AM:

"If I understand this correctly, aren't you all just about at the midpoint of the tropical cyclone season? Damn. Just...damn."

Yep, fidelio, that's where we are. Bets are being taken on whether the next big one will be west side or east side. Or maybe split the difference, like Tracey in 1974.

Me, I'm glad I chose the more expensive option and had aluminium box-beam roof trussing and every single tile on the roof wired down.

#89 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 11:11 AM:

Here in the US, the typical pattern for hurricane season is that earlier storms tend to be less intense than later ones, which is (if I understand the models) the result of heat accumulation through the warm season--the more heat accumulation (there's technical term for it, which I don't know) the more energy available to fuel the storm. If your pattern is similar, and you get a storm like Yasi at the midpoint of the season--that's a scary sign for the rest of the year's storms. I'm glad you took the belt and suspenders (or belt and braces, if you prefer) approach to roof installation, and I hope plenty of others were as cautious.

#90 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 11:15 AM:

Hi -- finally back at work (it's lunchtime) after three days in the frozen wastes of Clintonville, Ohio.

We had about 36 hours of "wintry mix." We lost power for about 12 hours on Wednesday, then couldn't get the van unfrozen enough to drive to work Thursday. There was no way we were going to try to walk to the bus stop -- our street looked like frozen white water rapids.

The power outages around Ohio contributed to the death of 3 couples. Seems they put their brand spanking new gas generators in their garages. Carbon monoxide poisoning...

I. Have. Had. Enough. Winter.

#91 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 02:04 PM:

I feel like I'm about to suffer hypothermia right here in my office. The heat is off in the newer part of the building (go figure) where the public service desks, public computers, and most staff offices are. It's just me and some kids manning the circulation desks today -- university's still shut down, but the library is Essential, or at least my department is.

It's 54 F in the outer office. My thermometer says 60 but I don't trust it. I may have to abandon the kids and slope off to my study for a while just to warm up enough to work.

#92 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 02:57 PM:

Here in Scotland the weather is just plain weird right now.

It's warmer than it was last month, significantly above freezing -- single digits celsius -- but we have wind. Boy do we have wind! Here in Edinburgh it's gusting to 100km/h, and in the highlands a peak wind speed of over 220km/h was recorded -- hurricane force, and indeed the Met Office was warning of Force 12 winds in the North Sea on Wednesday/Thursday.

It's raining, too -- sideways by the bucketload.

This is Not Normal, but February weather is due to resume next Monday ...

Someone fix the climate, please? This one's broke.

#93 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 03:47 PM:

"Someone fix the climate, please? This one's broke.

Well let's see. If we start by reducing the excessive release of CO2 into the atmosphere...

We -have- shown we can all work together (e.g. with CFCs).

I'm really thinking this cross-threads with "…or assuredly we will all hang separately" - except we're all going to hang together with this one.

#94 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 03:59 PM:


The efficiency of heat pumps depends on outside temperature, too, right[1]? I know our heat pump switches over to using a conventional electric heating element at some outside temperature.

[1] I'm sure it really depends on the difference between the desired inside temperature and the outside temperature, but I'm assuming my thermostat setting doesn't move nearly so much as the outdoor temperature does.

#95 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 04:03 PM:


Easier to say than to do, alas, though it's a worthwhile goal.

I'm curious how we would measure how weird the weather is, to see if we're seeing an unexpected level of extremes in climate now relative to a century ago. It's fairly easy for better media and people living in more places to give that impression, even when things are no different.

#96 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 04:17 PM:


It strikes me that the hotbed of US libertarian thought was/is the University of Chicago, which is, in fact, a place where a lot of snow falls. I gather they do snow-removal fairly well there, for that matter.


Is there any difference in content between your comment and the sort of comment you read on a right-wing blog about liberals?

#97 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 04:50 PM:

Deleted as not helpful.

-- JDM

#98 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 05:36 PM:

albatross: Records. I'm not going to look them up just now (I've enough work- and semi work-related research to do), but I'm fairly sure that there has been an increase in unusual weather patterns, alongside the warmer years, changes in species' ranges etc. etc. Even in my lifetime, in my own experience, here on these British Isles, the weather has got less predictable.

#99 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 06:16 PM:

Albatros #95 - I am sure I saw some interesting graphs a while ago showing an increase in record breaking events, such as temperature, precipitation etc. I think it was for the USA, so far I have been unable to find it. Naturally as the earth warms you expect to get more extreme temperatures more often, and the extreme becomes normal.
There have been plenty of extreme weather events in the past, but it seems that we are having more, more often, across a much wider area, than we used to.
Of course the worsening of records the further back we go makes quantification hard, but this report here, covering the USA, says that there's more extreme precipitation than there used to be, fewer extreme cold events, and a rising trend of extreme heat, although still not as extreme as the 1930's.

It looks well worth a read for people living in North America.

#100 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 06:17 PM:

@83 Eh, who knows? I don't live in W'ville (I live in Augusta) nor do I have kids, school age or otherwise, so who knows?

(I'm still getting used to the whole "small town" thing about central Maine. Everybody knows everybody else, and everybody else's business, within about three degrees of separation. There is no anonymity here. I have to behave. All. The. Time.. Or failing that, act up and own it at work, at church, and in front of my in-laws. I'm tending toward the latter, to great consternation all round.)

#101 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 06:53 PM:

This article indicates that the magnetic polar north has increased its shift, from roughly 2 miles a year to nearly 40 miles/year. The author then goes on to theorize that the shifting magnetic field may be helping create these "superstorms", from the massive snowfall in England, to the flooding and typhoons in Australia, to the huge snowstorms in the US.

I'm certainly not learned enough in this field to know if it is really makes sense, but the doomsday sounds from the article make me wonder if there is anything actually to this.

#102 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 07:02 PM:

Austin gets snow, every few years. Flakes that pretty much evaporate when they hit the ground.

But this time it snowed...maybe a whole half inch! And it stuck! At noon when I left the house, there was still enough snow in any shaded stretch to leave footprints in, or scrape together for a snowball!

Hell on traffic, of course. But it was very exciting.

#103 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 07:06 PM:

The weather in Portland is . . . extraordinarily dreary.

Some wind or snow or torrents of rain or crashing thunder might help.

And also it's Pledge Week on NPR. I have an urge to sit in a corner and rock back and forth until spring.

#104 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 07:16 PM:

John L #101 - my impression after looking through that article is that it is dangerously misinformed, horrendously overhyped and desperately lacking in hard facts. What I can make of the abstract of the paper referred to does not show any indication of a link between the earths magnetic field and storms on earth.

The section:
"The earth's climate has been significantly affected by the planet's magnetic field, according to a Danish study published Monday that could challenge the notion that human emissions are responsible for global warming."

Makes it sound exactly like the usual denialist lies which are seeded across the media.
More digging will have to wait until tommorrow evening, since I'm off to bed now.
Looking up the name of the geologist mentioned, it seems he has form on this, find him mentioned in the comments here:

The concept seems to hinge on the unproven galactic cosmic rays act as seeds of rainfall hypothesis, which despite 15 years of work by various people, has found no support in any data. At leasst, no quality support that a rational outsider can agree on, although plenty of nutters think its all true.

#105 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 07:40 PM:

#100 ::: Thena ::: Everybody knows everybody else, and everybody else's business, within about three degrees of separation.

There's a sign in the liquor store here that says, "If nobody knows the trouble you've seen, you don't live in a small town." I think it's a reminder from the clerks there to ... drink responsibly.

#106 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 07:44 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 103:

And the jazz station, KMHD, is having a pledge drive at the same time. The Horror!

guthrie @ 104:

galactic cosmic rays act as seeds of rainfall hypothesis

So our atmosphere is a giant Wilson Cloud Chamber? Are they aware that most of the hard cosmic rays that get through to the lower atmosphere have too high an energy to be very much affected by the magnetic field?

I read through some of that article and the links it points to, and found both factual errors (the Earth's magnetic field does not affect incoming solar ultraviolet or any other form of EM wave) and unsupported sensationalism (they give no evidence that the movement of the Earth's magnetic field should cause the spawning of superstorms; that just tacked on to the other effects that they do say have evidence). I'm not impressed.

#107 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 08:54 PM:

#106 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (they give no evidence that the movement of the Earth's magnetic field should cause the spawning of superstorms; that just tacked on to the other effects that they do say have evidence)

If they cite Immanuel Velikovsky I will be impressed.

#108 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 10:59 PM:

albatross, #96: Well... it is acknowledged that Reality tends to have a liberal bias. :-)

guthrie, #99: Re increasing numbers of record-breaking events -- that's exactly what I've been thinking for some time, and don't know how or where to look for a collection of data from which it could be extracted.

Thena, #100: This is exactly why I would never want to live in a city of fewer than half a million people -- and would be edgy about one with fewer than a million. Nobody in a small town has any concept of "Not My Business". I learned this also from my mother, who did grow up in a small town and never lost the habit of spying on the neighbors.

And whenever I think I might be wrong about this, I go back and re-read some of my mystery series that are set in small towns and praised to the skies for their "realistic evocation of small-town America". I come away shuddering.

(This should not be taken as a criticism of people who do choose to live in small towns. Mileage varies, and so do priorities.)

#109 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2011, 11:28 PM:

Stefan Jones @ 103 and Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) @ 106:
it's pledge week on NPR: Did you notice that the tote bag they're giving away has a bird on it? I'm sure the tote bag design must have be set months ago, which makes is a coincidence that a Portland radio station would put a bird on it, as in the Portlandia TV show. Or is Portlandia really a documentary?

#110 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 12:43 AM:

janetl @109:

Or is Portlandia really a documentary?

Yes. It shows the gentler side of Portland that Matt Groener wouldn't depict in The Simpsons.

#111 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 01:07 AM:

Jim Macdonald @ 107:

I'm impressed by anyone who can play billiards with the planet Venus.

#112 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 05:26 AM:

Bruce #106 - regarding the cosmic rays thing, I suspect some of them do know that. (The following is a summaary of what I remember from doing lots of reading and arguing several years ago) However I understand they have measured variations which are believable. The problem comes when they try and link up the known effects in a cloud chamber with the real world. For starters, it appears that the atmosphere is already saturated with raindrop nuclei in the for of sulphate droplets, dust particles, salt crystals etc. Therefore adding more nucleation events doesn't make any overall differences.
Secondly, they have had a great deal of difficulty making a connection between variations in cosmic rays and cloud cover, because the records for cloud cover aren't that great, and what they end up with looks, in my unprofessional opinion, rather like the results of random chance. Finally, IIRC, the precise predictions have changed somewhat over the years, it used to be high cloud, then it was low cloud, then it was only tropical cloud, and so on. A theory which changes every time they try and make it fit real world data might just have a problem or two.

Lee #108 - the report I linked to in 104 makes some definite statements regarding trends of extreme weather events in the USA. Whether or not extreme weather events were increasing or not is a big topic of debate, and up until late last year, the general view was that they were not. Whilst the amount of money lost in extreme weather events had been increasing through the last century, it appeared to be due more to tendencies of Americans to built houses in Hurricane zones, especially since poor people in foreign countries tend not to be insured. Munich Re know they are forking out more cash for weather related incidents than ever before, so they think there is something going on, but persuading lumewarmists such as Roger Pielke, who has made a career carefully attacking the leading edge of climate science/ politics interactions, is going to be a lot harder. Plus making a case for climate change on one year of extreme events is not always a good idea, even though it is rather likely that the Russian heat wave was exacerbated by global warming, as have been snow storms across the USA, and the negative NAO which brought snow and ice chaos to the UK.

#113 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 08:43 AM:

Jim @105

I'm reminded that you live in an area whose population is (around) an order of magnitude smaller than here...

Lee @108

I moved here from Portland, OR, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. (*) And aside from the part about not being logistically able to keep the ideologically awkward parts of my life from running into each other in the grocery store, I don't mind smallish town life. There are caveats: I'm perpetually frustrated at having to have Ordinary Things (for definitions of 'ordinary things' being 'consumer goods whose existence I have verified and which I now have a use for') shipped in from out of state; I still haven't mastered the art of steering out of a skid (although I'm getting better at estimating how fast I need to be going to skid in the direction I want the car to go); and I had a third thing here in mind when I started the sentence but I've forgotten what it was.

And something that's starting to unfold about the interconnectedness of small town existence is that it's a lot harder to think of Them (for whatever category of Them you wish to other) as Those People, because Those People are also your co-workers, your pizza shop owner, your neighbors, etc. In a bigger city I could keep myself in a community where I was the Most Conservative Person We Know (because I gladly consume meat, am not categorically opposed to the existence of firearms, and appreciate some of the capitalist parts of a functioning mixed economy (**)); now I'm the Token Liberal in many of my frequent contexts.

There was a time when I'd have shied away from that role and just quietly kept my opinions to myself, but I'm done with that and will continue to exist in an inconvenient manner and take a certain pleasure in busting assumptions. If I have to deal with Them, I remember that They also have to deal with Me, and I'm Not Going Away Either. And so we lurch forward, grumbling, into whatever happens next.

(*) It's complicated.

(**) See previous about Ordinary Things.

#114 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 11:22 AM:

Thena @113 That strikes me as a much better working definition of "community" than the more usual gathering of like-minded people.

#115 ::: Teemu Kalvas ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 03:25 PM:

albatross @ 94:

Yes, the efficiency of any given heat pump is always the greatest when the source and sink temperatures are closest to each other. That's why a ground source heat pump is more efficient than an air-sourced one anywhere where you heat more than cool. In practice it's only an economical choice if your heating needs are sufficiently large to make the larger installation costs seem small compared to the savings. They are big in Sweden and we are kind of catching on to the idea in Finland. (We both have the yearly average daily temperature somewhere around water freezing.)

#116 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 06:30 PM:

I suspect the didn't bother to run the generators' exhaust pipes to the outside world.
My parents' emergency generator was in the garage 9between the doors) and the exhaust pipe ran through the outside wall. It didn't eliminate all the fumes, but it was actually reasonably safe to go in the garage when it was running. (Usually it wasn't on for long enough to be a problem; the house could go ten or twelve hours, in winter, without the furnace on, before the temperature dropped enough to notice.)

#117 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 07:01 PM:

Sitting here in my flat with a glass wool insulated loft, cavity wall insulation, and gas fired heating which comes on every couple of hours when it is -10C, I was thinking keeping your house warm would be a related topic of conversation to those already on this thread and linked to in the OP.

#118 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 07:14 PM:

Keeping your house warm is indeed a related topic. I'm sorry now that I didn't mention carbon monoxide in the post here (though heaven knows I've mentioned it before and no doubt will again).

Any time you have unusual cold weather, particularly when combined with power outages, you find people trying to heat with unfamiliar things. If any kind of burning is involved...bad things can happen.

Even with familiar heaters, for example propane space-heaters with discharges low to the ground, if the exhaust pipe is blocked by unusually heavy snow, unhappy results may come. Keeping vents clear is another part of survival in winter time.

(Did I mention that it's well worth-while to make sure that no outside door is blocked by snow accumulation? A fire could ruin your day if the exit door won't open.)

Everyone has a carbon monoxide detector, yes? Checked, fresh batteries, in place and watching over them?

Very good.

BTW, I've got another winter storm rolling in right now, expecting 10-12 new inches tonight. It's currently snowing like a hamster.

#119 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2011, 10:06 PM:

Apparently another source of CO poisoning is incorrect exhausting of new, high-efficiency furnaces. Or rather their exhaust pipe is new, different and low to the ground. Here in KC we don't usually get this much snow, and sometimes the snow is covering up the exhaust vent.

So far, as far as I know, no deaths but several home evacuations and reminders to make sure the vent isn't blocked on our news programs.

when we got our new furnace/boiler last winter, they put the exhaust out the same way the old one was, put its own chimney.

#120 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 10:03 AM:

Jim 118:

I remember a big icestorm in North Carolina that knocked out power throughout the Triangle area. A whole bunch of Salvadoran immigrants died of CO poisoning, from using charcoal grills to heat their houses. I assume a lot of this was simply unfamiliarity with the whole problem of needing emergency heat in your house--not a problem that comes up a lot in El Salvador, so probably not something theyd have grown up hearing about as a danger.

#121 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 10:42 AM:

We had a real slam-bang thunderstorm last night, with mixed sleet and snow falling.

I've heard thunder from time to time in snowstorms before, but never anything like this.

There was a whole lot of energy in the atmosphere. Today is thirty degrees warmer than it was yesterday.

#122 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2011, 11:22 AM:

albatross @120: Here in Chicago, we get quite a few house fires in cold snaps, because (a) the gas company's not allowed to shut you off in winter, no matter how delinquent you get, but if they shut you off in the summer you've got no heat the subsequent season if you can't pay your back bills, (b) all the home-centers tout and sell this one design of kerosene heater as "Cheap, safe, effective!", and (c) that design puts the enormous fuel tank at the top, with spindly, narrow-placed legs below.

So people buy the kerosene heaters, fill them, and run them, often in the rooms they sleep in ... and then something nudges it, it falls over, kerosene splashes all around the room AND USUALLY ON THE BABY, if they have one, and then it all catches fire PAFOOM.

It's a horror and a crime, and I have no idea why they're allowed to sell a design with such a horrific failure-mode. Those heaters are responsible for at least 10 totally destroyed-by-fire houses a winter ...

#123 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 11:30 AM:

Lee @84: ...northward shift of agricultural hardiness zones just over the period from 1990 to 2006. I wish I could find a few more of these, from both earlier and later years.

Just ran across this Scientific American article from last spring:

A detailed set of aerial photos taken in the 1940s for oil exploration in northern Alaska has provided the most graphic evidence that the Arctic tundra is turning shrubbier and is "greening."
#124 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 11:36 AM:

I wonder how effective lampblack would be as a de-icer when spread on pavement...?

Maybe get a little carbon sequestration in the bargain...?

I wonder about its environmental impact, as compared to the mag-chlor they're using now....

#125 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 11:55 AM:

albatross @95: I'm curious how we would measure how weird the weather is, to see if we're seeing an unexpected level of extremes in climate now relative to a century ago.

Going to NCAR's website and searching on "extreme weather frequency" brings up a list of potentially relevant information.

#126 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 12:30 PM:

James D. Macdonald @118: It's currently snowing like a hamster.

As distinct from snowing like a marmot...? (Trans: "huh?")

#127 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 12:35 PM:

Jacque @124 I wonder how effective lampblack would be as a de-icer when spread on pavement...?

I guess you're thinking of roadways? My immediate thought was of spreading it on my sidewalk and steps ... and then tracking it into my house.

#128 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 12:51 PM:

James D. Macdonald@118: around here, the outer door nearly always opens inwards (making life much easier for police and thieves), so it can't be blocked by snow. It's the outer storm door that can be blocked by snow. It is, on the one hand, less sturdy (so it can't push as much snow around); but on the other hand, I can slide the storm up and kick out the screen in seconds, and go through the hole, if I really have to.

Paula Helm Murray@119: When they installed our high-efficiency furnace in 1986, venting up the chimney wasn't an option -- the exhaust isn't hot enough to rise that high, or something. HAD to go out the side, that's why that became the "new style". (Also convenient in that they put the pipe providing the burn air in parallel with the exhaust, so it's nowhere near twice the work.)

Thena@113: I grew up in a...medium-size town, maybe? At the time, 10k people. I didn't notice the "everybody knows you" and "no privacy" things that are frequently talked about. Maybe it has to be a bunch smaller for those to really kick in.

#129 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 01:53 PM:

Paula Helm Murray #119:

The only fatality from Cyclone Yasi in Australia resulted from using a generator in an enclosed room.

#130 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 02:14 PM:

OtterB @127: I guess you're thinking of roadways? My immediate thought was of spreading [lampblack] on my sidewalk and steps ... and then tracking it into my house.

Oh. Ahem. Yes.

Well, okay. Not a problem, as long as you have a black carpet...?

#131 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 02:17 PM:

Jacque, #123: Unfortunately, they require a subscription to look at more than the abstract. But I can readily imagine.

However, your link @125 may be exactly what I've been looking for; I need to delve into some of the links that come up on that search.

#132 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 03:04 PM:

Jacque #124 - the problem with the lampblack is that it would only work where there was sunlight to do so. I don't know about the magnsesium chloride, but here in Scotland I think the salt works well enough even without sunlight.

The thing I found so amazing but yet obvious in retrospect was how long the snow lasted on streets around here that didn't get the sun. The road outside my house runs S - N, and gets lots of sun. The roads on the other side of the hill dont get any and still had piles of snow and ice 2 weeks after ours had melted.
It also helps keep my house warm, having a side wall which faces south, and I'm sure it has helped reduce my heating bill a bit.

#133 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2011, 05:15 PM:

guthrie: Heh. We have a couple of annual glaciers that reside on the surfaces to the north of buildings in our complexes. Not a happy thing when combined with bicycle tires.

#134 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 05:06 AM:

ddb: A door which opens the other way is good for thieves too. Yes, it's harder to kick in, but it's easier to remove the hinges from.

#135 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2011, 10:02 AM:

Terry Karney@134: True, you'd need trick hinges, which then interfere with getting that big appliance into the house.

Hmmm; you could use one of the tricks from vault doors, maybe, and have fixed bolts on the back edge of the door that go into holes in the frame, making removing the hinges irrelevant while the door is closed. But you need much bigger bolts on the other edge, too, then.

#136 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 03:22 AM:

Thena@100ff, John Perry Barlow described living in small town Wyoming as "it's the kind of place where you don't have to use your turn signal because everybody already knows where you're going anyway."

#137 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 07:14 AM:

Door hinges: the pivot axis of the pins has to be on the edge of the frame and door that the door opens towards. When the door is closed, the fixings from door to hinge and hinge to frame are inaccessible.

Use steel: the hinges could be welded to door and frame, leaving only the hinge pins as the weak point. Design those right, and you force the attacker to use power tools. By that point, it maybe doesn't matter which way the door opens.

#138 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 10:53 AM:

In regard to frightfulness, it is currently significantly colder in Arkansas than Chicago -- and it's -4 in Chicago! This is bizarre to me; in my mind, Arkansas was always part of The South.

#139 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 11:17 AM:

HLN: Reliably clueless next-door neighbors managed to run their sprinklers last night, producing a localized ice storm. $Spouse at serious risk when he goes out to collect newspapers, and alley full of frozen runoff.

These are also the fools who left one of their cats out yesterday, howling mighteously, in below-freezing temps and 30 mph+ winds. (I put some towels on one of our porch chairs, but got no takers--although their south-facing patio has no non-metal/concrete surfaces, it is more protected than our north-facing porch.)

(Note that *any* sprinkler use in winter in this city is counter-productive, as usage for Dec-Feb is averaged to produce base water charges for next twelve months. I once knew an--admittedly succumbing to middle-aged male cheapitude--chap who ate off paper plates during those months, and showered at the university gym.)

#140 ::: ddb ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 11:45 AM:

Dave Bell@137: I've had to take enough doors off to get that extra inch of width that I do see welding the door on as a bit of a cost.

Wish I could upgrade to steel frame and steel door, though; I'd like better security. Well, all it takes is money, as the saying goes.

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