In The Teeth Of The “Bomb Cyclone”

It always produces a good, warm feeling when the holidays approach, you know lots of people will be traveling and anxiety will be high, and the inevitable dire warnings get issued about “travel hell” and disastrous weather. During this time of year, it’s great to see news stories like this one–about a huge winter storm bearing down on the Midwest that is expected to “evolve” into a “bomb cyclone,” just in time for Christmas.

I recognize that it’s got to challenging to write about the weather–how many different ways can there be to describe an approaching snowstorm?–but I have to give special credit to the writer of that piece, with the use of “evolve” suggesting that the storm is some living, malignant creature, ready to transmogrify into something even more fearsome and terrible. And, of course, “bomb cyclone” is the latest scary phrase for a bad snow storm with high winds. We didn’t used to call them “bomb cyclones” when we were hit with severe snow storms in past years; the weather people pretty much stuck with “storm of the century.” “Bomb cyclone” sounds a lot cooler and more hazardous, though.

Good luck to everyone who will be on the road over the holidays. Keep your chin up, try not to let the predictions of disaster and travel delays quash your holiday spirit, and be ready to move fast to lay in ample supplies of toilet paper and bottled water if that dreaded “bomb cyclone” goes off.

Watering The Storm

There’s supposed to be a huge snowstorm bearing down on the Midwest, including our little neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.  Some people apparently are worried about it.

Last night, Kish and I went out to dinner, and our waiter asked us — only half facetiously — whether we had scurried off to the supermarket to lay in supplies of bottled water.  68212843 - closeup on mineral water green bottles in raw and linesWhen I looked puzzled, he helpfully added that an incoming winter storm was supposed to arrive overnight and drop 4 to 6 inches of snow on Columbus.  The message was clear:  winter storm = need water.  Lots and lots of water, apparently, and not the out of the tap variety, either.

Of course, we didn’t go directly to the store to buy a case or two of bottled water.  I’ve never succumbed to storm frenzy, and I’m not quite sure why other people are so susceptible to it.  In the Midwest, in winter, a snowstorm that drops 4 to 6 inches of the white stuff isn’t an everyday occurrence, but it’s certainly common enough that people shouldn’t freak out about it.

And the need for bottled water baffles me, too.  I don’t drink bottled water under normal circumstances, so why would I suddenly start doing so because of a snowstorm?  I’m perfectly happy with whatever comes out of the faucet.  And winter storms aren’t like hurricanes that might knock out water facilities and leave people without electricity or water for days or even weeks.  To my recollection, we’ve always had water even in the aftermath of the greatest blizzards, like the Great Blizzard of ’78.  And the nice thing about a snowstorm is — it provides its own supply of water.  If Kish and I get really desperate, we can always scoop up some of the white stuff and wait for it to melt.

As I write this, I see that snow has started falling.  The storm must be here!  You know, it kind of makes me thirsty.

Snow To The Windowsill, And The Great Wall Of Webner

Snow to the windowsill, with buried bushes underneath

Columbus was hit with another blizzard today.  As of 6 p.m., I’d say another six inches had fallen on New Albany, and more is supposed to be on the way.

The firm closed early due to horrible road conditions, and traffic moved at a crawl on the drive home as snow continued to fall at a rapid rate.  When I got home I promptly changed into snow gear, grabbed my trusty long-handled, flat-edged shovel, and began the latest driveway snow-clearing exercise.

This is perhaps the fourth large snow storm we’ve had in the last two weeks, and because temperatures have stayed at or below freezing during that entire time period there has been very little snow melt. The massive resulting accumulation of snow poses some difficult challenges for the shoveler.

The Great Wall Of Webner

On one side of my driveway, next to the house, the snow has been piled about as high as it can go, to a point only a few inches below the windowsill.  On the other side is the Great Wall of Webner, where the snowmass is about five feet high and growing with each new falling flake.  The Great Wall is a gnarly mixture of ice shards, packed snow, and slush, with a fresh white dusting on top.  The weight and density of the pile is such that, were a lump of coal at the bottom, it would even now be assuming diamond form due to the immense pressure.  It takes some effort to toss even more snow to the top of the pile.

Snow on the rear patio bannister

In the meantime, the yard and grounds have taken on an alien look.  Snow is perched precariously on the bannister on the back patio, as if Jack Frost has been playing some wintry game of Jenga.  In the front yard many of the the bushes are completely buried by snow, and several of the shrubs separating our property from that of our neighbor are bent down to the ground with the weight of the snow.

It took me about an hour or so to shovel our driveway clear of snow, and by the time I reached the foot of the drive the area next to the garage, where I had begun my efforts, was already covered by another inch of fresh snow.  As I put away the shovel for the night, the snow continued to fall.  I’ll be shoveling again tomorrow morning.

A White-Knuckle Drive

This morning I drove from Columbus to Cincinnati during a raging snowstorm only to learn, a few miles from the Cincinnati outskirts, that the hearing would be rescheduled for a later day.  So, I promptly turned around and drove back to Columbus.  It was a white-knuckle drive both ways.

The roads were snow-covered, large snowflakes were falling, and there was a stiff breeze.  Still, long-distance driving has its lulling effects.  You begin by driving slowly and carefully, and then you gradually, inevitably increase your speed as the traction seems solid and nothing bad happens.  The danger, of course, is that it only takes a small slick spot to turn your car — going a measly 60 miles an hour, well below the speed limit — into an out-of-control projectile, skidding down the roadway and probably spinning, besides.  It only takes a brief instant of feeling like your car has lost contact with the road to make your bowels clench and force a few fervent prayers (mixed with epithets) from your lips.  Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, so there are no atheists in cars driving miserably down interstate highways in snowstorms, trying to keep their cars on the two tracks in the slow lane, their ice-covered wiper blades slapping but failing to clear off a windshield that is coated with ice and snow and muck thrown by the tractor-trailer speeding by in the passing lane.

I tried to take it easy both ways and managed to get to the Orient area, just south of Columbus, when I saw a series of tractor-trailer/car accidents.  There were cars and truck strewn across the roadway and median as if they had been tossed there by an angry child.  Traffic halted completely and I thought, as I often do in such situations, whether I could have been involved in the pileup if I hadn’t stopped for gas and a cheeseburger.  After a time traffic started up again, and as I drove past a few jack-knifed tractor-trailers I promised to drive carefully the rest of the way.  Fortunately, no one seemed to be hurt, and I was able to stick to my careful driving promise for the rest of the drive.

When I got home tonight I poured myself a glass of wine that tasted very sweet indeed.

Another Day, Another Winter Storm

Forecasters are calling for yet another winter storm to hit Columbus today, with total expected accumulation of another 8 inches of snow.  From this morning’s stroll it appears that the leading edge of the storm is already here, with a brisk wind flinging little icy bullets against the intrepid walker.  So, we will batten down the hatches, leave for work a little earlier, and drive a little slower today.

As a former D.C. resident who remembers how the Nation’s Capital freaked out over even a few inches of snow during the early ’80s, I’ve been wondering about how D.C. residents are dealing with the aftermath of the historic storm that dumped some 30 inches of snow on the area last weekend.  It sounds like some things haven’t changed; I’ve heard a few news reports of worried residents binge-buying milk, bread, eggs and bottled water from local grocery stores upon reports of this new storm approaching.  So, no matter what happens, they’ll be able to enjoy a hearty brunch.

Blue Sky, White Snow, Clear Ice

Blue skies over New Albany

Blue skies have finally arrived over New Albany, and the snowfall has stopped.  That can mean only one thing:  time to shovel the driveway and help the neighbor dig his car out and give it a shove as he guns it up his driveway and into his garage.

The blue skies and sunshine, though, make the snowy environs even more striking.  The shrubs surrounding our house are completely buried under the blanket of snow, and the small ornamental trees have their branches dipped low, heavy with snow and ice.  The sunshine bathes the white landscape, highlighting the different shades of white and glinting off individual bits of ice encasing tree limbs.  The soft blue background and fleecy clouds add warmth to the scene.  An occasional gust of breeze causes bits of snow to drop from the trees, as if they are shaking themselves off like a wet dog.

The picturesque surroundings make the snow shoveling a bit more palatable.  Still, the snow is awfully deep, heavy, and wet.  Good packing snow, well suited for a snowman, a snow fort, or a snowball fight.

I think the estimate of about a foot of snow is pretty accurate.  The sounds of snow shovels scraping asphalt and concrete, followed by the thump of wet snow being added to growing piles next to driveways, fill the neighborhood.  Dogs are out and exploring, their invisible fences disabled by the storm.

No snowplows have visited our neighborhood yet.

World Of White

The view from our front doorstep at 7:30 a.m.

A few snowflakes continue to drift down, but the first day of the big storm is over, leaving behind a world of white.  We are guessing we received more than a foot of snow here in New Albany.

On the morning after a big overnight snowstorm, stepping outside becomes an eerie, monochromatic experience.  It is as if all color has been leached from the landscape, leaving behind only white and contrasting black.  White covers the roofs of neighboring houses, coats outdoor lamps, mailboxes, and tree limbs, and is piled precariously on the shrubs and tree limbs.  The sky itself is a flat, undifferentiated white, like a blank canvas that Russell has prepared but not yet touched with a brush.  It also is curiously quiet, with none of the road noises or other sounds you come to expect from your neighborhood.

One of the pine trees in our back yard

A walk around the yard means plenty of happy romping time for Penny, The Snow Dog, and also a chance to appreciate the rare beauty of snow on evergreen branches, many of which are bowed and heavy with snow.  It is a pleasant scene to watch from a window while drinking a hot cup of coffee.

The forecast is for more snow today.

The Big Snow

We’ve been hit by the latest winter “storm of the century,” and it has been an impressive storm indeed.  The snow started mid-morning, and it has been pelting down at a good clip since that time.

The view at about 5 p.m. today from our back door

It is a heavy, wet snow, with huge flakes, the kind that cling to tree limbs, eyeglasses, dog fur, and every other exposed surface.  I would expect that, before this storm is over, we are going to see tree limbs snap and power lines come down from the weight of the snow.  The accumulation has been rapid and significant.  I would estimate that, out in New Albany, we’ve gotten between four and six inches already, and it is still snowing hard.

On the drive home, the roads were passable — good job, Columbus road crews! — but they are rapidly growing worse.  I stopped at the store on the way home to stock up on essentials like wine and cheese, because it is going to be a good weekend to stay at home, looking out the window at the winter weather and being thankful that you are inside, warm, and well-fed.