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Snow

Posted by Julie on 1/31/03 at 03:35 (107453)

I will never wish for snow again.

Yesterday afternoon I set out in a blizzard (temperature 34, wind chill factor making it feel like 22, stinging snow, slippery streets) to catch an early train to take me into central London to teach my class - I was allowing plenty of time since, as I remarked the other day, the slightest extreme in weather conditions causes total collapse here.

When I got to the station the indicator board was showing the 16.20 train due at 16.25. That didn't sound too bad, but 16.25 came and went, and after another ten minutes the board posted a message saying the train was delayed because of a defective train in front of it.

Then the 16.33 train disappeared...from the board, and the one after it. By this time dozens of people were shivering on the platform (the waiting room is open only during rush hours) and I decided to cut my losses and make my way into town a different way. A 45 minute journey took almost two hours, and I was frozen.

I like snow to look at and play in, but it's no fun when you have to travel.

I am cured.

Re: coincidence!

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 07:00 (107458)

Wow, what a coincidence that you had snow this year when you have been posting about how you hoped for it! Sorry that it didn't turn out to be as much fun as it might have been.

Carole C

Re: Life or death

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 08:23 (107471)

Julie, I thought of you when I read this article online:

http://www.thisislondon.com/news/articles/3172550?source=Evening%20Standard

It says that London police have told everyone to stay home and off the roads unless it's a matter of life or death! I hope you are home, safe and warm.

Carole C

Re: Life or death

Julie on 1/31/03 at 08:59 (107472)

Carole, yes I am, and thanks for flagging this article. Everyone read it and learn about Life in London under Adverse Weather Conditions. It's a great description of what I was talking about a while ago and this morning - that 'weather' brings London to a standstill. It's a very complete and amusing story (unless you happen to have been one of the many people marooned on the M11 motorway for 15 hours last night and this morning) .

Well, I thought I had a bad time yesterday evening, but it was nothing compared to what those people have been through. And I was lucky - apparently the London roads were gridlocked, so if I'd gone home to get the car instead of what I did do, I'd never have got there.

It's still cold today, but the wind has dropped, and the garden looks nice under its thin snow blanket...maybe I'm not quite cured.

Re: good to hear!

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 09:18 (107474)

Whew! I'm glad you are safe and warm at home, and enjoying the beauty of the snow. :)

Carole C

Re: Snow

JudyS on 1/31/03 at 12:00 (107479)

Gosh Julie - I'm one of those silly people wishing for a bit of snow to 'play' in .........but you sure do remind me of what it's like to have to accomplish daily responsibilities in horrible weather! As Carole said, thank goodness you made it home safe and sound.

Re: Julie

wendyn on 1/31/03 at 14:17 (107489)

So - what's the deal?

Is it that people don't know how to drive on snow? Or is it that because snow is not that common - there isn't the machinery or man power in place to handle a good snowfall?

It doesn't sound like a lot of snow.

I actually have never seen our city 'shut down' like what's described in this story. The closest I've seen was about 5 years ago - when we had over 2 feet of snow over night. The schools were closed - but about half the people still made it into work.

I took one look outside and just went back to bed.

Re: Julie

Julie on 1/31/03 at 14:49 (107493)

I don't think anyone really knows the answer to that, Wendy. It's true that there certainly isn't the machinery and manpower in place to handle a good snowfall, and that's because the climate is -ostensibly - a mild one (which is true) and there is very little snow (as I have said frequently, bemoaning its infrequency (though after this I never will do that again!

It's also true that people don't know how to drive in snow and icy conditions (no-one has chains) for the same reason.

Countries that regularly have severe winters have the wherewithall in place to deal with them. Britain hasn't. So when the weather IS severe (as it occasionally is) the services can't cope, and we fall apart.

Having said that, everyone today is shocked and horrified that a couple of inches of snow and a strong wind should have so completely paralysed half the eastern half of the country - but that's what happened. Airports are closed, Eurostar train services to France and Belgium have all been cancelled, and people spent 24 hours stranded on the M11. Half the London Underground services (the bits that run above ground) aren't running. Dire warnings of further snow have been issued.

Questions Are Being Asked. Did the highway authorities fail to send the gritters out in sufficient time? Probably they didn't - but their excuse is that the gritters themselves were stranded in the traffic jams.

What we are having, apparently, are the worst conditions the country has ever experienced.

Further bulletins to follow, perhaps...

Re: Snow

Julie on 1/31/03 at 14:51 (107494)

Thanks, Judy. I think I was really lucky last night! I finished the class early, everyone having agreed that was the sensible thing to do, walked to Charing Cross, and found that the right train was waiting, 20 minutes late. I caught it with a minute to spare and got home quickly.

Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 16:30 (107505)

Wendy--

When I was in Northern Ireland about 7 years ago, I was stunned to see that less than an inch of snow on the roads would still cause people to cancel their plans. Ireland gets even less snow than Britain does, so people have even less idea what to do with it, and since the most anybody thinks to do is throw down some sand (maybe), it can still be dangerous. Especially since nobody you find on the road knows how the heck to drive in it.

I remember one morning when I was in the kitchen with Joan, who was the matriarch of the family I lived with, and she looked out the window and said 'Oh, I think we're about to be deluged with snow.' This was the winter of 1996, which people on the east coast of the US will remember as one of the snowiest on record, and I kept getting email from friends and family talking about snow that was waist-high, and how they'd have to get up on the roof to shovel the snow so the roof wouldn't cave in. So when she made this comment, I responded with appropriate dread.

Then I stopped and thought for a minute, and said 'When you say 'deluged,' just how much snow are you talking about?' She said 'Oh, maybe three or four inches.'

I burst out laughing and told her never to visit the US during the winter if she thought three inches was a deluge.

Bill Bryson also has a great passage about the British reaction to snow in his Notes from a Small Island (he is an Iowa native who spent 20 years living in the UK). He recounts his feelings upon seeing an article in the times about a blizzard in East Anglia with snowfall up to three inches, and drifts up to six. I don't remember his exact wording, but in the letter to the editor he wrote (but never sent), he said something along the lines of 'A blizzard is when you have so much snow that you can't open your front door, and drifts mean that you won't see your car for the rest of the winter.' One of my very favorite passages in the entire Bryson oeuvre.

Well, this is far more than anyone needed to know about me, the UK, and snow, but hopefully it has at least been amusing. I have to say I find it interesting that my relationship to the White Stuff seems to be mellowing a bit this year... for reasons not fully understood.

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 17:14 (107509)

i read the article carole posted, and it WAS hard not to laugh (though i don't laugh at your hard journey, julie!). i mean, i look at the picture and i ask, 'where is this supposed snow?' i can see the whole tires of the cars. the road looks white, but there seems to be no depth. it's hard to see what's stopping them.

but it sounds as though the worst of the problem has been iciness?

of course, we are used to it here, and there's the big difference. when i lived in cambridge, the blizzard of '78 brought 36 inches of snow over two days and nights. that paralyzed the cities, something i'd never seen before. we weren't allowed to go to work for a week.

then here in maine (and elsewhere) we had the ice storm of '98. that was exquisitely beautiful but wretched. trees and power lines were down EVERYwhere; we had no power for 9 days, and couldn't get anywhere to buy supplies because of trees across the roads. we heated by woodstove, which over 9 days didn't keep the place exactly hot. for many nights, we heard the branches of trees in the woods snapping and cracking under the weight of the ice -- several per minute. two trees on our property fell, one grazing the house. we were lucky.

and nancy, i do remember the winter of '96. i was still waist-high in snow in april!

despite my complaints about fallen snow and ice, i do think snow looks beautiful AS IT'S FALLING. after it hits the ground and makes walking and driving treacherous, i no longer enjoy it.

i'm sorry you had such a tough time, julie, and am only glad that you didn't go back for your car and try to drive!

nancy
.

Re: Julie

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 17:17 (107511)

Wow!!! 'how they'd have to get up on the roof to shovel the snow so the roof wouldn't cave in.'?

That's one aspect of living up north that never occurred to me.

I just can't even BEGIN to imagine it. Snow tires, scraping the windshield, shoveling snow, pipes freezing: these are difficulties of living up north that had occurred to me. The roof caving in had not!

I guess each climate has its own difficulties (we have our hurricanes). I am just blown away at the thought of that much snow accumulating on a roof.

Carole C

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 17:24 (107512)

yes, it's true, carole. that's a worry every winter for a great many people in the north. we now have a steeply pitched roof, but our other house, a bungalow, had a low pitched roof. phil spent many a winter shoveling it off numerous times, and also getting rid of the ice dams that allowed these big beautiful icicles to form on the edge of the roof. they'd extend down right past our windows. i loved how they looked, but they can break your roof off!

for a few winters (including the winter of '96, which nancy n mentioned), phil had to do this not only on our house but also on the lakehouse near us that my elderly father was renting. shoveling off roofs and breaking up ice dams became like a half-time job for him!

nancy
.

Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 17:36 (107513)

It's relatively rare to have that much snow in the mid-Atlantic region, Carole, but I'm sure in New England and Canada it's much more common, as Nancy S says. I was surprised in 96 when my mom would email me about going up on the roof. At first, I thought they were being ridiculously fastidious, but then it occurred to me that snow in that quantity, especially the heavier, more wet snow, would indeed be quite heavy. I have to confess that, while I seem to be making a certain amount of peace with the white stuff this year, I would not miss the shoveling, scraping, salting (the salt can do a number on your shoes and your carpets), etc...

Re: Julie

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 18:01 (107516)

Ice dams are a complete mystery to me. I guess that means that ice forms dams on the roof so that precipitation accumulates and turns into more ice. I had no idea that icicles could break your roof off! That doesn't sound good. I can see why Phil had to get up there and get rid of them.

So, what do old people do up in the north? Hire workmen every time it snows to shovel their roofs off? Somehow that sounds so surrealistic that it's almost comical. :)

Carole C

Re: Julie

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 18:05 (107517)

I can imagine you were surprised! I can't imagine my Mom on the roof of a house. Well, she's 94 now but I meant even when she was younger.

Salt can do a number on your shoes and your carpets???? This thread is more amazing to me than watching a National Geographic special on New Guinea. I wouldn't think that salt would do anything to carpets other than eventually require a vacuum. LOL

Carole C

Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 18:24 (107520)

Carole--

There are many kinds of salt used to melt ice. Most are not regular table salt. I think my development uses either calcium chloride or potassium chloride. They're not actually good for pavements (macadam, concrete, etc, maybe even bricks) because the chemicals can cause the pavement to deteriorate. So if you get this stuff on your shoes or track it in on your carpet, it can eat through the fibers. I don't have so much trouble with the shoes and don't hear many stories about it, but I know it can be a big carpet problem.

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 19:03 (107522)

the road salt also does a number on your car or truck. vehicles up north rust much more quickly than those in warmer climates because the salt, which splashes up onto the vehicle and stays there, eats away at the body of the vehicle.

garages are a hot commodity in the housing market up here for this reason, but -- why, i don't know -- there aren't that many garages in maine. newly built homes tend to have them, but older ones don't -- or if they do, the garages were long ago turned into sheds or barns (that is, if they haven't fallen down!).

nancy
.

Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 19:09 (107523)

And the salt on the cars is even worse when the weather is as cold as it has been lately, because it's too cold to wash the car. I finally washed mine on Sunday--just in time for it to snow again. But the salt had been on my car since December, so it was well overdue. And Sunday was one of the first times it was warm enough to wash anything in quite some time.

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 19:20 (107525)

ahhh, you had some warmth on sunday? today we hit 33 degrees, for a few minutes, for the first time in over three weeks.

another trouble i've had this year is with the front and side doors to my shop. they ice shut all along the bottom! i almost broke the side door, kicking and kicking and kicking, trying to get it open one day. and the front door freezes shut in no time. people try to open it and then think i'm closed, so i have to keep an eye out and go pry them in with a heavy-duty antique iron crowbar before they get away!

lately i've been salting under the doors like crazy, and that helps, although so much salt is required that it bunches up and actually jams the doors itself. ya can't win.

nancy
.

Re: garages

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 19:45 (107532)

We have the same problem of not many garages down here in New Orleans, too. Many of the older homes do not have them, and although most of the newer homes were originally built with garages, probably 80% of these newer homes have had the garages sealed off and turned into a fourth bedroom or family room within a few years.

My new house has no garage, because I couldn't find a suitable house that had one. When I was looking for my house, my realtor just couldn't understand why I would want a garage. He said they were mostly for keeping cars warm in the North. Of course, weather can be a problem for cars in the South too. Cars around here took a terrible beating from a hail storm a few years back.

I like having a garage because it keeps my car cleaner, and also it's a convenient place to put the lawnmower.

But mainly, being a city girl at heart I like having a garage due to the safety aspects for a woman living alone. It's not obvious to the casual passer-by or criminal whether or not the car is there, and I like that. Another safety aspect is addressed with a garage that has an automatic door opener, and is attached to the house. One can drive in, close the garage door, and then unlock the car and walk into the house safely.

Here is an essay about garages that I wrote just for myself, yesterday:
**********************************************************************

RIDDLES OF THE UNIVERSE

One of the great puzzles of the universe is this:

Why do people buy three bedroom houses with PERFECTLY GOOD garages, and then think they are being oh-so-original and creative by turning it into a fourth bedroom?

It's not for resale; a garage will add value to a house around here, more than the extra room will.

It's not because they need the bedrooms; the census bureau says that in my zip code, the average household has 2.1 people in it, and the average house has 3 bedrooms. And yet (by my own personal guess) I would say that at least 80% of garages here have been converted.

This is a real hassle, because one of those 2.1 people parks in the driveway, and the other 1-2 of them plus their guests park in the street. It not only looks trashy, but also it's hard to squeeze through most streets around here after dinner time.

Not only that, when a single person like me is house-hunting and WANTS a garage, and WOULD PAY $5,000 - $10,000 extra for a house if a house had a garage, but still can't find one, that's just plain stupid. Especially considering that almost every house in my suburb originally had a garage.

I think it's just a giant 'Gee, aren't I just the most creative remodeler you ever saw?' ego trip. Most of these converted garages don't even have heat or central A/C put in, so they are unusable anyway.

So here's a message to America: KEEP YOUR GARAGES!! Having your own garage is part of the American dream that is fading away all too rapidly.

Carole C

Re: garages

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 20:28 (107540)

carole, i can see why you'd want a garage, and i also think these houses full of unneeded bedrooms are weird. new houses these days have umpteen bedrooms for a working couple and 1.2 children. no one's even there most of the day! i get anxious with unnecessary rooms. fortunately (and sometimes not so fortunately), we don't have any now, so i have no reason ever to be anxious again!

we have no garage now, and like you say about your lawnmower, we have nowhere to put the snowblower, the wooden dinghy, the big ladders, the trash barrels, and so on. we try to hide these things very discreetly behind the house, but it isn't easy, and i miss our barn.

do you really think cars parked in the street look trashy? oh dear. you wouldn't approve of us here, i'm afraid! ;}

i imagine hail must make major dents in cars sometimes! we don't get much hail. maybe once a decade, and it's not big.

maybe you should send your essay in as a letter to the editor and get published and become famous.

nancy
.

Re: garages

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 22:32 (107564)

Nancy, I will always approve of you up there. It's just the nameless others to which that refers. Well, not even them, sometimes. It also depends on the cars. If the residents of a street drove Lamborghinis and Corvettes and cherry Model T's, I guess I would prefer it if they parked them out on the street.

The hail storm cracked a lot of people's windshields, and created an interesting pock-marked effect on cars in the area, as well as shattering windows all over town. Carpetbaggers from the north returned and set up shop as in previous eras, only to bang out dents in cars and replace windows this time. They are gone now. One interesting result is that when I looked for my house, almost all the houses on the market seemed to have two year old roofs... at the time, it had been 2.5 years since the hailstorm, which damaged so many roofs.

Instead of sending my essay in as a letter to the editor, I originally posted it (last night) to my online journal, which has a readership of exactly zero people. The nice thing about that is that I can say anything, even things that nobody would agree with. Like about the trashy thing, which I hopefully would have edited out before posting it (oops).

If I had a million dollars I could write a book and then buy up all the copies and hit the best seller list. Then I would be the famous author of a best seller. They never say who actually BOUGHT all those copies that a best seller has sold. Once I became a best seller and my name was a household word, I could publish a few dozen more books without a hitch. I think that is probably the only way that I would become a famous writer, though.

Carole C

Re: Life or death

Suzanne D on 1/31/03 at 22:58 (107566)

Dear Julie,

I am thankful you are o.k. and sorry to hear of the many who have been stranded on the slick roads in London. I understand somewhat how this can come to be as I have seen a few inches cause quite a bit of havoc around here, especially when there is ice as well as snow. We simply don't have the equipment or money for thorough snow removal throughout the county. And we have steep hills and curves which make it more treacherous.

I hope things return to normal soon for you, and I hope you can still enjoy a little of the beauty of the snow from inside your warm home!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Life or death

Julie on 2/01/03 at 05:02 (107581)

Thanks, Suzanne! After seeing what others had to go through on Thrusday night and Friday morning, I know I got off very lightly. It was good to get home and watch it all unfolding from the safety of my TV.

It sounds as though Kentucky's winter-solutions are in much the same boat as England's. It stands to reason really. It costs to keep whole fleets of snowploughs and gritters standing by 'just in case', and the question arises 'Is that how everyone wants their taxes spent?' So every so often we'll have a collapse.

This morning the temperature is in the low 40s, the snow and ice (which WAS the main problem, Nancy S) have melted, and it's raining. Almost time to start wishing for snow again. (Not really.)

Re: The worst thing...

Julie on 2/01/03 at 05:03 (107582)

...that happened is that a pine tree got uprooted by the wind and fell over next to a school and killed an 8-year-old girl.

Re: garages

nancy s. on 2/01/03 at 05:23 (107586)

carole, where is the online journal part of that website? i remember i went to it when you first posted it, and i couldn't find anything about a journal.

do you mean you post journal entries, and sometimes people read them and sometimes not?

nancy
.

Re: garages

Carole C in NOLA on 2/01/03 at 07:38 (107590)

The site is in the process of changing its name from http://www.stories.com to http://www.writing.com . I think both URLs work right now.

If you go there and hit 'reading' among the choices at the top, and then look down under 'reading: non-interactive' and select 'Journal', a bunch of peoples' journals will be listed. Some are interesting and some are not! I enjoy browsing through them to see what OTHER people say to themselves in their online journals. :)

The site is free (unless you upgrade) and there are a lot of different writing formats that you can choose from. Online journals are one of those formats.

Carole C

Re: Julie and the snow in general

Kathy G on 2/01/03 at 08:53 (107600)

Hi Julie,

Glad you survived that harrowing trip! You must have been frozen to the bone!

My sister lives in Annapolis, Maryland and she says that one inch of snow will totally shut down Maryland and the city of Washington D.C. For a few years, we had many southern storms so the cities have at least purchased more snow-treatment equipment but she says that doesn't help much because people just don't know how to drive in snow! It's all what we're accustomed to, I guess.

We are having a veritable heatwave in New England! Yesterday we hit 32 in our town and today, it's already 32 at 9:40 in the morning! As Nancy said, it's been 3 weeks since we've had above-freezing weather. I just wish we'd have some sunshine! It's been ages since we've seen the sun for a whole day. I think Nancy may have had sun on the coast and I know Manchester did, but we haven't seen it much here in Milford. And yes, now the worry about the roofs begin. Roofs in NE are a big problem. If the snowcover is too heavy, they can collapse under the weight. Particularly at risk are flat-roofed public buildings which are cheaper to build and thus cities continue to demand of their architects. If no one goes up to shovel those roofs, collapses and leaks are inevitable. I've never understood why we allow flat roofs in this climate. It's just asking for trouble.

And yes, Carole, those ice damns are a big problem. The back of our house faces due north and when we have warm days, the snow and ice on the roof starts to melt. Once the sun goes down, all that melting water freezes and a ridge, or damn, of ice is created. The next time it is warm, any water that melts can't flow down and melt off the roof because the damns prevent it from doing so. So even if the roof is in great shape, you can end up with water pouring into your house. It used to happen in my kitchen until my husband installed heating coils the whole length of the roof, about twelve inches back. When it gets to be above freezing and we know some melting will occur, we plug in the cables and they allow a nice trough to be formed. They're expensive to run but a whole lot less expensive than it would be to repair any water damage! Still, we're watching to see what will happen.

It's so interesting to hear about how the weather affects the lives of people who live in different climates!

No matter where we live, I think Spring will be especially welcome this year!

Re: garages

john h on 2/01/03 at 08:53 (107601)

Nancy there is an eccentric zillionaire who lives less than a mile from me. He has a garge with 32 cars in it inclding Mercedes. Rolls Phantom. Lamerghini, and ever high priced car you can think of. His house is 23,000 square feet. A few years ago he decorated his house with 3 million Xmas lights. It was unbelievable and could be seen from 85 miles away by air. Cars came from all over the nearby states to drive by and the traffice on the four lane highway came to a halt. It was shown on nationa tv. His neighbor sued him because of traffic and he had to have his lights taken down. He now decorates Elvis estate in Memphis, many small towns, and Disneyland with Xmas lights every year. He is eccentric but gives away enormous sums of money to all sort of people he does not even know. Recenly a group of my friends were at a resturant going crazy and making lots of noise. Mr. Jennings was there. As he got up to leave one of my friend said hello to him and appoliged for all the noise. He said he enjoyed it and on his way out paid there bill which was around $850.00.

Re: garages

Kathy G on 2/01/03 at 08:59 (107603)

That's so neat, John! If I were a millionaire, I'd want to be just like him. I'd enjoy my money personally and then I'd spread it around so that others could enjoy it to. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

By the way, what are you thinking of, having friends who are loud and rowdy?

Re: The worst thing...

Suzanne D on 2/01/03 at 09:22 (107606)

Oh, how sad, Julie.

My heart goes out to her family, teacher, and classmates.

Suzanne

Re: Julie and the snow in general

Carole C in NOLA on 2/01/03 at 10:42 (107619)

That's fascinating! I am astounded that anyone would put a flat roof on anything way up north, under the circumstances. There aren't even very many flat roofs here because it rains so much. If I traveled up north and saw such cables as you describe for heating coils in the roof, I would never in a million years have guessed the purpose. I only recently heard that people in very northern places like Canada actually put plug-in heaters in their cars' engines to get them started in the morning.

Yes, it is very interesting to hear about how the weather affects peoples' way of life up there! You probably also remember my posts when hurricanes Isidore and Lili impacted my region last fall.

Recently it had occurred to me that when I retire (assuming I ever get to that point), I could live anywhere. There are some places in the North where real estate and cost of living are low, and I had wondered what it would be like to live there. No hurricanes to worry about, for one thing.

But heating coils installed in the roof is one aspect of living in the north that would never have occurred to me. I suppose that if your electricity goes out, then someone has to climb up there and knock down the ice dams by hand.

Spring will definitely be welcome here! While I'm waiting I will continue pruning back all the plants in my yard that were damaged by the unusually hard freeze, and cleaning up fallen branches and debris that have accumulated. My beautiful lush garden looks awful and brown right now, though it's better now that the freeze-damaged banana trees are all cut back. I also bought a couple of books yesterday on gardening in Louisiana, to read while I wait for spring.

By the time spring arrives I am hoping to have a plan or design for my garden so I can start planting things. I really hadn't intended on adding my own 'personal touch' to the garden quite this soon, but the hard freeze has forced the issue.

Carole C

Re: Carole - ice dams

Kathy G on 2/02/03 at 09:33 (107687)

Carole,

I just noticed that I consistently spelled ice dam as ice 'damn'. Do you think that was a Freudian slip? :)

Re: Carole - ice dams

Carole C in NOLA on 2/02/03 at 11:15 (107702)

LOL!! Honestly Kathy, I didn't notice that until you mentioned it. I think your feeling about ice dams was very emphatically transmitted. :)

Carole C

Re: coincidence!

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 07:00 (107458)

Wow, what a coincidence that you had snow this year when you have been posting about how you hoped for it! Sorry that it didn't turn out to be as much fun as it might have been.

Carole C

Re: Life or death

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 08:23 (107471)

Julie, I thought of you when I read this article online:

http://www.thisislondon.com/news/articles/3172550?source=Evening%20Standard

It says that London police have told everyone to stay home and off the roads unless it's a matter of life or death! I hope you are home, safe and warm.

Carole C

Re: Life or death

Julie on 1/31/03 at 08:59 (107472)

Carole, yes I am, and thanks for flagging this article. Everyone read it and learn about Life in London under Adverse Weather Conditions. It's a great description of what I was talking about a while ago and this morning - that 'weather' brings London to a standstill. It's a very complete and amusing story (unless you happen to have been one of the many people marooned on the M11 motorway for 15 hours last night and this morning) .

Well, I thought I had a bad time yesterday evening, but it was nothing compared to what those people have been through. And I was lucky - apparently the London roads were gridlocked, so if I'd gone home to get the car instead of what I did do, I'd never have got there.

It's still cold today, but the wind has dropped, and the garden looks nice under its thin snow blanket...maybe I'm not quite cured.

Re: good to hear!

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 09:18 (107474)

Whew! I'm glad you are safe and warm at home, and enjoying the beauty of the snow. :)

Carole C

Re: Snow

JudyS on 1/31/03 at 12:00 (107479)

Gosh Julie - I'm one of those silly people wishing for a bit of snow to 'play' in .........but you sure do remind me of what it's like to have to accomplish daily responsibilities in horrible weather! As Carole said, thank goodness you made it home safe and sound.

Re: Julie

wendyn on 1/31/03 at 14:17 (107489)

So - what's the deal?

Is it that people don't know how to drive on snow? Or is it that because snow is not that common - there isn't the machinery or man power in place to handle a good snowfall?

It doesn't sound like a lot of snow.

I actually have never seen our city 'shut down' like what's described in this story. The closest I've seen was about 5 years ago - when we had over 2 feet of snow over night. The schools were closed - but about half the people still made it into work.

I took one look outside and just went back to bed.

Re: Julie

Julie on 1/31/03 at 14:49 (107493)

I don't think anyone really knows the answer to that, Wendy. It's true that there certainly isn't the machinery and manpower in place to handle a good snowfall, and that's because the climate is -ostensibly - a mild one (which is true) and there is very little snow (as I have said frequently, bemoaning its infrequency (though after this I never will do that again!

It's also true that people don't know how to drive in snow and icy conditions (no-one has chains) for the same reason.

Countries that regularly have severe winters have the wherewithall in place to deal with them. Britain hasn't. So when the weather IS severe (as it occasionally is) the services can't cope, and we fall apart.

Having said that, everyone today is shocked and horrified that a couple of inches of snow and a strong wind should have so completely paralysed half the eastern half of the country - but that's what happened. Airports are closed, Eurostar train services to France and Belgium have all been cancelled, and people spent 24 hours stranded on the M11. Half the London Underground services (the bits that run above ground) aren't running. Dire warnings of further snow have been issued.

Questions Are Being Asked. Did the highway authorities fail to send the gritters out in sufficient time? Probably they didn't - but their excuse is that the gritters themselves were stranded in the traffic jams.

What we are having, apparently, are the worst conditions the country has ever experienced.

Further bulletins to follow, perhaps...

Re: Snow

Julie on 1/31/03 at 14:51 (107494)

Thanks, Judy. I think I was really lucky last night! I finished the class early, everyone having agreed that was the sensible thing to do, walked to Charing Cross, and found that the right train was waiting, 20 minutes late. I caught it with a minute to spare and got home quickly.

Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 16:30 (107505)

Wendy--

When I was in Northern Ireland about 7 years ago, I was stunned to see that less than an inch of snow on the roads would still cause people to cancel their plans. Ireland gets even less snow than Britain does, so people have even less idea what to do with it, and since the most anybody thinks to do is throw down some sand (maybe), it can still be dangerous. Especially since nobody you find on the road knows how the heck to drive in it.

I remember one morning when I was in the kitchen with Joan, who was the matriarch of the family I lived with, and she looked out the window and said 'Oh, I think we're about to be deluged with snow.' This was the winter of 1996, which people on the east coast of the US will remember as one of the snowiest on record, and I kept getting email from friends and family talking about snow that was waist-high, and how they'd have to get up on the roof to shovel the snow so the roof wouldn't cave in. So when she made this comment, I responded with appropriate dread.

Then I stopped and thought for a minute, and said 'When you say 'deluged,' just how much snow are you talking about?' She said 'Oh, maybe three or four inches.'

I burst out laughing and told her never to visit the US during the winter if she thought three inches was a deluge.

Bill Bryson also has a great passage about the British reaction to snow in his Notes from a Small Island (he is an Iowa native who spent 20 years living in the UK). He recounts his feelings upon seeing an article in the times about a blizzard in East Anglia with snowfall up to three inches, and drifts up to six. I don't remember his exact wording, but in the letter to the editor he wrote (but never sent), he said something along the lines of 'A blizzard is when you have so much snow that you can't open your front door, and drifts mean that you won't see your car for the rest of the winter.' One of my very favorite passages in the entire Bryson oeuvre.

Well, this is far more than anyone needed to know about me, the UK, and snow, but hopefully it has at least been amusing. I have to say I find it interesting that my relationship to the White Stuff seems to be mellowing a bit this year... for reasons not fully understood.

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 17:14 (107509)

i read the article carole posted, and it WAS hard not to laugh (though i don't laugh at your hard journey, julie!). i mean, i look at the picture and i ask, 'where is this supposed snow?' i can see the whole tires of the cars. the road looks white, but there seems to be no depth. it's hard to see what's stopping them.

but it sounds as though the worst of the problem has been iciness?

of course, we are used to it here, and there's the big difference. when i lived in cambridge, the blizzard of '78 brought 36 inches of snow over two days and nights. that paralyzed the cities, something i'd never seen before. we weren't allowed to go to work for a week.

then here in maine (and elsewhere) we had the ice storm of '98. that was exquisitely beautiful but wretched. trees and power lines were down EVERYwhere; we had no power for 9 days, and couldn't get anywhere to buy supplies because of trees across the roads. we heated by woodstove, which over 9 days didn't keep the place exactly hot. for many nights, we heard the branches of trees in the woods snapping and cracking under the weight of the ice -- several per minute. two trees on our property fell, one grazing the house. we were lucky.

and nancy, i do remember the winter of '96. i was still waist-high in snow in april!

despite my complaints about fallen snow and ice, i do think snow looks beautiful AS IT'S FALLING. after it hits the ground and makes walking and driving treacherous, i no longer enjoy it.

i'm sorry you had such a tough time, julie, and am only glad that you didn't go back for your car and try to drive!

nancy
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Re: Julie

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 17:17 (107511)

Wow!!! 'how they'd have to get up on the roof to shovel the snow so the roof wouldn't cave in.'?

That's one aspect of living up north that never occurred to me.

I just can't even BEGIN to imagine it. Snow tires, scraping the windshield, shoveling snow, pipes freezing: these are difficulties of living up north that had occurred to me. The roof caving in had not!

I guess each climate has its own difficulties (we have our hurricanes). I am just blown away at the thought of that much snow accumulating on a roof.

Carole C

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 17:24 (107512)

yes, it's true, carole. that's a worry every winter for a great many people in the north. we now have a steeply pitched roof, but our other house, a bungalow, had a low pitched roof. phil spent many a winter shoveling it off numerous times, and also getting rid of the ice dams that allowed these big beautiful icicles to form on the edge of the roof. they'd extend down right past our windows. i loved how they looked, but they can break your roof off!

for a few winters (including the winter of '96, which nancy n mentioned), phil had to do this not only on our house but also on the lakehouse near us that my elderly father was renting. shoveling off roofs and breaking up ice dams became like a half-time job for him!

nancy
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Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 17:36 (107513)

It's relatively rare to have that much snow in the mid-Atlantic region, Carole, but I'm sure in New England and Canada it's much more common, as Nancy S says. I was surprised in 96 when my mom would email me about going up on the roof. At first, I thought they were being ridiculously fastidious, but then it occurred to me that snow in that quantity, especially the heavier, more wet snow, would indeed be quite heavy. I have to confess that, while I seem to be making a certain amount of peace with the white stuff this year, I would not miss the shoveling, scraping, salting (the salt can do a number on your shoes and your carpets), etc...

Re: Julie

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 18:01 (107516)

Ice dams are a complete mystery to me. I guess that means that ice forms dams on the roof so that precipitation accumulates and turns into more ice. I had no idea that icicles could break your roof off! That doesn't sound good. I can see why Phil had to get up there and get rid of them.

So, what do old people do up in the north? Hire workmen every time it snows to shovel their roofs off? Somehow that sounds so surrealistic that it's almost comical. :)

Carole C

Re: Julie

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 18:05 (107517)

I can imagine you were surprised! I can't imagine my Mom on the roof of a house. Well, she's 94 now but I meant even when she was younger.

Salt can do a number on your shoes and your carpets???? This thread is more amazing to me than watching a National Geographic special on New Guinea. I wouldn't think that salt would do anything to carpets other than eventually require a vacuum. LOL

Carole C

Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 18:24 (107520)

Carole--

There are many kinds of salt used to melt ice. Most are not regular table salt. I think my development uses either calcium chloride or potassium chloride. They're not actually good for pavements (macadam, concrete, etc, maybe even bricks) because the chemicals can cause the pavement to deteriorate. So if you get this stuff on your shoes or track it in on your carpet, it can eat through the fibers. I don't have so much trouble with the shoes and don't hear many stories about it, but I know it can be a big carpet problem.

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 19:03 (107522)

the road salt also does a number on your car or truck. vehicles up north rust much more quickly than those in warmer climates because the salt, which splashes up onto the vehicle and stays there, eats away at the body of the vehicle.

garages are a hot commodity in the housing market up here for this reason, but -- why, i don't know -- there aren't that many garages in maine. newly built homes tend to have them, but older ones don't -- or if they do, the garages were long ago turned into sheds or barns (that is, if they haven't fallen down!).

nancy
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Re: Julie

Nancy N on 1/31/03 at 19:09 (107523)

And the salt on the cars is even worse when the weather is as cold as it has been lately, because it's too cold to wash the car. I finally washed mine on Sunday--just in time for it to snow again. But the salt had been on my car since December, so it was well overdue. And Sunday was one of the first times it was warm enough to wash anything in quite some time.

Re: Julie

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 19:20 (107525)

ahhh, you had some warmth on sunday? today we hit 33 degrees, for a few minutes, for the first time in over three weeks.

another trouble i've had this year is with the front and side doors to my shop. they ice shut all along the bottom! i almost broke the side door, kicking and kicking and kicking, trying to get it open one day. and the front door freezes shut in no time. people try to open it and then think i'm closed, so i have to keep an eye out and go pry them in with a heavy-duty antique iron crowbar before they get away!

lately i've been salting under the doors like crazy, and that helps, although so much salt is required that it bunches up and actually jams the doors itself. ya can't win.

nancy
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Re: garages

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 19:45 (107532)

We have the same problem of not many garages down here in New Orleans, too. Many of the older homes do not have them, and although most of the newer homes were originally built with garages, probably 80% of these newer homes have had the garages sealed off and turned into a fourth bedroom or family room within a few years.

My new house has no garage, because I couldn't find a suitable house that had one. When I was looking for my house, my realtor just couldn't understand why I would want a garage. He said they were mostly for keeping cars warm in the North. Of course, weather can be a problem for cars in the South too. Cars around here took a terrible beating from a hail storm a few years back.

I like having a garage because it keeps my car cleaner, and also it's a convenient place to put the lawnmower.

But mainly, being a city girl at heart I like having a garage due to the safety aspects for a woman living alone. It's not obvious to the casual passer-by or criminal whether or not the car is there, and I like that. Another safety aspect is addressed with a garage that has an automatic door opener, and is attached to the house. One can drive in, close the garage door, and then unlock the car and walk into the house safely.

Here is an essay about garages that I wrote just for myself, yesterday:
**********************************************************************

RIDDLES OF THE UNIVERSE

One of the great puzzles of the universe is this:

Why do people buy three bedroom houses with PERFECTLY GOOD garages, and then think they are being oh-so-original and creative by turning it into a fourth bedroom?

It's not for resale; a garage will add value to a house around here, more than the extra room will.

It's not because they need the bedrooms; the census bureau says that in my zip code, the average household has 2.1 people in it, and the average house has 3 bedrooms. And yet (by my own personal guess) I would say that at least 80% of garages here have been converted.

This is a real hassle, because one of those 2.1 people parks in the driveway, and the other 1-2 of them plus their guests park in the street. It not only looks trashy, but also it's hard to squeeze through most streets around here after dinner time.

Not only that, when a single person like me is house-hunting and WANTS a garage, and WOULD PAY $5,000 - $10,000 extra for a house if a house had a garage, but still can't find one, that's just plain stupid. Especially considering that almost every house in my suburb originally had a garage.

I think it's just a giant 'Gee, aren't I just the most creative remodeler you ever saw?' ego trip. Most of these converted garages don't even have heat or central A/C put in, so they are unusable anyway.

So here's a message to America: KEEP YOUR GARAGES!! Having your own garage is part of the American dream that is fading away all too rapidly.

Carole C

Re: garages

nancy s. on 1/31/03 at 20:28 (107540)

carole, i can see why you'd want a garage, and i also think these houses full of unneeded bedrooms are weird. new houses these days have umpteen bedrooms for a working couple and 1.2 children. no one's even there most of the day! i get anxious with unnecessary rooms. fortunately (and sometimes not so fortunately), we don't have any now, so i have no reason ever to be anxious again!

we have no garage now, and like you say about your lawnmower, we have nowhere to put the snowblower, the wooden dinghy, the big ladders, the trash barrels, and so on. we try to hide these things very discreetly behind the house, but it isn't easy, and i miss our barn.

do you really think cars parked in the street look trashy? oh dear. you wouldn't approve of us here, i'm afraid! ;}

i imagine hail must make major dents in cars sometimes! we don't get much hail. maybe once a decade, and it's not big.

maybe you should send your essay in as a letter to the editor and get published and become famous.

nancy
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Re: garages

Carole C in NOLA on 1/31/03 at 22:32 (107564)

Nancy, I will always approve of you up there. It's just the nameless others to which that refers. Well, not even them, sometimes. It also depends on the cars. If the residents of a street drove Lamborghinis and Corvettes and cherry Model T's, I guess I would prefer it if they parked them out on the street.

The hail storm cracked a lot of people's windshields, and created an interesting pock-marked effect on cars in the area, as well as shattering windows all over town. Carpetbaggers from the north returned and set up shop as in previous eras, only to bang out dents in cars and replace windows this time. They are gone now. One interesting result is that when I looked for my house, almost all the houses on the market seemed to have two year old roofs... at the time, it had been 2.5 years since the hailstorm, which damaged so many roofs.

Instead of sending my essay in as a letter to the editor, I originally posted it (last night) to my online journal, which has a readership of exactly zero people. The nice thing about that is that I can say anything, even things that nobody would agree with. Like about the trashy thing, which I hopefully would have edited out before posting it (oops).

If I had a million dollars I could write a book and then buy up all the copies and hit the best seller list. Then I would be the famous author of a best seller. They never say who actually BOUGHT all those copies that a best seller has sold. Once I became a best seller and my name was a household word, I could publish a few dozen more books without a hitch. I think that is probably the only way that I would become a famous writer, though.

Carole C

Re: Life or death

Suzanne D on 1/31/03 at 22:58 (107566)

Dear Julie,

I am thankful you are o.k. and sorry to hear of the many who have been stranded on the slick roads in London. I understand somewhat how this can come to be as I have seen a few inches cause quite a bit of havoc around here, especially when there is ice as well as snow. We simply don't have the equipment or money for thorough snow removal throughout the county. And we have steep hills and curves which make it more treacherous.

I hope things return to normal soon for you, and I hope you can still enjoy a little of the beauty of the snow from inside your warm home!

Suzanne :-)

Re: Life or death

Julie on 2/01/03 at 05:02 (107581)

Thanks, Suzanne! After seeing what others had to go through on Thrusday night and Friday morning, I know I got off very lightly. It was good to get home and watch it all unfolding from the safety of my TV.

It sounds as though Kentucky's winter-solutions are in much the same boat as England's. It stands to reason really. It costs to keep whole fleets of snowploughs and gritters standing by 'just in case', and the question arises 'Is that how everyone wants their taxes spent?' So every so often we'll have a collapse.

This morning the temperature is in the low 40s, the snow and ice (which WAS the main problem, Nancy S) have melted, and it's raining. Almost time to start wishing for snow again. (Not really.)

Re: The worst thing...

Julie on 2/01/03 at 05:03 (107582)

...that happened is that a pine tree got uprooted by the wind and fell over next to a school and killed an 8-year-old girl.

Re: garages

nancy s. on 2/01/03 at 05:23 (107586)

carole, where is the online journal part of that website? i remember i went to it when you first posted it, and i couldn't find anything about a journal.

do you mean you post journal entries, and sometimes people read them and sometimes not?

nancy
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Re: garages

Carole C in NOLA on 2/01/03 at 07:38 (107590)

The site is in the process of changing its name from http://www.stories.com to http://www.writing.com . I think both URLs work right now.

If you go there and hit 'reading' among the choices at the top, and then look down under 'reading: non-interactive' and select 'Journal', a bunch of peoples' journals will be listed. Some are interesting and some are not! I enjoy browsing through them to see what OTHER people say to themselves in their online journals. :)

The site is free (unless you upgrade) and there are a lot of different writing formats that you can choose from. Online journals are one of those formats.

Carole C

Re: Julie and the snow in general

Kathy G on 2/01/03 at 08:53 (107600)

Hi Julie,

Glad you survived that harrowing trip! You must have been frozen to the bone!

My sister lives in Annapolis, Maryland and she says that one inch of snow will totally shut down Maryland and the city of Washington D.C. For a few years, we had many southern storms so the cities have at least purchased more snow-treatment equipment but she says that doesn't help much because people just don't know how to drive in snow! It's all what we're accustomed to, I guess.

We are having a veritable heatwave in New England! Yesterday we hit 32 in our town and today, it's already 32 at 9:40 in the morning! As Nancy said, it's been 3 weeks since we've had above-freezing weather. I just wish we'd have some sunshine! It's been ages since we've seen the sun for a whole day. I think Nancy may have had sun on the coast and I know Manchester did, but we haven't seen it much here in Milford. And yes, now the worry about the roofs begin. Roofs in NE are a big problem. If the snowcover is too heavy, they can collapse under the weight. Particularly at risk are flat-roofed public buildings which are cheaper to build and thus cities continue to demand of their architects. If no one goes up to shovel those roofs, collapses and leaks are inevitable. I've never understood why we allow flat roofs in this climate. It's just asking for trouble.

And yes, Carole, those ice damns are a big problem. The back of our house faces due north and when we have warm days, the snow and ice on the roof starts to melt. Once the sun goes down, all that melting water freezes and a ridge, or damn, of ice is created. The next time it is warm, any water that melts can't flow down and melt off the roof because the damns prevent it from doing so. So even if the roof is in great shape, you can end up with water pouring into your house. It used to happen in my kitchen until my husband installed heating coils the whole length of the roof, about twelve inches back. When it gets to be above freezing and we know some melting will occur, we plug in the cables and they allow a nice trough to be formed. They're expensive to run but a whole lot less expensive than it would be to repair any water damage! Still, we're watching to see what will happen.

It's so interesting to hear about how the weather affects the lives of people who live in different climates!

No matter where we live, I think Spring will be especially welcome this year!

Re: garages

john h on 2/01/03 at 08:53 (107601)

Nancy there is an eccentric zillionaire who lives less than a mile from me. He has a garge with 32 cars in it inclding Mercedes. Rolls Phantom. Lamerghini, and ever high priced car you can think of. His house is 23,000 square feet. A few years ago he decorated his house with 3 million Xmas lights. It was unbelievable and could be seen from 85 miles away by air. Cars came from all over the nearby states to drive by and the traffice on the four lane highway came to a halt. It was shown on nationa tv. His neighbor sued him because of traffic and he had to have his lights taken down. He now decorates Elvis estate in Memphis, many small towns, and Disneyland with Xmas lights every year. He is eccentric but gives away enormous sums of money to all sort of people he does not even know. Recenly a group of my friends were at a resturant going crazy and making lots of noise. Mr. Jennings was there. As he got up to leave one of my friend said hello to him and appoliged for all the noise. He said he enjoyed it and on his way out paid there bill which was around $850.00.

Re: garages

Kathy G on 2/01/03 at 08:59 (107603)

That's so neat, John! If I were a millionaire, I'd want to be just like him. I'd enjoy my money personally and then I'd spread it around so that others could enjoy it to. Wouldn't that be wonderful?

By the way, what are you thinking of, having friends who are loud and rowdy?

Re: The worst thing...

Suzanne D on 2/01/03 at 09:22 (107606)

Oh, how sad, Julie.

My heart goes out to her family, teacher, and classmates.

Suzanne

Re: Julie and the snow in general

Carole C in NOLA on 2/01/03 at 10:42 (107619)

That's fascinating! I am astounded that anyone would put a flat roof on anything way up north, under the circumstances. There aren't even very many flat roofs here because it rains so much. If I traveled up north and saw such cables as you describe for heating coils in the roof, I would never in a million years have guessed the purpose. I only recently heard that people in very northern places like Canada actually put plug-in heaters in their cars' engines to get them started in the morning.

Yes, it is very interesting to hear about how the weather affects peoples' way of life up there! You probably also remember my posts when hurricanes Isidore and Lili impacted my region last fall.

Recently it had occurred to me that when I retire (assuming I ever get to that point), I could live anywhere. There are some places in the North where real estate and cost of living are low, and I had wondered what it would be like to live there. No hurricanes to worry about, for one thing.

But heating coils installed in the roof is one aspect of living in the north that would never have occurred to me. I suppose that if your electricity goes out, then someone has to climb up there and knock down the ice dams by hand.

Spring will definitely be welcome here! While I'm waiting I will continue pruning back all the plants in my yard that were damaged by the unusually hard freeze, and cleaning up fallen branches and debris that have accumulated. My beautiful lush garden looks awful and brown right now, though it's better now that the freeze-damaged banana trees are all cut back. I also bought a couple of books yesterday on gardening in Louisiana, to read while I wait for spring.

By the time spring arrives I am hoping to have a plan or design for my garden so I can start planting things. I really hadn't intended on adding my own 'personal touch' to the garden quite this soon, but the hard freeze has forced the issue.

Carole C

Re: Carole - ice dams

Kathy G on 2/02/03 at 09:33 (107687)

Carole,

I just noticed that I consistently spelled ice dam as ice 'damn'. Do you think that was a Freudian slip? :)

Re: Carole - ice dams

Carole C in NOLA on 2/02/03 at 11:15 (107702)

LOL!! Honestly Kathy, I didn't notice that until you mentioned it. I think your feeling about ice dams was very emphatically transmitted. :)

Carole C