Experiencing snowstorms and blizzards

For the last three or four days I have seen (very brief) news footage of snow storms in the mid-west of America. It was reported that eight people have died, mainly in car accidents. If that many people died as the result of bad weather in my country it would be worthy of a mini-series and a couple of documentaries. What is it like to live in these conditions? Do you get paid leave to stay home and hibernate? Or is it a living hell? If so why don’t you talk about it on the message boards?

Garrison Keillor said this:

We don’t much talk about it because we live here, I guess. I don’t hear the Hawaiian contingent complaining about the trade winds quitting for a couple of days, and I don’t hear about Floridians complaining about the rainy season, either.

What’s it like? It’s freaking COLD out there! But you deal with it…put on an extra layer or two and make sure you have jumper cables in your car and wear warm socks. And gloves. Hats and scarves are a plus, too.

No, we don’t stay home, although schools and businesses will shut down if it’s too cold or snowing too hard, and every few years the governor delcares a state of emergency and forces everyone to close.

As for the car accidents…those usually happen because some idiot is driving too fast for the conditions, just like accidents in good weather.

Wear lots of layers, and lay in a good supply of chapstick. That’s my winter strategy. And chique, have you gone to bed yet?


Nope :frowning:

Gonna be a looooooooong day today. sigh

It’s like they said, G. Nome. If you live in an area like that, you just deal with it as part of life. Some years it’s worse than others, and other years it’s not so bad.

One of the advantages of living in a place that always, always, always has snow in the winter is the municipalities know how to deal with it. I went to college in Western New York State, and lived in Rochester, NY, for about 5 years. They are ready for snow removal by Halloween. When it starts snowing, they have the plows out right away, and they work nonstop all night. By morning, the roads are clear and everybody just bundles up and goes to school/work.

Unlike a story a friend of mine related. He grew up in Boston, and moved to Memphis, TN. He attended a town hall meeting in which they were debating whether to allocate funds to buy a snowplow. That’s 1 (one) snowplow. Short pause while Dopers from the northern midwest stop laughing and change the pants they just peed.

He stood up and told them not to waste their money. One simply wouldn’t get it done if they ever got enough snowfall to warrant plowing, is the point. Dunno what they eventually did, but unless a city really gets hit all of a sudden (like Chicago and Buffalo this year), then life goes on. And chique is right: accidents are caused by rotten drivers more than by rotten weather.

Chique: Does that sort of philosophical attitude lend itself to American experiences with tornadoes? By chance I read an article in a magazine a while back about how people in Florida were still living in tents 5 years after a hurricane or tornado. I think this was because insurance companies couldn’t cope with their claims. It occurred to me then that what this world needs badly is an Aftermath newspaper. A newspaper devoted to repairing the damage done when people are allowed to forget too easily. Remember the floods in Mozambique last year? How the whole population was hanging from trees trying to survive? Nothing much was ever heard about them after the worst was over. What was the point of reporting the tragedy in the first place?

Now I don’t live too far north, I am in St. Louis. The weather here is rather cold for me right now. I grew up very close to the Gulf of Mexico. Yesterday morning returning from work I had to walk outside when the wind chill was -30 F or worse, this was the coldest wind I have experienced in my life. As far the bad conditions, well I thought I wasn’t going to be able to drive to work Friday night, but that was just my impression as I was walking to my truck. It was far more difficult to walk through the parking lot than it was to drive on the road. The last 2 trips to and from work (we never close, not even on Christmas) saw me never get higher than 3rd gear in the old S-10. I had no problems driving, but those idiots who drive fast and try to pass when you don’t have clue where the lanes are, they wreck and die, hopefully before reproducing.


I hope I’m reading this correctly; if I’m not please let me know.

A tornado or hurricane or flood is a brief and violent. So is a blizzard, but for two major differnces:

1)It’s cold in Minnesota pretty much from November to March; a blizzard means little more than “Oooh, it’s colder!” When it’s been hovering around 0F with a -25F windchill for nearly a month, +5F degrees with a little snow and a -45F windchill really doesn’t mean much.

2)Things aren’t destroyed during a blizzard, either, for the most part. Every now and again a roof will cave due to heavy, HEAVY snowfall but it doesn’t happen often enough to either bother mentioning, really. Tornados and such destroy homes and lives.

Re the Aftermath newspaper: I wholeheartedly agree. I was stationed in South Florida until Hurrican Andrew destroyed the base I was on and have always wondered if the trees grew back.

My GOD, chique, don’t you ever stop talking about the weather?


Chique: The Alabama tornado and the mid-west storms received the same amount of airplay here - about 1 min 50 sec. What can I say? Maybe the U.S. needs to employ better public relations people so instead of being seen as spoiled, self-satisfied oil guzzlers you get seen in the right light. Maybe foreigners need to understand, for instance, that you need oil to live those in sub-arctic and desert areas and that when you become victims of natural disasters you have the same needs as victims anywhere. And that, the last I heard, Homer was selling his blood to buy food.

Maybe then you could avoid stuff like this (the first verse of a Billy Bragg song)

Help save the youth of America
Help save them from themselves
Help save the sun-tanned surfer boys
And the California girls

G. Nome:

We do start threads about the weather. They’re just usually in the Pit. I started one myself about the sorry state of the roads here.

Living hell? No. Huge pain the keister? Yeah. But we deal. We whine for a while, then move on.

I’m in Michigan. Snow is expected here. But the volume of snow we got this year, and the speed with which we received it is a definite abnormality, at least in my part of the state. I know that in Northern Michigan they’re laughing at us Downstaters and calling us wussies.

One pointless advantage to this weather.

I worked Saturday and am working today as well. Both days were called off for snow. I am getting double pay for both 12 hour shifts. Severe driving conditions… Puuuhhlease…
Naked Snow Angels for everyone!!!

I can’t believe it. I had to read the OP twice to be sure G Nome asked what I thought he asked. Someone’s actually asking about what it’s like to deal with severe weather? Wow.

The flavor of Iowa today –

The weather folks said 4-8 inches of new snow, with high winds later on. I didn’t want people to think I was a weenie, and I’ve already used two vacation days for snow. It’s a 17-mile commute on a two-lane blacktop. I went to work.

It was still dark at 6:30 a.m. The snowplows hadn’t been out yet, but enough folks had been on the roads to pack it down a bit, and no wind yet. When you meet another car, the snow is stirred up and you can’t see for a few seconds after they’ve passed by.

The drive took about 40 minutes, and when I got to town, I had to drive on the wrong side of the street to avoid high piles of snow. Then coming into the parking lot at work (not cleared) I drove on the sidewalk to avoid hitting another car.

Spent the day taking calls from employees who were reporting that they were not reporting for work. Two of them were phoning from ditches. Over a hundred people called, we won’t have enough manpower to run second shift, but we have a policy to never close the plant – there is always work available. It’s your choice if you want to come or stay home.

Reports that the highway patrol had closed “Old 20”. Eleven cars and one truck in the ditch on a 10 mile stretch of road, and one of the cars was in two pieces.

At about noon, talked to husband at home. He had tried to make it to work (same town, different shift) but got stuck two miles out and had to be pulled out of the ditch. Then he got stuck in the driveway and had to shovel. (He has a full-size pickup.) He says stay in town, don’t even try to make it home. (He has a porno tape he’s been dying to watch.)

So I reserve a motel room.

About 3 p.m., start thinking about whether to try and make it home. The wind has picked up. The ditches are full of snow. Couldn’t stand the thought of not going home, so I called some folks who had left work earlier to see if they made it home okay. They did. That’s reassuring. There’s still daylight.

Co-worker who’s afraid to drive asks if she can ride with me. We considered both of us driving, in case one of us gets stuck, but she has a cell phone, and she really hates winter driving, so we go in my car. I cancel the motel room. They’re grateful – they had a waiting list.

Need to get permission from managers to leave early. We’re H.R. and we’re supposed to set an example. Christmas spirit must be infecting the managers, so they say okay, and we leave a whole half hour earlier than usual.

Five miles on the east-west road with brief whiteouts, and a stretch of about half a mile where I was driving on the wrong side of the road. The north-south road was about half whiteout (really scary when we met the two semis, one right after the other), half just yucky, and the last couple of miles totally clear. Drove 20-30 mph. Roads not too slick – snow provides traction.

We met a lot more cars than I thought, and one guy in a SUV actually passed us.

Almost got stuck in the driveway heading into the garage. About two feet of snow on the ground now, and higher drifts.

Wind is supposed to continue till 4 a.m. Probably won’t be able to get out of the driveway in the morning, until the snow guy shows up to dig us out.

More snow on Wednesday.

My mom has pictures from the 1922 winter showing snow reaching roof lines. I remember driving in 1964 when the snow was higher than my car.

I don’t know how many people in central Iowa were injured or died in accidents today. Most people had sense enough to stay home.

I’ve driven in total whiteouts, where I couldn’t even see the road. It’s like someone wraps your car in a thick white blanket.

Why do people do this? It’s so stupid. No job is worth your life, or someone else’s. Every winter, I say I’ll never do it again, but I do.

AuntiePam, you guys got hit right before we did.
At least you had a job to get back a forth to. I was out christmas shopping when it hit here.
Now in the I’m proud of myself thread I mention that I have just started to drive in the snow after 12 years of driving.
It was pretty scary but I made it in one piece and only have two people left to shop for.

Now you guys can’t forget to mention that water pipes freeze, and roofs leak, and no matter how much weather stripping or plastic you put on your windows and doors, the air always finds a way in. Light switches and electrical outlets are good for that also.

When you breathe thru your nose your nose hairs freeze, and you can’t possibly breathe thru your mouth.
Frost bite is another fun one.

And around here even if you get tons of snow it only gets warm enuff to sled or build snowmen in February!
Remeber last year we tried to plan a Des Moines Dopefest? Even though it didn’t happen we still had to plan it for end of April or begining of May.

In Buffalo, a blizzard isn’t exactly routine, but it’s not really a big panic, either. Sometimes it does come unexpectedly, but even then, most people have been through it before and know the drill.

Businesses close when possible, and send employees home. If it is already clear that it is not safe to drive home, many businesses will stay open to allow employees to stay the night (and also take in anyone else who happens to come along).

Schools are a bit different. The ideal case is that the blizzard or storm is predicted, and the school can make a closing announcement in the morning. The problem is when a blizzard comes unexpectedly in the middle of a school day, because you can’t really send a young child home if there is no parent there (yet) to take care of the child. In this scenario, most schools (to the best of my recollection) make an announcement that parents or caretakers can pick up children at any time. The kids still waiting at the school play in the gym, I remember this being a fun part of my childhood. When I was in school, a child could let their teacher know they were going home with the family next door if her own parent wasn’t yet able to get to the school.

The city can issue a “travel advisory” (recommended not to drive) or a “travel ban” (you cannot drive unless it is an emergency). Most Buffalonians drive around all winter with a shovel and rock salt in the trunk, just in case you are caught in the middle of it.

Truck owners who have snow plows (this is a lot of people, believe it or not) will volunteer to help the city clear snow. There is quite a bit of the “help your neighbor” mentality, and people with pick up trucks and/or plows will make trips to the grocery store for elderly or homebound neighbors.

I remember the Blizzard of '77, and most deaths came from people with stalled cars who attempted to get out and walk, and then become disoriented. Some fatalities were elderly people, who had problems with their heat and couldn’t contact help (phone lines were down for the first day or two in some areas).

It seemed like a bigger deal when I was a kid, because of the added thrill of having schools close. Snow had drifted as high as the roofs. School was closed for more than two weeks after the Blizzard of '77, which of course seemed like the coolest thing ever in the history of the world. Until the news came that school would be extended to the second week of July to make up for it.

Well, around here in the Chicago area it’s business as usual despite last week’s snow, today’s extra 3-8" and more on the way later in the week. People bitched about it for a day or so, but eventually you realize that hey, it’s winter and this is what winter in Chicago is like.

I can only think of one time I ever left work early due to the snow, and it was really just to get out of work early than any real fear. You drive slow, don’t worry about the moron in the SUV behind you who thinks he can go 65mph in a white out, and get to where you’re going 45 minutes later than usual. No one sees any real need to mention it – as was stated, everyone is already aware that it’s damn cold, the weather sucks, traffic a is a hell unto itself and seeing the sun means the cliud cover has drifted off leaving the outside 5 degrees colder (the clouds act as a blanket to keep heat in).

I can’t think of any times the place has truely shut down in recent history. After a poor-snow-planning fiasco that partially cost one mayor a return election, Chicago has been dilligent about snow removal almost to the point of absurbity. Two years ago when we had a major storm over New Year’s Eve, for the next week you saw pictures in the paper of gigantic plows clearing the roadways, massive scoops picking snow up and dumping it into dumptruck like things which were heated and would melt the snow into water and flush it down into the Chicago river. Mayor Daley was obviously proud. Even here in Naperville, I could hear as tractors plowed and scooped, dumping the snow into dumptrucks to be carted off to who-knows-where. Come January 2nd, Chicago and the suburbs were ready to go back to work whereas my friend in Indianapolis stayed home for days as the mayor declared the city shut down.

I forgot to mention, G. Nome, that I was raised on a dairy farm. You can’t just decide to not feed the youngstock or not milk the cows. And of course, because it’s so cold the diesel fuel gels in the tractors and the silo unloader craps out, so you get to spend even more time out in the cold and snow and wind carrying 5 gallon pails of feed out back and climbing up the silo to shovel feed down.

And THEN we had to walk uphill to school, both ways, for 8 miles through 17 foot snowdrifts…:wink:

Anyhoo, no, life does not stop cos it’s cold and snowing, which is what your OP was, yes?

It’s embarrassing when television weather people in New Zealand get all glum over the prospect of three days of rain. But what’s worse is when, in the midst of a drought, they forecast sunny weather with a map full of smiley faces. That’s what being spoiled is really all about - it can’t be denied. One of those weather people is an American. After what I’ve read in this thread I’m surprised that he can keep a straight face when he forecasts “bad” weather.

Grew up in Buffalo, and went to college and grad school there. Here’s a few curiosities:

Take a look at any radio or TV station Web site from the Buffalo area (some examples – http://www.97rock,com, http://www.wkbw.com, http://www.wivb.com, etc.) You’ll often find a link just for closings – school, business, bingo, and so on. A regular sight on Buffalo TV are the names of businesses and institutions that will be closed because of the weather, scrolling across at the bottom of the screen.

Catholic schools are notorious for staying open through the worst storms, and often there will be an announcement that certain schools will be remaining open. My Catholic elementary school was technically open a day into the Blizzard of '77, when every other school in the Buffalo area was closed. Living four miles away, my parents wisely kept me home. School was closed for two weeks during The Blizzard and its aftermath.

Weather forecasts on the evening local newscast are eight to ten minutes long, longer than the news and sports.

Local laws require property owners to keep the sidewalks in front of their property cleared. Many people have snowblowers, to clear snow off driveways and driveways. In the 'burbs, lots of folks hire snow removal services to keep sidewalks and driveways cleared. Many people make a healthy supplementary income by attaching a plow to the front of their SUVs and running their own snow removal service.

Municipal snow removal is excellent, and streets are usually quite passable through a storm. If a big one hits, traffic is usually moving again within a day or so. Side streets are cleared as well as major highways. Before a storm, city crews will spread a thick layer of salt on the street – snow is easier to plow when there’s a layer of slush at the bottom. In Buffalo, there can be problems with snow removal because of on-street parking; in the 'burbs, even residential streets are cleared to the pavement, curb to curb.

Surprisingly, there are fewer SUVs on Buffalo’s streets than in most other cities. Buffalo is still a blue collar city, with few pretentions – the preferred ride among the locals is a big Oldsmobile or Buick, not an Explorer or Excursion.

Q: What do you call a five year old car in Buffalo?
A: A distant memory.

Many people have winter cars – old rustbuckets to serve as temporary replacements for the nice cars the owners don’t want to see rust away so fast. Thanks to the use of better steel, there are fewer rusted out hulks plying Buffalo’s streets than in the past. Still, vehicle oxidation is a way of life.

You always keep a shovel, salt, jumper cables, and blankets in your car, in case you’re stranded.

There’s also a special vocabulary that residents must remember: lake effect, flurries, squalls, sleet, sneet, snizzle, slush, ice storm, drizzle, pellets, graupel, dry snow, wet snow, travel advisory, travel ban, winter storm watch, winter storm warning, whiteout, and sublimation. There will be a test.

In the southern hemisphere people spray fake snow on their windows at Christmas time. In your opinion, is that a bad thing or a good thing?