Forecasting Storm Strength: Stormageddon and the Snowpocalypse

How many times in the past few years have you heard news reports about the oncoming storm that will shut down all roads and highways, and keep everyone inside until the plows can finally dig you out? How many times has the promise of a day home from work and school been left unfulfilled, with only some light snow in place?

A snowy drive

These days, the news reports gleefully foretell the oncoming Snowpocalypse, or a weather front about to bring Stormageddon unto us all. It seems all the weather channels want to talk about, and it carries over to radio morning shows. In some areas of North America, this is sometimes taken to ludicrous lengths:

Obviously, media coverage isn’t a sure sign of snow, just as the lack of this coverage isn’t necessarily a sign that it isn’t coming. So what’s the best way to decide if it’s really worth going out on the roads, or if it’s time to batten the hatches and stay at home? There are a few good resources that can help you judge for yourself.

  1. Try looking outside at the street. If you live on a side street which isn’t yet plowed, it may not indicate what the major roads are like, but if it looks like your car isn’t getting down the street, it’s best to stay put.
  2. Radar maps. This shows what kind of snowfall is currently happening in your region. Most weather sites provide a forecast, where the track of the storm is extrapolated, so you can see where the storm is likely to hit. What kind of intensity is it? Light, steady snow for hours and hours, or a short but intense dumping over just a few hours? Is it a widespread system, or narrow?
  3. Twitter. Hashtags such as #onstorm can give general information on the storm, but it’s likely that people you follow are also talking about it. They may provide useful advice as to current road conditions. Local news and traffic radio stations also post information regarding accidents and road closures.
  4. Remember that it’s not just snow to be concerned about. Extreme icy conditions can occur without vast quantities of snow.

If you are out and about in dangerous road conditions, try slowing down a bit. It’s extremely likely that all those cars in ditches weren’t taking the conditions into account with their driving. Give yourself lots of space to stop.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clear the snow from my driveway. Again.

Socialist Snowplows and the Minimum Standards of Capitalism

There have been a few amusing images circling on the internet, with captions along the lines of “A socialist snowplow just went past my house. When will this tyranny end?” Or “Evil socialism at work”.

Evil Socialism at Work
Socialist Snowplows at Work

Continue reading “Socialist Snowplows and the Minimum Standards of Capitalism”

Snowpocalypse

Last Wednesday was supposedly going to be a really big snowstorm, if you believed the weather reports. It was one of the top stories throughout southern Ontario. It probably hit somewhere hard, because when it finally arrived in Waterloo Region, it was a light dusting. The most annoying thing about the snowfall was the duration. A tiny dusting spread over what seemed like 18 hours eventually adds up to something worthwhile, and it also tended to cause snow removal efforts to stall, as the snowplows continued up and down the major routes. All the other roads in the region were slippery and icy.

As Shakespeare writes in Henry the Fourth, Part 1: “The better part of valor is discretion” (V.4.118-119). I followed Falstaff’s example, and counterfeited being at the office. That is, I decided it would be best to work from home. The VPN is a technological marvel.

Yesterday was a different matter. While I was aware that there might be snow, the weather reports I remember only expected around 1cm. So I was a little surprised to look out the window and see that around 10cm had already fallen, with another 5 to follow before it finished. Perhaps the difference was that this new snowfall occurred on a weekend, or maybe the forecasters didn’t want to create a panic again. Either way, there didn’t seem to be much coverage of the event until well after the snow had started. Really, it’s all just part of winter. Neither event seemed out of the ordinary. Now we seem to have about the average snowfall for this area.

This snow fell in a much shorter period of time, and was considerably thicker and heavier than that which fell earlier in the week. Today, I was out clearing the snow, just like earlier in the week. On my stretch of street, five of the neighbours were also out with snowblowers or shovels, clearing everything off. Alas, it was not a snow event day in Kitchener, so someone was parked on the street when the plow came by, leaving a mess on the road.

I’m reminded of how awesome it is to have a wide lot, as well as a snowblower. All of my excess snow can be shot twenty feet into my yard. My snowbanks are three feet high, while some neighbours with narrower lots have banks seven feet high, threatening collapse onto their driveways.

I also took some extra time to remove all the snow the plow piled on top of the fire hydrant. Not only is it a legal requirement to keep it cleared, but it’s also good sense. You really don’t want there to be any extra difficulties should the fire department ever need to use them. Sadly, from a drive through the neighbourhood early this afternoon, I’m one of the few people who have done so.