Wednesday, January 27, 2010

thar she blows!

You know when you're standing around, cup of coffee in your hand at a social event, talking about weather? (imagine it, it will get you in the mood for this post!)

Every time we move from somewhere that is relatively "warm" to somewhere "cold" (and I've done this 3 times so far), we find ourselves talking a lot about weather. In Winnipeg, weather is a constant conversation, even among the natives, because it's pretty changeable. I mean, the range in temperatures goes from -50F to 90F, so there's a lot to discuss.

Remember the slushy wet weather we had last weekend? Starting Sunday evening, the temperatures dropped, all that slush froze, the wind picked WAY up and the snow was much more earnest. We had what the weather reports called "Blizzard Conditions."

We're wary about these weather reports because they mean different things to different people. For instance, what do snow flurries mean?
-In Kentucky: "I saw two flakes! Two big snowflakes! Run to the store for milk and bread right away! It's a weather emergency!"
-In Buffalo, NY, that means about 1-2 inches of snow, but it depends. If you're in a region less affected by "lake effect" snow, you get a dusting. More affected? Get your shovel out, your flurries will be 3 inches or more.
-In Winnipeg, so far, flurries seem to mean a dusting of snow, around a half inch or less (1-2 cm?) and not enough to shovel. A broom will do.

So, as you might imagine, we faced our first winter here with warm coats, long underwear, and a well-earned sense of wariness. It's hard to know what to expect. If you've always lived here (wherever "here" is) you sometimes lack context for your weather explanations.

Blizzard conditions, in upstate New York or New England, mean an enormous amount of snow, falling very fast, with poor visibility and possibly some wind. Temperatures for a blizzard along the east coast of the US are often between 20-30F, near freezing. By enormous, I mean, well, a foot of snow (30cm)is not uncommon as a starting point, and 3 feet (90cm) isn't all that unusual.

Blizzard conditions here in Winnipeg seem to mean:
-more snow than usual. We got about 5"(12cm) or so on Monday.
-very poor visibility
-serious amounts of wind. So much wind that the snow on the ground hops up and joins the party and dances around with whatever is coming from the sky. (remember, practically no trees, so there are few if any wind breaks)
-colder temperatures than that earlier blizzard...compared to New England? Think northern Vermont. Darn cold.
-drifts. Lots of drifting. Drifts bigger than Harry the dog.

All of this mattered because the professor was to go to Brandon (2.5 hours west of here on the Trans-Canada highway) to give a lecture at the university there. He had planned to leave Monday. Then the authorities closed the highway to Brandon. He rescheduled for Tuesday. He decided to go to work at the university, 5 miles (8 kilometers) away.

He did ok, he got there and back. He saw a car wrapped around a telephone pole and a two car accident where someone rear-ended someone else. For the latter accident, both men were outside in the blizzard yelling at each other so he figured they were ok and drove on.

On Tuesday, the professor hopped again in my bright yellow all-wheel drive, anti-lock brake car with good clearance and drove to Brandon. He saw cars in the ditches and a bus that looked like it was shipwrecked in a snowdrift. He gave his talk, met lots of people and even went out to eat. Temperatures dropped. It was around -22F(-30C.)

This morning, there was a light snow and a good breeze of up to 30 miles(50 km) an hour. He drove home, and all was well except for one icy section where he saw a car or two flipped over in the ditch and another on the other side of the road.

He got home in time to enjoy the meeting with the heating and plumbing guys. Our (hot water) heat is working, the house is warm, but this morning at 7:30, I saw water spurting from the emergency overflow so we had a little date with the repair guys. Nothing immediately wrong, although a valve might be faulty. (spurting hot water in the basement? Still weather, right? Might be a geyser!)

I meant to talk about how plowing works here, which is also interesting, (and very different from upstate New York) but this is getting long. I'll try to do that in another post.

So, how's the weather by you? Did you find this interesting?

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Blogger Nancy said...

Being a weather geek, I do enjoy posts like this.
This weekend will be bringing us much colder temps, 15-20 degrees below average. After the last 15 months, it seems average is dropping like a rock!

January 27, 2010 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger Willow said...

Yes, this post was interesting, from an academic point of view. I really really prefer my weather warmer, which is the main reason we moved south to California! (Can you say Reynaud's Syndrome, do you know what it is, do you know what it means?)

We did live four winters in the Chicago area, so I have experienced snow flurries, snow storms, ice, snow plows.

Oh. And yes, I love to talk about weather. I must be part British!

January 27, 2010 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger PghCathy said...

Hi Joanne! Vacationing on Sanibel Island in Florida where the weather is a balmy 73 degrees. Loving it! Only 2 more days, then heading back to Pgh...and cold weather, but nothing like what you're dealing with...I hope.

Last night at dinner, I overheard snippets of a conversation by people from Winnipeg. I wanted to interrupt & ask about you, but hubby would have been embarrassed. No, make that mortified. The couple I was eavesdropping on have no inclination to go back for the Olympics.

January 28, 2010 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

Brrr... When we lived in New Hampshire, the next door neighbor's house was built partly on sand and fill (ours sure wasn't--I watched them both being built) and that let colder temps get in there.

Which means when it hit -27, her water pipes froze under the house and she had to have a backhoe brought in to go through her basement floor to get to them. Sand was a bad idea.

--AlisonH at

January 28, 2010 at 12:42 PM  
Blogger Geek Knitter said...

Winters here in the Pacific Northwest feature rain. Followed by showers. With a side of downpour. Then 2-3 clear perfect days in the 50's. Then the showers come back, and the drizzle.

January 28, 2010 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Deborah Robson said...

So yes, please let us know about plowing procedures some time. We've had a freeze/thaw cycle going on here for weeks, and when that happens we get ice ruts in the streets that can be 6 to 8 inches (15-20cm) deep. They can do serious damage to cars. They finally brought in a big road grader and got rid of some in our neighborhood this week (we're low priority).

January 30, 2010 at 5:36 AM  
Blogger annmarie said...

Personally, I find all talk about winter weather endlessly fascinating. Just hope when it comes time for retirement and possible relocation that I can convince my husband that it could provide excellent fodder for conversation in our 'golden years'.

January 30, 2010 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Gramma Phyllis said...

Well the weather here in Upstate NY has been on the unusual side for the past week. The 25th we hit the high 40's/low 50's, then the bottom fell out and by the 29th we were lucky to make it up to the mid teens. There were bands of lake effect snow, including whiteout conditions during the rush hour, from both Lakes Erie and Ontario. Rochester is located in such a way we can get hit by both lakes on the same day as the winds shift.

I would love to know how they handle the plowing out on the great Canadian plains, probably not like Rochester or Ithaca.

January 30, 2010 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger 晡晡 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

January 31, 2010 at 6:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm a little sad by how mild the winter has been so far.

February 15, 2010 at 9:56 AM  

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