Posts Tagged With: snow

Driving in that first big snow

A truly serious snowfall yesterday, the first of the season. We’ve had several light dustings and one or two that looked like they were going to become serious, but this one pulled out all the stops and dumped close to a foot in places.
There’s a learning curve that Alaskan drivers seem to have to go through every year after the first real snowfall. We forget the basics.
Like…having a big badass four-wheel drive truck doesn’t mean you are going to be able to stop any more reliably than I can in my little front-wheel drive SUV. In fact, since you were probably going a little fast for the conditions, you’re WAY more likely than me to slide through that red light…so what the heck…just go on through. I’m expecting it.
Like…fewer cars are going to be able to make it through each cycle at the intersections and you might have to sit through a couple of cycles before you can (legally) go. Your office/home/grocery store will still be there when you finally get through the light.
Like…MANY folks will get frustrated that it took so long to get to the head of the line at an intersection so they are just going to go through it, even though the light is now green for you!
Like…lane lines (and curbs) have disappeared for the next four to six months, so there are a few nervous (or oblivious) drivers who take what seems to them to be the safest route…driving right down the middle. Slowly. Expect it. Deal with it. Dodge ‘em if they’re in oncoming traffic, otherwise pass ‘em when it’s safe, and get on with your day.
Like…the many listening devices we employ in our vehicles: iPods, CD’s, Pandora, Sirius radio, etc., are going to take second chair to local radio stations who offer regular traffic reports.
Like…you can’t count on the other guy to see you…he didn’t bother to brush the snow off of his windshield or windows. He’s peering out of small areas partially cleared by his wipers and defroster. Also don’t count on anyone behind him to see you…they are busy dodging the snowstorm that is blowing off of his vehicle as he travels down the road. (With wet snow, this can become a storm of flying snowballs…alarming to say the least.)
Like…sometimes, no matter how careful you are, suddenly the snow grabs the wheel and takes you on a little side trip…hopefully up onto a median or into a shallow ditch and NOT into another vehicle.
Like…you can absolutely count on Alaskans – even the crazy, red-light runners – to stop and help you out when we see you slide off course.
It’s just what we do.

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Winter is around here…somewhere

I had so hoped to get up to the Cabin last weekend, but birthdays and dog sitting duties got in the way.  Just as well.  The temperatures have taken a serious plunge into the single digits here in Anchorage and are almost certainly colder up in the mountains. 

Telephoto shot of one of the peaks across the valley from the Cabin – a month ago!

I don’t want to have to depend too much on an untested propane heater in those conditions.  Hopefully it will warm up a little in the next couple of weeks before we get too buried in snow for me to safely make the hike in.  I’ve been looking at snowshoes so that I can walk across the lake once it’s well frozen and has a little snow pack on it.

The extreme cold is somewhat unusual for this early in the season and may become a real problem here in the city.  The little snowfall we have gotten has mostly melted or evaporated (winter air is already deadly dry) so there isn’t any insulation to protect pipes from freezing.  Although I’m not crazy about driving on snowy roads after that first major snowfall, we really need it.

Besides, we manage the cold and endure the twenty hours of darkness by enjoying the beauty and fun of the snow.


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First, errrr, second snowfall

Saturday was our first real snow day.  A group of us went to lunch and one by one we each stared out the window and said some variation of “sure looks like it’s gonna snow…”  As if one of us saying it wasn’t enough to confirm what our eyes were seeing. 

The first of the flakes began drifting down as we headed home, but didn’t seem too serious. 

Time to say goodbye to the green backyard for awhile.

It’s a little more serious this time…

Another hour and it was clear that this was the real thing.  The puppy hadn’t seen snow before, but took it in his usual stride…what’s the big deal, it’s just white rain and hey, it’s tasty! 

Eating white rain…he hasn’t learned the fun of chasing snowballs yet

Surprisingly Mr. Chitters doesn’t mind the snow too much either.  He bounds across the yard, scaling  the fence to access the woods where the snow is less deep, and conducts his kitty business in the shadows just like any other day.  Then he comes inside and looks for a warm lap to dry his feet.

 As before, most of the snow is already gone (as of Tuesday), but it took longer this time and more is already coming down.

We will spend the next two weeks watching and worrying about snowfall for the trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  On one hand, a fresh blanket of snow greatly increases visibility for drivers dodging pint-sized pedestrians, but on the other hand it makes walking slick and makes costumes awkward at best.  Other winter areas may understand the dilemma…do we outfit our kids in costumes that fit and then hide them under the snowsuits?  Or do we put them into costumes two sizes too big in order to fit over their winter gear?  Or do we just get them a mask and a wand and call it good? 

Princess in a parka…, Scary Monster in a scarf… you get the idea. 

If I can get my act together and get those snow tires out of storage and on my car, I will be going up to the Cabin this coming weekend.  It’s been many years since I was there in winter and I’m really looking forward to it.

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Just a quick note to say…SNOW !!  The “S” word.  Termination Dust.  We woke up to a winter wonderland on Saturday morning.

September 29 snowfall picture borrowed from KTUU’s website

It’s a little early and it didn’t last long … I didn’t even get a shot of it in my own back yard before it melted … but it was a shock all the same.  Many yards still have small white patches in the shady corners.  My friend who has a cabin near mine said we didn’t get any snow at all up there, but it won’t be long!

I’ll post more of my own pictures later in the week.  Don’t worry, there’ll be plenty more snow!


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It’s Spring…errr…break-up

Oh my goodness, April is almost here!  (Thank you for sticking with me!) 

It’s officially windshield wiper fluid season here in Alaska.  We all have a spare gallon or two of the stuff in our garages, ready for the road spray from the melting snow.  This is a good time of year to be a car-wash operator too!  Although the clean look rarely lasts all the way home, we keep washing them to keep the damage from the chemicals on the roads to a minimum.  Mornings we wake up to below freezing temperatures and icy roads and go home in the afternoons in 30-40 degree weather with water coming at our cars from all sides and the danger of hydroplaning. 

Even cleared, the drains don't keep up very well

Anchorage residents are worrying this year about where all this snow is going to go.  At work we have stocked up on sand bags to stave off the annual flood in our basement due to backed up storm drains on our street.  City workers armed with huge plumbing snakes and ice choppers are already attacking the slush and ice that clogs the grates.     

That tiny dark spot is the hole they drilled through the 7 foot high snow berm to access the storm drain!

Folks who live in snow country will appreciate that our “spring” is also known as “break up.”  We even have an annual wager placed statewide on when the ice on the Nenana River will officially “break up” and begin sending its ice floes downriver.  It’s known as the Nenana Ice Classic and tickets cost $2 each.  You fill out your best guess as to when the tripod will fall and start watching the weather reports.  Don’t get too excited just yet…we have another month at least before it’s likely to go. 

At the Cabin, break-up means a few weeks of not being able to cross the lake.  The ice will be too rotten to be safe, but not quite rotten enough to allow for a boat.  Trudging in and out by way of the trail system is easy in summer, but will likely be a messy and dangerous workout in slushy, rotten, and very deep snow, so I and my wimpy knees will stay away for the time being. 

No, really...don't park here!

Meantime, my adventurous little gang of girlfriends is gearing up for the first road trip of the season this weekend.  We’re going to Homer just for the joy of being able to drive in daylight and on relatively ice-free highways.  We are very likely to see Dall sheep, moose, snowshoe hares, and eagles,as well as the remote possibility of coyotes, wolves, or lynx.  I will be sure to post some shots from that trip next week – current shots for a change!

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