Another Hobby Blog

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Urban Skiers, or Why I Don't Drive in Snow.

Well, the snow started falling a week ago Sunday. It let up a bit on Monday, and Tuesday wasn't bad--the streets were even clear by evening, but the forecast called for another snowstorm Tuesday night, and sure enough, by Wednesday we had more snow. On Wednesday I was working in my studio and took this picture out the window:

Yep, skiers. Right down the middle of the road. Because, let's face it, NObody in the Seattle region drives when it snows. Okay, that's not entirely true, but pretty close. People who live in regions that get a lot of snow like to snicker behind our backs, or point and laugh to our faces about that little quirk of ours which they see as unreasonable timidity. But that's not the full story. Here's the heart of the matter:
We get snow maybe once a year, usually in February or March.
It is usually followed very soon by rain that melts the snow and washes it away.
So we don't have a whole fleet of snowplows on hand for those few times that the snow sticks around for several days.
Because it only rains once or twice in a year and generally melts pretty quickly, we don't get a lot of practice with the whole driving-on-snow skill. Some of us go up into the mountains and keep our skills honed on the snowy passes, but most Seattlites stay in the lowlands throughout winter.
We don't tend to put snow tires on our vehicles, because--hey, we just don't get snow that often.
Our streets have a lot of curves and a lot of hills.
Our streets, especially in the hilly downtown Seattle area, have heated pipes running underneath the streets.
The heat underneath the streets melts lingering snow from underneath, and when nighttime temperatures plummet below freezing, that melted layer turns into ice.
Ice hidden beneath snow.
The rain that sometimes sprinkles across the top of the snow does the same thing-- turns to ice.
We don't have SNOW to drive on! we have ice. It's a little different.
Then we have a bunch of people, either transplants who think they know how to drive in the snow because they drove in the snow back in their hometowns-- they're usually pretty smart about it: they figure out quickly what type of not-really-snow conditions they're driving in and they draw upon their years worth of blizzard-braving, ice-storm-enduring finely-honed survival skills -- or locals and non-snow transplants who believe they can drive in the snow because "how hard can it be?" -- they're the dangerous ones.
The how-hard-can-it-be crowd often base their idea that they can drive in the snow on the basis that they own a four-wheel drive vehicle. There seems to be a blind spot to the realization that snow and ice can make all four wheels spin just as easily as it can make two wheels spin. Four-wheel drive means that if any one of the four tires is on a nice surface with traction, you can probably get the vehicle to move, but if all four tires are on ice, well... Heh.
Long story short ("Too late!")...
By the third day of lingering snow, all of the bravado-puffed how-hard-can-it-be types have put their cars into ditches (or streetlamps, or parked cars, or moving cars, or heaven forbid what else), and the streets are relatively safe to drive again.
And by then the snow has generally melted anyway.
So there are a bunch of us Seattlite types who honor the snow in our own very particular "quirky" way: we stay inside, try to keep warm, and shake our heads slowly at the skidding vehicles:

This time around, we had two snowstorms in a row and then an icestorm before the snow had melted away. We almost never get that combination of weather patterns, and what it meant was that a lot of the snow-and-ice laden tree branches couldn't carry the weight and splintered, taking out powerlines.

Okay, so the picture's not of a tree, it's an azalea bush, and it isn't exactly menacing any powerlines. Think of it as a scale model that I found not too far outside my own front door.
Or I could show you this one:

See the tree branches of the evergreen in the background? Those are head-height branches weighed down by the snow and ice until they drag on the ground.

We lost our power on Thursday morning, and didn't get it back until Friday night. We consider ourselves lucky that it was restored so quickly. :) It sure is nice to be warm again! and to have access to my internet, and lights to sew and read by!

On the plus side, I had a fireplace to cuddle up near on Thursday, so I didn't turn into an ice cube. :)

Labels: ,


  • At Sun Jan 22, 09:52:00 AM PST, Blogger jenclair said…

    Great photos! We seem to have skipped winter entirely this year. It has been like spring around here lately.

  • At Sun Jan 22, 10:15:00 PM PST, Blogger Peacock said…

    Spring would be nice. :)

  • At Mon Jan 23, 08:23:00 AM PST, Blogger Judy S. said…

    Great post, Tahlia! My thoughts precisely. There are some real nuts out on the roads, trying to prove who knows what? Our DD watched a guy remove the cones closing Clay and then procede to crash his way down the hill!? Aren't you glad it's melting, even though the melting is SLOW?

  • At Mon Jan 23, 12:20:00 PM PST, Blogger Peacock said…

    He did WHAT??? That's totally insane. Doh! I'm glad no one was hurt (assumedly). Our street finally got a snowplow, and then the rain has cleared away the rest, so we can get out of our own neighborhood again, and the freeways are clear, so mostly we should be good to go again. There is still a little snow and ice here and there on plants and rocks and stuff, but it's not getting in the way, and our house avoided any flooding. We're doing pretty well.


Post a Comment

<< Home