Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow in Washington

Well the Federal Government in Washington has now been shut down since Monday, and there is a question as to whether it will open on Friday. For the first time ever, the Senate Cafeteria was closed. There is even the possibility of more snow coming next week. Perhaps as much as another fifteen inches.

To give a sense of scale Baltimore usually has 18 inches of snow in a winter, and this year it has had 65 inches already, beating the previous record. Because of the size of this “Snowmageddon” the city, which normally spends about $6.2 million on snow clearance, has seen the costs balloon far beyond that. One of the casualties has been the surface light rail systems. Apparently these shut down when there is more than eight-inches of snow, making the otherwise more reliable public transport unavailable.

I remember one time riding a train in the UK – to Bedford I think – and sitting at the front watching the carriage move through snow banks where the train profile up to about a third of the carriage, had been carved by the steady traffic of the commuter service. But this time the snow has been just too great and services in the Washington area continue to be closed down. Up in New Jersey the conditions have become bad enough for the bus service to stop, but they are transferring the traffic to the light rail system.

As with the problems that the UK have had earlier in the winter, there is now a growing concern about there being enough salt to get through the season.
Hagerstown’s street-clearing crew was keeping up with the snow but coping with a shortage of road salt, Public Works Manager Eric Deike said. Deike said he ordered hundreds of tons of salt through a state contract, but it wasn’t reaching the city.

The best the city might get is 80 tons at the end of the week, Deike said he’s been told. For a storm with 6 to 8 inches of snow, road crews might spread 150 to 200 tons of salt to prevent the roads from getting slick, he said. Deike said the city is using its remaining salt sparingly.
It is apparently giving Chicago a complex since their weather has not been that bad, and being used to it, they took care of the problems. They even had an earthquake today, but it was small by California standards and thus not likely to make much press. The problem was that no-one was expecting it to happen where it did and at the present there is no explanation of why there? We’ll just have to see. There is one theory :
that the state's earthquakes could be the result of glaciers that receded north about 15,000 years ago. Relieved of the weight of the ice, the crust could still be slowly bouncing back into place, causing underground disturbances.
. By the way, while some have blames this on the changing climate, it is more likely just to be one of these occasionally aberrant events that occur in systems where there are a wide variety of conditions that can occur and change the weather, and at this time that roll of the dice had come up with heavy snow in DC, and not enough in Vancouver, where the Olympics start this week. (Yay, Rigger! – I’ll be watching). Dr. Pielke Snr. explains that this is not the case, and why the press has it wrong.

It will be interesting to see if this much snow has any impact on fuel consumption for the North East, given that it has closed highways and kept cars, and folks at home. There they might enjoy a wood fire, as we do, though ours comes from a tile stove in the lower floor, yet keeps the house comfortable through the evening and night. Until now this winter may not have been that profitable for firewood vendors. In Tennessee they have found competition from the unemployed and folk willing to harvest their own wood.
Selling at Higgins' for $150, down from $165 last winter. That makes things tight for a milling business that relies heavily on money from firewood sales during slow winter milling months.

"We could charge just as much (as last year)," Higgins said, "but we'd have a lot of wood sitting around then."
That's because increased unemployment and a tough economy have lured more people to the woods this year with a chainsaw, a pickup truck and the idea to sell firewood, Higgins said
For those wishing to get into the market, it is apparently not that easy. The Evening Sun story notes the new vendor who having prepared 35 cords for sale, has only sold 3. And if you are thinking of buying:
Locust, ash and hickory wood burn hottest and cleanest, Higgins said, and are types consumers should look for. Many people will tell you oak is best, but other woods actually produce more BTUs per log, he said. Firewood should always be seasoned, he explained, which necessitates keeping it off the ground and covered, but still exposed to air that will help dry it.

"The best time to buy is really in the spring," he said. "Then by the time winter rolls around, you've got some good wood."
The only problem with enjoying the heat from that wood, this week, is that you have to carry the wood across the mud-stirred, snow covered yard back into the house, first.


  1. Sorry, my Chinese grad student left and I can't translate this.

  2. Well, well we have a very interesting situation this winter. The satellites are reading a warmer globe but both the weather and the fuzzy oscillations are pointing to speeding circulation. Temperatures at the Poles and the Equator are moving in oposite directions.

    This faster circulation is bringing more precipitable potential to the Arctic and should make wonders to sea ice extent - we'll see.

    What will be next? I don't think temperatures can be moving appart for much longer, will it be the Tropics colling or the Poles warming?