Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Blizzard of "Ought-Four", Part 3.

Today's Top Story:
At the time of this posting, 1324 US soldiers have died in Iraq.
Source: No change for the last 3 days. A very welcome development.

(Why is this "The Top Story"?

1. Each of these soldiers died in a war that was initiated by a President who intentionally misled the American people about the reasons for war in Iraq, (and
2. Like Gen. Anthony Zinni, I believe that this has got to be more important than "American Idol").

Today's Feature: The Blizzard of "Ought-Four", Part 3.

Friday, December 24, 2004

7:45 am: We get up for the pets and are discouraged to look out the front windows and see no change in the street. Mary sees our neighbor Bill outside shoveling the distance between the base of his driveway and the track in the middle of the street. A bit later, I call next door and ask Bill if he has heard when our street will be plowed. He replies that he saw a private vehicle with a plow go down our street the previous evening around 6:00pm. It cleared a single lane on our street only – did not touch the side streets. He’s not sure why this happened, but we agree that it’s probably the best we’re going to see for awhile. He has already dug out to the path. That will be my next task. We need to get out to buy a few groceries.

I spend an hour or so digging out the last 10 feet from the base of our driveway to the plowed track. It’s not very difficult since I’ve finally figured out which shovel to use when. We have an ergonomic snow shovel, with a curved handle and a deep bucket. It’s great for scooping the top layers. It allows you to lift and pitch the snow with your arms and shoulders – sparing your back – but isn’t much good down close to the pavement. The other snow shovel has a straight handle and shallow, flat blade – good for digging the last couple inches close to the ground. I also use a standard square-blade shovel from my garden tools – great for breaking up packed snow and ice.

The last 10 feet. Posted by Hello

It is a beautiful day, even if the temperature refuses to top 10 degrees. A sunny winter day in Indiana is rare!

Clear and cold. Posted by Hello

12:00noon: We head out to run errands. Our macro plan is to go to the grocery store across from the drug store with a good wine selection. Before or after, depending on traffic, we’ll also hit a bank to make a deposit. Once we’re out of our neighborhood, we find most streets plowed, packed, and passable – and being thoroughly tested by everybody else in town who’d been cooped up at home for a couple of days. We ditch the idea of going to the bank and head straight for the grocery. The parking lot is bounded by huge piles of plowed snow. (We’ve heard that the city is trucking snow out of the downtown area because there is no place let to park it. It’s later in the day before we get a newspaper delivered and can verify this story. It’s true.) The parking lot is bumper-to-bumper. We find a spot far away from both destinations and agree to split up. Mary will do the grocery shopping. I will go to the drug store and select the wine, then will catch up with Mary at the grocery check out.

We find long lines in both stores, and expect to encounter short tempers and rude clerks. Surprisingly, in both stores the cashiers are friendly and cheerful, almost amused by the scene unfolding before them.

1:00pm: We get home and put away the groceries, then lay out lunch. The girls arrive shortly after and report that they had no problem getting in from Indianapolis, except for a stretch around Whiteland where traffic slowed down to 20 to 25 mph. We have heard a report that traffic coming north on I-65 from Louisville is also limited to that speed. Imagine a 5 hour drive from Louisville to Indianapolis (100 miles).

Other news stories report on a number of people complaining that nobody rescued them when they were trapped in their cars in bumper-to-bumper stalled traffic during the blizzard. Given that the roads were impassable, and that ample warnings had been published telling people to stay home, I find it difficult to have much sympathy. I can, though, imagine how frightening it would have been, but remain dismayed by how irresponsible we can be…unable to take responsibility for our own actions, no matter how stupid. “C’mon kids, let’s ignore all the warnings, hop in the minivan and drive through blinding snow tonight.”

6:00pm: Katie makes a trip back to Greenwood (on the outskirts of Indy) for a party at the home of her boyfriend’s parents. She gets back home by 11, without incident. While she is gone, the rest of us enjoy a dinner of Steak Diane, mashed potatoes, and broccoli. Mary got the recipes from a new Cuisine magazine. It’s a tribute to Julia Child. Delicious! Bon appetit!

Steak Diane...prepared under the watchful eye of Chef Oscar Posted by Hello

10:30pm: The doorbell rings. It’s Will’s friend Max. When he got off work at the new Chili’s restaurant, he drove over to our neighborhood to see Will, but got his car stuck on a side street when he tried to turn around. We round up Will and several other friends and get Max unstuck, after helping another motorist who got stuck trying to avoid Max’ car. It’s nearly zero degrees outside. We work quickly. We need to get back inside before Santa comes….

Saturday, December 25, 2004 – Christmas Day.

No weather worries today. It was a day to stay indoors and celebrate with family.

What's better at Christmas than new slippers? Posted by Hello

Sunday, December, 26, 2004

7:30am: Will has to be at work at Fazoli’s this morning at 8:00am. Yesterday he dug a path to the street to get his car out. We hear him up and moving, and get up ourselves, expecting there might be a problem getting his car out of the driveway. Sure enough, he gets stuck in the middle of the street, blocking the exit of a couple of neighbors headed to early church services. They help us dig him out and get him back in the driveway. Two more tries later, and he is on his way to work and I’m headed back in for a first cup of coffee.

That sturdy old Mercedes Benz he bought is REALLY HEAVY!!

The local paper says that all street will be plowed by tomorrow morning. We’re hopeful it will happen during the day today so we can clean up after.

9:30pm: Street still has not been plowed. Guess we’ve got something to look forward to tomorrow.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Blizzard of "Ought-Four", Part 2.

Today's Top Story:
At the time of this posting, 1324 US soldiers have died in Iraq.
Source: No change from yesterday. A welcome development.

(Why is this "The Top Story"?

1. Each of these soldiers died in a war that was initiated by a President who intentionally misled the American people about the reasons for war in Iraq, (and
2. Like Gen. Anthony Zinni, I believe that this has got to be more important than "American Idol").

Today's Feature: The Blizzard of "Ought-Four", Part 2.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

7:00am: We woke up early (for a vacation day) this morning, but knew we would have a challenge taking care of the pets. Mary says the wind howled all night. It’s still dark, so we can’t tell how much snow fell overnight by looking out the upstairs window.

We head downstairs and let the pets out of their kennel. The morning routine for the dog is eat first, then go out. We set out the food and then open the front door to see how much snow we got. We are amazed to see a foot of snow packed up against the door and drifts shaped like gentle waves flowing across the front yard.

Mary says she’ll go out and dig out the crapatorium, but there is so much snow piled up against the door of the back porch that she can’t get out. She decides to go out through the side door of the garage and around the side of the house. A moment later she calls me – “Mike, come QUICK!” – and I find howling with laughter in the garage.

“Look at the imprint from the door!”

A big surprise at the garage door. Posted by Hello

She steps over the packed snow and into the side yard. One step toward the back and she is in snow up to mid-thigh. Still laughing with amazement, she heads around to the back.

Mary getting in deep. Posted by Hello

It takes several minutes for her to dig out a 5 foot round opening in the snow in the back yard. Then several more minutes to dig a path up to the porch door and get it to open. It’s almost too late: While I’m watching Mary’s progress through the back window, the dog squats next to me in the kitchen and prepares to relieve herself. I yell (which does no good – the old dog is deaf as a post) and poke her in the side (which gets her attention and stops nature in its tracks). Using dog sign language -- a combination of gestures: waving towards my chest, slapping my thigh – I manage to coax the dog out onto the back porch just as Mary gets the door freed. The dog is happy, as am I. We dodged a… “bullet” that time….

Back inside, we flip on the tv and listen to the weathermen excitedly describe the overnight accumulation. Every few minutes they switch to some poor sucker who got the remote location assignment. They are set up at the outlet mall 5 miles from our house, right along I-65. It’s about 10 degrees outside. Traffic on the Interstate is reduced to a one-lane crawl. They say that Seymour, Indiana (25 miles south of us) got 18 inches of snow. I figure we got at least that much, further complicated by the drifts created by the overnight winds.

Mary says she heard we had “thunder snow” overnight. I’ve never heard of such a thing, but it’s clearly a week of firsts. I’ve never seen this much snow, either. We decide to focus on indoor activities for the morning. While it’s unlikely that the girls will be able to drive down from Indianapolis tonight as planned, we still need to finish cleaning the house, preparing the guest rooms, etc.

10:00am: The housecleaning done, I decide to start on the driveway and front walk. I take a minimalist approach with the front walk, clearing a shovel width up the walk to the front porch.

A different look for the entrance. Posted by Hello

Before starting down the driveway, I stick a yardstick into the drift at the top of the drive. It shows 19”. The good news is that most of the drive has less than that. I take a couple deep breaths and plunge in. Yesterday, I wanted to get all three lanes of the driveway cleared. Today, I have much less ambition. One lane clear to the street will be an accomplishment.

Mary and Will both join me a little while later, and I’m glad for the help.

Two more shovelers...just in time! Posted by Hello

Together it takes us til 11:30 to clear one lane down to the street. We don’t bother to try to dig out past the curb, figuring that the snow plow should be along sometime today (we hope!) and will cover the base of the driveway with its discharge. We know we’ll have to dig out again.

About 16" deep at the curb. Posted by Hello

Will takes a photo of me and Mary before we head in for lunch.

"American Arctic" Posted by Hello

2:00pm – After lunch I decide to get started on the other side of the driveway, where Will parks his car. That will leave only the middle lane with snow on it. Will comes out to help, and we get into a pretty good rhythm. After a few minutes, Will gets manic – probably from the music pumping into his brain from his MP3 player. He starts shoveling at high speed, flinging snow high into the air. After a few minutes of this, he looks back at me (I have retreated a safe distance so I’m not struck by flying snow…or flying snow shovels), grins, lets out a whoop, and leaps backward into the snow pile beside the driveway. I resist the urge to pitch a shovelful of snow on top of him.

Within 45 minutes we’ve cleared his lane down to the street.

Another lane clear. Posted by Hello

Will heads back inside. I stay out for a while longer, working on the center lane, cutting a diagonal path that links to the lane we cleared this morning. Before going back inside, I peek around the side of the house and take a photo of the drifts against the wall.

Where did the A/C unit go? Posted by Hello

The tracks in the snow mark Mary’s path from first thing this morning. Somewhere underneath the snow is the gas meter.

3:30pm: Back inside, I get a shower to warm up, then help Mary with the Christmas cookies. I get to help make the peanut butter mice.

Plenty of Christmas treats! Posted by Hello

I also get to sample the others. Yum!

We hear from the girls in Indy. The parking lot at the condo has not yet been plowed. They can't get out.

6:15: We make the local news. Bartholomew County is mentioned as one of the “hardest hit areas”. We see aerial footage of snow-covered streets, cars in ditches, and the Interstate highway at a crawl. Our street has still not been plowed. But there’s no place we need to go tonight.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Blizzard of "Ought-Four", Part 1.

Today's Top Story:
At the time of this posting, 1324 US soldiers have died in Iraq.
That's almost 90 more than at my last posting 3 weeks ago!

(Why is this "The Top Story"?

1. Each of these soldiers died in a war that was initiated by a President who intentionally misled the American people about the reasons for war in Iraq, (and
2. Like Gen. Anthony Zinni, I believe that this has got to be more important than "American Idol").

Today's Feature: The Blizzard of "Ought-Four", Part 1.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

6:22am: The phone rings, 40 minutes before we are planning to get up. Alarm set for 7am, since I’m on vacation, Will is out of school, and Mary only needs 30 minutes to get ready for work. On the phone is Mary’s boss, the doctor, telling her that he is closing the office for the day because of the snow. He is going to call all the patients to let them know not to come in.

We get up and look outside. It appears we have gotten 3-4 inches of snow overnight, and it’s still coming down, hard and fast. It’s 6:30am and we’re up, so we get the day started. Coffee brews, breakfast gets made. We watch the local and national news. I send an email to my family, emphasizing that the local forecast is calling for up to EIGHTEEN inches of snow. I’ve never seen this much snow at one time. But I’m on vacation and don’t have to be anywhere at any specific time til January 3rd, so let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

8:30am: Mary and I go outside to shovel the driveway. Mary is skeptical that we need to do it so early, but I’m convinced. There is at least 6 inches of snow on the ground already, and I’m worried about how hard it will be to get it cleared off the driveway. I’m trying hard to appreciate Indiana weather – mild summers, all four seasons, not too much snow in the winter…it could be the ideal climate – but this is a stretch. My last collision with Indiana weather was after Thanksgiving, when high winds blew some shingles off my roof. I bought replacements and spent two weekends replacing shingles and 6 weeks nursing a sprained back. The doctor prescribed naproxen and muscle relaxants. This morning I do a quick evaluation of the relative risk factors: Naproxen was all over the news this week as a possible contributor to heart attacks. I’m also aware that many middle-aged men drop dead of heart attacks every year while shoveling snow. My back isn’t back to normal, and I need to shovel snow. Since I haven’t had any naproxen in a week, I figure the odds are in my favor, and take one before starting to shovel. I take it easy…not going too fast or too hard. My goal is to get the driveway cleared without wearing myself out. It takes us 45 minutes to make one pass through the driveway.

An optimistic shoveler -- first pass through the driveway on Wednesday. Posted by Hello

Mary being a good neighbor and clearing a path to the mailbox - Wednesday. Posted by Hello

It’s a losing game, though. By the time we clear the driveway from the garage down to the street, we can’t see the driveway at the top. The snow is falling faster than we can shovel it!

Didn't we just clear this driveway? Posted by Hello

We measure the snowfall on the top of Will’s car and see that we’ve had 6 inches of snow.

Wednesday morning measurement on the roof of Will's car. Posted by Hello

10:00am: I bring the snow shovel through the house and into the back yard and clear out a spot roughly 10 feet by 10 feet so the dog has a place to relieve herself. I name it the “crapatorium” and force the dog to go out there. Mary starts working on Christmas cookies and I start cleaning the downstairs to get ready for all the company we're expecting this week.

Mary and Oscar make cookies. Posted by Hello

1:00pm: After lunch it’s time to shovel again. Mary asks if I really think it’s necessary. I open the garage door and stick a broom handle into the snow. The snow depth equals the length of my Swiss army knife, which turns out to be three and a half inches when I measure it back in the kitchen. Another 3 ½ to 4 inches is on the ground, and more continues to fall.

I decide to clear the driveway again to try to keep up. It takes me until 2:15 to get it done. Will comes out and does his lane of the driveway. I measure the snow on top of his car – 8 inches, total.

Wednesday afternoon measurement on Will Posted by Hello

I think I’ve shoveled more total inches. Mary comes out and tells us that the revised forecast is for another 8 – 12 inches. Gee, something to look forward to.

A clear driveway - Wednesday afternoon. Posted by Hello

Back inside, I help out a bit with the cookie making, sprinking sliced almonds on some of the absolute best sugar cookies I’ve ever tasted. Then I head to the basement to do some painting. We’ve got company coming and I haven’t finished the trim down there.

5:15pm: It’s nap time. After a long day of shoveling, baking (and tasting!) and painting, it’s time for a rest. We each hunker down under the covers with a good book. I manage two or three paragraphs, then have to put mine down and turn out the light. Nighty nite.

6:00pm: The phone rings. It’s the doctor…waking me up for the second time today! He talks to Mary and says he’s going to close the office on Thursday…does she have the list of patients that are scheduled? No? Could she go retrieve it and call them? We bundle up and head out. The office is about a mile and a half away, over several main streets. We slide out of our neighborhood – our street has not yet been plowed. The main streets have been plowed, but snow is accumulating rapidly. We get to the office without incident, and spend an hour or so making phone calls. When we leave, I have to scrape the car windows and I can’t see the tracks we made in the parking lot when we arrived.

8:00pm: We get back home. Will is there with two of his buddies. They’ve been out sledding all afternoon and have picked up a pizza and a movie. We’re all chatting in the kitchen, lots of milling about and noise, when we notice the dog in the middle of the group, squatting and peeing all over the kitchen floor. I’m not sure I ever saw those high school boys move quite so quickly. We decide we need to do a better job monitoring the crapatorium…

9:00pm: An alert comes over the cable tv network, advising that a “snow emergency” has been declared. This is something new to us. The message is simple: You should only venture out in an emergency. We have nowhere we need to go. Will’s buddies emerge from the basement and say goodnight. They saw the announcement and are heading home.

9:30pm: The snow is pouring down. A group of kids trouped through our yard in mid-afternoon, dragging snow shovels, but I can’t see any sign of their passing as I look out the front window. Tomorrow should be interesting.

Hard snowfall at night.. Posted by Hello