Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lime green to bright red: Blizzard warning

That ominous lime green "blizzard watch" over northwest Iowa turned bright red ("blizzard warning") overnight and expanded itself to cover Mason City, so we may or may not be in for it today, tonight and tomorrow.

We had a mildly cranky discussion at the office last night about exactly what a blizzard is (some thought merely heavy snow, but it's more than that). A blizzard involves the combination of snow and strong winds in excess of 35 mph. It's a nasty business resulting in zero visibility (stay off the roads) and extensive drifting (stay off the roads again). When combined with extreme cold, also predicted, a blizzard can be and often is deadly.

This part of the state is especially prone to blizzards since it started out in large part as prairie and there's really nothing between here and Wyoming and Montana (other than the Black Hills) to stop or slow down that darned wind --- and the Black Hills are a long day's drive away. So hold onto your hat (and parka and boots).

I UNDERESTIMATED the volume of the Thursday-Friday overnight snow --- actually about eight inches came down here, but most of that's been pushed out of the way by now and we're back in business for the moment. Here's a look at the pile of snow pushed off the small parking area along the north side of our office building and obscuring the newsroom door (the main entrance is around the corner almost a block away). Usually this sort of pile doesn't develop until January, so it's supposed to be hauled away today to make room for more.

Since I was out this morning, I took a quick photo of one of my favorite houses in this neighborhood, a grand old Queen Anne that hasn't exactly fallen upon hard times but certainly is in a gentle decline. That's the house at the top of this entry. And here you can see the rods the fire department installs at fireplugs so that they can be found if and when the snow buries them. Woe unto us if the snow gets that deep.

FIRST CHRISTIAN CHURCH (Disciples of Christ) is my next-door neighbor in Mason City and I have an uneasy relationship every winter with this rather odd example of 1920s triumphalism. The difficulty is, the Christians never attend to the sidewalk along the north side of the building, which I walk at least four times daily going to and from the office and that many others use since this is a mixed (and quite nice) neighborhood where all sorts of people live, including a good number who do not drive.

They've done much better this year, but I'm waiting to see if it's only because they've had a series of public events planned (a pre-Christmas bake sale today, for example). I'd never thought too much about it, since I'm entirely capable of taking to the street and walking around it, until a winter or so ago when I came across walking home at night a then-neighbor who was paralyzed and had no way to get around other than a sort of all-terrain wheelchair. He'd slipped off the damned Christians' unkempt sidewalk into snow and was stranded on a chilly night. I got him going again, but that's caused me to wonder since about what sort of message is being sent here. I realize this is now a smallish congregation in a largish building and finances probably are tight --- but still. There now, I've had my self-righteous moment for the day (very gratifying) and can move on.

I'M TAKING Christmas week off (something not done in years and years) and heading to the land of no Internet connection (Chariton, and most actually are connected there; I just enjoy being away from it for a while so never have bothered). But now with the blizzard warning and all, I'm not so sure when I'll leave. At least with time on my hands I don't feel pressured to hit the road when I shouldn't. But since the predicted low here for Sunday night is -16F I'd better go gas up the truck and get a few extra groceries just in case I'm here. Then I'll be off to the office, since this kind of weather almost always results in early deadlines.

1 comment:

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