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Thursday, March 24, 2005

The corpses of 1,000 snowmen

Before I took Haley out for a walk yesterday morning I checked the Doppler radar sweep. It showed a slow-moving storm aimed right at my part of the state. The meteorologist on duty (all of the weathermen on that channel are actually meteorologists, not just TV personalities) assured his viewers that the storm wouldn't reach us until 8:00 AM or so, but my eyeball gauge told me it would more likely reach Nanticoke sometime between 6:00 and 7:00.

We set out at about 5:30. As we were coming back in for a landing right around 6:30, some sleet began pelting us. The storm had begun.

The weather wasn't too too bad as I went in to work. Mixed rain, sleet, and big fluffy snow, but no major hazards to navigation. Once I entered our Fortress Of Solitude - a major DVD Compression, Encoding, and Authoring studio located within a major CD/DVD replication facility - I was effectively cut off from the outside world except for telephone reports.

The reports weren't good, and were getting worse as the day went on. Around 4:00 people began urging me to get out early, but I had already come up with a plan: stay at work late, until 7:00, allowing the snow to taper off and the snowplows and tow trucks to do their jobs. Then go DVD shopping at the Best Buy a few miles from work. Then top off my gas tank (at $2.089 per gallon, the highest price I have ever paid for gasoline in the U.S.) at the Sam's Club next door to the Best Buy. Then decide how to go home: south on Interstate 81 (a major highway used by thousands or tens of thousands of tractor-trailers each day, making it fairly hazardous even under good conditions), or north on 81 to the very topmost point of the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and ride that toll road down to pick up 81 again in Pittston or Wilkes-Barre (a longer ride by about 10 miles but less heavily traveled, particularly by tractor-trailers.)

I got out of work to find my car covered with six inches of wet, dense snow.

The roads weren't bad, but accidents had eliminated 81 as an option. I did my shopping and got on the turnpike. The trip was uneventful except for the part where I managed to spill my 35mm film canister full of quarters all over the inside of my car, making it a little more interesting when I had to scrape together the money for tolls.

Getting off the turnpike and back onto 81 for the next leg of my trip was like driving through a wall. On one side, the snow had stopped. On the other side, snow was still coming down like crazy. I ran into one delay, a short backup just before the point that I was getting off 81 to begin the final leg of my trip, but this wasn't too bad.

My house looked like it had been coated with marshmallow fluff. The clotheslines were sagging nearly to the ground. (I got pictures.) We had at least seven inches, and it was still coming down when I went to bed. A snowball test indicated that this was perfect snowball/snowman snow: wet, dense, heavy. It was also perfect snow for pulling down power lines and entire trees, but neither of these things happened to me.

After a brief night's sleep, a quick breakfast and a check of the morning's blogs, I fired up the snowblower and began to attack the mess that was out there. Naturally, a snowplow had passed in front of my house leaving a wall of wet, heavy chunks adding up to about eight feet thick by two feet high. I blasted a quick path through this from my driveway to the sidewalk (I live in a corner lot) and decided to address it last.

The snowblower made quick work of the sidewalks. This was the worst sort of snow for clearing: people using shovels would put enormous strains on their hearts, risking heart attacks, while people using snowblowers would be likely to get them jammed with snow and possibly lose a finger or a hand while trying to clear the jam. (Not me, baby. When my snowblower gets jammed, I clear it by picking up the whole damned thing and slamming it off the ground a few times. Sometimes it is good to be strong like ox.)

Then came the street in front of my house, including my driveway. This was a slow, difficult process. There were snow-boulders everywhere, making the street look like the recent Huygens pictures from the surface of Titan. I realized that clearing these things would be a poor use of the snowblower, so I made like a caveman and heaved some of the larger ones out of the way, onto my lawn. Looking out at the somewhat round 12-to-24 inch chunks of snow, snow that would be perfect for making snowballs and snowmen, made me feel like I was walking in some nightmare landscape littered with the corpses of 1,000 snowmen.

After much effort I got enough of the area cleaned up that I felt ready to take a shower and get set for work. By the end of the workday today much of the snow had melted in the brightening March sun. So now I'm worried about basement flooding again. Good thing I'm off until next Friday!

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