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Power Returns

November 10, 2012 Leave a comment

During our trip to New York last week, we wanted to get from Manhattan out to Long Island. Between gas shortages, tunnel closures, power outages, non-working traffic lights, uncertain commuter train schedules, and blocked roads, we weren’t sure how good an idea this was. But the Hertz outlet four blocks down the street from us had cars. From there, we could hop on the FDR Drive, go over the Triborough Bridge, and be on the island. Plus, at the end, we could return our car as is, not worrying about 3+ hour waits to refill the gas tank. So off we went.

It was Sunday morning. Traffic was light. Soon we were over the bridge into Queens, past LaGuardia, onto the Long Island Expressway, and headed east. There were few signs of the storm from the road itself. As we passed from Queens into Nassau County, we could see a caravan of orange trucks filling the middle lane of the expressway ahead. Maybe a dozen long, all from Asplundh, which I’ve long known as a tree service company, but only now learn is specifically focused on clearing lines for power companies.

Since 1928 the Asplundh Tree Expert Co. has been dedicated to safe, efficient and innovative line clearance services to the utility industry. Reliable, uninterrupted power is an important service provided by the world’s electrical utilities and Asplundh has the expertise to help keep the power flowing. …

As a full-service utility contractor Asplundh performs tree pruning and removals, right-of-way clearing and maintenance, vegetation management with herbicides and emergency storm work and logistical support.

A few miles later, we pulled off the expressway onto local roads. Heading down one, we understood the purpose of the caravans. On this heavily wooded road, another caravan of Asplundh trucks was spread out over a stretch of about a half mile, turning the two-lane road into an alternation of one- and two-lane stretches, with wood chips and debris all over as they removed giant branches and downed trees.

Soon we were at our family home. The yard had taken a beating. Above, you can see a tree down in the front yard. Fortunately, it fell toward the street. To the back, a tree fell toward and partly onto a corner of the house, pulling power lines with it. More than that, the pressure on the lines split a telephone pole. The lower third stuck up from the ground. The upper two-thirds fell to the ground, along with a transformer, as pictured below.

In late afternoon, as we left the house, we could hear a crew working a little farther down the line. Soon they came to the house and discovered the downed transformer. That was six afternoons ago. Two days later they had a new pole and transformer up. Only this afternoon was power restored, six days after they began work in the neighborhood, twelve days after Sandy came through.

Our drive back into Manhattan was uneventful. The Asplundh caravan was gone, the road we passed them on now clear. Traffic lights were still out, with a detour in place at the big intersection of the main north-south road and the east-west Long Island Expressway service road in order to manage traffic flow. (The north-south road is some 7 lanes wide. A simple stop-and-go pattern wasn’t going to work well. Westbound traffic was forced to turn north, with the option a few hundred yards later of turning back south in order to get across the intersection.) Once through the detour, we entered the Expressway, headed back into Queens, over the Triborough, and onto FDR Drive to go south along the East River. I should have gotten off at 96th, but instead got greedy and stayed on, aiming for an exit closer to Hertz, only to encounter our only traffic of the trip. One mile and 15 minutes later, we exited, drove up 1st Avenue, down 2nd, and into Hertz. Easy trip.

Northern Nassau County got hit pretty hard, but we knew we hadn’t seen anything near the worst of it. We are thankful for all the crews from around the country who have been working tirelessly to clear roads and restore power.

Categories: House, Travel, Weather

Heat Wave

August 5, 2012 Leave a comment

That’s what we have here in Seattle. Or what passes for one in these parts. High 80s yesterday. Over 90 today. And as I type, at 7:40 PM, it’s still 89 degrees, with not the least trace of a breeze.

I wouldn’t think of complaining, what with the weather so much of the country has experienced this summer. There’s nowhere I’d rather be when it comes to summer climate, at least once we get past the first week of July. We can generally count on lots of days in the 70s, dry and clear, except on the occasional mornings when there’s a marine layer that needs to burn off. Come evening, it’s perfect out, so I never want to be anywhere other than our backyard — for dinner, reading, browsing the web, writing these posts.

But today has been a little too hot for us Seattleites. And tonight, given how warm our house is, we’ll be moving down to the summer bedroom (the basement), where we should have spent last night.

The only saving grace is that these days help us remember that we’re in the middle of summer. Sometimes in Seattle, one loses track of what season it is.

But not when it’s hot hot hot!

Categories: Weather

Snowed In

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Our spruce tree

I don’t want to make too big a deal about the weather here this week. It’s not like we’ve gotten all that much snow, though other parts of western Washington did. And it’s not like getting snow is all that unusual, though some winters we don’t get any. (It’s typical when the colder winter storms move through that temperatures hover right at the rain/snow line, bringing snow to higher elevations or to areas a little outside Seattle that lack the dual moderating influences of Puget Sound and Lake Washington, with just traces of snow falling within Seattle.) But I have to say, it’s unusual to have six consecutive days of snow. And today’s sleet/ice/snow caught the forecasters by surprise.

I should explain or remind readers that snow tends to stop traffic in Seattle, especially when it turns to ice, because we’re a city of hills but not a city of plows. When I first moved here, roads just didn’t get plowed. Now the major roads do. But when snow is followed by falling temperatures and ice, the city comes to a standstill.

I wrote on Sunday about the early stages of this unexpected weather. On Saturday, it snowed briefly. I got in the car, dashed down to the local commercial neighborhood, and took care of some errands, but the snow had stopped before I got home. Sunday brought big snow in some areas, 3-4 inches here. Monday was cooler. Not too bad a day. No significant accumulations. The snow on the roads was packed hard and we kept the cars in. We walked down to the commercial neighborhood for lunch and to buy provisions. (Monday was a holiday, so getting to work wasn’t an issue.)

Tuesday was supposed to be the calm before the big storm on Wednesday. I drove to school, with temperatures in the high 30s. To my surprise, it was precipitating when I arrived, a sleety snow. By noon it was flat out snowing, and did so for a couple of hours. Very light, and with the temperatures still well above freezing, nothing stuck. From late afternoon through the evening, there was lots of melting. The drive home was easy, and at home I could hear melting water pouring through the downspouts.

The Wednesday storm (yesterday) was initially predicted, days ago, to be part of a big warm front with early snow followed by heavy rain and melting. Then it appeared that the storm would come through farther south, bringing very heavy snow here, on the order of a foot. By Tuesday night, the prediction was downgraded to 2-5 inches here, and that turned out to be about right. The big issue was whether I should get up early and walk in to school for class. Or could I drive? Or would school shut down, something it never used to do, but has in recent years in order to keep thousands of commuters off the roads? By 10:20 PM Tuesday there was no closure announcement, so I went to bed ready to get up early. But I awoke around 12:45 AM, reached for my iPad, and discovered I had missed the closure announcement, which had come through around 10:45 PM. No school. I shut the alarm.

The snow didn’t start yesterday until 4:00 AM, and never fell heavily here in Seattle, but didn’t stop until early afternoon, leaving another 3-4 inches on the ground. As predicted, snow was much heavier to the south, as much as 12-15 inches over southwest Washington. And still farther south, in Oregon, the warm front we were supposed to get had arrived, with temperatures of 50 degrees. An icy precipitation continued to fall later in the day, but nothing significant. Nonetheless, at 8:50 last night, the university announced a closure for today too. Today was supposed to be a transitional day, cold but with little precipitation, with warm air and rain finally arriving tomorrow.

Well, that didn’t happen. As local weather expert Cliff Mass explained this morning, everyone got the prediction wrong. What we got instead was an ice storm. Real bad to the south, where there are power outages. Not too bad here. But a complete surprise based on last night’s outlook. Still, as of this morning, the sleet was to stop by 1:00 PM this afternoon. Instead, it turned to snow, which is still falling. Gail and I walked down to the stores again a couple of hours ago, got some lunch, bought some food. It wasn’t too bad. Packed snow on the roads, crunchy snow where no one had driven or walked. The snow still falling is light.

We’re still supposed to get warmer weather starting tomorrow. Days of it, 40s and rain. This will all be gone quickly. The big question is whether the roads will be safe in the morning, before the warming and rain do their work. In particular, will the university close again? If it doesn’t, will anyone besides me show up to my class? It’s a disaster either way — missing yet another class, or holding a class to which few people come. With the Monday holiday, this whole week is turning into a disaster, making a mess of the start of the term.

I took the photo at the top with my iPhone on our return from this afternoon’s outing. Just for the heck of it, I offer a contrast below, a shot of Sankaty Head lighthouse in Nantucket taken last September as we cycled back from ‘Sconset to Wauwinet. I would say I’d rather be there, but, you know, it’s actually quite lovely here.

Categories: House, Weather

Seattle Snow

January 15, 2012 Leave a comment

Our backyard cherry tree

Maybe we get a little too excited when it snows in Seattle. Several local Facebook friends were quick to post photos of today’s snow. And here I am with my own. I know, it’s not that big a deal. But today’s snow did produce some lovely scenery.

Several fronts are moving through, and the weather conditions are just right for a potential sequence of four independent separate snowfalls, starting with a small one yesterday (Saturday) and continuing through Wednesday morning. Famed local weather expert and faculty colleague Cliff Mass has been providing details at his blog, explaining this morning that the

situation has four stages:

Stage 1: Snow with the front yesterday, with convergence zone snow.
Stage 2: Today’s snow with the coastal trough
Stage 3. Later tomorrow snow with another trough
Stage 4: SLUSHMAGEDON on Wednesday AM.

The current model runs suggest that the next week will bring some of the most intense and active weather in a long time…windstorms, rain, snow….the trifecta of NW weather.

View from our yard

The snow today began early, but was light and intermittent until noon, when things got serious. Over the next hour and a half, big flakes filled the air, leaving 3-4 inches on the ground hereabouts. We’re in a lowland part of Seattle, often the least affected by snowfall. I imagine much more fell farther from the water and at higher elevations.

Around 2:15 this afternoon, I headed out to take some photos, three of which you see here. We’ll enjoy it while we can. It should be gone by late in the week.

Categories: House, Weather

Change in the Weather

May 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Safeco Field

This post is a few days overdue, as are several more that I hope to get to. I wrote last a week ago, from Gettysburg, briefly describing our visits to Antietam and Gettysburg battlefields. I will have more to say about that. This post is about our attendance four nights ago at the Mariners baseball game.

We got back home from Washington, D.C., Tuesday night. It wasn’t entirely the best timing that last month we had arranged with Gail’s sister to attend the Mariners game Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Rays at Safeco Field. I figured I would be falling asleep by the third inning. But worse, it was cold. Just four days earlier, back in Maryland, we toured Antietam National Battlefield in 90 degree heat and high humidity. The weather was only slightly more tolerable Sunday and Monday, summer having come early to the mid-Atlantic coastal region. All I could think was, I’m sure glad I live in a more temperate climate.

Ha. It was in the 40s most of the day Wednesday. When we arrived at Safeco around 6:00 PM, it was probably the warmest and sunniest part of the day, over 50 and beautiful. We headed up to the third deck along the first base line to grab dinner. This is the part of Safeco that provides the best views: west over Elliott Bay, the Sound, and the Olympic Mountains; north to downtown. It was also the warmest part, in direct sun. After eating, we walked over to the first base line to get to our seats. The sun was still high enough to sit above the top of the third base roof, so we were still in sunlight, with commanding views over the field and to downtown. Of course, at that height, the players are pretty small, but it’s a great outlook.

And then, round about the 4th inning, the sun disappeared from view. It got cold really fast. Here it is, May 5th, a gorgeous evening, but a cold one, with temperatures now in the mid 40s, and all I could think was, maybe DC’s climate isn’t so bad after all. At least we were winning, and Cliff Lee was dominating through four. When we scored 2 runs in the bottom of the fourth (see box score here), one could imagine that might just be enough. But Lee weakened in the top of the 5th, gave up an equalizing pair of runs, and one wondered if we would score again. Lee was in command again the next two innings. If we could just get a run across, we might win. Though mostly I was rooting to get home.

Lee ran out of steam in the 8th, giving up 3 runs. No way we were going to win now. Perhaps this was a good time to leave. Many of the 14,627 (officially) in attendance seemed to think so. We stuck it out through the bottom of the 8th, then through some mis-communication between Gail and me, we stayed into the 9th, when the Rays got another 3 runs. If you’re keeping track, you’ll know the score was 8-2 at this point, entering the bottom of the 9th. I said okay, we should at least go down to the first level and watch from there as we work our way to the exit. We did so, and suddenly the Mariners had loaded the bases. We got a run, then Sweeney ended the game by striking out. We were near the exit at this point and made a hasty retreat.

I’m so glad we no longer have to watch the Mariners play in the Kingdome, that awful concrete bunker of a building. And I’m so glad that even though Safeco was built with a sliding roof that can keep rain out, the roof is more like an umbrella, leaving the interior open to the outdoor air at all times. In principle, This was, however, one of those nights when watching indoors might not have been so bad.

My one regret in all this is that we didn’t get to see the Nationals play in their new ballpark when we were in Washington. I was there most of a week, but that week coincided exactly with a road trip. As we flew back to Seattle Tuesday night, they opened a home stand.

Categories: Baseball, Travel, Weather

Spring?

January 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I may be getting ahead of myself, and anyway, it’s not that big a deal, but I looked outside half an hour ago and robins were everywhere — on the lawn, in the trees, flying back and forth. Look at the photo above of our maple tree and see for yourself. I don’t remember seeing robins yesterday, or the day before, or for many weeks. I’m thinking this is significant. Throw in all the daffodil shoots in the yard and I’m prepared to believe that it could just be the start of spring around here.

Categories: Life, Weather

Cooling with Buster

July 31, 2009 Leave a comment

buster2

The record high temperatures of the last two days are over. We hit 103 Wednesday, and flirted with 100 yesterday but didn’t go above 97 or 98 (depending on location). There’s some marine air over Seattle now, the temperature is around 60, and the house is cooling down at last. The forecast for the next five days shows temps getting into the mid 80s, dropping to 60 overnight, with morning clouds burning off. So, we’re back to a typical summer pattern.

In yesterday’s post on the heat, I brought in Buster Poindexter to serenade us with Arrow’s classic Hot Hot Hot. Buster is back today, by popular demand. Enjoy. (And thanks to Joel, whom I didn’t credit yesterday, for helping me come to a full appreciation of Buster’s greatness.)

Note: youtube has disabled embedding of the Poindexter video, so I can’t put it in this blog post directly, as I tried initially. You will have to follow the link to see him.

Categories: Music, Weather