Except, of course, I hope that eventually it DOES. It's beautiful. I love it. But I would very much like to be able to get out of the house, if only so I can go to an appointment. Not today's: at this rate, I don't think that's happening. But I should be going in weekly and I'm going to be three weeks out by my next chance at it, at this rate. Argh.
We are not supposed to get above freezing today any more. We should have increasing snow until 10 am (and it is snowing now). There may be sporadic snow this afternoon, but they think (tentatively) it will ease off staring around noon. Apparently it was busy overnight as well, so there should be a good layer of snow by now. Today we're looking at 1-3" in our area. Salem's got the freezing rain, at least. (Sorry, Salem. But I'd rather not have any more of it.) Chains are required on all highways in/around Portland (again), except that 4WD with traction tires may carry chains instead of having them on.
Wednesday we MAY get the snow level above 500 feet. I'm sorry we won't have snow on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, which we may, but probably won't. But I'd like to get the snow level go up anyway, because I'd like to be able to get out of the house. We aren't short anything we can't live without, but it would be nice to stock up on some stuff, and maybe even see my doctor (although I'm betting their scheduling book is currently as messy as the roads.)
Why this is news....
I've noticed some of my friends here on LJ are starting to chuckle at our news coverage's focus on this (the news station I use is running a storm blog, and most of the headlines are weather-related right now, for example). But please understand, this is a massive storm for this area
, and it's actually worthy of the coverage. Yes, I know, this wouldn't be that
big a deal in places that regularly get snow. We aren't those areas. This weather is dangerous
here, and it's brought the area nearly to a halt, for good reason. We don't usually get snow; as a consequence, our fleet of snow plows, sanding equipment, and de-icing equipment is fairly small. It simply doesn't make sense to maintain a larger one.
Our "normal" snow when it appears is 1/2" to 2" at the valley floor, more above. It usually falls over the course of one or two days, then melts off to slush, possibly refreezes, and melts off again. Rarely does it last more than 3-5 days in any form other than patches on grass/dirt in the shade. The freeways, highways, and major surface streets get plowed and sanded once the worst is over. Other surface streets get done as time allows - which means they usually don't. I've never seen a snow plow in our neighborhood, and I do not expect I likely ever will. Those streets get cleared, if at all, by cars driving down them and pushing snow/slush aside or wearing down the ice.
Now, that's a normal snowstorm. This is not
a normal snowstorm. It's been ongoing for over a week. We've seen more snow at the valley floor (and everywhere else) in one day than we normally do in the whole storm. We had two days that either had rain or melted existing snow, not consecutive days, and then let it re-freeze, so there was ice under that in places. We had freezing rain, so there's ice over that in some places. When Scott went to get the mail, apparently there was ice-snow-ice-snow-ice. Ugly. We are well outside the conditions we're prepared to handle. We have high winds in some areas, so the sand is not necessarily usable since it can blow off. (That's not my guess: that's official word from ODOT that they are plowing, but not sanding, in areas with high winds.) They're having to watch supplies and only use them where they're both critical and likely to work. And since the storm is ongoing, they get to redo and re-redo the key roads. They don't even have the freeways down to bare pavement or gravel, they just have it down to somewhat dealable packed snow.
And remember, I said "at the valley floor." The higher the elevations, the uglier the amount of snow, ice, and other problems. Not to mention that steep streets are not exactly helpful or useful in this kind of weather either, even if they were only as badly-coated as the nice flat one in front of my house. When I talk in my post about the West Hills, we're talking about 1000 feet or so above sea level. Downtown Portland is basically at sea level (20 feet above is the official measure, I think), and IT has enough trouble. Here in Wilsonville we're about 175 feet above sea level.
So far, I've barely touched on the high winds. That's a mistake, though. We're a very forested area. We have snow and ice on the trees, and then we have high winds. Which means we have trees down. They've hit people's houses, cars, power lines.... We have about 50,000 customers (last report I heard) without power between the two power companies the news was reporting on, and it could be days before they're fully restored. (About half are in the Salem area, where the weather is supposed to ease up later today. I wish them luck; they might get power back, depending on where the problems are.)
It's hard to get where you need to go, unless you're prepared for this sort of weather. For the same reason that our fleet of snowplows is limited, many residents aren't
prepared for this weather. Oh, many of the ones who live at higher elevations are - they get snow more often, even when the rest of us have rain. But people who live on the valley floor may not have traction devices, and many people don't know how to drive in these conditions (with or without chains, although in the current conditions, you DON'T drive without chains). Going somewhere is risking your life even if you know exactly what you're doing, because the guy behind you may not. They had to advise people coming back from skiing trips to the mountain not to pass the semis (some unchained) that were using those roads as an alternate route, because they didn't have safe passing distance in the slick conditions, and this didn't occur to them
- on such a common basis that ODOT made a plea over radio and TV, including asking people to call their friends who might be coming back and ask them to be careful.
This is not to say you can't drive in it. You can, if you know what you're doing, and there's no idiots around you. But that's talking about the freeways, too; don't forget the surface streets and driveways and parking lots, many of which are just flatly not cleared at all. And, in the windy areas, you're dealing with blowing snow and low visibility. It's cold enough you're dealing with windshields freezing up, apparently (enough for the radio traffic report to comment on it every time it runs).
I realize that many areas that get more snow would cope with a storm of this level much better, because it's expected, and they're prepared for it. But we're not, and this weather is dangerous (and unusual, and if you're safe and sound and can treat it as such, exciting) here. It is a major news story. (We've only seen one death reported due to this weather so far, but I doubt that's going to be the final count.)
Katu, one of our local news stations, is running rotating ODOT cameras of the freeways. They're interesting, and scary if I think about trying to drive in that. You can see that traffic is actually moving pretty well, for the conditions; everyone should be chained up (except, as noted, the 4WD with traction tires), which helps. But it takes only one idiot or one bit of bad luck to adjust all of that "flowing smoothly" look. http://www.katu.com/news/live/3882262.html