The Lights of Home


When you have a seemingly iditarod-like commute to work, it does give one time to think. After doing it for three years now, if I had any brains, I’d have Rosetta Stone loaded and teaching me French by now, but I digress.

It doesn’t take much in Western New York weather terms to cause that 45 minute regular commute into something out of The Odyssey. Maybe it was an accident last year, maybe it was realizing that just because one can go 65 m.p.h. on the rolling hills of New York State Route 20A does by no means mean that one should. I know a minivan driver who executed a perfect snowstorm arabesque last winter would now agree with me.

But, after heeding the warnings of the morning weather and traffic folks and knowing these backroads, one can settle one’s mind a bit and sort out conundrums like:

Why are the visible snow plows in the area always going the other direction while the lane I’m in still covered in muck?

Why did the prius driver in front of me only use his wipers to clean his car off? It can’t be because the car is too tall.

Did the guy in the admittedly cool looking mustang realize what rear wheel drive was going to be like on a snow laden commute? If he arrived alive, he got a hell of an arm workout.

While I do work, you can hear the tell tale sound of deer season in the distance, the occasional shot gun blast.

If ever I needed a reminder to slow it down on these nasty roads of ours, it was the sit of a chevy pickup in the ditch on the media the other night. I believe there were other cars there as well as the emergency vehicle count was around a dozen. Betting the non emergency vehicles were tempting the fate of Mother Nature. She apparently doesn’t like that.

I do pity others as there is a speed trap underneath an overpass that requires the officer involved to twist in his driver’s seat and aim the radar gun, blow dryer, or whatever in the opposite direction. So, window down, snow falling, 20 degree temps, that is a back ache waiting to happen.

It’s bad enough when the daylight or lack of daylight savings time comes into play and messes with our collective circadian rhythm. I didn’t even no what that was until Star Trek explained it to me. Now, it is responsible for the xannax in my diet.

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When the good weather and traffic folk say on their broadcasts that “it’s nothing we can’t handle,” they are usually correct. Whenever I hear it, it makes me cringe a little as an example of somebody who can’t handle it will be found at least once on the road to or fro.

Ever notice that when you are driving into lake effect snow, the net effect isn’t hyperspace a la Star Wars but more along the lines of barbeque smoke. No matter what direction you are driving, you are driving into it. Somehow, it knows.

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After Christmas, the thrill is gone.

 

 

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Wanderin’


I think we can venture out once more without the snow brushes in close reach. Without having to brace oneself over the throwback winter, it is easy to for a walk outside.You can again pay too much for a hot dog without climbing over snow piles.

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The Ice Boom is gone and so is the ice.image

imagewhich means the Hatch might be ready for business (okay, it’s open, but parts of the New York State Thruway were rebuilt in less time.

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I have never been a fan of the Transformers but this condo tower in the picture above looks like it is where they should park.

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The final image is my vantage point for two meetings I had late last week. Better than any conference room, and no air conditioner needed. I definitely had the better for both meetings.

Who’s up for ice cream

I Miss El Nino


I’m tired, Lily Von Stupp tired of driving in the snow. The return to old school Western New York winter isn’t sitting well. We didn’t get any January thaw to speak of, and temperatures have been single digits for so long that if we get a heatwave of 15, I walk out thinking, this isn’t so bad. What the hell?

The publishers of the coffee table book, Wall of Snow, might be able to make some money if there was so much of the crap still around. When the temperatures were in the negatives to start last week, many road ways just froze. My commute on a regular run of the mill day is 20 minutes. That’s pretty good, almost pleasant. You can relax from the busy day or get your self geared up for the day ahead with some tunes, what have you. Not these days, when snow, freezing rain, and wind have regularly turned the trips into 75 minute white knuckled, gird your loins, hunched over the steering wheel, burn a hole through the windshield with your concentrated gaze, feats of road terror.

Now, I don’t have road rage, I have road expectations. The road has set its standards pretty low. But the pleasant drive has turned into that joke Robin Williams used to make about marathon runners at the end of the race “I’m,…I’m alive.” During the latest cold freeze, random roughly 30 foot sections of the Interstate 190 along Lake Erie decided to freeze, so caked in ice the Buffalo Sabres could have tanked on them. So frozen that doing anything other than aiming the car. Don’t stop, don’t accelerate, just aim. Anything else and you were headed to the ditch. Even safe passage caused the back of my sportage to shake like a dancer at Club Marcella’s after too many espressos. After seven or eight randomly spaced out instances of this, you arrive at the promised land, the toll booth of the South Grand Island bridge, the scene of another large accident.

Traffic of course stops. I look and you see a ice trail up the bridge that would make a great luge run going down, or so it would appear. I see an exit to sneak down River Road, but who the hell knows what does on down there. I summon the courage and go through the toll. A group of about 40 cars and trucks seems to take the trip in unison like the Donnor party. We all reach the peak of the bridge and start to descend down, all hoping it is just a wet surface leading to the flat ground of Grand Island.

It made me think of the people who whine about not getting a storm, missing snow, or griping about schools being open, or schools being closed, reporters who can’t describe snow as anything other than winter wonderland, or snow days you didn’t get in 1983 and how all of the aforementioned need a slap up side the head.

That’s the thing. The sky and the surface have matched each other for so long, it’s harder to differentiate. Somehow, we all land on Grand Island, and sonofabitch, it’s a different ecosystem there. Sun is out and roads are passable. If you haven’t stopped for PTSD treatment for the first part of journey, it’s like hitting Brigadoon. You could drive (and breath) like a human. I heard my radio once more. I was conscious of the jamoke who didn’t knock the snow off his car, silently receiving curses from me. You could see the guy who cleaned his car by running the wipers once.

Until we left Shangra-la to cross the next bridge, where the frost giants awaited…

I miss El Nino.

 

Snow Blind


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This is getting on my nerves.

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I think anybody who takes to social media of any kind next winter to lament that they didn’t see any storm, where’s my snow or anything or why wasn’t my kids school closed needs to be thrown screaming from a helicopter…into a snowbank

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This thought occurred to me as I drove behind another car on one of our busier roadways around here. Unlike much of the area, bare pavement made up the bulk of the driving and apparently that jamoke decided that high speed and wind was how he was going to clean off his car. It’s a pretty deplorable practice, especially when it means your car is on the receiving end of a steady stream of snowballs.

Somewhere in the middle of El Nino, Western New York lost a bit of its snow mojo. I noticed that since we’ve gotten those two light winters, we’ve been getting our butts kicked. And to top it off, who stole our midwinter thaw. There used to be, usually around january or so, some kind of breather, temps would get up, we would get sunlight you could feel. It gave you a second wind to get to spring. My car has been a stud, but you can hear the ache of operating in such constant cold. I used to grouse about paying for a garage space, but that is fee I’m happy to pony up, helps the car last longer and reduces my carpal tunnel odds from not having to clean off the car for the fun drive to work.

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This just flat out sucks. Instead, no breather, in fact, it’s gotten a little tougher with International Falls-style wind chill that makes you not care a whit if it is Celsius or Fahrenheit, a minus anything pretty much is flat out cold. I mean, it’s great, we don’t mudslides, or much in terms of other earthbound traumas, so I guess this is Mother Nature‘s Way of keeping us honest. I’m not so sure I like it. I mean, we are at the point where the sunshine has been random, infrequent and meaningless. The color of the sky, snow and the street have all been cut from the same grey portion of the pantone chart. To add insult to frozen injury, the storms have frequently been coming at rush hour, which then needs to be called something else. It shouldn’t be so noteworthy from my 20 minute commute to actually take 20 minutes. That shouldn’t come as a pleasant surprise.

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A Hazy Shade of Winter


I don’t know who is in charge of naming things, but the 7 feet of snow that is screwing with Western New York needs a better name than “Knife” for supposedly cutting through the area. Given this fine line that lake effect weather wore, I would have thought “Bi-Polar Vortex” would have surfaced at some point. A good friend of mine offered up “Flakenstein” which I’ve added on to resulting in Flakenstein’s Monster.

It seems appropriate. There are thousands of images floating up that remind you of the fierceness of the weather.

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Driving south from Niagara County, you could see this incredibly solid shroud hanging over the southern half of the city and the surrounding suburbs, like a black hole from cheesy sci fi flicks. If you needed a reminder of the severity, red cross commercials during sunday football broadcasts highlighted the work of the red cross in such places, like Buffalo. I’m looking through my facebook feed and saw the story of the woman who was writing a good bye note because she was trapped in her car for that long.

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Fortunately, her story had a happy ending. With there being a body count, I guess you can say it’s a lucky thing that it wasn’t higher all things being equal. I don’t know of another city where 400 plus would rally to…shovel.

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Literally the story of two regions. During the “surprise storm” of October 2006, my dad lamented that the worst part of being out of town during a Western New York weather event is that you didn’t get your own story, but you got to hear everybody else’s. The entire north half of Western New York is like that, but we were home.

Like any Western New Yorker of any time frame, I’ve seen ten foot high snow piles before, but they usually take a little longer that a day to build.

It’s not the most reverent thing in the world, but I think humor helps in dealing with the unfathomable or when a public official lectures citizens before checking facts. Althought I was proud when the county executive told the NFL off.  They might not have needed it in this case, but it was good to know priorities.

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Because you never know when the next one might hit.

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But the tone of the people during this, the people who live here make you forget that this can be a place where the wind can hurt your face and just be glad that this is home.

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Great, Grey Bucket o Suck


It doesn’t take long. You put the holidays away and winter can become a soul sucking experience.

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Now, I don’t hate winter by any means, but occasionally it feels the need to assert itself just a tad. Buffalo and the surrounding area has been getting off easy the past two years and I didn’t mind. What we’ve been dealing with feels a little more old school, more typical winter weather, but the cold that has been pretty constant to start the new year isn’t cool.

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We’re all starting to feel like that guy. Days of seeing nothing but single digit temps mean it is almost too cold for regular winter fun. I mean, can’t and shouldn’t go for a tobaggan run at 2 degrees outside. Even if you like it, the sled might collapse.

There are moments of incredible beauty like this

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like this one, that made it on to the BBC web site, but far too often we’ve been running into moments like:

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which greeted me as I went into work last week.

Bring on the January, er, February, hell, any thaw

As the Snow Flies


So, there might be snow in Buffalo. This really shouldn’t be news at this time of year or reason for much of anything other than trying to remember where you put your good winter gloves when you last needed them, May probably. I saw a little snow while out for a ride and the weatherdudes correctly noted that it was going to get cold (30 outside while I write this), and none of that should really be earth shattering at this time of the year. Our former mayor offered his “grab a six pack” advice and practically seems a sage now, as when the weather forecasts have “lake effect” featured in them prominently, that is apparently code for “get to the grocery store and buy as much milk as you possibly can.” I don’t believe there has been a driving ban longer than a day or two since the Blizzard of ’77. So, I’m not sure where the “Better stock up” strategy came from. Sunday could be ugly, but we all got to go to work Monday.

It’s mostly amusing as the snow is fine at this time of the year. We had a couple of whacko storms and everybody gets a little edgy. Facebook fills up either with “hey, where’s ours” complaints if we don’t get any, and grumblings if “it is really accumulating.” I promise not to take a picture  out my window as you all know what snow on ground looks like.

A cashier at the grocery store (I actually needed stuff, don’t judge) said something about it being the holy trinity of busy days: a saturday, the saturday before thanksgiving, and the saturday when the weather guys said lake effect a lot.”

It’s winter, let’s relax, breathe regular. You stay warmer that way.

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Okay, so last year was an anomaly but typically if we get the St. Patrick’s Parade behind us so should the shivering weather.

Despite the phrase “wind chill” still being in the weather, you can still find some catching moments.

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I know, it’s Buffalo being Buffalo, but I’m anxious to downgrade how much coat is needed.

Couldn’t Stand the Weather


In the school of thought about Western New York weather, I like all the seasons, but this area is having a collectively weirder reaction to news of snow storms. Not to go old man on you, but when I was a boy….

I had to lampoon the last mishagas of tweets and warnings that were flying through social media today. The thanksgiving snow storm in 2000 and the “surprise storm” of 2006 have understandably made folks a little jumpy, that “we have to remember our winter driving skills,” etc. It seems like when we get a taste of winter instead of just dealing,we do tend to overreact a bit. I made a little good natured mock of that on Facebook and was busted by one of the fine weather dudes. I felt a little bad about that, but wasn’t mocking the forecasting. I was mocking how weather angst can cause people to hear a forecast on a monday, and go on a stock the shelves mission like snowmageddon is setting up over us. It’s like the old story about the professor who tells one student a short story and instructs the student to pass the story along. By the time, the story gets to the tenth student, it is a completely different story.

A couple work colleagues were teasing me because I was a little indifferent to whether or not we received a white christmas. Given I’ve seen 48 of them now, whether or not snow makes it, isn’t that big a deal as it has shown up plenty of times previously. We did get a little spoiled about 10 or 11 years ago, we did get seven feet of snow between Christmas and New Years‘s and I don’t seem to recall it slowing us down at all.

Winter rain has no soul at all so some snow would be nice for the pictures, for the snowmobilers, snowboarders that I know of among my friends. Then, like the days getting longer (screw you, mayans) be gone before January.

Now that my daughter made it home for the holidays, it can do whatever it likes as nobody has to be anywhere tomorrow. I think the consequences of some of those other storms provided just enough variants that it messed with our mojo a bit. When the School district calls a snow day, I’m fine with it as with the 2000 storm, kids were trapped on buses and some spent the night in a supermarket on the west side. Better to be safe than sorry in that regard.

Supposedly, we might get some wind and snow tomorrow. If we don’t, somebody is going to grouse about that too, like it is an affront to the area’s manhood.
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That said, I did get some milk at the store tonight, right before I got to the beer aisle

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“How can I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?”

Well, unlike Ferris, I had the day off anyway. In a nod to it being better to lucky instead of good, consider this on this third day of December in Western New York:

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Now, I know there are some of you who want to be ass deep in snow by now, that it isn’t the friggin holiday season unless you have to shake a snowdrift off your show when you arrive home. To that I say “bah!!”

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It can take a back seat. We’ll have a few slices of winter. Of that, I’m sure. When you consider how recently as two years ago, that we couldn’t swing the january thaw that is usually riding in winter’s side, relax, go outside. Let this sun hit you as we all know it isn’t long for these climes.

Enjoy the reprieve. It’s like getting that call from the governor, today is not the day you freeze your uvuela off trying to get to work.

Me, I think I’ll light up the grill.