Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Blizzard of 2014- Semi Live Blog (Updates 1-3)

(Note: Updates will be added to the bottom of the post in an effort for the flow to make sense to future readers.)

School is closed today. Thousands of kids rejoice.

One high school science teacher sits on his lazy boy with a scowl on his face. This day is the climax of all of the crap winter has tossed at us, rolled up into one big pile of weather poop. So far today, we've had rain. We've had wind. We've had sleet. We've had black ice on the roads. We've had snow. And, it's about to get worse.

Therefore, I've decided to Semi Live Blog the day. There will be random postings of pretty much nothing to document what is expected to be epic in terms of meteorology and miserable in terms of everybody else.

Pre-Live Blog
They canceled school yesterday based on the forecast. This seems to be a habit new to the 2013-14 school year. In years previous, administration would make the decision in the wee hours of the morning based on actual weather. I suspect that the admin were sick of getting up by 4 am (who wouldn't be?) and decided to take advantage of science (for the record, this is the only known area of education administration where science has been applicable).

The school calendar purposely overbooks itself to accommodate for Mother Nature. There are 3 unnecessary school days in the calendar, just in case school is closed for  weather related purposes. If we need a 4th, we have to make this day up before the end of the year. If we don't use all 3 days, do we get extra days off? Ha! This is a politically driven process. It's all takey and no givey.

Relying on the science has not been too successful this year. I posit that it's mostly because the average person doesn't actually understand the science enough to apply it. We had a day off for the Great Blizzard of the Wednesday Before Thanksgiving, which yielded approximately 1.5 inches of snow and winds of about 20 mph (more on blizzards soon). We had a day off for Polar Vortex 1.0, when temperatures were rumored to drop below zero and winds in the 20s. Which is what happened. Except, that subsequent Polar Vortices also dealt many 0º days coupled with high winds, school stayed in session. Apparently those conditions are only school close-worthy on the first time. I went running.

In my not-so-humble opinion, I still think it a mistake to close the buildings on those days. But, what in the world would a science teacher know about science? In today's instance, I think the higher ups got it right. Badness is coming.

On Blizzards
Most people are familiar with the term yet have little idea as to what qualifies an official blizzard. In fact, my guess is that most Americans, when hearing the word 'blizzard' automatically equate it with a popular shake-type beverage from the local Dairy Queen.

Our next step of misinformation is to believe that hard, heavy breathing snow makes for a blizzard. This type of thinking is not clear and only part of the equation which has 3 main ingredients. (<-- cited link through NOAA just in case any of my meteorology readers want to question my facts.)

1. Yes, you need large amounts of snow. The exact amount is not necessarily important. It's also not important that the snow come from the sky. It can come from pre-fallen snow that was recently sitting on the ground. The reason why the amount of snow isn't important is that there's a visibility clause. Visibility reduction due to the present snow must get down to around a 1/4 of a mile or less (or the distance the Banter can run in 7 minutes).

2. Once you've met the snow requirement, you need to add some wind. It blows and hard. Winds must reach a minimum of 35 miles per hour, either in sustained or in gust form. (Insert wind bag/ proverbial Mother-in-Law joke here.) (Disclaimer: But not my MIL. She can't manage nearly that speed.)

3. There's a time component. Numbers 1 and 2 have to happen and keep happening for at least 3 hours or more. In the past, the used the Banter's 15k goal time to equate the minimum duration of a blizzard but even science has it's limits in patience.

Semi-Live Blog Part 1
Knowing that the blizzard-like conditions were going to start slow and build as the day went on, I got up and went for a run. It was a relatively easy and short run, which was perfect for me (ya know, since I'm relatively easy and not so tall). Time= 7:30 am EDT

According to the Garmin's Built-In Weather Reporting thingy, it was 37º with winds out of the NE at 3 mph with some rain. Not exactly blizzard like in any way, shape, or form. Also, not even close to reality. I'm not sure who or where KITH gets it's information (listed as the weather source), but man, they suck. Temperatures were clearly below freezing. Rain was actually snow mixed with small ice pellets of stabbing eye pain. Winds were steady in the teens with gusts significantly higher. Except for the eye-pain thing, conditions weren't that bad. This, of course, takes into account the crappy weather that has been the norm since November.

As the run progressed, the temps were dropping and the precipitation was increasing. The ice bullets were disappearing to yield large, bloated flakes of snow. I got done with the run and took the dogs for a walk. They are likely to be stuck inside for most of the day too. This is an equal opportunity household. If I have to suffer, so do they. I looked around the house for a convenient place to take pictures that may provide photo evidence for this journey. I opted for my backyard out the patio window. Well call this pic, "The Before". Time of pic ~9:15 am (click to enlarge)

You can see snow falling. Grass is still visible. I'm hoping that the grass and the base of the trees will provide a nice scale for any and all accumulations. Also, if you look closely at this non-animated, non-gif pic, you might be able to imagine the trees swaying at a not-so-blizzard pressure. We aren't expected to be in a blizzard until well after lunch.

I'll keep you posted.

Update 1

As it turns out I was not happy with the weather reporting capabilities of the Garmin and it's phantom source. Therefore, I decided to get more reliable info from a reputable source. In case you didn't know, there is the internet now. And, on said internet contains things called webpages. Some of those webpages don't contain porn (sadly, some people actually need to be reminded of this). Many of these alternative sites have site names that match the content of of the site followed by ".com".

For example, since this is a triathlon site and USA Triathlon is the governing body of the sport, you could simply type "" into your browser and, viola, you've achieved the goal.

Using that same logic, if you want to find stuff about the weather, you could simply type "" into your browser. Please don't do that.

See, there are other sites that are run by people who know something about the content in which they post (no comment on this site and the doofus who runs it). A more efficient site is "". The ".gov" is actually an acronym for "Grand Old Vixens", a throw-back site for when the internet was 100% boobs. That suffix was taken over by some politicians. is run by actual scientists (although, I'd guess that some non-sciency tech geeks physically run the site).

The geniuses who work at NOAA provide the data for the reportings on Here are a couple of screen shots for the info in my area. We are at def-con red, the sites highest level of misery for wintertime conditions. As you can see, they are reporting near blizzard-like conditions. With a bit more oomph from the wind and a few more hours of sustainability, it'll be official.

When I took this picture, it was about 11:15 AM EDT. As you can see, there's a new addition to my backyard. I promise you, I did not plant that stick there for the intention of semi-live blogging. I did intend to go out there and find the damaged tree. Instead, I just sat around browsing the aforementioned internet (undisclosed content). I'm pretty sure that stick will provide for a better sense of scale than the grass or tree bases. That is until it gets completely covered or the dog goes out there to chew on it. Either one is a real risk around here these days.

The grass the was visible in the 9:15 shot is mostly covered. Snow is climbing up the trees. Other snow is a bit plastered against my window.

Update 2

Well, it's 2:00 pm (at least at the time I started writing this update. It'll probably be near dinner time by the time it's over. No- I don't think it'll be that wordy. I'm not that smart nor a good typist. Sometimes these posts take a while.)

While you wait for the rest of the post, please enjoy some fun blizzard facts.

  • The official first blizzard was in 1977 (that's when they created the word/ definition). Guess where it hit? Yup, right here in upstate NY. Not much snow, though. Only 5 inches, proving once again that the amount of snow isn't important.
  • My current town, Rochester, NY, is said to be the snowiest place in the US. Don't believe it? Yeah, me neither. Yet, that's what is says on this site. And, we all know, the internet never lies. There may be some credence to the claim. In the 2013-14 winter season, we are in 6th place and this blizzard may pull us ahead of Billings, Montana. Who knew?
  • Apparently, there have been reports of blizzards outside of the USA. There was one in Iran in 1972. Actually, I think that's it.
  • The 1996-97 winter saw the most recorded blizzard incidences with 27. There really wasn't one (which is rare) in 1980-81.
  • Can you guess which state(s) gets the most blizzards? I bet you can. If you guessed NY, then you probably thought this was a trick question and bet against the dealer. Like most bets against the dealer, you lost. The right answer is Montana/ Minnesota region (I told you that you could have guessed it.) Western Minn, Eastern Mon got roughly 70 blizzards over the course of the past 50 years.
2:00 pm

So, here's the update I promised...

As you can see, the grass is completely covered. The meaty portion of the stick has disappeared, leaving only the stringy appendages. 

The Current Temp: 24º F (-4ºC)
Steady winds at 37 mph, gusting up to 47.
Visibility is 0.13 miles.

Yep, that's blizzard-like conditions.

My friends at NOAA are also reporting 'freezing fog', which I didn't even know was a thing until they reported it. And, apparently, people at NOAA and I are friends, which they didn't know until I reported it. See how that works?

Update 3

Did you know?

  • There are people out there who are afraid of snow? They're called chionophobics. 
    • There's another term for people who just hate snow. They're called humans.
  • About 12% of the Earth is covered in permafrost, permaice and perma snow.
    • Of that 12%, I want to avoid 100% of those places.
  • The largest snowflake ever recorded was 15"x8". Yup, found in Montana.
    • In 1887. Oddly, no photo evidence of this flake exists.
  • The single snowiest day in the US was 76" (5'6"). This happened in Silver Lake Colorado, circa 1921. 
    • Chalk that up to another place I'm not going to move to.
  • The single season world record for snow was in Mt. Baker ski area, Washington in the winter of 1998-9. It recorded 1140 inches of snow.
    • You guessed it, not moving there either.
  • Due to the polarity of water, all snowflakes have 6 sides.
    • One side for each level of hate I have for snow.
Since the last update, I've been busy. I've gone for a bike ride in the garage. It was an hour ride with some zone 4 intervals tossed in. Immediately following, I went for a quick jaunt on the treadmill, bringing my daily total up to 8 miles in 1h 10 minutes.

Upon finishing, I had some recovery pizza. Then, I went out for round 1 of snow shoveling. According to more than 1 resource, I burned about 300 calories during this excursion (a fact I find hard to believe).

Well, the sun is setting, making my photo recording of the blizzard more challenging. I tried to pick a spot where my backyard spotlight could help. Here's the current shot. The stick now resembles a drowning victim who's head has taken the plunge but the fingertips are still clinging for hope.

NOAA reports that the temps have dropped to 17º. 

Winds continue to stay strong at 20 mph and gusting up to 32, which I guess marks the end of the blizzard. I wonder if the winds pick up again if they'll reinstate the blizzard status or does that signify the start of a new blizzard. 

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