Friday, February 04, 2011

The Hothification of Texas. Oh-Em-Gee Dubya-Tee-Eff!

Y'all up north of the border are probably laughing at the panic that three inches of ice and double that amount of snow has caused down here in That Place Where The Stars At Night Are Big And Bright, but holy crapping monkeys, people, this is bad.

See, we can handle heat. Heat's no problem: you set up cooling centers for folks without air conditioning, you get your roofing crew out early in the morning and late in the day, and you don't go outside without a reason. Heat makes the roads buckle, but it generally doesn't cause them to get slippery. Heat sends people to the emergency room with dehydration, but it won't cause 'em to lose toes and fingers. Ambulances can still run when the temperature's hovering around 108F and the humidity is near 80%.

But we have no snowplows. (Well, I lie: the county where I work has one. The county where I live has none.) Three inches of ice on the roads means that trucks lay down sand and ice melt, the ice melts a bit....and then everything refreezes overnight because there's no way to clear it off the roads. Tuesday night, when this all started, it took me a little over an hour to get home. Last night, after two days of freezing and thawing, it took me over two hours. I drove home on a solid, two-inch-thick slab of mostly-smooth ice.

An ambulance crew coming from way northeast of us took something like four hours to go fifteen miles in this mess--with a critically-ill patient in the box.

Copters? Not flying today. Fire trucks can sort-of make it to where they need to go, but I did see one off in the ditch last night on my way home. The poor police are doing the best they can at blocking off the more treacherous roads, but a lot of their cars are getting stuck, too. Snow tires and chains do jack on ice when it's nine degrees out.

Friends and neighbors, this is how bad it is to move around in an area unprepared for frozen precipitation: Last night, after an hour of skating up and down hills and over bridges, I gave up saying "shit shit shitshitshit you moron what the hell do you think you're doing" to other drivers and just started singing "WHEEE! WHEEEEEEE! YAHOOOOO!" every time I slid. Which was often. And I know how to drive in bad weather.

There are upsides: It's unbelievably quiet. The snow (which just started falling again at a rate of about two inches an hour jeebus grits) is awfully pretty. Max enjoys running around and sliding outside in the yard. Nobody expects you to dress up or be anywhere on time. I can lie around on the couch without guilt. Attila the Trainer has cancelled her appointments for the weekend.

But honestly? I live in Texas primarily to avoid this sort of thing. I don't like having to chip two inches of solid ice off the side of my car at 0400 in subzero windchills just so I can drive forty miles to work at a place that won't even lend me a bed for the night should I decide not to try it again the next day. I get tired of looking like Large Marge ("Worst accident I ever seen!") on my way to work. And my feet are cold.

Oh, well. It's past time for breakfast. I'm going to head out and spear a couple of ptarmigan, or maybe an arctic rabbit or a polar bear, and then make pancakes.


DT said...

Your hospital isn't offering sleep rooms to their staff?! That is really crappy. REALLY crappy! Especially in an area that isn't used to that sort of weather.

TheSchaft said...

I read a quote in the FW Startle-Gram, "My feet haven't been this cold since my wedding day."

Anonymous said...

Makes me glad to be living up north. We get a lot more snow, and it sticks around for months once it comes, but we don't get much ice at all. (Well, except for on the lakes. Those you can drive on, come December or January.) I grew up in "ice storm country" and do NOT miss that kind of weather. -25F and knee-deep snow beats 1/2" of ice on everything all to hell!

Joy said...

I scoff at your measley few inches of snow! How'd you like over 20 inches? Yes, we do have snowplows but lord almighty 20 inches with the wind whipping it along sideways at 30-40 MPH is serious stuff. We paid our staff to sleep over so we had nurses. We put up cots for families. Some of us actually shovelled that stuff out of the way and slide our way to work--and that was without ski but with car. Luckily most everyone else wasn't as crazy as that and those of us in a vehicular mode had the roads to ourselves. Now the fun stuff starts--heart attacks from shoveling, ortho injuries from slips and falls, torn rotator cuffs from shoveling, on top of lots and lots and lots of folks who SHOULD have gotten their flu shots and didn't. Hooray for winter, it helps our bottom line greatly.

Jo said...

Anon, having lived in Kansas and Chicago and visited points way north, I agree. The thing that really makes the difference? Our houses are built for heat, not cold. A nine-foot ceiling is standard here, and some of the older houses have 12- or 14-foot ceilings. There's no insulation in walls. None of the (pier-and-beam) foundations are insulated.

I fear for my water pipes. I didn't cover the outside spigots (don't know what I was thinking) and fully expect to have broken pipes starting tomorrow.


Nicholas & Ellie's Daddy said...

Living in NYC we've been hit with a several snowstorms that have put the city at a standstill. The city workers (union) worked at a slow pace to prove their value. Anyway, these are nothing compared to where I'm from upstate (Cooperstown area) where we get a foot over night and everyone still shows up for work. Ice def sucks though, I'm all for the snow, for a few mths anyway.

messymimi said...

South Louisiana isn't used to this sort of thing, either, so you have my sympathy. Driving on ice is something we don't get a chance to practice often, so we make a mess of it.

In the Earth's Children books, didn't Ayla go after ptarmigan with a sling, not a spear?

Jo said...

@Mimi: Yes. But! If you spear them rather than sling them, then you have them all pre-readied for kabobs!

June Clever said...

"I fear for my water pipes. I didn't cover the outside spigots (don't know what I was thinking) and fully expect to have broken pipes starting tomorrow. "

Try leaving your faucets dripping, just enough so the water isn't at a stand-still in the cold pipes. Not a perfect solution but it might help a little.

Pamela said...

Geez. At least here in Chicago, our hospital gave staff beds and necessities. You want your staff in the emergency room looking after patients, not as patients themselves.

Anonymous said...

Jo, after I left that comment, I got to thinking about how stupid I was for not actually acknowledging that yeah, you've got it rough right now, no two ways about it. "Brass monkey" cold when you're not prepared for it - and why would you be, that far south? - is a bitch. Same way we're unprepared for 100-plus degree heat waves on those rare occasions when we get it.

Honestly, I don't know how you do it. I couldn't take Texas summer heat any more than I could 3" of ice on everything....with either extreme, you have my sympathies! I'm counting myself lucky that all I have to do is shovel a little show a few times a week.

-Anon 7:47

PS: I agree with DT, no sleep rooms for staff, even with a weather emergency?!? Your hospital administrators are dickweeds.

Kristin said...

You had me at Hothification. I always worry for my lil granny out in the midwest when ice storm season comes around. She has no Taunraun for which to take shelter in.

Uro*MA said...

I live 45 minutes east of Chicago... We just got hit with about 2-3 ft of snow a few days ago.. It pretty much shut everything down from Chicago to Ohio. We are used to the snow but, this was ridiculous! Thank god there wasn't ice on top of all of it like Indianapolis got. I feel for y'all in the south. Driving on ice is no fun! Even if you are used to it! I hope you thaw soon! (we are supposed to get yet another few inches this week!)