Last thing I’ll post about the recent weather…

I love the Internet. The fact that data about anything you might even be slightly interested in is just out there just warms the cockles of my heart. My friend Dan sent me a link to this satellite image. It was taken on the morning of December 17th, 2008. While it is focussed on Oregon, and is cropped about 60 miles south of my house, it shows the nature of the snowfall that blanketed the Northwest before Christmas. This was the morning after the snow first fell. We were expecting a dusting of an inch or two, and instead received a dump of 12 to 14 inches. I drove the boys down to Seattle that day to fly to Colorado, and this high-pressure and clear skies vanished quickly. Thankfully I had already started my timelapse gear and captured the brilliant sunrise and clear morning before those clouds you see on the western edge of the photo barreled in and delivered another foot of snow that night. I struggled home the next evening, and then got stuck in my driveway. The following week of being snowbound was sort of fun, but as it stretched into three weeks our patience ran thin.

It appears the weather has settled back to rain and in fact has now cleared – perhaps a bit of sunshine and dry weather will bring the Jaguar out of it’s hibernation?

The Big Snow of 2008-9, start to finish.

I finally had a chance last night to edit together all my time-lapse footage from the big snowfall over the holidays. Our snowfall events here in the Pacific Northwest generally are short-lived. I set up my time lapse gear to capture the rapid snowmelt that USUALLY happens, but instead it ended up continuing to fall and then staying around for over 3 weeks! So I varied the shots and continued to capture until the very end. I’ve compiled it all into a ~7 minute video. See the snow accumulate and then melt, icicles grow and shrink. Trees shake off their mantles of snow. At this latitude (>48°N) at this time of year days are short and nights long, hence the darkness. Enjoy!

OK, enough already!

This is what awaited me outside as I left for work. MORE snow. As you can see the 3+ feet that had fallen before christmas has melted away to a few inches, but still remains everywhere around our home. Last night brought another half inch or so. (Oddly I left the Valentine1 on, and it kept the area above it clear of snow.)

This is 17 straight days with snow covered ground, which I’m fairly certain is the longest we’ve ever endured that condition here in my 20-some years in the Pacific Northwest. Mind you the lowlands have been snow-free for a while, but I think I’ve had enough. Can we have our rain back please?

Next week I’ll be in California though so there’s hope. (who knows, maybe I’ll bring the snow with me!)

Day Thirteen of the Big Snow of 2008

Snowfall is like a romance. When it first arrives it is clean, bright and filled with promise of adventure.

After a while it becomes tedious and while you can recall the beginnings, the adventure is getting a little old.

By the time the end rolls around you just wish it would hurry up and leave. There is all sorts of collateral damage that is coming to light. Things are no longer clean and bright… in fact it is messy, slushy, muddy, and miserable.

The last few flakes fell out of the sky Friday. Rain returned in full force Friday afternoon. Since we had accumulated well over a meter of snow up here in the foothills it is taking forever to melt. We still have over a foot on the ground and it is slowly vanishing. The air is heavy with moisture and fog collects above empty ground as the wetness really has nowhere to go. The snow is dirty, as all the fallen tree debris is being uncovered as things melt.

The big slab of snow on the barn roof slid off today, pulling part of a rain gutter along with it. I still have not turned the water on out there though… I’ll likely wait for mid-week when the threat of a night-time freeze is gone. I imagine it will be Wednesday before we lose all the major accumulations of snow.

I did manage to get the Jetta moved today though. Sorry no pics. I shoveled out a path immediately ahead of it. Then I got Sue’s Jeep out and created a pathway for the little VW to follow. I just patiently drove up and down the driveway, the full â…“rd mile out to the plowed road. First in 4WD-Low, then is just plain 4WD. The shovel lowered a few of the very deep “high-center” areas where the ruts were very deep. During the warmest, slushiest part of the day I hopped into the Jetta and braced myself for the journey. I already had the tow eye threaded in and a tow-strap ready in the Jeep should I get stuck. The Jetta started on the first try (always a good sign) and I put it in gear and just maintained a steady, but slow pace all the way out to the road. It never hesitated or slipped too much except for the odd transition corner I had to negotiate not long after I started. Patience and persistence saw me all the way out to wet pavement. It is now parked out there awaiting my morning commute.

I bet there is NO way I would have made it out come morning if we do indeed freeze again tonight.

The boys arrive home in the early afternoon. I’ll pick them up at Sea-Tac and bring them home.

At least now I’m certain I can.

Day Seven of the big snow of 2008

Power came back on around 4 AM. Again, the sudden flashing of the alarm clock woke me. I got up and turned on the heat again. I sat around reading in my office until Sue got up. I wanted to get started on the pipe repair but the noise of the Dremel cutting through a pipe would certainly wake Sue, and I’m trying to be a considerate husband. 😉

The day before I shot this photo to show all of you what I’m dealing with:

My idea was to put a shut-off in the wall a few feet above the faucet. Wrap insulation around the whole thing, then worry about reconnecting the faucet and fixing the drywall later.

Once Sue woke up I started, and actually had it done pretty quick. Amazing what having electricity will do for you. 😉

I turned the water back on, and the fix held!

We showered (ahhh… so nice!) and I set my work phone to forward to my cell, and then drove Sue up to her job. I brought along my computer, hoping to get on her office’s network and maybe get some work done. No dice. I left her, drove around Mount Vernon, picked up some candles, found some unsecured wifi, and did a bit of work.

I shot this series and badly stitched them together… it is one of the bends in the Skagit River as it goes through Mount Vernon. Sort of captures the mood today.

Sue ended up having to go into Court for some matter, so I snoozed in the Jeep for a while, occasionally chatting with the office. We finally got on the road back home around 3. Sue insisted on stopping at Costco which is in Marysville, I resisted, but… resistance is futile. As I suspected, traffic was completely snarled around it. We spent an hour getting in and out. Traffic was snarled at the Arlington/Darrington exit too, as we can only assume an accident on SR 530 had it backed up. We overshot exit 208, took 210 and navigated surface streets back to Arlington via SR9. I called Les Schwab and they said they had JUST received our new tire, so we stopped there and picked that up. They had the tire mounted and offered to put it back on the Jeep. They took the spare off, put the right rear wheel back on and sent us on our way… all for no charge. I love Les Schwab. If you live in the Pacific Northwest I highly recommend them for tires.

I’m now collecting and editing all the timelapse footage I’ve gathered over the past few days. Stay tuned.

Day Six of the big snow of 2008

Chez Goolsbee under the mantle of frozen dihydrogen monoxide

The power came back on around 4 am. The sudden bright blinking of my alarm clock woke me up. I turned on the heat and went to my desk to finish writing the post that was interrupted the night before. Sue awoke a little while later and called a few plumbers… who just laughed at her. I sent an email to my office to let them know there was no way I was coming in. Sue works for Skagit County and of they decided to open for business so she said she was going in. I figured I’d go with her and buy some plumbing supplies and have a go at fixing the pipe myself. (They also have showers at her office! Hot water.. ahhh.) All my BioDiesel work have increased my plumbing skills a bit. In reality I’m likely just knowledgeable to be dangerous. I figured we could always get a real plumber out here to fix up my bodge. We packed up the Jeep with a shovel, some warm clothes and heavy boots and struck out north for Mount Vernon. The roads up in the foothills were awful, but once we got down to sea level things were considerably better. The freeway from Arlington up and over the Stanwood hill was a bit dodgey (we saw a few cars off the road including one SUV completely inverted in the ditch with two State Troopers looking at it slack-jawed), but once down in the Skagit Valley things seemed OK.

Until we got a flat tire.

I was just rolling along and suddenly the right rear of the car sagged and I knew we had a flat. Unfortunately we were in a single-lane, snow-bound freeway and no shoulder. I rolled up to the next exit, and found a spot to change the tire. It was on old highway 99, still not on the shoulder, but at least there was very little traffic. The tire was flat as a pancake, from having been driven on for almost 2 miles. I got the jack out and raised the car up, removed the flat, but then could not raise the damn car far enough to get the spare on. WTF? I had to put the flat back on, and then jack it up from the trailing arm instead of the frame. This scared me quite a bit since the other wheels were on frozen pavement. I finally managed to get the suspension compressed and the vehicle raised enough to install the spare. Tossed the jack and flat into the trunk, and continued on to Sue’s office. I dropped her off, and ran some errands. First to the hardware store for plumbing parts, then on to the pet store for some dog food. I also picked up some bird seed and some nuts to feed the deer I’d seen wandering around the neighborhood. Then I went to Les Schwab to get the flat fixed. It was pandemonium. Everyone was there buying chains, snow tires, etc. They said the tire was toast but did not have a replacement. Grrr.

I went back to Sue’s office and took a hot shower. Sue finished up her work and we headed home. On the way we stopped at the Les Schwab in Arlington to see if they could fix our tire. They were also swamped and said they’d get to it in three hours, so we left it and went home.

Above: Snowy scenes around the Goolsbee home.

I set to work on the pipe, which involved a deep-snow trudge out to the barn to gather tools. Along the way I shot the above photos. Meanwhile Sue was out spreading feed around for critters. Back in the garage, I found that my beloved Dremel would not work. Sigh. I’ve owned it for about 10 years. I trudged back out to the barn to find something else to cut with, and by now it was dark. I noted this comical pile of snow on a light:

Unable to find an appropriate cutting tool I figured I’d run the Jeep CRD back into town and pick up a new Dremel at the hardware store. I was happy to find that they had one on sale half price. I also stopped by Les Schwab and check on the tire… no dice. As I turned onto my own street I noted a DOT snowplow clearing it (yeah!) but that it had left a wall of snow in front of our driveway. I grabbed my shovel and cleared enough to get in. Right as I completed that task the lights in the whole neighborhood went out. Damn. Sure enough power was out. 🙁

I hung out with Sue for a bit, as she was already reading her book by candlelight. Unfortunately she was downstairs, which is where the one “indoor” cat lives and I had to leave after about an hour. I’m allergic to cats.

Nothing really to do but go to bed.