Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful

And since the weather has a mind of it's own, not easily influenced by me...let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

We had a juicy ice storm last week, and here in New England there are still thousands without power. We usually get hammered with these storms but this time we lucked out and were just outside "the swath." It was particularly fortunate since our sump pump has been engaging several times an hour for the last nine days. Yes, I am glad that we bought a generator four years ago; it gives us a bit of peace of mind during these storms. We didn't need it this time, but some friends were grateful that I set it up for them and pumped out their basement.

They were a bit red faced since they were so pleased with themselves that they had planned ahead and had a backup pump to their primary sump pump. They hadn't anticipated a total power failure to their home. I learned from their experience.

This has given me an opportunity to think about a few things which I have come to consider as part of my shoveling-out process and storm preparedness strategy. Here are a few of them; consider them both as a way of making things easier and also as "insurance" for the unexpected.

1. Do yourself a really big favor and go out and buy one of those shovels that has a crooked handle. They look foolish but my, oh my, are they kind on the back. They also have a long handle which is great for just leaning on for when it's time to take it even slower and listen and feel the silence and the snow and the breeze.

2. For apparel, make sure that you have a heavy coat which goes 1/2 way down to your knees. The outside of the coat must have something that blocks the wind and doesn't let the water in, nylon is fine. Most of the time you don't need this type of jacket but when you do, it is indispensible. As always, remember it's the wind not the temperature that will usually do you in.

3. There is no big rush with snow shoveling. Take it easy. Usually everyone thinks you do that to not overtax your heart and/or to not be as stiff the next day. But there is a further reason for pacing yourself, and that is to not build up a sweat. The exercise helps to heat, but the excess will lead to sweat and that in turn will lead to a chill. If it is really challenging outside and you have to be out there for some time, having a chill is not a good idea. Remember also, no cotton next to your skin.

4. Find your closest fire hydrant and shovel a path into it so the fire fighters will have easy access in a dire situation. It's everybodies job to do that, so you can be certain that no one will do it if you don't.

5. Buy a pair of cleats or grippers that can slide over your boots. My driveway is fairly steep and there have been times when I wouldn't have been able to get to my car if I didn't have cleats on. That goes also for getting to the woodpile during an ice storm. Our comfy home is kept comfy by the wood stove. Stove needs to be fed dry wood. You get the picture. Think worst conditions and you get the idea.

6. Have a pot of soup and some artisinal bread waiting for when you come back in from the outside if you really want to make it an event. Oh yes, worst conditions, go out and buy several cans of sterno. They store for years and can easily heat up soup, etc.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Addendum: Obviously the 7th suggestion is to have a portable generator. And in the spirit of "insurance" and "making things better" buy a pair of over-the-ear noise reducers. They are much more helpful than the small plug into your ear gizmos and offer better protection to the hearing apparatus. Remember, you only get one hearing system per lifetime - use it wisely.


Paul said...

Good list. I'm five for six with a couple twists (ex: winter coveralls rather than long coat and multiple fire extinguishers since the nearest fire hydrant is miles away.) The one I missed is a snow shovel. I've thought about buying one but haven't. When I do I'll look for one with the new fangled handle.

Glad to hear your electricity never went off.

MojoMan said...

Great list, Tim. I especially like the tip about the hydrant. I try to shovel ours and, you're right, if I don't do it, no one else will, particularly not the guy that plows the neighbor's driveway and pushes all the snow around it.

We got the snow here in Sharon, MA but we were lucky the ice missed us, too. These storms have me thinking about how helpless most of us are when the grid goes down. I think we have come to depend too much on a system that will likely become less and less reliable in the future.

I have also been thinking about our modern attitudes toward labor. For example, I've been wondering how many people sat in their homes waiting for the plows to arrive so they could drive to the gym rather than picking up a shovel and doing some work that is actually productive.

SimplyTim said...

Paul: That's an interesting difference between the longer coat vs the winter coveralls. Oh, are the coveralls the whole pants and jacket with a zipper in the front that you step into or is it the coverall pants with the bib in the front. Never thought about the pros and cons of those arrangements.

BTW, I added an addendum in which I suggested a good pair of ear protectors if you have a generator - which I guess you do.


SimplyTim said...

Hi MoJoMan,

When the great power-down comes there will be a whole lot of "shakin and quakin."

One of the truths that was reconfirmed in my observation and conversations with people who had been in the significant midst of the outages around here, was that those who did the best were those who had others that they could call on for assistance.

I totally agree about getting out of the chair and doing something - totally - but in a larger sense, those who think that they can come through prolonged times of difficulty by themselves - the survivalist mentality - are in for a very rude awakening.

We are all fundamentally primates and the lesson of primates is that there is strength in numbers of - connected - individuals.

BTW, I have to get to your blog and add my 2 cents worth to your posting on ice dams.


Paul said...

Tim, I have one-piece coveralls. Zipper down the front and zippers on the outside of each leg so it's not necessary to take of boots. I've had the coveralls for over 20 years and have found them to be the warmest for the weather.

Recently I accidentally let my ear muffs get against a chainsaw muffler. I bought two pairs to replaced them. Ear protection has become a must.

Concerning your comment about the need to be connected -- that inspires me to write a post about relationships and living remote.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I got all your advice too late. However, I did get #6, I made a really yummy French Onion soup with Guyere and Guiness beer.

Happy New Year!

SimplyTim said...

Hi Proxima,

Thanks for stopping by, and don't forget the artasinal bread.

I have been meaning to leave a comment to you Christmas Story post, and just did and bundled it with your post today about the great white storm.

Be well,