African Garden + [Weather]

Not Just a Lot of Snow*: Groundhog Day Blizzard
view out the front door 3 p.m. February 1, 2011

A "blizzard" is different from a heavy snow storm. In fact, a blizzard need not be accompanied by any falling snow. According to the National Weather Service, a blizzard is "large amounts of falling OR drifting snow with winds in excess of 35 miles per hour [56 kph] and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile [1.6 k] for an extended period of time (greater than 3 hours)." (Source United States Search and Rescue Task Force.) The winds cause dangerous near-whiteout conditions paralyzing traffic, and can fall trees and power lines. The strong winds also cause dangerous windchills, which can cause frostbite and hypothermia.

The Chicago area has not experienced a blizzard in 12 years. Neither that storm, nor the blizzards of 1979 or 1967 (which I do not remember) are listed as "Historic event" blizzards on Wikipedia, while this storm is given that designation for the large area of the country affected. In Chicago, the strong winds near 70 mph (113 kph) blew straight off the lake, shutting down Lake Shore Drive stranding hundreds of motorists for 10 hours overnight. Motorists had to be rescued by snowmobile. 60 miles (97 k) of Interstate 80 have been shut down. 1,300 flights at O'Hare airport and all flights at Midway airport have been cancelled, including VIS's flight to Orlando, Florida. (He's stuck here shoveling the driveway instead.) The National Guard in Humvees has been rescuing stranded motorists from St. Louis, Missouri, up to the Chicago area. The governor has declared the State of Illinois a weather disaster area, and the State is essentially shut down. At the height of the storm, 95,000 customers were without power.

Closer to home, our public library closed down five hours early yesterday and is closed today, yesterday there were 90-minute delays on Metra, the commuter train service, and the Northwest line is shut down now. Schools and many businesses are closed today. Route 53 is closed from Lake Cook Road to I-90, the Jane Adams Tollway and I-290 are also closed. The heaviest snow fell around 9 p.m. So far, about a foot and a half of snow has fallen, with more still coming down, with blizzard warnings continued through 3 p.m. today. A "civil emergency" has been declared in my county and a travel ban has been enacted.

The amount of snow isn't as much as the Big One, the Blizzard of '67, or as much as we got back in 1999, which is a good thing, as I can't help VIS shovel. The boy is sick, so it'll just be VIS and the girl out there with the shovels. We aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

*This post is for Buffalonians Elizabeth of Gardening While Intoxicated and Jim of Art of Gardening.