Digging the car out

Posted in General News at 7:01 pm by Rebekah

I have long heard about how Oklahomans tend to help each other out in time of need, and today I experienced this.

The ice and snow continued to melt today, even though it was cloudy and the temperature never got above freezing. However, it hasn’t been melting fast enough for my taste.  I finally have to leave my apartment tomorrow morning; I’ve been cooped up since Wednesday night, with the exception of a few brief walks out into the ice world. However, I have to teach class in the morning, so I decided I had better go out before dark today and start to uncover my car.

I think that when I was a child, my disposition to run into things and hurt myself (which hasn’t stopped, by the way) must have cost me a few precious brain cells, as somewhere along the way I lost some common sense.  When it comes to storm chasing and some outdoor activities, I am often very well-prepared.  When it comes to ice storms, clearly I am not prepared.

I left my ice scraper locked inside my car, which was encased in 0.75 inches of ice and 5 inches of snow.  Smart.  It is a small, hand-sized ice scraper that I brought down with me from Washington; I don’t even have one of the large scrapers that most people around here seem to own.  Note to self: go buy one and keep it in the house.

At least I had a full can of de-icer, so I headed outside with the de-icer, a jug of cold water, and a flip flop.  The purpose of the flip flop was to assist me in brushing the snow off my car, as my snow brush was in the trunk.  I first got the snow off of the driver’s side of the car before I started using the de-icer.  That wasn’t enough to get the door open.

I went inside and grabbed a small fork, as I thought that it could help get the ice out from around the door.  With the help of a fork and de-icer, I got the driver door open so I could warm up the car and get it de-frosted.

Next I started on the windshield.  Oh, and I might mention at this point that I don’t own a pair of warm gloves.  I have one pair of leather gloves I bought in San Francisco last year, but I don’t like to get them very wet.  So here I am, making small progress with water, de-icer, and a fork.  At this point I hear someone behind me crunching on chips, and I hear a voice saying “Do you need any help?”  I turn around and see a 12 or 13 year old boy watching my progress.

I told him I would be fine; it would just take me a while.  He wouldn’t take no for an answer, though, and started using his arms to sweep large amounts of snow off my car.  He was surprised I wasn’t wearing gloves, so I told him that I only had leather gloves I didn’t want to get wet, and I got a look that made me feel like such a girl.  Note to self: buy some gloves.  The boy was very helpful, and even went so far as to volunteer his mom to take me to where I needed to go!  As I started to chip through the ice on the windshield, the kid suggested a metal spatula.  Regarding the need for more power, he said “this is about the time where you really need a guy!”  LOL!  He couldn’t believe it when I told him I’m originally from the North; no gloves and not much sense when it comes to getting ice off a car.  I felt quite ashamed to be from the North at that point!  I thought I would be okay with my ice scraper and water, and eventually the boy went inside to get warm.

Then I went inside, with cold, bleeding, blistered hands, and bandaged up my hands, put my gloves on, and got a metal spatula.  I had most of the car uncovered in about 30 minutes.

At this time the kid came back outside to see my progress.  He was surprised at how well I was doing, and I thanked him for his help and showed him my gloves and spatula.  He said he was about to go get help from his friends, but I seemed to be doing okay.  With all but the top of my car and the trunk uncovered, we both work at the top when a friend of his (about the same age) walked up.  His friend said he was just over helping some other neighbors with their cars, and found he could just hit the partially-melted ice with his fist and it would break into pieces.  Sure enough, he had the ice off the top and the trunk in about 10 seconds.  Wow.

Now I’m ready to go in the morning, and didn’t have to stay outside as long as I otherwise might have, thanks to a couple of boys eager to help their neighbors out.

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Posted in General News, Weather News at 4:23 pm by Rebekah

The storm system that wreaked havoc from the Plains to the East Coast has exited the country and is over the Atlantic now.  The temperature has stayed in the 20s in Norman today and the sky is overcast, so there’s not much melting going on today.  The icicles are dripping, though.  I went outside for a bit earlier today to take some photos and measure the snow depth.  Around my apartment, I measured an average of 5-7 inches of snow (4.5 inches on my car), with 0.5 to 0.75 inches of ice below that.  I measured about 0.5 inches of ice encasing the trees.  I also saw some snow drifts of nearly 14 inches.

I designed a slide show of some of my photos and posted it to my website under the photos link: www.greenskychaser.com/photos/photos2010storm.htm The slide show plays in Windows Media Player, but it’s embedded; I don’t know if it will work for people who don’t have Windows Media Player.  If you can’t view it, please let me know so I can look into other options.  I may eventually move all of my photo galleries into this format.

Expect more updates on the website tomorrow afternoon, including 2008 chase logs and photos, a redesigned forecast page (again!), and possibly a few other changes.

As always, if you have any comments or suggestion, please let me know!

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Round 3

Posted in Weather News at 1:27 pm by Rebekah

It’s been snowing all day and most of the night.  The TV is still calling this “Ice Storm 2010″, even though there is already more snow than there was ice.  There was about 0.5” of ice and now a couple of inches of snow and we’re expected to get a few more inches by the end of the day.  It should taper off by early evening or so, once the dry air moves in.

Right now the freezing rain and sleet is coming down in Arkansas and Tennessee.  The storm is expected to bring ice and snow all the way to the East Coast through tomorrow.

I haven’t ventured outside yet, but if the snow tapers off before dark I may carefully go out to snap a few photos of the trees.  As of now I’ve just got some photos of the icicles, ice, and snow outside my window.

This ice/snow storm is practically a textbook setup, with a large high pressure system bringing arctic air southward from Canada, behind a cold front extending from a strong surface low off the New England coast.  There’s also the surface low to our south, complicating matters…while this may be a classic-looking setup, it’s also a complex forecast problem because of the warm-air advection.  In the low-levels of the atmosphere, a southerly wind brought relatively warm air from the Gulf of Mexico into the area, and that’s what caused the main problem with forecasting precipitation type (a lot of warm air in the low/mid levels = freezing rain, a shallow layer of warm air above a deep layer of cold air near the surface = sleet, sub-freezing from cloud to ground = snow)…this is apparent on the soundings and upper-air maps.  The snow is now coming behind the surface low, which is now in southeast Texas.

Ice/Snow Storm Summary

Surface Analysis at about 12PM

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And now for round 2…

Posted in Weather News at 3:47 pm by Rebekah

It’s been pouring down sleet here for a little while now.  I’m trying to keep the heat in my apartment up in case the power goes out and I can’t heat the place.  There’s a thick glaze over the trees outside my apartment now, and the screens on my windows are so coated with ice I can’t see through them.  Here are a couple of updated graphics, the first one is radar, showing two watch boxes as well–a severe thunderstorm watch in north Texas and a tornado watch in south Texas!  Not too far south of here the temperatures are in the upper 60s and lower 70s.  The other image shows an updated image of the NWS forecast, now expecting up to 1 inch of ice and more sleet and snow on top of that.

I’ll also post the latest special sounding from Norman, at noon today (18Z), still showing a great freezing rain sounding. On the sounding you can tell the surface cold layer was getting deeper (from 15Z) and the elevated warm layer was getting shallower, indicating that the atmosphere was getting closer to producing sleet.

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Ice Storm

Posted in Weather News at 1:02 pm by Rebekah

Central Oklahoma is right in the middle of a large ice storm.  Several-inch-long icicles have already formed on my apartment building and my car is iced over.  OU canceled classes for noon onward today and all day tomorrow.  I had a class at 10-11 this morning, but skipped it as I didn’t want to risk driving in the ice.  Most flights (95%) have been canceled at the Oklahoma City airport today as freezing rain has been steadily falling for the past several hours.  Winds have calmed down a bit since last night; only 10 mph winds in Norman at the moment, but if the winds go back up to 20mph or so, we could be in big trouble as far as trees and power lines coming down by tomorrow morning.

The freezing rain is expected to continue throughout the day, turning into sleet by late today and snow over night into tomorrow.  The NWS is forecasting up to 3/4-inch of ice and 1-2 inches of sleet and snow…KFOR TV (Oklahoma City news) is predicting up to 1.5 inches of ice.  They are comparing this ice storm to the epic December 2007 ice storm.  It really is a little scary as to how similar this setup appears to be.

Here are a few weather maps from this morning, starting with a country-wide look at the current setup of fronts and pressure systems as well as radar:

This is the “perfect” setup for an ice storm, blizzard, and severe weather (hail and tornadoes forecast in south Texas!).  Now for a zoomed-in look at Oklahoma:

A special 15Z (9am local time) sounding at Norman showed an ideal profile for freezing rain.  Ice and snow falling from the clouds melts in the deep warm layer, then the liquid water becomes “supercooled” as it falls into a shallow sub-freezing layer just above the surface.

I think I’m somewhat prepared for the power to go out, though I think it’s difficult to be fully prepared.  Power outages are already being reported in southwest Oklahoma.  Photos of trees bent over with ice are showing up on TV, and those photos are from just southwest of here, with the worst of the storm headed this way.

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