February 2nd, 2011




Well, the weather people in West Michigan have been hyping this winter storm for nearly a week. Fact is, nearly every storm which has clobbered the Midwest west of here or clobbered the East Coast repeatedly, has ended up going around West Michigan. Oh sure, right on the lakeshore there have been multiple one- to two-foot snowfalls. But much of the prevailing lake effect bands have been running down Lake Michigan, north to south, and Allendale is located inside the "waist" of Michigan, so we just haven't gotten all that much snow. Alas, it's really been too warm, so we've got a lot of ice.

By Sunday, which started off a beautiful sunny day, the National Weather Service chimed in and issued the first Winter Storm Advisories for Tuesday night and Wednesday -- and the magic word "blizzard" popped out. And the hype machine was on. Storm forecasts of 12"-14" are now 14"-18". And on Tuesday, they moved up the warnings from 7pm to 5pm.

I don't remember where I was on US-131 coming home on Tuesday, but at 5:02pm the snow started. Before that I was just dealing with icy roads and gusty crosswinds. Mrs. Dr. Phil posted on Facebook that "5:10 pm -- home, no sign of snow all day long. 5:27 pm -- OMG! It's snowing sideways, can't see out to the road!"

Yeah, the blizzard is actually here.

Everybody's Doing It

I warned my students that if the storm followed Track A and not Track B, then I probably couldn't make it to K-zoo on Wednesday -- and with drifting might not be able to make it out of the driveway. (grin) By noon, or so, I updated my class webpages and canceled Wednesday's classes and office hours.

Grand Valley State University canceled their evening classes on Tuesday and all classes on Wednesday. Kalamazoo College closed for tomorrow, but part of their campus is on narrow streets on a hill -- I had to go there once after a snow storm, parking was impossible. And Kalamazoo Valley Community College closed early, but KVCC is just off of I-94 and is very exposed and always gets creamed by the snow.

My university? Western Michigan University did what it always does -- posted on their homepage that WMU rarely closes and here's why. They even provided a list of closures:
Weather-related WMU closings since 1999

1999, Jan. 4-5--Heavy snowfall delayed the start of spring semester.
2000, Nov. 21-22--Thanksgiving recess began Tuesday because of snow.
2006, Dec. 1--An ice storm downed trees, caused power outages.
2007, Feb. 5--Extreme cold and snow closed many Michigan colleges.
2008, Feb. 1--WMU closed due to snow.
2009, Dec. 10--Blizzard conditions closed WMU.

Funny thing, about half the time I cancel classes because the forecasts say the roads are for shit, WMU ends up agreeing with me. They've even stayed open when they should've closed and caught hell for it, then canceled classes the next day, which turned out to be not bad at all. Go figure.


Around 10pm WMU bowed to the inevitable:

So along with most of the rest of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, we'll both be having a snow day.

The bad news is that the blizzard conditions will persist to as late as 7pm. With drifting, clearing our 250-foot driveway may not be useful.

Probably need to find someone with a plow to come by once on Wednesday and once on Thursday.

Be safe, all those of you who are in either the snow dump or ice coating zones of this storm.

Dr. Phil

Sun's Out -- No Worries, Mate

Other Than These Piles Of Snow

Outside the southern windows of the kitty room, a basement room which is partly buried into the ground anyway, there is an impressive wall of snow from a drift three feet or more high. It makes it look like the snow is six feet deep out there. (grin)

The weather people are saying we got around 16" of snow -- about the same total as the Blizzard of 1978, actually, which is relatively impressive. We have clear blue skies and sun right now, 3:45pm EST, and there is still some wind. A neighbor is supposed to come by with a bulldozer to clear the long part of the driveway for us.

Peeking out of the garage to the west...

.... and to the east.

Of course, the cats don't really care. They will, just as they did in the photo from a couple of weeks ago, just sleep together in a heap, on a lovely warm afghan, in a brightly lit and centrally heated room this evening. Lucky stiffs. I'm writing two exams -- and Mrs. Dr. Phil has a handout assignment to write. Snow day? Puh-lease. It's homework for us.

Blue sleeping on top of Sam, who doesn't seem to mind.

Western Michigan University of course updated its homepage:
"Classes resume, and WMU resumes normal operation Thursday, Feb. 3."

Dr. Phil

The Lonely Footpath

Back From Past The Howling Steppes Of Siberia...

When Mrs. Dr. Phil came in after scooping, she reported that she'd managed to make it out to the road. But there was no mail or newspaper at 3:45pm-ish. Not too surprising, actually. But the daily e-mail digest from the Grand Rapids Press said that though the papers were printed, they couldn't be sure of delivery today, so they were making the e-print version of today's paper available for free.

Now that's rather resourceful and clever of them. Good call. As a result, I've already printed today's Sudoku. (grin)

Shot from the steps inside the garage, so I wouldn't track in stuff on my shoes. (grin)

The snow is 8-12" deep down the driveway, and being quite dry because of the cold is actually pretty light stuff. In theory if John doesn't get here with his blade, I think I could make it out of here in 4WD and carve a 2nd tire track in the snow. But hopefully we won't have to test that theory. (double-grin)

Dr. Phil

The Right Tools For The Job

As We Waited...

It occurred to me that John might not have the house phone number, that I'd pulled his cell number on my cellphone, and that I normally turn my cellphone off when I am not using it -- I'm sure that's a horror story right there for most people younger than us. (grin) So I turned my phone back on and an hour later, John called. He wasn't going to be able to come and do my driveway, after all, but he'd called Sikkema & Sons and they'd do the job with a backhoe for the same price. Understandable that he had to cancel, he'd been working at plowing out at the airport. But nice of him to arrange for a replacement!

Called Terry Sikkema and he said sure, but he was going to eat dinner first. Fine, no problem -- no one had to drive out until around 7:50am anyway. Gave him our landline number. A few minutes later, phone rang. Apparently Mrs. Sikkema figured he should do the job while the waning light was still there and said she'd slow down dinner. (double-grin)

And A Short Time Later...

Here comes the backhoe!

Don't worry about the snapping of those dry branches -- they're scrub trees anyway and we have to keep hacking the branches back from the driveway anyway. Used to having branches break from trucks and gear heavier than a Blazer or a Bravada. (triple-snap-grin)

There is nothing like having the right tool for the job, and an artist who can wield said tool with precision.

And as the sun sets...

... we are freed from our icy prison. If we so wish. Fifty dollars well spent.

Dr. Phil