Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Frozen

HALLIE EPHRON: The front of my house is draped with icicles. One over the backdoor is as long as my arm and looks lethal.

But our ice is nothing compared to what the news feeds are reporting about brutal cold and ice sweeping the rest of the country. As I write this, 2.5 million are without power, most of them (including our own Deborah Crombie) in Texas. The multi-vehicle pile-ups that have resulted are horrifying.

Driving in ice is a very bad idea, but the problem is it's often virtually invisible. I remember a cold, drizzly morning and I was driving my yellow Ford Escort station wagon to work. I turned onto the side street that led to the facility’s parking lot, and realized that the car in front of me was sliding. Sideways. In slow motion.

Seconds later my car was doing the same.

I knew what it was: black ice. STEER INTO IT. DO NOT BRAKE. I remembered the advice I’d seen about what to do when your car starts to slide on an ice slick. SO counter-intuitive.

The car in front of me crashed into a tree and my car was taking the exact same trajectory. All I could do was brace for impact. In the silence that followed I stared into my rearview mirror, terrified that a car would appear behind me and slide, sandwiching my car. But none appeared.

Fortunately no one was hurt. I could just get out, walk the rest of the way to my office, and call AAA for a tow and Avis for a car to drive home. The poor people in that icy pileup of 130 vehicles near Fort Worth last week weren't as lucky.

How’s it where you are? Have you had a calamitous encounter with ice or are you somewhere basking and thankful not to be among the frozen?

73 comments:

  1. There’s such strange weather everywhere, it seems. Right now, it’s raining here . . . teeming rain . . . but the temperature is forty-six and steadily rising --- it’s supposed to hit fifty-five today --- so there won’t be any bone-chilling cold and we won’t be seeing any of that dangerous black ice. [I remember one frightening slip and slide on an icy road many winters ago . . . just thinking about it still scares me.]

    According to the weather folks, the line for ice storms is just a bit north of us . . . crazy, crazy weather.

    We’re hoping everyone is safe and warm and cozy . . . .

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    1. Yes the weather seems positively upside down. Here in Boston it's raining... shrinking my icicles. Waiting to hear how folks in Texas are faring in far colder weather than we EVER get here.

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  2. We've been cold and rainy - today we're going to be warm and rainy. But just gloomy, gloomy, gloomy for days... I love winter, but a little sun would be nice!

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    1. Already days are getting longer! Dawn: earlier. And best of all it's not dark at 4.

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  3. First of all, sending warm wishes and love to get all of you through this bizarre weather in one piece. Hugs to Deb and Gigi.

    Living in New England, driving in winter, going on ski trips up to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine for countless years, driving in ice and snow is part of the deal. I still remember vividly my first spin out on black ice. I was driving my MGB to work on a back country road, coming around a corner and spinning 3 complete circles before I stopped, still on the road. You cannot see black ice, it just looks like a wet road.

    Please be careful. Stay safe.

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    1. You were so sporty Judy! Yes that is all part of New England, the part I'm glad not to endure. We drove to Vermont with screaming children in the backseat for many weekends of skiing. So many terrifying memories of lines of cars that'd slid off the road...

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    2. Sounds completely terrifying. I've been on a highway and SEEN a car ahead of me do that triple pirouette and come to a stop facing the wrong way. They managed to turn around before getting hit.

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    3. Hallie and Roberta, (plus Hank and Edith and Julia and so many others) we could write an anthology of New England Winter War stories! (Screaming kids in the back of the car, station wagon, Jeep, whatever!) I just love you all so much!

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    4. We love you, too, Judy!

      And yes, I recall an eight hour trip from Queensbury NY (about 25 miles west of Vermont) to home, through the Green Mountain State and New Hampshire. It was usually a 4-5 hour trip. Snowed like the billy blue the whole time, with Ross white knuckling the whole exhausting way. We saw eight cars off the road, including an SUV that did a 360 and flipped upside down as it skidded off the highway into the trees! Terrifying, but the driver was buckled in and all right.

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  4. We are getting the same storm affecting much of the US, with 20-25 cm (8-10 in) of snow forecasted to fall today in Ottawa. I welcome the snow since this is the first big snowstorm in a month and we need a good base to go snowshoeing. But Ottawa is in a deep river valley so we get A LOT of freezing rain which I hate. I broke my ankle and other leg bone in November 2017 slipping on an icy store entrance, so I know ice can be treacherous to both pedestrians and drivers.

    DEBS and others not used to the cold wintry weather and power outages, stay safe and warm!

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    1. Stay warm, Grace, I love it that you translate metric measurements to decimal. I live within sight of Canada and can never remember the formulas.

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    2. We've had a ton of snow which I would happily share with you, Grace - and forecasting more later this week. Bleh.

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    3. KAIT:I am lucky that they started the transition from imperial to metric while I was in grade school so I learned both. And I majored in geography in university, so we had to use imperial and metric measurements (in/cm, mi/km). But I still prefer using imperial for cooking (i.e. 350F, or 1 tbsp/tsp).

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    4. HALLIE: We are supposed to get more snow on Friday and next Monday, but I would gladly take your snow and more. I don't have to shovel it, and Ottawa is very good at clearing the sidewalks and roads, so I get to choose where I trudge through deep snow willingly.

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  5. Taking the trash cans out last night was pretty perilous, so I left it to the household member not wearing a cast to navigate the icy walk. Now it's just cold and rainy. I am once again grateful I don't need to leave the house this week, not for work, not even for any appointments or meetings. More snow at the end of the week.

    But I have encountered black ice while driving in the past and it's terrifying.

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    1. So glad you have someone else to take out the trash. My friend Barbara slipped in her driveway taking out the trash a few weeks ago and broke her arm.

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  6. I have an icicle hanging outside my home office window that is over 4 feet long and growing. It terrifies me! But it's so close to the powerlines coming into the house, I dare not try to knock it down.

    We're encased in ice this morning. Temperatures are plummeting, so I doubt that will change anytime soon. But we still have power (knock wood), so all is well.

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    1. Oh my gosh, Annette, stay safe. Do you have an alternate heat source?

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    2. Stay safe, Annette! And it's smart not to knock down the icicle - my dad always said they'd fall more safely if left on their own.

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    3. We had icicles like that here one winter and another winter, Irwin had to go up on our roof to push off the snow (we had like 100 inches or so that year). Massive of snow were piles everywhere.

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  7. It's 16 here and snowing hard.

    Our town in New Jersey filled a sunken parking lot every year for a skating rink. Before the rink opened, my dad would get permission for his kids to drive on the rink. Steering into the skid became second nature. That doesn't mean I don't white knuckle it - and I'm grateful to live in a place that allows studded tires!

    Debs and Gigi, I hope you are safe and warm and power is restored soon!

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  8. The big storm moved through here last evening. The surprise was that even though the radar showed it as snow, prompting a prediction of 6 to 9 inches, it came as sleet. So our accumulation is only a few inches, but it is heavy and icy. We maintained our power throughout, thank goodness!

    My most dramatic black ice story dates back to when my son was a toddler. I had just dropped him at daycare (thank God!) and was making my way to the freeway entrance to go to work. I hit a patch of black ice and spun out into an empty field to the left of the roadway. I quickly assessed the situation and though, "OK, this could be a lot worse. I need a tow truck to get out of this field, but I'm OK." I called AAA and sat back to await help. Then another car came along and spun out into the same field. I sat helplessly, watching to see if it hit me. It did not. By the time the tow truck arrived, there were about half a dozen of us scattered over that field and miraculously, no one had hit anyone else!

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    1. I assessed the situation and THOUGHT, not though. Oops!

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    2. I can imagine the scene - so scary, that wait. The sand and salt trucks are a lifesaver.

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    3. Susan, I really mean it that we could write an anthology of Winter stories. Gee, that one is a topper.

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  9. It's 30 here, supposed to get up to 36. Sunday was icy, but then it mostly melted. Snow yesterday. Last night was some kind of semi-frozen dreck, but The Hubby drove out of here just fine this morning and Koda did not slip-slide all over the sidewalk so it must not be too bad. But I'll probably be inside for the day.

    This is the point of winter where I feel like, "Okay, pretty snow, whatever. Can we move on yet?"

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    1. Mid-February, with spring so near and yet so far...

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    2. Exactly. Forgot to mention: I intended to go shopping on Sunday. It was so icy, I had to get on my hands and knees to make it back to safey.

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  10. We got calls from both our neighbors warning about not going out to take the trash! And wow—you simply cannot tell.
    What’s the rule? Steer the direction you want to go—and look in the direction you want to go?

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    1. Is the rule the same for AWD vehicles? Doesn't matter. I'm not going anyplace until tomorrow, and then it is up to Keith, the W/C van driver. I trust he will get me i and out safely. After all, he got me home on Friday night. I'll be depending on him for the next few weeks.

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    2. I don't think 4WD or AWD is a bit of help on ice. I remember driving across town on an icy morning and a 4WD SUV went whizzing around me... When we reached a stop light about 1/4 mile ahead, it had crashed. And what I've always heard is steer INTO the skid and above all do not stamp down on the brake, that will only make it worse.

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  11. We also have the snow storm for today.
    Living and driving in Quebec for decades, I should be used to snowy or icy roads but it was never the case, I hate driving in the winter. One of the reasons I wanted to retire was that I would not have to drive to work everyday during winter.
    Today, I can appreciate the snow falling from home, bliss.
    Hope Debs and Gigi and every Red’s readers in the South stay safe .

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    1. Doesn't Quebec celebrate snow, big time? Or is that just in Quebec city?

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    2. Many cities and municipalities celebrate snow and winter

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  12. I've never lived anywhere that had such a good handle on snow removal as Rochester NY. The ploughs ad the salt trucks are out early and run all thru the storm, keeping our roads reasonable safe. It just isn't a worry here. Even our sidewalks get plowed.

    Once, during a Ft. Worth ice storm, I got off work at midnight and went to the parking lot to scrap off my little blue beetle. I got it all cleaned up, front and back, unlocked it and jumped in, "unlocked" being the operative word. Then I look around and wondered who had trashed my care. It was full of food and candy wrappers and assorted garbage.

    It wasn't my car. Mine was parked right next to it. But obviously they were keyed the same. Someone came out and likely blessed the good 'Samaritan' who'd deiced their car!

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    1. Oh Ann, that's hilarious! I once had a similar experience of getting into someone else's Honda, but I hadn't just invested time digging it out of ice.

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    2. The key WORKED?!? I had no idea that was even possible.

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    3. Car keys, at least the old fashioned stick in the lock kind, could work in many different cars — usually the same make and model. My uncle once drove the wrong car from work to get take out for a late night planning session.

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  13. The last flakes are drifting to the ground in Cincinnati, temps a less than sparkling 12 degrees. And we have power.

    Black ice is a curse, especially in a parking lot when you're scurrying into the store and WOMP! You're flat on your back looking at the gray sky.

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    1. I broke my foot once trying to get out of my parked car. Then, adding insult to injury, I couldn't get back up without slipping and falling again.

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    2. Hallie, I winced just reading that!

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  14. Snow drifts deck high and still falling here on the south side of Lake Erie. Cold, but we still have power, thank heavens! Going through a mental checklist last night as I listened to the wind howling from the north--in case we lost power. I really feel for anyone caught in this with no power and no alternative heat source.

    But ice is the worst and we seem mostly to have snow, so grateful. I was once exiting a freeway, making a left turn onto the overpass bridge when my car started to slide. Eased up on the gas, turned gently in the direction of the skid, and the little car straightened right out. Thanks, Dad!! But today the whole county is under an Emergency 3 level order to stay off the roads, so won't be driving.

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    1. The supermarkets near us were teeming with shoppers yesterday in anticipation... now I hope everyone is home and staying there.

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  15. I'm surrounded by deep snow that has been here since before Christmas, with a few inches added every few days. Then overnight freezing rain. The weather guy had said we better remove it as soon as we could because when the freezing temps come tonight it would be like concrete! I tried pushing some off my deck - very heavy and hard to do. Cannot imagine how I'll every get my long, steep driveway cleared. Obviously I'm not going anywhere soon, which suits me fine. I don't need to be on the roads with other drivers who weren't able to stay home.

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  16. Lots of experience here on the Canadian prairies with snow and ice, but we're used to it. The poor unprepared people in Texas and the bigger South -- my thoughts are with you.

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    1. Frozen wind turbines?!? So scary.

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    2. A witty Texas friend responded to “how to drive in the snow advice” from a Canadian friend with “oh, sure. But do you know how to drive a car in August without touching the steering wheel?”

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    3. Elizabeth: I had to think about that one for a minute -- coz the steering wheel is so hot?

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    4. Yes! My TX friend gave no clue as to how this is done. May you be out of the cold weather and snug, Amanda.

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    5. The hot steering wheel struggle is real, particularly if you also have lava-hot vinyl seat covers.

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  17. I saw the national weather on yesterday's news, looks horrible. California has snow, mainly in the Sierras which is not where I live though there has been times when we have icy conditions in those small isolated valleys, the narrow, twisty roads going up the foot hills. A couple of winters ago I made the mistake I driving north, out of California on US 5. There was snow but I was following the established tracks of others. I did make the mistake of changing lanes and even at a slow speed I realized my error in judgement. It was a little slip but that enough to remind me that I'm a not an extreme cold weather driver and to take it slow. It's safer that way. Everyone stay safe.

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  18. Ann is right about the ability of western New York to deal with snow. Our roads were plowed before 6:00 am and the sidewalk plow came through about an hour ago. We didn't get as much snow as the weather guys predicted but it's heavy. I'm glad my brother-in-law and his trusty snowplow will be along eventually to dig out my driveway.

    I've only had a couple of experiences with skids on icy roads and came through them all unscathed (far more luck than skill in handling them) but am less likely to even attempt driving in bad weather these days.

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    1. All it takes is one skid to put the fear of [ice] in you. How lovely to have a snowplow in the family!

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  19. Texas has been hit hard. I am in San Antonio where it is icy and 17 degrees but we have not yet experienced any of the "controlled," rolling power outages that are occurring all over the state. My 90 year old Mom is in Dallas where it is currently 5 degrees and her high rise building is without heat and water because their boiler broke. They were without electricity for over 12 hours yesterday, but thankfully now have electricity. Praying for restored heat and water soon!

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    1. Sending your mom warm thoughts... maybe she's got a space heater? Or an electric stove? Stuck in a high rise is no joke.

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    2. She has one of those Quaker electric fireplaces that works pretty well, and some electric blankets. She has her caregiver with her who is really working hard to keep her warm. Thanks Hallie ~

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  20. We have about 15" on the ground here since last week, with a LOT more to come by Thursday evening, if the "Accu" weather is actually right, for once. It's weird here, because 15 miles south there was no snow, and 15 miles north there was half as much as we got near the Ohio River. Lucky us.

    I've had some terrifying moments on icy streets and roads. Cincinnati has seven hills, some of them perilously steep when it's bad. The scariest was one morning on my way to work from Clifton to downtown, and skidding out of control, down, down, for nearly a block, stopping at last within less than a car length from a place where my car could have gone over a 20' embankment.

    But the worst of all was when my daughter was in college and was driving back to Boston after Christmas break. I wasn't even there, but she slid into a snowbank when she was trying to get off the highway for a restroom stop. The dummy had no money with her (the last time that happened), and didn't know anything to do but call Mom from her cell phone. I stayed on the line with her while a kind snowplow operator came along and pulled her out. And the Good Samaritan refused my offer to send him money, bless him.

    Icicles are sometimes a good indicator of clogged gutters. When I sold homeowners insurance ('70s and '80s), I learned about the effects of "thawing and freezing" on roof leaks. Wherever those icicles are, watch for leaks later. Insurance is supposed to cover that.

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  21. I grew up in CT, I remember driving in a blizzard so thick I had to draft in behind a trailer truck. A one hour drive took two and a half and it was exhausting. ! hesitate to admit that I'm now in sunny Arizona having a stretch 60-70 degree days. Normally, I would complain about how cold it is, but I think I'll just keep that to myself. Hoping for a warming system to sweep through the frozen places. Stay safe, all!

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  22. Trying really, really hard to send this warm, sunny Florida weather everywhere! Heard on the new last night that Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina were the only states without snow. Take care, whatever your weather.

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  23. This weather? Been there, done that, elsewhere. My Houston neighborhood seems charmed. We never lost our power, although I see our kitchen cold water pipe froze. And the shower was a bit anemic this morning. My niece lost power but I hear it's back this morning. We'll have to check on my little brother's house. My husband fetched him yesterday to stay with us. I hope his power returns today or we're going to have to move his fridge contents to his garage. I see we're due the next cold front in the wee hours of Wednesday with freezing rain and/or snow.

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    1. Cold water pipe in downstairs bathroom now frozen. Will the horror never end????

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  24. It's cold with icy rain falling atop the previous snow and sleet here in Maine, so I'm grateful the Maine Millennial didn't have the usual one hour drive to work. Most of Maine has been closed down, which is how we tend to handle this sort of slop.

    I really feel for the folks in the south and southwest. It's all about the infrastructure - personal and public. We have down coats and snow boots and wood stoves and even a tiny town like mine has four plows and sanding trucks. Most of that doesn't exist in the places that are being hard-hit with this once-in-a-generation cold spell.

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    1. Oh, Julia, that sounds just miserable. Even for Maine!

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  25. Being a CA native and a So Cal resident most of my driving years, I've only had to drive on ice once. I was in a borrowed minivan taking youth up to a snow retreat. I got stuck on a hill and couldn't drive up. And if I took my foot off the brake, I'd start sliding back down. Fortunately, it wasn't too long (although it felt like it) before another youth leader who knew what she was doing came down and rescued me.

    There's a reason I live where I don't have to deal with that. Although I was out driving in "snow" a couple weeks ago. It was definitely snow, but it was melting as soon as it hit the ground.

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  26. I’m in southern end of the Bay Area in California. I just got back from my morning run. The current temperature at 9:30 am is 65 degrees, headed for a predicted high of 75.
    Winter here has been fairly normal. Quite a bit of rain the past three months, but definitely a bit warmer than usual. Spring is here, trees are all bloomed out and we are having more nice sunny days before the heat starts in April,. I hope everyone is safe and defrosts soon! The entire Midwest is facing several more days of the freezing temperatures. I wish we could send them some of our California warmth.

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    1. Is it okay to hate you just a little, Susan? Only a little. I don't think I'd swap what I'm dealing with now for earthquakes and wildfires.

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    2. I hear what you are saying. We had a spell of really cold weather for us at the end of January. We lost power for two days, not fun. Of course, nothing froze and we were able to go go our son's house to work and get warm, House was actually less than fifty degrees. I hope all improves for you soon. II'll take the occasional earththquake over tornados and Texas heat and humidity any day. This year is the only one where any fires were a factor here in the Bay Area and they were caused by thunder storms which theoretically don't happen here. It is hot here but a lot less humidity and stormy weather. I have spend a fair amount of time in the Midwest, California wins hand down. Beauty, weather and the multi-cultural population and cultural dynamic.

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  27. We are missing the ice storm, which is in areas to the east, west and north of us. It rained early in the day but by the time I left for my appt, the rain had stopped.

    Sending good thoughts to those without power. Hope it comes back soon.

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  28. My Mustang sucks on ice, but I know it, so I don't drive it in icy conditions. Except now . . . Well, now I'm stuck at home in the face of ice, Covid-19, and cold temps. And now the incompetent--nincompoops. I'll call them nincompoops here on this very nice forum--who run our electrical grid can't seem to get electricity to people. If you've missed me these past few days it's because the "rolling blackouts," sold to us as lasting "15-45 minutes each," have been lasting 6-8 hours each at a minimum. From 2 am Monday through 2 am Tuesday I had 5.5 hours of heat and electrical power, and 18.5 hours of no heat, no power, and incipient hypothermia with house temps dropping to around 40 degrees. But I had my rage to keep me warm.

    I'm okay for the moment, but the power could go again any minute, and who knows how long until I get it back again?

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    1. Okay, I have heard from Debs and she's hanging in there. She had the same rolling blackouts, plus a malfunction with her thermostat, so the furnace wouldn't run even when it could. A frozen pipe, and her last update mentioned that her internet was out. But she's alive! And made beans for many fast-heat meals.

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  29. Brrrr. Now I know why I live in California and Arizona! I would hate driving in snow and ice. Stay safe everyone

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