About 0800 yesterday, I was convinced that the snow was upon us. Experience borne from my time growing up in Ohio as well as my time in the South for the last 20 years has told me to be quite skeptical about snowfall predictions, but anyone could see this one coming. We had perfect conditions for it:
- Cold, dry air that had been in place for 36 hours, ensuring that the ground was cold enough for the snow to stick. We also had easterly winds that continued to bring in cold air all day long and into the late evening hours, further fueling the onslaught of snow.
- A huge amount of moisture coming up from the Gulf of Mexico with a strong low pressure system.
- A public works system completely incapable of handling this much snow, precisely because preparing for it to happen at any time would be a monumental waste of taxpayer funds.
If you’ve followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you know that I love The Wire, David Simon’s epic TV series about the failure of American urban society. Like many viewers of the show, I can’t help but love Omar Little, the street ripper who robs from drug dealers. Unlike most characters in the show, Omar lives by his ethos: “A man got to have a code.”
Clearly, this is a man who commands respect. Similarly, this storm commanded respect. So at 0808 yesterday …
Did I stop there? Would Omar stop there? No.
Who could resist one of Omar’s classic lines? This was designed both to respect the storm and pique interest.1
Who could resist making fun of the panicked shoppers? I’m not any better than them, as I woke up before 0500 on Sunday to gas up my car and buy perishables at the grocery store. I really did need to go to Kroger. 2
At 1615, the snow felt imminent. What you were seeing on NOAA weather radar, which is the source for these screenshots3, is the moisture coming through the atmosphere and priming the pump for the snowfall. You can see this happening in the below image:
The black line at the bottom is the dewpoint. You can see it rocket up from <10F at 1800 to close to air temperature by 2100. The snow started at my house around 2030, and I live a couple of miles from the airport.
The link is to a local media outlet’s school/business closings page. Virtually everyone was doing the right thing and canceling Monday activities in advance of the first fallen flake. Normally, this can be mocked, but it was the right call. 4
I started getting grief from folks about the late arrival of the snow, including my friend Eric. I had to adapt an Omar quote for this one.
I had planned to save this one for the snowfall, but then the infamous Dan Satterfield posted this image macro of himself on his Facebook page:
I was planning on using this quote for kids playing in the snow today, but when I saw Ms. Laneé covered in huge snowflakes and clearly colder than she’d ever like to be, I couldn’t resist. You have my respect, Jamie.
It was hard for me to see that snow was falling outside my window at first, given where the streetlights are in my neighborhood. I went out just before 2200 and was stunned. There was maybe .5cm on the ground at 2030, and after that point the serious snowfall began.
I rigged up a lame snow gage around 2300 using easily-recognizable household items: 12oz soda can, 20oz soda bottle, and 2L soda bottle. All were filled with water for stability, then placed on the roof of my truck. Of course, there was already a good amount of snowfall at that point, which is obvious from the fact that the can was barely visible in that first shot. An hour later and it was nowhere to be seen. Just before 0600 today you could barely see the small bottle, and the big one was overwhelmed as well. 5
Around 0530, the moisture was largely gone from the Tennessee Valley. Friends reported that there was another burst of snow around 0900 today, but by that point I was back asleep. My grocery excursion Sunday morning and my photographic excursions this morning meant that I only “slept” about three hours each night. I took naps each morning, but they’re not helping much now. Tonight I will be taking that Lunesta.
I had to show off my gage, and I had to rep Cheese Wagstaff.
I was really hopeful that sunrise today would get me some great colors, but the cloud cover was very thick this morning, and we went from a dull-gray night to a light-gray morning. I had saved this quote for that time. You can see in the linked shot where I had tread a path out and back to my driveway all night long.
Alabama drivers are inexperienced snow drivers. If I had to get out in this, I still can’t decide whether I’d take a) my Subaru, which has AWD and is built for this or b) my Nissan pickup, which has an ad valorem taxation of $70. I’m not worried about causing a wreck. I’m worried about someone else wrecking me.
Because it’s going to be cold here through mid-week, it’s not obvious to me when roads will be fully passable. Some of my friends have told me that they’ve been out driving in it, and that it’s not that bad, but again: I’m not worried about me, but I am worried about other idiots. Even worse, the compacting of snow on the roads, followed by re-freezing as temperatures lower tonight, could make the roads tomorrow just as hazardous as they were today.
#SNOmar don’t scare.
Did I buy the honey nut? Yes I did. ↩
I don’t do the mocking. I understand the decision trees they’re traversing. ↩
I chose these items because they’re what I had available, but also because you can easily compare them to your own items regardless of the lens I used, angle taken, etc. I switched from an 85mm lens with the first shots I took to a 28mm for later shots. ↩