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Winter advice for people new to winter

 
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I've lived most of the last 30 years between Chicago, IL, and on Lake Superior in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  

Layering clothing became important when walking half a mile or more to the supermarket in -30 / 40ish.  -50ish in certain pocket areas like Cloquet and Bayfield, though less common.

Thrift shops usually have good and inexpensive snowsuits or ski outer wear.  Because I used to walk the shore of Lake Superior almost daily, I got in a habit of wearing two snowsuits, Yaxtrax, carrying a bottle of water, and staying in public areas even if that required walking a longer route.

The wind below zero is no joke, so wearing three scarves over a hat was also a habit.

To keep snow out of my boots, I bought a pair of zippered 3/4 calf high boots.  Tucked the inside snowsuit into the boot.  Pulled the elasticized ankles of the outer snowsuit around the boot.

Never did surf Lake Superior though :.)  I'm game to try most things once, but that one is over the top.

https://youtu.be/RHJEWlOwOWk?t=60

Photo is from the Duluth Tribune, and that is not me sitting on the ice :.)
Lake-Superior-Duluth-Memorial-Day-Weekend-2014.jpg
[Thumbnail for Lake-Superior-Duluth-Memorial-Day-Weekend-2014.jpg]
 
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Question:

Last night it looks like we had some sort of hail before the snow started.  It melted on the driveway a little bit and then froze.  So we have like ice-pebbles all over the driveway and half an inch (of what will probably be two feet by the end of the week) of snow.  Thankfully the pebbles are giving some texture to the driveway so it's not as slippery as normal ice/snow.

Because our driveway is so steep, it's going to be difficult to get out even with new snow tires.  

Normally if it snows, the days are above freezing and the nights below.  So if I don't clear the snow each day, it re-freezes and is almost impossible to clear.  The forecast for now is not to go above freezing for about a week...maybe.  They don't really know.

Do I clear the icy layer?  If so, how?

Or is the icy layer friendly to me?

 
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r ranson wrote:Question:
Last night it looks like we had some sort of hail before the snow started.  It melted on the driveway a little bit and then froze.  So we have like ice-pebbles all over the driveway and half an inch (of what will probably be two feet by the end of the week) of snow.  Thankfully the pebbles are giving some texture to the driveway so it's not as slippery as normal ice/snow.
Because our driveway is so steep, it's going to be difficult to get out even with new snow tires.  
Normally if it snows, the days are above freezing and the nights below.  So if I don't clear the snow each day, it re-freezes and is almost impossible to clear.  The forecast for now is not to go above freezing for about a week...maybe.  They don't really know.
Do I clear the icy layer?  If so, how?
Or is the icy layer friendly to me?



Several solutions, in no particular order, depending on the size of the driveway:
I'm afraid it will have to be done in 2 strokes, and first, the snow will have to be removed. Nothing else will work until that is done. now the ice:
* Unless you are out in the boondocks, you might want to call someone who does snow removal. I've done it once or twice and it is not cheap, but early morning, an unexpected snow storm. I had to go to work, so I shelled $50 for a 30 ft driveway. But it was DONE! They will do the ice too: Their equipment has spikes and is heavy, so most of the ice will be removed too.
* Black tarp, if you are going to have sunshine some days. lay it on, wait, pick up the tarp and put it away.
* if you have asphalt, use a maul to pound the ice pebbles, then clean with a snowblower.
* I don't suppose you could get the dregs of a local brewery/ distillery to unload in your driveway? : Alcohol freezes at much colder temperatures, so...
* If you can get sawdust, again, after you clean the snow that is going to fall. It spreads easy and it will add biomass to the sides of your driveway for spring.
* spreading sand will work wonders too. A few shovelfuls on the more slippery spots may be all you need. Incidentally, carrying a big sack of sand is always a good idea in the winter: carry it over the rear axle if you have rear traction. That and a shovel.
* You might want to invest in some good tire chains if you want to continue living there. You will have them forever if you keep them dry after you use them. Some are a pain to put on and off though. I've seen some that have only 4 chains going around. Slip them over the tire and reach behind to fasten the 2 ends.
*  Again, depending on the length of your driveway and how much you need groceries, you may want to find alternate parking at the bottom of the hill. Use the sled to go down the slope and use it again to haul the groceries up.
Now, we get to the chemicals:
* Before you get the snow, if your temperature hovers around 29-31, salt. Some salt is made to be pet friendly on their paws and not kill vegetation. It is totally useless outside of this range and under "2 ft of snow".
* If your freezer is full and you are blocked anyway, tell your boss, if you have one, that you can't come. Settle by the fire with a mug of hot cocoa and enjoy the break.
Even if you stay home, you might have a medical emergency, so it is never good to wait too long to clean it up.
Good luck to you!
 
pollinator
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Does the area get sun?

The side of my place that only gets morning sun needs all the help I can give it, the southern exposure cleans itself in a day even if the air temp doesn't go above freezing.

That east side I push all the snow I can, then go with a flat bottom steel shovel (sharpened) and scrape every afternoon when it will be most thawed.  For that spot it's about 2 pm.  Then I put a little sand or ash so it has a little bite until morning, then repeat.
 
r ranson
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It gets sun... if the clouds lift.  Which they aren't.  Right now it's not much brighter than a full moonlight out there, only without the shadow.  White snow and black skies.  


Giving that the average frequency for snowfall heavy enough to settle on the ground here was one week out of every 6 years (although the last three years, it's been 10 days out of every year), I'm not keen to invest in a snowblower or anything that takes up more storage space than a snow shovel.  If it gets more than 30 days out of every 300, I might reconsider as 4 weeks is about my stir-crazy limit and I try to only keep 2 months worth of food in the house.

Usually when it snows we stay home, but we need to go out tomorrow morning.  That's why I'm wondering about bothering to clear the driveway at all.  The snow on top of the ice pebbles seems quite sticky.  New snow tires, maybe I can make it out onto the road?

 
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As a fellow "Left Coaster" (assuming you mean Pacific Coast) I hear you! My method is to first use the LEAF BLOWER as an impromptu snow blower, then salt the *@!# out of it.

I discovered this novel use last winter. Today on low, it nicely cleared the gravel drive. On high it actually peeled off the 2mm ice (where passing tires packed it) on the public road at the head of the driveway - blew off hand sized chunks. Next is the solarium roof and a potty spot out back for the dogs!

Otherwise the freeze/thaw thing makes it treacherous to get out of our uphill, north facing, driveway.

My favorite weather App!  https://www.ventusky.com/?p=48.93;-123.30;8&l=wind-10m&m=icon

P.S. Not sure it would be worth a trip to the brewery...would the alcohol not just evaporate? OR am I missing the point and this is an excuse to get out and reward yourself with a new brew?
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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R Scott wrote:Does the area get sun?
The side of my place that only gets morning sun needs all the help I can give it, the southern exposure cleans itself in a day even if the air temp doesn't go above freezing.
That east side I push all the snow I can, then go with a flat bottom steel shovel (sharpened) and scrape every afternoon when it will be most thawed.  For that spot it's about 2 pm.  Then I put a little sand or ash so it has a little bite until morning, then repeat.



I forgot about the ash now that we don't burn wood anymore! but yes, if you have access to ash, that certainly is better than salt.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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r ranson wrote:It gets sun... if the clouds lift.  Which they aren't.  Right now it's not much brighter than a full moonlight out there, only without the shadow.  White snow and black skies.  
Giving that the average frequency for snowfall heavy enough to settle on the ground here was one week out of every 6 years (although the last three years, it's been 10 days out of every year), I'm not keen to invest in a snowblower or anything that takes up more storage space than a snow shovel.  If it gets more than 30 days out of every 300, I might reconsider as 4 weeks is about my stir-crazy limit and I try to only keep 2 months worth of food in the house.
Usually when it snows we stay home, but we need to go out tomorrow morning.  That's why I'm wondering about bothering to clear the driveway at all.  The snow on top of the ice pebbles seems quite sticky.  New snow tires, maybe I can make it out onto the road?



In spite of being Canada, you seem to be warmer than we are here. We can count on snow end of December- start of May.  So 4.5- 5 months. Yeah. I see your point about not investing in a lot of equipment if you only need it once or twice a year. I was going to suggest a snowmobile but thought better of it; I figured if you had a snowmobile, you would be back from town already ;-)  ...
It does suck to not have the equipment, though, don't it?
There is a blessing in having wet snow over pebbles: the wet snow will tend to pack. If you ride on top of that snow, the snow will grip the ice pebbles [which I assume are stuck to the driveway? In that case, it will be like driving on packed snow. Still 'white knuckling it' going up and down hill, but better than fluffy snow that creates a very slick double layer of 'slickery'.
As long as you have that great metal shovel [I hope the good big heavy one with the big metal stirrup that you push and tip?], I have a trick for you. Clean it up in bands going across until you can find the snow and ice gone: The vehicle will grip on the cleaned area and slip on the rest, but what do you care: The vehicle will stop on the next clean area. When you are in town, get some sand!
Good luck: I'm pulling for you!
 
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If you only have a layer of ice and an inch of snow, I'd just leave it.  If you're getting snow overnight and have the head out in the morning, I guess I'd shovel it out in the morning before tracking through it.  Then hope the sun melts off the ice that's left.

Can you park at the bottom if you can't get up the driveway later tomorrow?  If so, then at least you can get to town again if needed.  
 
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One of the things I am simply not grasping about this whole "frozen stuff falls from the sky" bit is the words for it all. I have down hail, freezing rain, snow, an maybe sleet. But then things happen like yesterday... No snow on the ground, at 4 AM seriously heavy fog, then about 6 am it all froze, and hit the ground. I wouldn't call it frost, to me frost is when water droplets condense on things like grass and then freeze. Frozen fog frost? What is this stuff called?
 
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OK, picture required! We've had something that's a cross between hail and snow - like Mother Nature's thrown a bunch of micro-snowballs at you - but I don't know a technical name for the resulting mess.

I'm tempted to just say, "annoying", because I suspect it made everything a little slippery and dangerous. Hopefully it will melt quickly!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Jay Angler:   I took no picture. It melted off within an hour. It's more that I know it was fog, then it looked like frost... and I bet there's a word for that, since all the other snowy bits have words I'm still learning.

And probably a similar hail/snow bit I called "blowing ice dust" and someone corrected me, but I don't recall the word they used.

Me in Missouri, courtesy of XKCD:


Overtext on it reads: Stay warm little flappers and find lots of plant eggs!!

Although the thing that's NOT alright is black ice. I had heard of it, first time I stepped on it I knew what it was as I went down, somewhat like how the first time I met stinging nettles I instantly identified them, but it was too late at that point.
 
Jay Angler
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Pearl Sutton wrote:

Although the thing that's NOT alright is black ice. I had heard of it, first time I stepped on it I knew what it was as I went down...

I totally agree. I wiped out on black ice once on my bike and once in my car, but both times not much damage. Unfortunately my cousin wasn't so lucky when she met it and slid her car into the path of a large truck. Black ice reports should be taken very seriously and anyone who's driving at near freezing weather when there's a sheen of water on the road, should take *every* precaution (and I won't appologize for "shoulding" permies on this one because it's killed too many people).
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:One of the things I am simply not grasping about this whole "frozen stuff falls from the sky" bit is the words for it all. I have down hail, freezing rain, snow, an maybe sleet. But then things happen like yesterday... No snow on the ground, at 4 AM seriously heavy fog, then about 6 am it all froze, and hit the ground. I wouldn't call it frost, to me frost is when water droplets condense on things like grass and then freeze. Frozen fog frost? What is this stuff called?




That is called freezing fog, Pearl. weird stuff it is and usually only those on ships experience it, sort of like the southern cross phenomenon.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:....Frozen fog frost? What is this stuff called?



Another version of this that we get is hoar frost on the trees that gets so thick and heavy that, once the sun appears and starts warming a bit, a mini snowfall can occur from all of that frost descending from the branches.  It's quite pretty cuz it really only happens when the frozen foggy morning gives way to a sunny afternoon.....
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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John Weiland wrote:

Pearl Sutton wrote:....Frozen fog frost? What is this stuff called?



Another version of this that we get is hoar frost on the trees that gets so thick and heavy that, once the sun appears and starts warming a bit, a mini snowfall can occur from all of that frost descending from the branches.  It's quite pretty cuz it really only happens when the frozen foggy morning gives way to a sunny afternoon.....



A hoary frost is indeed the most enchanting of sceneries and it occurs when a warm[er] air current freezes as it makes contact with frozen ground and frozen branches. As the fog lifts, every branch is covered in sparkling ice crystals. If there is enough of the stuff to cover the driveway and the roads, it gets quite slick. On the roads, just as it begins to melt or refreeze, we get the most treacherous of conditions: Black ice: The road looks clean and black, but if you touch the brakes, you may well lose control.
This January in Wisconsin, we are getting a lot of days like this, this year: Instead of frankly going below zero, as we are accustomed, we've had just about 3 weeks now of temperatures hovering around the freezing point [Perfect maple syrup weather: It freezes at night and gets just above freezing in the day time].
We are not getting the sun to go with it, though, so the days are just very drab.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Bryant Redhawk: Thank you! I did have it right! It was weird to see and know what had happened. If I didn't know the fog had been so thick a couple hours before I would have just called it frost.  

I looked up pictures of hoarfrost, oh pretty! I want to see that! But I don't like black ice.

And while on the subject: PLEASE correct me If I am wrong, if I hit black ice while driving the safest move is to stay smooth speed, no brakes, no turning, right?  I have not hit any driving yet, and that is the best I know to do if I do meet it.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Bryant Redhawk: Thank you! I did have it right! It was weird to see and know what had happened. If I didn't know the fog had been so thick a couple hours before I would have just called it frost.  

I looked up pictures of hoarfrost, oh pretty! I want to see that! But I don't like black ice.

And while on the subject: PLEASE correct me If I am wrong, if I hit black ice while driving the safest move is to stay smooth speed, no brakes, no turning, right?  I have not hit any driving yet, and that is the best I know to do if I do meet it.



Correct. Go into it slow, but steady. Stay off the brakes, and keep the steering wheel straight. If you start to slide, steer the front in the same direction the back is trying to go, unless doing donuts is your thing.
 
Pearl Sutton
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I know bridges are notorious for black ice, any other places I should watch out for?
 
Carla Burke
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Pearl Sutton wrote:I know bridges are notorious for black ice, any other places I should watch out for?



Shaded areas - like tree-lined roads, north facing sides of hills, any low areas, where run-off happens, even in small amounts. My ex almost crashed us once, in MAY(!!!), on a shaded forest preserve road, near Mammoth Cave, in KY, because of black ice.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Bridges are indeed places for black ice but so are underpasses, the problem with underpasses is that the ice will be on both sides just outside of the road above and the actual part under the over passing road might be dry as a bone, or not.

I always ease off the gas pedal when I suspect black ice ahead and if you do hit some.
like Carla said, easy does it and steer into the slide should you start one, but even that should be done slowly so you don't over correct and end up spinning out the opposite direction.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Bryant Redhawk and Carla Burke: THANK YOU!!  
I know how to drive on ice in general, but I didn't know where to look for it. I learned ice driving in Colorado, where the ice is 3 inches deep and obvious.

That information might save me.
THANK YOU!!! :D
 
Jay Angler
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To reinforce what Carla and Bryant have said, if you have roads you commonly drive, you need to asses the risk *before* the weather conditions make it reality. So as you drive on a weekly basis, asses which roads have the worst curves, highest grades, poorest drainage etc. Those roads might be the most fun and interesting to drive in beautiful weather, but they aren't the roads to take in potentially icy weather.

For example, the black ice that got me when I was driving is a sharply curved off-ramp with poor camber. When we get snow, you regularly see where people ended up off the road onto the grass area. I got caught that particular night because the highway was completely dry, but as factors have been mentioned, the off-ramp was on the north side of a hill which wouldn't have dried or warmed up during the day. If it wasn't also so poorly cambered, I might also have made it, but who knows for sure. From then on, I was always slowed to a crawl before hitting the curve in that location if there was any possibility of slipperiness, but the Municipality also learned from that night (I figure at least 5 cars failed that curve that night from the evidence the next day) and that stretch of road gets sanded and salted before any other bit in the area.

Of course - cars/roads aren't the only issue. On homesteads we should assess which stairs, slopes, locations, conditions etc are likely to lead to accidents. We've had a *very* wet January and there's a steep down-hill area getting to our field and our soil is clay. I dumped 5 garbage cans of cedar mulch on the key areas and haven't slipped or fallen like I have in past years. I may have to rake it up in the spring if we haven't trampled it in well enough to mow the area, but it's still worth it compared to breaking bones.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Jay Angler: Excellent post!!
Excellent point about checking the homestead. The black ice I met was at this rental, a place on the north facing back deck where a gutter drips. It had only rained a bit, but it was enough to ice that spot only. I did NOT expect that. I avoid that area now.  
 
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Black Ice: most vehicles newer than 15 yrs have an "info" module that displays various factors (fuel consumption, fuel remaining, direction of travel) and temperature. I normally keep mine on fuel consumption, unless I am worried about ice, then I put it in temperature mode. This gives me a bit of a heads up if I move into a colder zone. It has also allowed me the ability to identify areas of greater risk on my regular routes.

Secondly, I watch for what I call "diamond dust" when the road becomes a mass carpet of "sparkles" the headlights or street lights pick up at night. This has allowed me to identify areas on my regular travels that are most prone to becoming a problem. Just a tiny bit of warmth then a chill before evaporation and bingo, black ice.

Knowing your personal "danger zones" helps limit the risk considerably.
 
Cécile Stelzer Johnson
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Bryant Redhawk: Thank you! I did have it right! It was weird to see and know what had happened. If I didn't know the fog had been so thick a couple hours before I would have just called it frost.  
PLEASE correct me If I am wrong, if I hit black ice while driving the safest move is to stay smooth speed, no brakes, no turning, right?  I have not hit any driving yet, and that is the best I know to do if I do meet it.



Yep. that is how you stand a better chance: feet off the brakes, off the accelerator, coast to a stop, looking for snow on the edges of the road, even if packed: white snow will give you *some* traction as your tires sink in a softer substance.
When my son Scott was learning to drive , I took him on a parking lot that was covered in black ice. In the center of the patch, I told him. go ahead, break now and see what happens. He barely touched the brakes, and of course, he started sliding wildly, he had absolutely NO ability to control. and because he was a new driver, he just kept on pushing on the brakes even harder, turning the steering wheel, totally panicked.  I told him : "Just let go. feet off all pedals!" and he was able to get out of it. I think *all* drivers should experience this total loss of control in a safe area so they know what it *feels like*. It is really life changing: you know that if you react harshly, you will NOT regain control.
Of course, the first thing is to drive according to road conditions! I've been known to speed a bit. On ice, NEVER!.
 
Lorinne Anderson
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Weather Trivia.... Heard this odd sounding word, "grapple", on the news tonight describing a form of frozen precipitation for the first time and had to wikipedia it:

"Graupel (/ˈɡraʊpəl/; German: [ˈɡʁaʊpl̩]) also called soft hail or snow pellets, is precipitation that forms when supercooled water droplets are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming 2–5 mm (0.08–0.20 in) balls of rime."

Other definitions the comparison of "tiny balls of styrofoam". I had seen what looked like tiny styrofoam balls before and was never sure what to call it - now I do!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Lorinne Anderson wrote:

"Graupel (/ˈɡraʊpəl/; German: [ˈɡʁaʊpl̩]) also called soft hail or snow pellets, is precipitation that forms when supercooled water droplets are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes, forming 2–5 mm (0.08–0.20 in) balls of rime."


That sounds like my blowing ice dust. Not big enough to be hail, but too sharp and icy to be snow. Sharp and evil when the wind gets it. I'm very familiar with the feel of sandstorms blasting sand at me, that's what it feels like, only sharp ice.
Blowing grapple?
Cool! I have a new word! Thank you :D
 
Bryant RedHawk
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In the sierra Nevada mountains that stuff is called corn snow, little ice balls that make skiing more like sliding on ball bearings.
 
Mike Haasl
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I'm far from sure but I think Lorinne, Pearl and Bryant are talking about three different things...

I think Lorinne's snow is round balls of snow that are falling.  Bigger than snowflakes and look like tiny snowballs.  Soft and fun.

I think Pearl's precipitation may or may not also be known as "sleet".  Icy sharp wind blown shards.  Not soft and not fun.

I'm imagining Bryant's snow as normal snow on the ground that is melting fast and the parts that hold together look like balls or pieces of corn.  They're quite wet and the skiing or snowmobiling season is just about over when you see that.  Wet and slippery and not particularly fun when you fall and your butt gets wet.

At least that's what I'm interpreting of those different descriptions.  The Inuit had many different names for "snow" and now I know why!
 
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