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#215739 - 01/27/11 05:59 AM DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation
Dagny Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1918
Loc: Washington, DC
A snowstorm today that in terms of accumulation was not in the same league as last winter's "Snowpocalypse" (Feb 2010) or "Snowmageddon" (Dec 2009), has caused what may turn out to be the worst gridlock this metropolitan area has ever experienced.

The snow -- extremely wet, tree-busting snow -- starting falling hard about 3:00p in the western suburbs. It was most intense between 4:00p-7:00p (rush hours). It ended around 11:30p From a few inches in DC to 8-10" further out, a foot in some places 50 miles west of the Beltway. Some weather forecasters (such as The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang) nailed the forecast (which I circulated to all my friends and posted on Facebook).

http://www.washingtonpost.com/?sub=AR

Best wishes to anyone still struggling to get home. A friend of mine left her office in Rockville at 3:00p. As of midnight she still was not close to getting home (Damascus) -- an 18 mile drive. She's supposed to call me when she gets home (it's now 2:00a). Her husband is stranded in Leesburg, VA -- catching a few hours sleep at a gas station.

Her 8 months pregnant daughter-in-law is in a car somewhere with a non-functioning cell phone. She was last heard from several hours ago.

Car-bus crashes, downed power lines, exploding transformers, stuck and abandoned vehicles.

Many cars ran out of fuel.

Hundreds of thousands without power. Emergency vehicles can't get to fires, crashes and heart attack victims. It is a disaster scene still unfolding.

I'm listening to Fairfax County (VA) Police radio -- the chatter is incredible. The snow stopped two hours ago yet I-66 inside the Beltway is paralyzed. The GW Parkway northbound is closed (trees). Side streets impassable. Temps now below freezing....

I walk to work and our power lines are underground so have been blessedly immune from this nightmare. Sympathies to the millions who are significantly impacted.

There will be extensive Monday morning quarterbacking and after-action reports on what went wrong (decision to close Fed Gov't mid-afternoon, snow plow-salting strategies and execution, variance in forecaster predictions, the folly of individuals with ill-equipped vehicles and poor snow driving skills....)

No one expected this disastrous degree of gridlock.


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#215741 - 01/27/11 06:25 AM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: Dagny]
Frisket Offline
Addict

Registered: 09/03/10
Posts: 640
Its sad to see how people underestimate the power of nature. I do not understand how people still block out the possibility of these types of things and end up in such predicaments.I can understand leaving before a storm and getting trapped in it but wonder what the thought process is when people leave in the middle of such storms. I wonder how many businesses would allow workers to stay overnight if storms of such magnitude catch people before they leave?
_________________________
Nope.......

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#215742 - 01/27/11 06:52 AM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: Frisket]
Dagny Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1918
Loc: Washington, DC
Originally Posted By: Frisket
Its sad to see how people underestimate the power of nature. I do not understand how people still block out the possibility of these types of things and end up in such predicaments.I can understand leaving before a storm and getting trapped in it but wonder what the thought process is when people leave in the middle of such storms. I wonder how many businesses would allow workers to stay overnight if storms of such magnitude catch people before they leave?



So many just won't believe it until they see it -- forecasts be darned (some were more dire than others). But with the storm peaking during the rush hour(s), delaying the drive home even an hour made several hours difference in when people got home.

I think we're going to find that a cascading series of decisions -- government, organizational (employers), individual -- turned a modest storm into a terrible situation for the hundreds of thousands of people on the roads.

The power outage situation is also quite severe. Power outages were expected -- the forecast was for wet snow -- but I think the extent of those has also been something of a surprise.

I urge people who don't have 4x4 to get tire chains and carry them all winter. They aren't expensive and are priceless when you need them. But I don't know anyone besides myself here who has tire chains. My Honda Element is terrific in the snow without chains but my years on Mt. Hood made me a believer in preparing for the worst possible situation.

February is when we've gotten some of our biggest snows (Snowpocalypse 2010) so I'm going to write up a vehicle preparedness list that my friends here might possibly make a dent on in the next couple weeks.

They should now be receptive to the notion.


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#215744 - 01/27/11 11:16 AM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: Dagny]
Eugene Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 2938
A lot of newer cars you can't even put on tire chains, there just isn't room between the tire and fender, clearance is tight to prevent air from getting in to get than extra .0001mpg.

I've noticed that people just don't obey the rules/laws or the roads when it snows, run stop signs more than usual, drive in the middle of two lanes, etc. Last week twice I came to an intersection and the sign showing the lanes was clearly visible but a vehicle was in the middle between them, I went to the side that was widest to make the other lane and they looked at me like I was the one at fault then they went straight through the left turn ony lane when the light turned green.

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#215745 - 01/27/11 11:17 AM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: Dagny]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Originally Posted By: Dagny
February is when we've gotten some of our biggest snows (Snowpocalypse 2010) so I'm going to write up a vehicle preparedness list that my friends here might possibly make a dent on in the next couple weeks.

They should now be receptive to the notion.



A teachable moment, for some of course - we've found that asking volunteers to estimate their mobility immediately after a bad weather event (snow) gives everyone a more reliable sense of availability for the next event. All the volunteers in the world are worthless if they can't get to your shelter to work. You can also make plans to move necessary people around - 4x4 pickups along snow routes for example. The same folks responding as little as a month later tend to overestimate their ability to respond in a similar event.

If your friends aren't receptive to personal preparedness and responsibility for the next snowpocalypse (snow chains, a car kit and a full gas tank to creep down the snowy road), this might get them thinking about a more communal approach for the next one (like proactively taking a work from home day the day before snow, or better plans for sheltering in place, and keeping folks off the roads during the snow event).

Stay warm!

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#215746 - 01/27/11 11:22 AM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: Dagny]
bws48 Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/18/07
Posts: 831
Loc: Anne Arundel County, Maryland
We are on the eastern side of the DC suburbs, about 22 miles east. Locally, the weather folks hit the amount of snow on the head. they said 4-6 and I have 5 inches at my house. They totally missed the timing and how fast it would come down, and the impact of the ice during rush hour. We had rain all day and during the rush hour locally it switched to snow, but with an hour or so of ice in between, totally destroying rush hour.

Oddly, I got home in about the usual time. My route is against the traffic flow and my Forester did not have a problem with the ice/snow/slush.

About an hour and a half after getting home, the power went out. As of 7:15 AM as I write this, power is still out. My big 2010 prep upgrade, a natural gas powered automatic generator, has been humming away since then, keeping heat, hot water, and other critical items powered (e.g. internet and computers)running.

So instead of wrestling the generators into position and putting down the cables, I got a good night's sleep.

The road in front of my suburban home has been plowed and sanded down to bare pavement. Much of what was on the road is now blocking my driveway, so the next thing is to crank up the snow blower and clear that stuff out.

Generally, everything went well. The only odd thing was that my DW's computer is on a battery UPS system, but even though it was getting power from the generator, it refused to send enough to the computer to let it boot. I bypassed the UPS and it now boots fine. Time for a new UPS or is this normal???
_________________________
"Better is the enemy of good enough."

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#215747 - 01/27/11 11:37 AM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: bws48]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Originally Posted By: bws48
Generally, everything went well. The only odd thing was that my DW's computer is on a battery UPS system, but even though it was getting power from the generator, it refused to send enough to the computer to let it boot. I bypassed the UPS and it now boots fine. Time for a new UPS or is this normal???


That sounds to me like your UPS needs a new battery - you can sometimes separately source the battery from aftermarket suppliers, or just get a new UPS. You can also check to see if your computer draws more than the UPS is designed for. A few months ago I bought a UPS which failed at a short power blink in November - turns out it arrived with a mostly dead battery. Another round trip to Fry's. Annoying.

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#215749 - 01/27/11 11:48 AM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: Dagny]
Eugene Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 2938
Its normal for some brands of UPS, generator power is noisy and some are too sensitive and will never switch back to line.

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#215750 - 01/27/11 12:57 PM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: bws48]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3078
Quote:
Time for a new UPS or is this normal???


Your Generator is probably producing a Modified Sine Waveform rather than a pure 60Hz sine waveform power. Your UPS probably doesn't like all the additional power harmonics. Some devices such as computers, digital TVs, Hi-Fi's etc just don't like modified sine wave power although it sounds like the computer is able to handle the output from the generator although the computer PSU may eventually object as it overheats rejecting the spurious power harmonics. Some devices such as Kill-A-Watt meters really object (start to smolder) when connected to Modified Sine wave power.

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#215751 - 01/27/11 01:27 PM Re: DC Snow Turns Into Disastrous Situation [Re: Dagny]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 3078

Nearly Half a Million households without electricity is certainly a potential disaster especially with the long term forecasts predicting the cold weather to last until April. How long will it take to get all these homes and businesses connected back to the electricity grid as it seems many transformers have been damaged.

http://www.accuweather.com/video/90811342001/weak-storms-through-the-weeken.asp

A large metropolitan suburban area without electricity for a couple of weeks with very cold/stormy/wintry weather due in the next week could prove to be very trying for many especially without other heating and cooking resources.

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