Winter in Seattle; come and gone

I’ve been meaning to wax poetic about Seattle’s epic 4 days of winter last week (yes, that’s right – winter lasts four whole days here) but am just finally getting the photos off my camera. Not that they’re anything to curl up by the fire with, but week-old news is at least slightly more interesting when there’s visual aids.

These are all from Monday night, the 27th, on my way home from work. It took me about 2 hours to travel the 11 miles from downtown, but I overheard people in my local grocery the next day claiming 5-6 hour commutes that fateful night. Granted, these may be the same people that caught a fish “this big” and are close “like this” with important Hollywood celebrities.

The whole thing was like a Bruce Willis movie, and I found it rather exciting and fun exercising some cunning and survival instincts and testing my knowledge of north Seattle’s backroads, all while “cut off from society” because the cell networks were too busy to be useful. I’m not sure many of my fellow travelers regarded the adventure with such enthusiasm, but (as Danielle and I keep reminding each other) what we regard with our Montana threshold for winter as the first decent snow of the season and a visible sign of the upcoming holidays must be for Seattlites who have never experienced it one of the seven signs of the apocalypse. The number of people who refused to leave their homes until the storm passed, who abandoned their cars on the freeway and didn’t return for them for days, and who bundled up their children and escorted them outside to snap pictures touching real, non-mall-Santa snow work to justify my exaggeration.

I toughed out the freeway long enough to cross the ship canal – there are only so many bridges, after all – before giving up on it. This may have been the 6-hour drive some people suffered:

I gave up on that mess at the first opportunity, putting my 4WD to work climbing into and out of a grassy median to the (relative) sanity of surface roads. Offramps were moving, but not much faster, so I still had plenty of time to look around, marvel at the ridiculousness of it all, and attempt artsy shots in between swaths of the wipers:

Highway 99 was working in my favor for a little while, until articulated city buses started repeatedly appearing in the ditch. In the first shot, notice how the rear tires are sliding as the driver guns the engine. This turned out to be not a great strategy (surprise!) as the rear end jack-knifed around a lightpole:

The news said 150 city bus drivers walked away their buses Monday, but local tv newscasters are *definitely* the kind of people that catch a fish “this big” so I’m assuming that number is more like 14.

I abandoned major thoroughfares at some point and turned down a side street I knew went all the way through; reference my knowledge of Seattle streets, as indicated above, which I feel confident in saying is above average even for lifetime residents. I guess I read maps, and I pay attention. Also, I drive around a lot. Anyway, tonight this shortcut was short-circuited by a FedEx-type truck sliding sideways down a narrow hill lined with parked cars. No place I wanted to be, thank you!

I don’t have any pictures after this, because this is when I got serious. 🙂 This was the last ten minutes of any good action movie, where the stuntmen take over and the bulk of the special effects budget is spent. There were shortcuts through shipping yards. There were parking-lot 4-wheel drifts. Curbs were scaled. Used-car lots were used as passageways. Hapless, dry-weather-optimized vehicles and their confused drivers were outmaneuvered. Ice, snow, slush, sleet – all were taunted for their ineffective attempt at keeping me from dinner.

In the end I rather enjoyed it, much like I imagine Chuck Norris enjoys standing victorious over a roomful of incapacitated masked assassins. Nevertheless, I opted to work from home Tuesday. After all, the sequel is never as good as the first one.

Disaster strikes while I’m at coffee

Actually, this whole story is about two weeks old. Photo from But considering the resulting infrastructure problems have kept the news coming slowly and that, of course, American news is not going to pay any attention to it unless there are some Americans involved to be featured in a sensationalized story, I’m not surprised that only yesterday am I finding out that it’s been more than just “a little rainy” in India as of late.

Some talented bloggers much more dedicated than me have been compiling links, photos Photo from Mid-day.comand stories of the people trying to survive more than three feet of rain that fell within 24 hours. For a comparison, that’s about the same amount of rain Seattle receives in a year. The Times of India, despite their apparently warped front page team,oil rig fire at Bombay High North, Photo from Jitendra Mohan have some skilled photographers out wading thru the waist-deep water in the streets, as does Rediff. In addition to widespread electricity and wireless network outages, fires have broken out – including on an oil rig off the Mumbai coast ravaged by the storm.

Here are some personal recollections that are much more engaging to read than the news articles:

    A two part story from Gaurav Sabnis.

    Sonia Faleiro was trapped first on an airplane, then in the airport, and recalls her adventure through Mumbai here and here.

    Ravikiran Rao gives his account, which made me laugh when he described how he and his colleague were still taking shelter under their umbrellas even though they were waist-deep in water.

    Rediff compiled stories of several Mumbaikars.

    A recounting by Amit Varma here mentions that something like this happens every year, but not nearly this drastic.

This has been the most extreme cloudburst on record in India for the last 100 years. The most striking thing – more than the insane weather or the devastating effects on the city – is the generousity – nay, heroism – of the people there. They are in it together, helping each other and surviving. I was reading A Streetcar Named Desire on the bus yesterday and one of Blanche’s lines comes to my mind. “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Nice to see there are still some kind strangers out there.

Snow in Seattle! (always a catastrophe)

“Snow day! Three inches on the ground downtown and the city has shut down. We always makes jokes about that, about how little it takes for Seattlites to throw in the towel in the face of winter weather. But we really do have a low threshold for winter. 😉 I’m watching news footage of the hundreds of people armed with sleds, snowboards, skiis, and whatever else they can find sliding down the counterbalance – a really steep part of Queen Anne Ave a few blocks north of the Space Needle. With schools closed, government agencies on holiday, the buses largely not running or not running very effectively, cab drivers headed home for the day, and even Starbucks locking up the doors, there’s not much reason to go outside anyway, and not much keeping people from playing in the streets in whatever neighborhood they can walk to.

My office, too, declared a company holiday and sent us home. Thinking ahead, i opted not to go in at all in anticipation of a much-appreciated snow day. Can lying in bed until 10am be considered good planning?

I spent a little time finding some good pics for ya. You can also check out my live webcam conglomerate page – not my cams, i just put them all one page. Most of the credit goes to the WA dept of transportation. Anyway, here’s some fun shots of Seattle’s snowy madness.

One of metro’s articulated buses has a little trouble with an onramp.

I’m glad this isn’t my car! Looks like somebody took out a lightpole and an Audi in one swoop. Yet another reason not to be parked downtown today. Course i’m not parking anywhere lately…

Here’s a sound transit bus stuck sideways on 4th Ave downtown in front of the new public library construction site – which is on hold today, as well.

A nice crosstown shot from Lake City area, framed in snowy evergreens.

Foggy view of downtown over I-5 near UW. Of note here is the middle lane, which is supposed to be the express lanes. Not much express about that!

Instead of being in school or at work, residents of Queen Anne are taking to the streets on whatever will slide down the hill.

Okay, that’s all i got for ya. Going to go work out, take a shower, and microwave something to eat. Enjoy the weather!