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The standard shovel bitch

By M Davies   /     Jan 28, 2015  /     Annoyances, Wacky PA Weather  /     2 Comments

Snow in Northeast Pennsylvania.  It’s nothing new.  It happens every year.  I know this.  You know this.  Still it doesn’t get any easier.

 

On Saturday morning, we had our first major snowfall in NEPA.  The official measurement at my place of employment was 5.5″ of the evil white powder.  Unless you are filthy rich and pay someone to do it for you or use a blow torch, chances are you probably have to clear said evil white powder from something you own.  If not, consider yourself lucky.  Much like most of Microsoft’s software, snow is a necessary evil.

 

To give you a little background, the road that I live on is a private shared right of way, so unless someone plows it, the snow will sit there until spring.  Some days the neighbor that owns a quad/four-wheeler will plow it.  There’s also another neighbor who may be related to a person that drives a plow truck or something.  Anyway, once in a while, he’ll come by and do the road and offer to clear out driveways for a nominal price.  It’s worth the money if its a big accumulation and/or heavy snow.  I usually can make it down my road with no problems…it’s the roads from my house until I hit I-81 that worry me the most.  PennDOT seems to forget about Rtes 29 and 118.  They are usually a mess.

 

For that reason, I tried to hold off a little bit on the drive in on Saturday morning in hopes that a plow would come by my house.  Fat chance of that happening at 3:30am.  I would have felt guilty calling off, so I had no choice but to risk death and drive in.  I warmed up my car for a good 20 minutes while I shoveled a path from my house to my driveway.  I spent another 10 minutes clearing the snow from my car.  Once all of that was done, it was finally time to make the drive to Moosic.  A ride that would normally take me 40 minutes took me 90.  I didn’t get to work until 5:30am.  It was not a fun time for me, but the roads were mostly empty, so even if I did spin out it wouldn’t have mattered much.  The only tricky part was surprisingly Rte 309 and I-81.  People think they can still drive 75mph in poor conditions and gave me a damn near heart attack while trying to pass me.

 

Once I arrived at work, my nerves were shot, my arms ached and I was mentally exhausted.  No time to think about that because it was TIME TO SHOVEL AGAIN.  Ugh.  All told, I probably shoveled for 2 hours taking frequent breaks.  I think I burned up every calorie in my body.  By the end of the day I couldn’t move.  The next morning I ached all over like I was an 85 year old woman.  I am still not quite right.  I think I tweaked my back.  Last night I took a muscle relaxer to relieve some of the stiffness and it was the best sleep I’ve had in weeks.

 

I honestly don’t mind shoveling.  My husband always calls me a “Poconos Princess” because I spent the better half of my life growing up in Blakeslee.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  My Dad always made my brother and I work hard.  I shoveled coal, split and stacked wood, and shoveled snow.  The only thing he wouldn’t let me do was drive the tractor/cut grass because “I couldn’t drive in straight lines”.  To me, shoveling snow meant a day off of school.  Shoveling snow still takes me back to High School and having snow days.  Unfortunately now, it just means a lot of manual labor, messed up schedules and terrifying driving.  I miss the old days.

 

That brings me back to the original point of this post….what the hell is with “ergonomic” shovels?  I appreciate the thought of trying to make me more safe, but lets be real.  These are the fucking worst.  At work we have one of these bad boys:

ergonomic-snow-shovel

 

It was the only one I could find on Saturday morning and I have to say it is honestly the most awkward shovel I’ve ever used in my life.  I’ve used a lot of shovels….good and bad.  I can tell you for sure.  This is the worst.  It was so awkward to lift the snow and the snow kept sticking to the shovel.  I had to keep banging it off of stuff to get the snow off.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it doubled the length of my work.  I will never ever EVER buy one of these shovels.  They should all be melted down and recycled into something useful.

 

Like this shovel, for example:

 

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I own something similar to this shovel at home.  I bought it in Sam’s Club sometime in the mid 2000s and it’s held up good ever since.  It’s easy to handle, holds a lot of snow and as an added bonus, it has an ice chopper on the end.  The ice chopper especially came in handy during this ice storm.  I’m sure you remember it.  I know that I do.  I had to chop roughly 2 inches of ice from my sidewalk.  My wrist ached for weeks, but it got the job done.

 

We also have one of these at work (below).  It’s a good idea in theory, but it’s awkward to handle and heavy as all get out.  I’m not a fan.

pACE3-8715059enh-z8

 

 

I’ve used several of these standard issue models (below).  They flat out suck.  They don’t hold enough snow to be useful and they break down easily.  Maybe they are built more sturdy now then the last one I bought, but I doubt it.  Avoid if you can.

 

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I’d be curious to see how one of these works (below):

pACE3-8715078enh-z8

 

 

The next time it snows, I’m probably just going to bring my shovel from home.  BYOS.  I am not trying to be nasty, it’s just that I don’t want to spend any more time outside than I have to.  Fin.

 

Oh my god.  Did I just write an entire blog post about snow shovels?

Yes.  Yes I did.

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Cunning plans

By M Davies   /     Oct 25, 2012  /     Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

At the beginning of the month, the Weather Channel decided that it was going to start naming Winter Storms.  No really, I assure you it is a legitimate thing.  Click the linked text if you don’t believe me.  Here are the bullet points from the article:

 

Naming Winter Storms

Hurricanes and tropical storms have been given names since the 1940s. In the late 1800s, tropical systems near Australia were named as well. Weather systems, including winter storms, have been named in Europe since the 1950s.  Important dividends have resulted from attaching names to these storms:

  • Naming a storm raises awareness.
  • Attaching a name makes it much easier to follow a weather system’s progress.
  • A storm with a name takes on a personality all its own, which adds to awareness.
  • In today’s social media world, a name makes it much easier to reference in communication.
  • A named storm is easier to remember and refer to in the future.

 

I think they are missing one very important point.  IT IS A CASH COW.  I wouldn’t put it past the Weather Channel to start selling apparel that says “I survived Snowmageddon”, “The Valentine’s Day Storm is for Lovers”, and “Snowtober?  I just met her!”.  Here are the names for the upcoming season:

 

 

So here is my question in this whole scenario:  What happens if a named Hurricane somehow ends up being a huge snow event?  How does the naming convention of THAT work out?  You may think it’s a stupid question, but not really.  The National Weather Service out of Binghamton, NY is issuing warnings left and right about the potential for Hurricane/Tropical Storm Sandy to threaten the Mid-Atlantic and New England states early next week.  There will be a cold front that will also be trying to push through at the same time dropping temps to a level where snow is a very real possibility.  Do we start hyphenating storm names?  Or do named hurricanes automatically override the winter storm names?  Hyphenated names sound too much like lecturing a child…..“Sandy-Athena you march your butt down these steps and then out to sea right now Miss!”  I don’t think that the Weather Channel has thought their cunning plan all the way through.

 

 

Clearly, I need to chat with one of the meteorologists at work to get their input on this.

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Lee, a year later

By M Davies   /     Sep 07, 2012  /     NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

I wasn’t planning on writing a blog post on the Irene/Lee flooding, but I came across a TED Talk that sounded so familiar, I couldn’t help but to comment on it (embedded below for your viewing pleasure).  BTW, TED Talks = New Addiction.

 

 

I was fortunate enough to not experience any of the aftermath of the Irene/Lee flooding.  As you know from the previous post, I did have a 5 day long power outage after Irene, but I did not have to worry about flooding.  I have no idea what going through a flood must be like, so I really have no place commenting on it.  It looks completely terrible.  I can’t imagine losing worldly possessions in such a disaster.  I can’t imagine the damage, the smell, the cost, and the heartbreak.  All I know is throwing away 100 dollars in groceries and flushing toilets with water taken from a pipe along State Rte 29.

 

Just because I didn’t experience the disaster first hand did not mean I didn’t care.  I wanted to help.  I just didn’t know how.

 

One thing became obvious, people needed information about how to give and receive help.  Suddenly, an idea sparked with Karla Porter.  Why not setup a Facebook page to get information out there quickly?  And so the Wyoming Valley Flood 2011 Facebook page was born.  Harold, Karla, Jason Percival and I were all established as moderators on the page.  We soon grew to over 6500 likes.  People were sharing photos, information, asking for help and offering help at the rate of speed we could barely keep up with.  Both local news TV stations were overwhelmed and spread too thinly, so we figured this might be an additional way to help spread information.  It was a great resource for people for the most part.  However, we did run into issues with the rumor mill running rampant.  One particular instance I can think of was whether or not JJ Banko’s in West Nanticoke washed away.  There was a county rumor control hotline established to confirm or deny rumors, however, we quickly found out that they were getting their information from TV/Facebook and in some instances they were helping to spread misinformation.

 

Harold recounted the phone conversation recently on my Facebook wall:

 

Them: “Hi, this is Rumor Control.”
Me: “There’s a rumor out there that Banko’s has collapsed. I know it was surrounded by water, but can you confirm that it has collapsed?”
Them: “Yep, that’s what we’re hearing too!”

 

JJ Banko’s is still standing to this day, so this info was obviously not correct.

 

After the water receded, people needed help cleaning up, collecting supplies and getting their lives back to normal.  Two websites were established locally to help get information out and match up various items with people who needed them.  They are:

 

 

There were also other Facebook pages established for people in the surrounding counties to try to accomplish what we did with the Wyoming Valley Flood page.  I also created a link on NEPA Blogs that contained a bunch of information I collected from Facebook and the News about things people needed and other ways they could help out.  Updating the “Giving Help” post became a daily chore, because the status of the need for help and what could be provided changed hourly.  At one point, I think I was only sleeping a few hours because I was more concerned about updating that page and getting information out there.  My last update was on October 3rd.  I’m not sure how many people actually used it, but to this day “Giving Help” has been the one blog post that has received the most page views on the blog (2084 to be exact).

 

Looking back, what could we have done differently?  I don’t know.  I think it worked out pretty well.  We probably could have created a Twitter account to ReTweet important information.  Unlike the girls in the TED Talk video, Harold/Jason/Karla and I were widespread, and not on the front lines of any one recovery effort so it was hard to know exactly who needed what and where.  Karla did try to show the Facebook page setup to the Luzerne County EMA Director as potential way for getting information out the next time there is a disaster, but received no response to date.

 

As the girls from the TED Talk discovered, communities in major disasters need the right tools at the right time and put into the hands of the right people.  Their disaster recovery in a box solution “Recovers” could be valuable resource the next time around (and there will most certainly be a next time).  Are our community leaders investigating such solutions and looking at how to improve information sharing in a disaster?  I hope so.

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Hurricane Irene, 1 year later

By M Davies   /     Aug 31, 2012  /     NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

 

A year ago, I didn’t have electricity for an entire week.  Well technically 5 days, but it may as well have been an entire week.  Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but it was a big deal to me.  I live in the sticks, and my indoor plumbing (coming from a well) completely relies on electricity.  No electricity = No running water, no washing dishes or clothes, no flushing toilets, no drinking water, etc etc etc….  Maybe it wouldn’t have been as bad if we didn’t have 2 young children and pets, but we do.

 

You can read my posts about Irene here:  Post 1 | Post 2 | Preparing for the Next | Flickr Photoset

 

The local media had some good articles about Hurricane Irene this week.

 

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission recently released a report that contained some key findings I found of interest.

 

1.  It was soon apparent that there were major problems with the ability of the EDCs’ customer call centers to handle the high volume of calls on August 27 and 28, 2011.

Yep.

 

2.  While over 93% of customers out of service at the peak of the outages were restored within 72 hours, the remaining customers were not fully restored for 4 or more days.  As compared to similar storms from the EDCs’ recent histories (see page 27, below), full restoration for Irene appeared to take longer. Even if a day or two is removed from the restoration time, given that the tropical storm force winds lasted through much of the full day on August 28, 2011, the full restoration for Irene appeared to be extended.

Yep.

 

3.  All EDCs realized the potential of utilizing alternative communication methods such as text messaging, email, Twitter and Facebook to disseminate information and restoration estimates.

This one I have somewhat of a problem with.  How can Facebook, Twitter, Email, or Text Messaging be considered a primary form of communication when THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY?  The only way I was able to check any of those things was when I was at school, work or charging my cell phone from my car.  There needs to be another way.  I could not even try to buy a newspaper in the first few days because most local businesses were closed due to….YOU GUESSED IT….no electricity.  UGI’s answer was to have a public meeting nearly a week after the fact of the emergency.  Way to be timely, UGI.  I took this issue to their Facebook Wall.

(Click little picture for pop out)

I’d like to think that they understood what I was talking about, but I still sensed some thickness on their parts.

 

Anyway.  Here are the PUC’s recommendations:

 

Recommendations
Recommendation 1: EDCs need to improve their ability to handle high volume call periods during major outage events as well as implementing a procedure to prevent inaccurate or misleading restoration messaging during expected long-term outage events.

Recommendation 2: EDCs need to strengthen their relationships with local and county emergency management and elected officials.

Recommendation 3: The Commission and the industry should partner to study whether Pennsylvania is experiencing increased extreme/severe weather events. Particularly, more information is required on the recent long-term outages experienced by the EDCs: (1) Were the outages caused by the damage of the severe storms in more remote and hard-to-reach locations of circuits? or (2) Are these the same troublesome circuits that have experienced multiple long-term outages?

Recommendation 4: When performing major storm reviews, TUS should examine EDC crew movements not only for the external crews received, but also any internal crews moved outside of the affected EDCs service territories and whether it has a detrimental effect on restoration.

 

These are all common sense things.  I am particularly concerned about Recommendation #4, I seem to remember that several local crews were sent out of the area to help others further south with Irene.  I’m all for helping other areas, believe me, I am….however, don’t you think we could have used them, oh I don’t know, say locally?  Oh, if only I could have been a fly on the wall in that PUC meeting….

 

I also think that there should be a local radio channel that you could turn to for information in emergency situations.  I had the hand crank/battery operated going during the days with no electricity, and I could not find one channel with information that was remotely helpful to me.  TV or newspaper would have been helpful, but I had no access to either of those things.

 

One thing that did make me feel slightly better from reading the Citizen’s Voice article was the fact that the Back Mountain will be banding together in the event of another emergency.

 

“In the aftermath of Irene, Back Mountain Community Partnership members from Harveys Lake and Dallas, Jackson, Kingston, Lake and Lehman townships got together to form a regional emergency management agency, headquartered in the former Back Mountain Medical Center on Route 118 in Lehman Township. The goal is to provide a better response in the event of another tropical storm of Irene’s caliber.”

 

Lucky for us, we won’t be living through another Irene.  Her name was retired from the list of Atlantic Basin storm names back in April.   (Source:  NOAA)  She won’t be missed.

 

 

All that being said…..the generator arrives this week.

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We now interrupt this blog post, with a blog post

By M Davies   /     Feb 18, 2012  /     Hobby-ish, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

I haven't blogged in a few weeks, because I have been semi-busy.  I wouldn't say super crazy busy, like last semester, but busy none-the-less.  I am taking 2 classes at night this semester and I've determined that this semester is a "throw-away".  I did a quick calculation of the amount of classes I'll be missing vs. when I'll be present.  Yeahhhhhh….  When you miss 3-4 classes in a 16 week semester, you may as well call it a throw away – that's a whole month if the class meets once a week.

I will get back to the 2011 year in review, I promise, but I just wanted to share with you the amazing sunrise/fog and light from yesterday morning.  I started a new blog called "Sweet Valley Sunrises" where I upload a photo or two during sunrise if the weather cooperates.  This is the extended version of what was posted yesterday over at Sweet Valley Sunrises.  Enjoy!

(Click little picture to get bigger picture)

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The Mentor Becomes the Mentee (or….a tale of Geocaching)

By M Davies   /     Nov 21, 2011  /     Hobby-ish, NEPA, Wacky PA Weather  /     0 Comment

**WARNING, this blog post is highly link intensive, but I promise you won't be disappointed if you follow them**

Back in the day, when I was knee high to a grasshopper and an awkward teenager just trying to fit in….my mentor was already hard at work changing the world around him.  I have to start out this story by giving a little background first, otherwise the story would only be a shell and not make much sense.  Yes.  I have a mentor.  His name is Frank "Mike" Burnside, although I've been known to call him Sparky and Sideburns.  I give everyone I like nicknames….I don't know why.  I just do it.  Consider it a form of endearment.  Anyway….back to the story…

With one question in a staff meeting, the computing world of Northeastern Pennsylvania was forever changed…

"And then I said, “What about the Internet?”

And soon thereafter, epix Internet Services, one of Northeastern PA's first Internet Service Providers was born.  "epix" by the way, was an acronym.  Eastern Pennsylvania Internet eXchange.  In Mike's words: "Yes, I know, you have to spell exchange as “eXchange” to get the nice acronym “EPIX.”  Every company, at least every Internet company, needs an acronym, and what the hell kind of an acronym is “EPIE”?"  You can read the rest of the story of how NEPA's first ISP came to be here.  That is some history right there, folks.

I started working at epix Internet Services in the spring of 2000, Mike retired/resigned from his post shortly thereafter.  At that time, we were ships passing in the night.  A few years later, after finding a "cache" of Agnes photos from both sets of my Grandparents (which can be viewed here), I decided to create www.agnesinnepa.org, a website all about Agnes and its effects on Northeastern PA.  I'll be honest with you, I haven't really done much with the website in quite a few years.  I'm frustrated because I lost a lot of my archived files from the last format the website was in, which was the PHPNuke CMS.  Anyway, I decided that I needed a "project advisor" of sorts to help me oversee this latest endeavor, and who better to tap then someone who had strong ties to the Luzerne County Historical Society.  I sent Mike an email and soon after had a response, he was interested in helping me!  We exchanged several emails back and forth and eventually exchanged IMs.  The "Spark-ster" was awesome.  He had taken a bunch of photos during the Agnes Flood which he allowed me to scan and use on my website.  I still have a copy of them here.  At the time, he was a VP over at WVIA and allowed me to use footage from the documentary "Remembering Agnes" on my website.  I have screen caps of the movie here. If it wasn't for my little website and Mike's help, I would have never met author Lou Orfanella, and had my poetry and ugly mug published in/on one of his books

A few weeks ago, Trish Hartman from WNEP contacted me about my website and was looking for an angle I couldn't give her.  She wanted to interview someone who had lived through Agnes and the September 2011 floods and talk about the differences between the two.  Sadly, I was born at the tail end of of 1980.  I pointed her in the direction of Dr. Anthony Mussari, who had published the book "Appointment with Disaster", which was all about the lessons learned from Agnes.  I actually found a copy of this book on … I think Ebay … and snagged it up.  You can't find it around any more because it was published in 1974.  From what I gather, Trish setup an interview with Dr. Mussari for her piece.  I didn't get to see it because SOMEONE recorded the WBRE news that night instead of the WNEP news on the DVR.  As an aside, Dr. Mussari had a local human interest show on WBRE/WVIA called "Windsor Park Theater".  You can still view some of the archived episodes here.  He's also involved with the Agnes 1972 Anniversary project here.

Many people ask me what my fascination is with the Agnes floods and weather in general is.  I honestly don't know.  I've been a weather channel addict for as long as I can remember.  I would watch it 24×7 whenever I had the opportunity.  You literally had to pry me away from the TV.  My Grandmother had several books from the flood that she flipped through with me.  I was instantly amazed with the books and eventually found copies of both books that she had online…through EBay.  I have several books and a record from WILK about the flood and the river.  My stupid crappy website was actually mentioned in one of the books, if you can believe that.  [EDIT:  After making approximately 25 trips up and down the steps this evening to my bookshelves, I found the name of this book…it's called  "A Story Runs Through It; Wyoming Valley Levee System".  The Agnes In NEPA reference appears on page 6 in a foreward written by F. Charles Petrillo.]

Wow.  I didn't mean to really go that far off track with this blog post.  I really wanted to discuss Geocaching and how I accidentally introduced Mike to it.  I wish there was a more prolific story behind this.  "Mike, you introduced me to the Internet….now allow me to introduce you to geocaching….", but it didn't happen like that.  It was probably more like "Hey, check this out" as I spammed half of my AIM buddy list with the URL to the website.  Mike read up on it heavily and went to purchase a GPS.  Rich & I already owned a GPS and could easily go anytime we wanted.  What is Geocaching?  Well, the concept behind Geocaching is pretty simple, really.  Its basically an outdoor scavenger hunt in which you use a GPS to encode clues and hide and seek out containers called "caches" or "geocaches".  The cache is usually in a waterproof container, which contains a log book, and toys or other chotchkies.  You sign the logbook, take an item out of the cache and leave one behind.  Another thing I loved about it was the "cache in, trash out" concept.  Basically, as you look for the Geocache, you bring a garbage bag with you to collect any trash that may have accumulated in the wooded area that it is hidden.  Did I ever mention I was an environmental club nerd?  I highly recommend this as a hobby for anyone who is an outdoor enthusiast. 

What made me start to think about writing a blog post about this topic was actually Cheri Sundra's blog post about the Kirby Zoo ruins.  There's actually is (was???) a Geocache hidden there that I wanted to find.  After the flooding in September, I'm not sure that it would still be hidden…it may have been swept away as that area would have been completely inundated with water.  I've tried to seek out only 3 other caches.  I know….call me a slacker if you must.  One was located at the Tubs recreational area along 115.  That one was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.  I think Mike may have located it though.  Also, I've located a Geocache on Public Square with Mike and another in Francis Slocum park with Mike & Rich.  Here's a picture of us after finding it…

This was taken in my blonde hair days, ick poo.

There are two cemeteries that are located pretty close to my house that have Geocaches hidden.  I would love to take some time and try to find them.  One of these days when work and school aren't in the way, I'll try my hand at them.  I know Mike has already found the one in the Bronson cemetery….as a matter of fact, I think Mike has pretty much found every Geocache in this entire valley.  I think he's Geocache obsessed, and its all thanks to me.  I also introduced him to the Tubs and took part in a covert exchange (I still cannot remember the details around this, but I do still have the "IT" magic 8 ball that he gave to me that day). 

Switching gears back to meteorology for the moment….tomorrow I'm attending a SKYWARN Severe Weather Spotter training class somewhere in Lackawanna county.  I'm very excited about this.  I'm all geeked up and ready to go.  I really believe that I was not meant to sit at a cubicle troubleshooting stupid Microsoft Windows crap all day long.  I think that my calling was to become one in tune with the earth sciences…meteorology specifically, I hope its not too late and I haven't missed it. 

I wonder what good ole Sparky would have to say about it?

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