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Posts tagged ‘snow’

Snow Daze: A tale of freezing temperatures, heated mattress pads and karma. (Oh, and nuns.)

A beautiful walk in my winter wonderland. (In case you were wondering, at the time this picture was taken it was 82 degrees in Puerto Plata. Just saying'...)

A beautiful walk in my winter wonderland. (In case you were wondering, at the time this picture was taken it was 82 degrees in Puerto Plata. Just saying’…)

Not everyone has a nun in the family, but I do. My extended family affectionately calls her Aunt Sister due to the fact that she is (a) my aunt and (b) a sister – as in Franciscan Sister of Allegheny. But to me, she’s Aunt Kathleen.

A native New Yorker like the rest of the family, Aunt Kathleen has been stationed in St. Petersburg, Florida for the last thirty years or so. Where the tropical climate has thinned her blood to the point where any drop in temperature below eighty necessitates multiple layers of flannel and fleece.

Her semi-annual visits to the Stagnaro homestead always took place in the warmest months of the year. And who could blame her. Of course, here in Central New York it’s not uncommon for the temps to dip down to the 50’s (or lower) even in the middle of summer. As a result, when we were complaining about the heat wave, she’d be bundling up in all available layers. Then adding a blanket or two to for extra warmth.

Having grown up in Central New York, I found this hilarious. And I often poked fun at my dear Aunt for being ‘soft.’ After all, when you’re from the Frigid North, you don’t think it’s truly cold until it’s at least 20 below zero. (Fahrenheit.)

Now, of course, I regret that supercilious behavior. Especially since it’s come back to bite me in the buttinski.

A buttinski that is currently FREEZING, I might add.

Because as we all know, Karma is a bitch.

Of course, it’s my own fault. No one forced me to return to the Frigid North during one of the coldest months of the year – after spending most of 2014 in the Caribbean. I came up with that brilliant idea all on my own.

Who wouldn't brave freezing temperatures to spend Christmas with this lovely lady?

Who wouldn’t brave freezing temperatures to spend Christmas with this lovely lady?

When I told my friends in the Dominican Republic that I was heading north for three weeks to spend the Christmas holiday with Mumsy, they laughed. Then they laughed some more. When they finally came up for air, they suggested I reschedule my trip to late August.

They meant well, I knew. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider it for thirty seconds or so. But I already had my heart set on spending Christmas with Mumsy, not to mention her birthday which is on the 21st. I wasn’t about to let a little personal discomfort get in the way of that. Besides, I was FROM the Frigid North after all. It would take more than barely freezing temperatures to get me down.

If I had listened closely, I might have heard Karma laughing.

I started questioning my decision shortly after landing at JFK. My connection to Syracuse was delayed. And then delayed again. To make it worse, there was a draft by the gate that had my teeth chattering and I felt woefully underdressed for December in my jeans and light sweater.

I was distracted from the siren’s call of the overpriced I LOVE NEW YORK sweatshirts in the gate-side gift shop by a group of middle-aged tourists who sat next to me.

They were wearing shorts.

That’s when I realized it wasn’t quite as cold as I thought. Not the low teen’s as I had imagined, but rather a mild 45 degrees. Which didn’t bode well for the rest of my trip.

The weather channel was going on and on about Winter Storm Damon, the Nor’easter bearing down on the East Coast and I was convinced I was going to get stranded either at JFK or at the Syracuse airport. But the Travel Gods were smiling on me, and I guess they trump Karma once in awhile. Because at 11 p.m., only an hour and a half after I was originally supposed to arrive, my friend Mo was picking me up at the curb in Syracuse.

Mo is pretty awesome. Not only did she brave the freezing rain to come get me, but she also had the foresight to bring a warm coat, crank up the heat in her car AND turn on the seat warmer in the advance of my arrival.

Due to the late hour, we headed back to her place in Mexico. (Which, for those of you unfamiliar with New York State, is on Lake Ontario. And therefore, slightly colder than its namesake waaaaay to the south.) Bless her heart, she even had the heated mattress pad pre-heating in her guest room.

The plan was that she’d take me home in the morning, but Karma – under the guise of Winter Storm Damon – hit over night.

By mid-morning, a sizeable stretch of I-81 was closed. Once I heard that, I knew I didn’t have a chance of getting home that day. So, despite the fact that there was only about six inches on the ground outside of Mo’s cozy little cottage on the Little Salmon River, we resigned ourselves to being snowed in.

This is how Central New York says "Welcome Home." Did I mention it was 82 in Puerto Plata that day?

This is how Central New York says “Welcome Home.” Did I mention it was 82 in Puerto Plata that day?

Which wasn’t exactly a hardship. At least not for me. I can’t vouch for Mo, who had to play hostess for an extra day. And what a hostess she was! When the subject of food came up, there was no scrabbling to throw together a meal from canned goods. Mo simply dug into her freezer and the next thing I knew we were dining on bacon-wrapped filet and Cajun shrimp, paired with excellent red wine. With cheesecake for dessert.

I woke the next day to find snow still falling, but I-81 had been reopened so it was time to go home. Thanks to my little sojourn at Mo’s – and the storm – I was ready. After all, the frigid temperatures and cold wind are a lot easier to take when the world looks like someone has given a snow globe a good shake.

And when I finally walked in the door Thursday afternoon – roughly 48 hours after leaving the Dominican Republic — the warmth of my mother’s greeting made it all worth it.

The early Christmas present she had waiting for me didn’t hurt either: a heated mattress pad of my very own.

As I type this, it’s about 50 degrees colder outside than I’ve become accustomed to. But that’s okay. Because the world outside my frost-covered window looks like a winter wonderland and my mother’s jazzy holiday music is floating up the stairs.

I’m taking it in from where I sit, on my bed, tapping away on my laptop – all bundled up in one of my favorite Champion sweatshirts (circa 1995) with slipper socks on my feet and a fleece throw tucked in around me. And the heated mattress pad cranked up to its highest setting.

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, I can talk Mumsy into a Caribbean Christmas next year?

I find a little Dominican hot chocolate with a splash of kahlua is almost as effective as that heated mattress pad for keeping the cold at bay...

I find a little Dominican hot chocolate with a splash of kahlua is almost as effective as that heated mattress pad for keeping the cold at bay…

 

Six Winter Driving Tips (courtesy of the Chenango Traffic Safety Board)

One of my involvements is with the Chenango County Traffic Safety Board. The following article appeared in  the February 6, 2014 issue of The Evening Sun. It is the first in a series of articles we’ll be submitting in our efforts to promote traffic safety here in Chenango County and beyond.

So here we are, in the midst of one of the worst winters in recent years. And Punxsutawney Phil just saw his shadow.  Of course, any Central New Yorker worth their salt knows we’ll be lucky to have only six more weeks of winter. But with one major storm after another hitting our area, it seems like the perfect time for a few reminders about how to handle those snow-covered roads.

Tip #1: Clean off your car

Sounds like a no brainer, right? Except how many times do you see people driving with their windshield only partially cleared, and piles of snow on the roof. The fact of the matter is, it’s not just your visibility that’s at stake – although, that’s pretty important.

“They just don’t think of how much it’s a hazard to other people,” explained New York State Police Sergeant (Ret.) Elizabeth Wonka, who sits on Chenango County’s Traffic Safety Board.

According to Wonka, during her more than 30 years with the state police she saw multiple accidents – including one fatality – where snow (and in the case of the fatality, ice) left uncleared from a vehicle was a contributing factor.

So, for your sake as well as others on the road, take the extra time to thoroughly clear the snow and ice from not only your windshield, but the rest of your car as well.

Tip #2: Give our Highway crews the credit they deserve (and the space they need to do their jobs)

Every time a major city is crippled by a couple of measly inches of snow, Central New Yorkers chuckle to themselves. (No offense, Atlanta!) But what we should be doing is thanking our highway crews. Because without those state, county and local crews, we’d be in the same boat.

Here’s a few things you should know about snow plows, and the people who drive them.

  • There’s a reason they go slow. (And no, it’s not to make you late for work.)

According to retired Chenango County Highway Superintendent Randy Gibbon, who chairs the Chenango TSB, a plow should be traveling under 30 mph when applying sand or salt.

“That speed allows the material being applied to stay on the roadway and do its intended duty, bare the road surface and provide friction,” he explained.

  •  When you see a plow, pay attention and be prepared – even if it’s stopped.

“If a snowplow is pulled over at an intersection, it is probably trying to clear the snow or ice from that intersection,” said Gibbon. So be prepared for it to back up. Look for the driver’s signal regarding what you should do, and be prepared to stop if necessary.

  • Give them some space.

That snowplow driver is doing his best to make the road safer for all drivers. But he (or she) needs space to do their job.

“When you have a snowplow approaching on the other side of the roadway please slow down and safely pull over towards the right,” recommended Gibbons.

And let’s remember, they’re braving the same weather conditions as we are. (Actually worse, since they don’t have crews out there clearing the roads for them.)

Tip #3: Expect the unexpected

Winter driving is all about changing conditions. Drifting snow, snow squalls, black ice… all are things we need to be on the look out for, especially as the wind kicks up and temperatures start to drop. These hazardous conditions can easily take drivers by surprise, Wonka said, as they can exist even when roads are otherwise clear.

The best defense? A good offense, according to Wonka. Always be aware of the conditions around you and be prepared to adjust to them.

Tip #4: Slow Down

According to Wonka, if she were to give drivers only one piece of advice, it would be this: slow down.

“Many accidents are caused by people driving too fast for conditions,” she explained.

That doesn’t mean that the drivers in question were exceeding the speed limit, but rather they weren’t taking into account the fact that vehicles respond differently when the road surface is slippery or snow covered. Especially when you apply the brakes.

Take stopping distance, for example. It takes longer – both in distance and time – for your car to come to a stop. Therefore, you need to take your foot off the gas and start applying the break sooner than you would if the roads were clear and dry.

“Hard stops are more dangerous,” Wonka said, so you should avoid sudden breaking, and allow more space between you and the car in front of you.

Tip #5: Be prepared

Going on a trip or planning to drive in a storm? Wonka recommends keeping an emergency kit in your car. Food, water and a flashlight are some basics you should have with you, but you also want to think about staying warm.

“Dress warmly,” she said, or have an extra layer with you. And don’t forget a hat, gloves and boots in case you have to walk for help.

A full tank of gas is also a good idea, she added, both to avoid getting stranded and so that you can run the heater as needed.

And, when in doubt, consider…

Tip #6: Stay home

If you’re not comfortable driving in particular conditions, don’t.

“People find it embarrassing, but it shouldn’t be,” said Wonka. “It’s ok to stay home if you’re not comfortable driving.”

Looking for additional winter driving tips? Visit these helpful websites.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee

AAA Winter Driving Tips