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Winter Storm 2014

I know this is nothing by the standards of any part of the country north of Tennessee or so, but it's hard to communicate just how freakish it is here. Normally the most severe wintry weather we get is a few days here and there slightly below freezing. Once, ca. 1996, there was enough snow in Mobile to cover the ground and stick for most of a day,  and against the stern instructions of the authorities, I drove several of my children over to see it. Now and then we get a bit of sleet or freezing rain. But I've been living in this area for 23 years and haven't seen anything remotely like this.

This was the view out the front door this morning. That looks like snow, but it's actually mostly sleet. It fell along with a little rain, so it was a bit slushy, and then it all froze hard overnight. Footprints don't show on it. The stepping stones are clear because I swept the sleet off last night while it was still falling, before it had a chance to harden. I did the same on the steps, and my wife found a box of ice cream salt which worked wonderfully for keeping the steps clear.

FrozenFrontYard

But the big news, and the sad news, in this picture is the dead leaves on that tree overhanging the front steps. That is our lemon tree. It should be green even in winter. The damage you see is from the similar cold snap of a couple of weeks ago, which involved no precipitation. We'll know in six weeks or so how bad the damage really is. But I think there are going to be no lemons this year. This is how it looked only six weeks or so ago.

OurLemons

[sniffle]

The beach is covered with ice, too. 

IcyBeach

On a slight slope, I could take a couple of running steps and have a nice slide, which was not very smart for a guy with a bad back, but fun.

I looked for ice along the edges of the water, because I wanted very much to be able to say that Mobile Bay is beginning to freeze over. But apart from a bit of frozen foam there really wasn't any. There was, however, some fresh frozen mullet.

FreshFrozenMullet

 

We watched the weather report on one of the local TV stations last night, which we rarely do, and it was very funny. Roving correspondents all over the area, trying to think of variations on "Look at the ice on that highway. Gosh, there's a lot of ice! Ice is slippery, don't drive on it. Look at all that ice!" And there was a funny scene of kids from quite young to college age "sledding" on plastic storage-bin lids and anything else they could find that was flat and big enough to sit on.

Oh, and my wife and I, like almost everyone else in the area, got an unexpected two days off work, which is why I have time to do this.


It's even cold here--I mean, not what natives consider cold, but something that people who live in actual cold places might admit is somewhat chilly, if they were out in the wind and not wearing heavy parkas and such.

But don't you love that phrase "polar vortex"?


W.E.B. Du Bois Would Have Loved This

Yes, as I was saying, our racial problems are serious. But this scene is a nice reminder of how much things have improved. It could not have taken place fifty years ago. 

Alan Sealls is a local meteorologist whom I call the prince of weathermen--he's tremendously knowledgeable, and has this infectious enthusiasm for the subject. You can tell he is just utterly fascinated by it, and he makes you feel that way. I rarely see him on TV, but he's one of a rotating series of weather commentators in the local paper, and I always read his pieces, because there's always something interesting in them beyond the forecast.


Storm-ravaged

My front yard, as of about fifteen minutes ago; the haze in the middle is a result of the lens fogging up when brought from the air-conditioned house to the very humid outdoors:

TropicalStormIsaac

So Isaac, having barely attained hurricane strength, has bypassed us and headed for Louisiana instead. Unless something changes drastically, this will prove to be a fairly mild event, even for those in its path, which seems to be quite a disappointment to the people at the Weather Channel, who give every appearance of cheering for the storm. We haven't even had more than a sprinkle of rain, and a few wind gusts.

And everyone is either laughing at or complaining  about the various officials who called for evacuations, shut down schools, and so forth. The college where I work is closed today and tomorrow, though I won't be surprised if they call the staff back. So I'm getting an unexpected day or two off. It appears a ridiculous panicky over-reaction, but in fairness to those who made the decisions it has to be said that you just never know what these storms will do. And better safe than sorry is usually a good policy. Anyway, I'm not complaining.


Sunday Night Journal — August 26, 2012

Waiting for the Hurricane

This will be brief, as I've been busy most of the day making preparations for Tropical Storm Isaac, which is expected to be Hurricane Isaac by the time it makes landfall somewhere along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The tropics have been pretty quiet since Hurricane Katrina in 2005--it's hard to believe that's seven years ago now--and we had gotten complacent. Even if these storms end up being relatively mild, they still produce a lot of anxiety, and it's a lot of trouble to get ready for them. You need to move things like patio furniture inside, or tie them down, so they don't end up coming through your window. Lots of people board their windows, but we're going to skip that this time. I hope we don't regret it. We're pretty protected from the wind here, and I always figure the biggest risk is of a tree falling on the house. Hurricane Katrina did send water up to the house, but fortunately not further, so we didn't get flooded. It would have to be a pretty extreme storm for our house to flood or be damaged by a surge, and at this point Isaac isn't expected to be one of those.

Here are a few hurricane-related posts from that period in 2004-2005 when we had Ivan and Katrina and several smaller storms:  Sunday Night Comes On a Tuesday Morning This Week, about waiting for Ivan. You Can't, In Fact, Always Get What You Want, written while waiting for Dennis, which preceded Katrina by six weeks or so. Then, a few weeks later, Not So Calm Before the Storm, written the night before Katrina. And Uneasy In the Aftermath, after Katrina.

I can't find it now, but I'm pretty sure I had a post at some point about how unprepared we were for one of the storms, and how bad it would have been if the storm had not turned out to be relatively mild, and how we had learned our lesson and would be prepared with food, water, flashlight batteries, etc. etc. for the next one. Well, that didn't last. But at least we no longer have the filing cabinets full of family records and important things like insurance policies in the part of the house that's on the side closer to the bay and four feet lower than the rest.

Truffaut: Day for Night

I watched this last weekend. I don't really know much of Truffaut's work. Jules and Jim was a staple of art film screenings in the 1960s, and I think I may have seen it twice. I liked it. I think I may have seen The 400 Blows back then as well, but can't remember for sure, so obviously it didn't make a lasting impression on me if I did. And I saw Stolen Kisses when it was in theaters in the late '60s--yes, there was a theater in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that showed the occasional artsy or foreign film. I remember liking it a good deal, though I don't remember anything specific from it. I recorded it off Turner Classic Movies a few weeks ago and will be watching it sometime soon (if the house doesn't get destroyed by a hurricane). 

Day for Night is apparently considered one of Truffaut's best. It's a movie-about-a-movie, or rather about making a movie, which didn't produce great expectations in me. I've seen 8 1/2 and another Fellini film about movie-making of which I can't remember the name right now. I was unenthusiastic about both. I suppose I'll have to watch 8 1/2 again sometime, since so many critics regard it as a masterpiece, but am in no hurry.

I like Day for Night considerably more than either. It's an engaging and charming work, though it doesn't touch great depths. There's a kind of sweetness about it, a gentle touch: you feel that the director likes his characters, and wants them to be happy. And though they pass through a number of tribulations in the process of making the movie, they come out reasonably well in the end.

Jacqueline Bisset plays Julie Miller, an American actress recruited for the title role of the film-within-the-film, Meet Pamela. Before she arrives, she's described as fragile, having recently suffered a breakdown of sorts. And "fragile" is just what she seems. I didn't know much about her; beyond recognizing her name I can't remember whether I'd seen her in anything else. I was impressed. Truffaut himself plays the much-harassed director. 

I hate to sound like I'm damning with faint praise, because I really did enjoy it, perhaps the more because I wasn't necessarily expecting to.  But although I can recommend it, I can't muster a really passionate recommendation. I suppose it takes something either very big and serious, or very funny, to get that kind of reaction from me. 

 

 

 


Freezing

Well, not exactly. But it's strange: much of the country is enduring a crushing heat wave, while down here almost in the tropics we're having a more pleasant than usual summer. So far, anyway--I don't expect it to last. Roughly the northwest quadrant of the country has been having temperatures in the range of 100F/38C or more. But ours have not much topped 90F/32C during the hottest part of the day, and once the sun gets low in the afternoon we drop down to 85/29. It's nice. For us, for this time of year, that's cool and refreshing.

Of course some people are trying to make global warming climate change arguments out of this, but I don't think that has much to do with it, since the non-hysterical voices in that debate seem to be talking about a rise of a degree or two (Celsius) over a number of decades. Anyway, there's no such thing as a normal year.

Update: Monday morning temperature: 73F/23C. Slightly lower than the thermostat setting. Frequently at this time of year the temperature doesn't get much lower than 80/26 even at night.