Monday, March 4, 2013

Arctic Super Mega Storm (That Really Should be Called What It Is, A Hurricane)

National Weather Service Graphic*
It’s been an exciting couple of days around here.

On Thursday, word spread that we were about to get socked with a big storm. Oftentimes the forecasts for our area are not particularly reality-based, but this seemed worthy of attention. NOAA forecast sustained wind in the 40-50 mph range, with gusts up to 90 mph, and significant snow accumulation.

So we were not particularly surprised when school was called on Friday, though the weather at that point wasn’t particularly awful—just an overnight snow storm and some gusts. We were going to try for school Saturday, but woke up to find this:

Our front door (*after* Ivan had already knocked a lot of the snow off)

Note the snow ON THE CEILING. It's also piled several feet high in the nook to the right. Hope we don't have to get into our boiler room anytime soon!
The footprints at the botton kind of add scale. The drifts here were up to my thighs.
And this:
Solarium door. There's a drift behind this piled up several feet against the back of our house.

Solarium.** Table for scale-- probably 2.5 feet high?

And this.

School doors.
Window at school.
It was actually kind of funny—we’re so used to the sound of the wind that this didn’t even wake us up.

We spent Saturday morning digging ourselves and an elderly neighbor out, but didn’t stray much beyond our immediate neighborhood + school, which is very close. Fortunately, the snow was fairly light and powdery!

Sunday, we got out a bit more and saw the full impact of the storm. We were lucky to be somewhat sheltered, but some of the housing in the other neighborhood was covered in 8-12 foot drifts. Pickup trucks were absolutely buried, and one house had drifts to its roofline. There was also a good bit of new structural damage, including one solarium** that was ripped off an abandoned house. I’ll try to get some pictures over the next few days.

Fortunately, no one on our island was injured. Everyone pitched in to help dig out those who couldn’t, get heat working, and generally clean up. One of the things I love about living here is that sense of community and willingness to pitch in. If this storm had occurred in a more populated area, it would have been a media frenzy. Professional emergency managers and responders would have been busy for days if not weeks. Here? Dig out, help out, move on.

* Funny story: When I was trying to find the weather service pictures online, I googled "Aleutians" and "hurricane." Didn't find anything for this storm, but a lot of really high-pitched articles about a "MONSTER STORM" ... that happened January 16th. I'm fairly sure that we were in the middle of it, had school, and didn't really notice.

** If anyone is wondering why on earth military housing in the 2nd rainiest place in the United States had solaria... yeah, we wondered that too. Rumor has it that this batch of pre-fab housing was actually supposed to go to Hawaii, but got diverted to the island instead.


  1. Your last comment about military housing had me laughing. We're in it in South Carolina, so snow drifts... never. But hurricanes, that I can relate to! Good luck on weathering the storm.

  2. Yeah, the solarium jumped out at me too! Do you ever get a chance to use it?

    But [pedant mode on]it's not really a hurricane. It's a bit like saying a rottweiler is "really a wolf". They're both badass canines that can mess you up, but they're not the same thing.

    You can get rotating circular storms almost anywhere on Earth. Hurricanes and typhoons are just one sort. What hit you was probably a "polar low", which looks a lot like a hurricane but is smaller, native to high latitudes, and usually shorter-lived and not as powerful. (Note that "not as powerful as a hurricane" still leaves a lot of room for unpleasantness.)

    trivia: the spiral structure and cyclonic nature of hurricanes was deduced from observations in the early 20th century. But because polar lows are smaller, shorter-lived, and occur over less populated areas, their nature was not understood until satellite photos became available in the late 1960s. [/pedant]

    Doug M.


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