Tag Archive | Weather

Tuesday Tidbits 10/18/2020: Tornadoes, voting, scrub jays, and more

I originally started this post as a Weekend Update on Sunday morning. And various things conspired to interrupt me and get me working on other things, which is fine. So then I figured on Monday I could finish it up and queue it as a Tuesday Tidbits… and between a very stressful work day where I didn’t stop for a real lunch and I worked late, and then I just didn’t want to put words in sentences… and then Tuesday I woke up with a horrific sinus headache. Wound up having to take a couple breaks from work that involved naps, and didn’t finish until late and here we are.

So, not a usual Weekend Update nor Tuesday Tidbits, but a weird bit of this and that. Note that I’m going to list news that should not cause anxiety or outrage first, and give a warning so you can stop reading once I get to the outrage-inducing stuff.

First, some local stuff: WEST SEATTLE BIRDS: 8 views. The blog that link to this collection of photos of birds people have taken in Seattle mentioned that the most exotic bird the blogger has seen out the window of his Seattle apartment were scrub jays. And I was certain that scrub jays weren’t found this far north, but a quick search of the web turned up an article from two years ago about how the California Scrub Jay’s range used to only extend into Oregon, but thanks to climate change they are now living as far north as here.

Two days later, I saw a Scrub Jay on my own bird feeder. The only jays I’d ever seen here before were Stellar’s Jays.

Lightning knocks Washington state ferry out of service.

EF-1 tornado knocks down trees in Grays Harbor County, NWS confirm.

I grew up in tornado country, which also meant lots and lots of thunderstorms. One of the things I loved about living in the Pacific Northwest is that we used to almost never get thunderstorms and certainly not tornadoes. Thank you climate change?

We’re 9 days past National Coming Out Day, but I like this story. ABC News’ James Longman on coming out: ‘I could never imagine then the life I have now’.

Denver is sending mental health experts instead of cops in response to nonviolent calls. This is what we mean by defunding the police: taking tasks which should never have been given to police in the first place and instead sending people trained to deal with it.

Billy Porter Says To ‘Get Your Little Asses to The Polls!’. Vote like your life depends on it! (Because a lot of lived do depend on it!)

If you don’t want to be outraged, stop reading now!

Here’s a cut picture of a kitten with a pumpkin. Don’t scroll past it and you’ll be fine.

Black kitten with white paws plays on a hay bale near a jack o lantern for Halloween

So, about the other kinds of news…

As Virus Spread, Reports of Trump Administration’s Private Briefings Fueled Sell-Off – A hedge fund consultant’s summary of private presentations by White House economic advisers fanned investor worries. We all suspected this, but now we have the proof. While they were lying to us, they were warning their rich friends so that could cut their losses.

Calls intensify for resignation of Michigan sheriff who shared stage with militia. I bet if we looked hard enough we could even find some things to prosecute him for related to this…

Trump Has Previously Unknown Bank Account In China. You don’t say…

Tiffany Trump holds trainwreck LGBTQ event for dad’s reelection: ‘Prior to politics, he supported gays’. Best description of the speech: “She’s like a drunk, malfunctioning robot.” Also, this big supposedly pro-gay event? Had only a dozen attendees…

‘Proud Boys’ Send Threatening Emails To FL Dems – Emails sent from the “Proud Boys” to Florida Democrats, telling them to vote for Trump “or we will come after you,” are being investigated by the FBI and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office. Yeah, that’s really something to be proud of…

Surviving the massive smoke plume, or the ninth plague of 2020

“I don't need an inspirational quote. What I need is a freaking cup of coffee.”

Words to live by…

I kept not finishing this post, nor two others regarding sci fi topics. I have resolved to do better this week! You may be aware of the fact that week before last wildfire smoke from California came to the Seattle region via the jetstream. Slowly our air quality went from Good to Moderate to Unhealthy for Sensitive Individuals. Than Saturday before last the air flow below the jetstream also shifted, and we got smoke from Oregon as well as more from California. The air quality went through stages of Unhealthy for Everyone, Very Unhealthy, and Hazardous for a bit over a week.

Meanwhile, only a few hundred miles south of us (where some friends and relatives live) the air quality was frequently “too bad for the sensors to measure.” So I was also feeling a lot of anxiety about their safety.

Despite closing up the house and changing the hepa filters in the air cleaners, I started coughing eight days ago (and had almost constant headaches and itchy eyes). After calling my doctor to verify that the inhaler he has me keep around for when I get bronchitis was okay to try to use for this, I began using it. I’m only supposed to use it four times a day, and each time it gave me relief from the coughing for about an hour at a time. Which isn’t much out of the day, but better than nothing.

My husband had headaches and a little bit of coughing during the same period, but nowhere near as bad as the symptoms I had. I blame past me. While I quit smoking 27 years ago, I did smoke for a number of years (which is why I tend to get bronchitis so often), whereas he never did. So I suspect part of the reason I reacted so badly is the damage done to my lungs back when I was a smoker.

It was not fun keeping all the doors and windows closed as much as possible, as things got uncomfortably warm and stuff on several days.

The good news is that we finally got real rain over both our state and Oregon for the last two and a half days. The Air Quality Index starting Saturday morning was all the way down in the Good range! I still have a bit of a cough but things are definitely improving.

Unfortunately, wildfires are still burning in Washington, Oregon, and California (not to mention many other parts of the world), so I’m not sure how long we’ll keep having good air quality.

In other news, I have a significant birthday coming up, and we have toyed with trying to do a virtual party, Unfortunately I don’t have a guarantee at this point that I won’t be called in to work despite having requested time off months ago because I’m the only Tech Writer that hasn’t quit, been laid off, or retired over the last few years in the entire division, and we have software releases this week.

I’m also still reeling from the news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That has really done a number on my mood.

Still, we have to keep resisting, right?

Hey, y’all, it’s fall!

Yesterday was the autumnal equinox, which means that in the northern hemisphere summer is over, and fall is here! I love fall. I sometimes have described fall as my favorite season. Though I have also said that here in western Washington state we have only two seasons—Rainy and Road Construction. And I’ve also joked about Decorating Season. Regardless, I really enjoy the fall. I don’t deal well with hot weather, so even when we have a slightly milder summer as we did this year, I’m always super happy when the weather people start saying things like we aren’t likely to break 80º F this year. Besides the cooler temperatures, this also means that it starts raining more regularly, and I love the rain.

Fall means more than just a change in the weather. Until well into my twenties, fall also meant the beginning of a new school year. And while as a child the restarting of school meant dealing with bullies, it also meant new text books and new teachers. And I’m a big book-loving nerd who enjoys learning new things. So the arrival of autumn makes me think about new project, or gives me inspiration to work harder on unfinished stories and the like.

Fall is also the kick-off of Decorating Season, as mentioned above. I don’t do quite as much elaborate decorations for the various holidays as I used to, but I have hung up a glittery Happy Harvest thing on the front door, and I have a bunch of window clings of autumn leaves and pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns and black cats. So spooky things will be going up in the next few days. Then after Halloween I’ll swap out for more generic harvest and Thanksgiving stuff.

Which means that Christmas isn’t far around the corner. Which means I need to start doing a better job finding presents for people on my list!

But for now, I’m just happy that it’s finally Fall!

“Hello Autumn”

“Hello Autumn”

Definitely did not dodge the snow and ice

It may not look like a lot, but…

New residents to the Seattle area always get amused when snow is in the forecast. Native Seattlites and long-term residents leave work early, make grocery store runs, and prepare for the worst at any forecast of more than a dusting of snow. “It’s only 2/4/6 inches!” these recent arrivals shout. “You guys are really overreacting.” If those people still live here the following winter, they do not repeat that folly. I grew up in the central Rocky Mountain region, where temperatures of -25ºF were common, where snow was deep enough most Octobers that you had to wear snow boots and a heavy coat to go trick-or-treating as a child, and so forth. So I thought I knew all about snow and cold weather. As a teen-ager when we first moved to western Washington I didn’t get it either.

There are several reasons it is different. First, we just don’t get that much snow here, at all. Maintaining large fleets of snowploughs that only get used about once every three years just doesn’t make sense for most city and county governments. We have plows, but most are the kind that can be attached to generic utility trucks. So they aren’t quick to deploy, and the drivers don’t get much practice most years.

A related issue is that usually we just don’t get that cold. The ground (and especially the asphalt on roads) stays much warmer throughout the winter than at other places. That means that if we get more than a dusting, the first bunch of snowfall immediately melts when it hits the roadway, but then as more snow falls, the asphalt gets cold enough that that melted snow turns into a sheet of ice. Which more snow is falling onto. Anyone who has lived in places that get lots of snow and has driven on it should know that there is a big difference between driving on snow and driving on ice hiding under snow.

Then there is geography. It’s very hilly here. Really hilly. And again because we don’t get freezing weather and snow often, people build houses on hills that in other parts of the country no sane person would. Several of the small towns I lived in back in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Nebraska had one or two stretches of road on steep hills. Those roads never had houses or businesses along them, and every winter the city would put up big roadblocks to completely block that section of road until spring. It was a convenient short route during the summer, but the rest of the time it was closed because it is too steep to drive on safely with snow. About 80% of the roads in Seattle are as steep as the hills that used to get blocked off every winter in those small towns.

All of those hills and the many bodies of water mean that we have microclimates. My favorite example was back when I lived near the ship canal. One day I needed to walk up to a friend’s house that was a mere six blocks from my place. Six blocks up a steep hill. It was very cold and raining hard at my place, down at the bottom of the hill, and it looked like a fog bank was engulfing the hill. I started walking. About half way up, I hit the “fog bank” which was actually snow. There was almost an inch of snow at my friend’s place, and it had been snowing for a couple of hours (so she was surprised I had shown up). I picked up the stuff I was supposed to collect and walked back down the hill. It was still raining hard with no sign of snow there, just six blocks away. So you may leave your house one morning thinking you only have rain to deal with on a short drive, and suddenly find yourself slipping and sliding on ice and slush. Probably sliding backward, because you were going uphill…

Because of the microclimates and how easy a very slight shift in the upper atmosphere can flip us between snow, rain, sleet, or freezing rain, we occasionally get situations where the ground and sidewalks are covered in deep mixtures of snow, ice and slush. That is extremely hard to walk on, and your clothes get soaked with barely-not-freezing water. So even if you try to avoid driving, it can be an ordeal just to walk to a nearby store or to get to the nearest bus stop or light rail station.

The sidewalks are particularly bad because while it is the responsibility of property owners to shovel the walks, most people don’t own snow shovels (cf. above mention that we only get significant snow about once every three years)—one of the local news blogs shared a video earlier this week someone posted online of a neighbor shoveling snow using a Swiffer (indoor mopping gadget). When you combine that with how many stretches of sidewalk go past large apartment buildings (whose owners are just as unlikely as individual home owners to own a snow shovel) and how many stretches of road go past green strips and other public property which doesn’t get shoveled (or in my end of the region, how many neighborhoods don’t have sidewalks at all), well, it’s just a mess.

This year’s event has been a combination of several of our worst problems. The first big snowfall a bit over a week ago turned into sheets of ice with snow on top. Arterials were plowed and de-iced, but more snow kept coming, and sides streets all over the region remained icy slip-and-slides of doom. And more snow keeps coming. We get a break and people go out and try to shovel their drives and sidewalks…. and then it snows again. Then we got the rain/snow mix that put heavy ice on power lines and tree branches resulting in 90,000 households (including us) being without most of the night.

For some perspective: in the last 10 days we’ve had 8 times more snow than Boston has all winter. We are already the snowiest February recorded in the area in 35 years. Seatac Airport has broken a record for most snow in a single day set in 1949.

And we don’t know if it is over. Things are melting a bit today. It’s supposed to be much warmer tomorrow, which will cause more melting (at which point more trees will fall as the ground on all those hills I mentioned above turns to mud) and we may get a bit of flooding some places. Then another cold air mass looks to be moving in late Wednesday night, meaning all those wet street will turn to ice again just in time for the Thursday commute… and another wet air mass is coming toward us from the south hitting either late Thursday or early Friday. That might mean more snow. It might mean rain. It might mean freezing rain. It is likely going to mean all three just depending on where you are.

So, fun?

We couldn’t dodge the snow and ice forever, I guess

The snow started coming down earlier than forecast.

While a whole lot of the continent was experiencing freakishly cold tempts thanks to the polar vortex, Seattle had the warmest January on record (after a warmer-than-average but not record-breaking December_. It was freaky. Three of my fuchsias on the veranda was still putting out new blooms in late December, and one of there was still doing so in late January. We had high pollen counts at the end of January that forced me to take the maximum dose of my prescription allergy medicine. It was looking like this was going to be one of those mild Seattle winters where I never got to take a break from the prescription medication at all. I mean, most years I have to take the meds for about 10 months out of the year (and I get so tired of explaining to people that yes, you can have hay fever in November—that’s peak mushroom and toadstool season!).

Then last week the local meteorology professor whose blog I read all the time explained how we might be seeing snow by Sunday, and why even though normally you can’t trust forecasts more than four days out, it was a near certainty that all this week we would have freezing weather.

The last in depth forecast I read on Saturday said that we would get snow, but likely no more than an inch of accumulation. And, because of that warmer than usual December and January, the ground was warmer than usual, so the roads and highways would almost certainly be fine Monday.

Whoops!

The forecast had also said that the snow wouldn’t hit our section of the state until nearly sundown on Sunday. So when I looked out the window Sunday afternoon as I was checking on my Superbowl Chili before 1pm and saw that snow was coming down, I was a bit freaked out.

By sundown Sunday there was more than two inches accumulated outside our place, and the snow was still coming down. Overnight lows were “only” in the low 20s Farenheit, but our power went out at about 5:30 in the morning, and by the time the sun was up enough for me to see outside, it was clear we had more than 5 inches of accumulation. All of the schools in the county closed for the day. The highway patrol as well as the state and city departments of transportation was urging everyone that could avoid driving at all to stay off the roads. It was quite icy.

Our power was restored before noon, which was nice. Because it was getting very windy in the early evening Sunday, I made an extra pot of coffee, because I figured a power outage was more than just possible. So one of the upsides to my morning was that I had coffee to drink while I was getting ready for work. It was cold coffee, but it was coffee. As I checked in at work (thank goodness for full charges on the phone and iPad) pretty much all of my co-workers were staying home either because of the roads or because their kids were home from school.

Another upside to all of this were birds at the bird feeder!

I have written before about how, when an immature Cooper’s Hawk started hanging out on my veranda we went from frequently having crowds of one to two dozen sparrows, chickadees, and juncos at our bird feeder, pecking at seeds that get scattered on the deck by the birds pecking at the feeder, or just hanging out in lines waiting for spots to open up on the feeder to me only very occasionally seeing pairs of birds arrive together, most of the time only willing to peck for seeds on the deck down where they could easily hide behind/between my planters and such.

Well, Sunday afternoon as the snow filled the sky, suddenly I had between four and eight little bird out there at a time. That day they were still doing the buddy system I had noticed before: one will peck for seeds either on the deck or the feeder, while the other perches on a tree branch or in one of my larger lavenders and keep an eye peeled; then they trade places after a couple of minutes. So it was all pairs coming to the veranda, and half of each pair would eat while the other kept watch.

I haven’t seen any sign of the hawk since about a week after Thanksgiving. Since about half of all Cooper’s Hawks migrate, it is possible that she was only in our region for about a month while slowly moving south. It’s also possible that the area (since we are in a city, despite the huge numbers of trees all around) simply didn’t have enough prey to support her long term and she moved elsewhere once our neighborhood was hunted out.

Anyway, since I was home today, and in was a day with lots of conference calls (again, thank goodness for phones with good battery life!) I got to watch the feeder. There is a lot of snow on the deck. So even though I spread a lot of extra seed Sunday afternoon once I realized the cold was driving the birds to be less cautious (I also re-filled the feeder), their only real source of food at there was the feeder itself. And the buddy system doesn’t seem to be quite as much an imperative for them.

Standing very still for many minutes back away from the window, using the zoom, I eventually managed to get a picture with more than one bird in it.

They are very skittish, and every time I tried to ease myself slowly to the window to get pictures, they scattered. I eventually managed to get a picture with two birds at the feeder and one visible on the deck below them. The little birds are so light, they don’t sink into the 4+ inches of snow on the deck!

My boss had been trying to get everyone in the department, even folks that usually work from home full time, to come in for a long whiteboarding/planning session for Tuesday. But when the places she tried to order lunch from all pointed out their delivery was iffy, given how icy the roads are expected to be (and the possibility that many schools would still be closed), she started messaging all of us about rescheduling. Her Wednesday, unfortunately, is completely booked with back-to-back management and cross-department status meetings (and since I’m one of the few other members of our group who also works on every single project {being the only technical writer}, I’m in half of those, too), so the earliest we could reschedule is Thursday. Except all the forecasts are saying (beside the temperatures not getting above freezing the rest of the week) that there will be more snow, and possible worse snow, come Thursday… well, it became obvious we need to do the meeting Tuesday, we’re just going to all be doing it remotely.

Which I’m quite happy about, because the only time I’ve been able to make my feet feel anything other than frozen since this thing started is when I’m under the electric blanket. So I really do not want to spend any time standing on frozen sidewalks waiting for a bus!

More confessions of a guy who likes the rain

Picture of a person under an umbrella in heavy rain, labeled Tourists. Below, a man stands in the rain, head tilted up, eyes closed, labeled True Washingtonians.

(Click to embiggen)

Thursday evening, as I was turning out lights and otherwise getting ready to climb into bed, rain started pounding the roof, hard. It had probably been raining for awhile, but I hadn’t noticed the sound until then. We’ve been getting a lot of drizzly days the last couple of weeks, but this was the first time in a long, long time that I’d heard that kind of really hard rain. So I pulled on my slippers and a shirt (since I was just wearing my fleece Seahawks shorts and ankle socks), went out on the veranda, stepped up to the rail, and held out my arms to let the rain fall on my for a few minutes.

It was the first time that evening that I had felt good.

I didn’t realize that I was sick on Thursday until about an hour after getting home from work, when the cough started. I have hay fever for at least ten months of the year, and weather transition periods are one of the times that my symptoms get really bad. And the previous two weeks, while we had had some drizzle and scattered showers with temperatures in the 60s, we’d also had at least one day each week when clouds all vanished and the temp edged up passed 80. So lots of transitions.

My hay fever almost never includes coughing. Congestion, sinus headache, sometimes achey/itchy eyes, and yes lots of sneezing, but not coughing. And if the hay fever has been severe for a few days in a row, I also start feeling really run down.

So all day Thursday I had felt like I had no energy, I had to work hard to stay focused on tasks at work (it was one of the few times I was glad that I had nearly half the day in meetings). My sinuses were very painful to the point that my throat was feeling it. I was in denial that it was an actual cold right up until that cough.

And a funny thing about when I’m in denial that I’m sick: the moment I admit that maybe it might not be hay fever, I notice that every symptom I have is worse. It’s like the denial sets up a dampener that cuts out half the pain signals coming in? I realized that in addition to the coughing, my throat was more acutely sore than I had thought, and my sinus headache was worse, et cetera.

I took some cold meds right away, but the coughing kept going, and it seemed like each coughing fit made my whole body more miserable.

So that moment of standing in the rain and really, really enjoying it was great.

Friday had already been scheduled as a work from home day, so I hunkered down with coffee and tea and got through it. We had to cancel weekend plans with friends—not just because I was miserable, but also because we don’t want to infect anyone. The two times that I had to leave the house, I wore a mask and did a handwash before leaving the house. I already had a doctor appointment scheduled for Tuesday morning where (along with periodic blood work) I was supposed to get my flu shot, so I figured if the cold hadn’t begun to get better by then, I’d see what the doctor thought.

He doesn’t think I have the flu, but I do have an upper respiratory infection. So! Antibiotics for me!

At several points during the weekend I took comfort in opening the windows so I can hear the rain coming down. I started having the chills on Saturday, so I haven’t been going out on the veranda except briefly to refill the bird feeder, but I can hear the rain just fine with the windows open, and even feel the cool, moist rainy breeze on my face occasionally.

I love Seattle weather when it’s rainy or just cool and overcast.

I love it so much that I get cranky at people complaining about the weather when it arrives in the fall, or when it lingers into June. I try not to say disparaging things to them when it comes up, because I have been know to gripe and whine about the heat during the seven-ish weeks of real summer weather we get most years. But in my head I think of the folks who gripe about our weather as anti-rain trolls—particularly the ones who wax rhapsodic about the great hiking trails or the beautiful mountains that they love to ski or snowboard on.

All that snow? It’s what happens to the rain storms after they pass over us and get to the mountains. All those gorgeous hiking trails? There’s a reason we call most of the forested area of the Olympic Pennisula a rain forest. Yeah, we have pine trees (and other conifers) instead of a tropical plants, but it’s still a rain forest and all those lovely hiking trails wouldn’t exist if we didn’t have all the rain.

So, welcome to one of my favorite times of year! Let me enjoy the rain in peace. I’ll try to whine less about being sick. And I will continue to try to keep my griping about the heat each summer to a minimum. Deal?

Weekend Update 9/15/2018: Disasters

The Hawaii Department of Transportation reports flooding and debris left by Hurricane Olivia have blocked the  Hana Highway near Hana on the island of Maui. (Hawaii Department of Transportation via AP)

The Hawaii Department of Transportation reports flooding and debris left by Hurricane Olivia have blocked the Hana Highway near Hana on the island of Maui. (Hawaii Department of Transportation via AP)

Horrible weather is lashing the southeastern coast of the nation, but that’s not the only place in the U.S. where hurricanes are causing trouble. A few days ago Hawaii was dealing with a hurricane, but you sure couldn’t tell it from the national news: Olivia fades away from Hawaii, but its moisture still tormenting Hawaiian isles. And that’s not the first hurricane to hit Hawaii this within the last four weeks: Hawaii Begins Massive Cleanup from Hurricane Lane. Again, something the big media outlets barely covered.

© 2018 Ed Hall (click to embiggen)

© 2018 Ed Hall (click to embiggen)

And let’s not forget that a year ago Puerto Rico, which is also part of the United States, was devastated by a hurricane: We Must Push for Better in Puerto Rico Because President Trump Simply Doesn’t Care and Puerto Rico’s road to recovery. And Trump lied about Puerto Rico’s death toll after Hurricane Maria and Trump’s Psychotic Puerto Rico Tweets Erase Human Beings From Existence for Political Gain.

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of news about hurricane Florence, and it is a big deal. People are in danger. It is important: Tropical Storm Florence crawls inland as it batters North and South Carolina and Florence: At least five dead, nearly 1 million without power as storm swamps Carolinas. But even Florence has a political angle: Trump Made It Clear to Virginia That Blue States Now Get Treated Like the Brown People of Puerto Rico:

Virginia’s entire Congressional delegation begged Trump to issue a federal emergency declaration for Virginia, which [as of Tuesday, when this story was publish was] more exposed to the destructive force of the monster hurricane Florence than North Carolina, and is likely to be hit as hard as South Carolina. But initially, Trump only offered emergency declarations for North and South Carolina. He completely ignored Virginia. For many, this omission looked very political. Virginia is now a blue state, as Trump very well knows. By excluding Virginia up until just [Tuesday] afternoon, he sent a clear message of how disasters in the age of climate change will be handled by the emergency government agencies he now controls. If you are a blue state, then he is going to treat you in the same way he treated Puerto Rico (over 4,000 dead, no electricity for a year, etc.). If you are blue, you are as good as brown.

I already mentioned Olivia (which seems to have downgraded to a tropical depression, but can still pack a wallop), but Florence isn’t the only storm looming: Hurricane Florence isn’t alone: Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Olivia, even a typhoon also out there.

Baton down the hatches, and don’t count on any timely help from the feds.

Why I hate hay fever reason #6502

“Wait, I'm going to sneeze.”

“Wait, I’m going to sneeze.”

Some people will be surprised that I’m writing about hay fever when it is practically autumn. Well, this is one of the reasons my hay fever is so annoying. I have a moderate-to-severe allergic reaction to every pollen, spore, and mold that the allergists test for, and in the mild climate west of the Cascade Mountains, that means hay fever season runs from about mid-Febbruary to approximately mid-December every year.

We’ve had a significant shift in the weather this weekend. In the middle of last week we had one day where the temperature creeped above 80º in some places. All this week, the daily highs are forecast to be in the lower to mid-60s, plus rain every day.

I absolutely love this kind of weather.

Unfortunately, one of the “features” of my hay fever is that my sinuses react most harshly to changes. If a new species that hasn’t been the predominant pollen-contributor in a while ramps up production, my sinuses go bananas. If the weather changes, whether from damp and cool to dry and hot or the other direction, then it’s all congestion and running nose and red itchy eyes for a couple of days.

So, while I should be ecstatic that I had to pull the lightweight jacket out of the backpack (where it gets carried most of the summer in case we have rain) to wear for the trip in to work, I am instead sniffly and sneezing and miserable.

Pass me that box of kleenex, please?

Future hazy, or we’ll take our weather blessings as we can

“My birthstone is a coffee bean.”

(click to embiggen)

Monday evening when I left the office I noticed the slightly smoky or hazy look right away. I thought, at first, that perhaps a big truck with a load of gravel or something had just driven by and left a lot of dust in the air? Or maybe something had blown up a bunch of dirt from one of the several large construction sites near our building, you know. But as I proceeded to do my semi-random walk1, it became apparent that there was a slight haze everywhere, include, when I could see it, on the horizon. This was a bit worrying, especially remembering last year and the long stretch of days when we were blanketed in smoke from region wildfires, turning the sun a scary red, and sending everyone with hay fever and/or asthma into a bad way.

But the closest wildfires I had heard about in the news were in California. Also, since we’ve been in a heatwave, I have been paying attention to weather reports and prevailing wind directions, if for no other reason to pick which direction to aim the fans in the windows at home. And the wind had been coming from the north or northwest very consistently for days, which is the wrong direction to bring California smoke to us.

Of course, Professor Cliff Mass’s blog had the answer (including satellite pictures): Most of the of smoke has not been local, but rather came from huge fires over Siberia!

There was a silver lining to the globe-spanning smoke: it was blocking enough sun to pull region temperatures down by 1-4º Fahrenheit. Given that Sunday was the hottest day of the entire year, even a few degrees of cooling is greatly appreciated!

Wednesday morning while I was waiting for my bus, and then later walking from the bus to the office, I kept feeling phantom raindrops. My weather apps showed 0% chance of rain, and the radar showed nothing nearby. Also, the clouds didn’t look right for rain. At one corner, while waiting for the crosswalk to change, I was looking up at the cloud cover and I figured it out.

It wasn’t clouds. It was June Gloom in August. June Gloom is often a bank of fog on the region which doesn’t look like fog on the crowd, it looks like 100% cloud cover, but the bank only extends a thousand feet or so up. The air is very moist and cool, and water droplets aren’t falling from the sky, but they do occasionally form in the air around you.

And that’s a great feeling after a heatwave, let me tell you!

For the next several days, at least, the daily high temperatures are forecast only in the 70s, which is much more pleasant than we’ve had for a while. And we’re supposed to get some rain. I don’t know if it will be enough to get the creek and river levels back up from their current very low levels. And the long term forecast has some high 80s again next week, so we aren’t completely out of the woods, yet.

But I’ll gladly take several days of normal temperatures and a little rain.


Footnotes:

1. Since home is now too far from work to walk home, in an effort to replace that lost exercise, I set me watch to an open-ended outdoor walk, and walk around downtown, letting whichever crosswalk is showing WALK when I get to each corner2, until the watch says I’ve walked a mile, than I turn and head toward the bus stop.

2. I say semi-random above because, for instance, the first three blocks are not random. I walk straight up the steepest hill three blocks until I get to the mostly-flat part of downtown. And there are two major thoroughfares after that which I treat as bounding boxes. If I hit either of those and the crosswalk is green, I don’t cross, but instead circle the block and head back.

Spring has sprung, but winter isn’t through with us, yet! (and what say the squirrel god?)

On of my lavender plants on the veranda is blooming!

On of my lavender plants on the veranda is blooming!

Just over a week ago we had a pseudo-spring, when over the course of three days the daytime high temperature went from about 10 degrees below average for this time of year, to more than 25 degrees above normal (and then over the next two dropped down to right about normal). Today, on the first official day of spring, the daytime high is set to be just a teensy bit below normal. Sunny and dry, and clearly the plants are all loving it. Rain and cooler temperatures are coming. Though we’re going to just get a fringe of the enormous atmospheric river about to hit California. They are currently predicting some snow in the foothills on Friday and maybe Saturday. Which is nothing compared to the winter storms heading toward the eastern U.S.

In our little corner of the world, spring is definitely here, as noted with the lavender starting to bloom, for one. Most of the rest of the flowers blooming out on my veranda are spot colors I planted weekend before last, so those don’t really count (though they are very pretty).

Most of them don’t count, that is.

The squirrel-planted tree and two pansies from last year survived the winter.

The squirrel-planted tree and two pansies from last year survived the winter.

Because in addition to my lavender plants which wintered out on the veranda, a couple of the spot color pansies from last fall survived, along with my tree. That’s right, I am growing a tree on our 5-foot wide deck. It wasn’t something I planned to be growing. See, a squirrel at our old neighborhood buried a filbert nut in one of the smallest flower pots I had, and it grew to just over 10 inches last year with a small cluster of leaves. Once I identified it (by the distinctive leaf shape), I posted pics of the little tree online and asked people’s opinions on what I should do. Everyone who replied agreed I should see how well the tree could do out there. One friend said, “Of course you keep the tree! Mustn’t anger the squirrel god.”

But, as I mentioned, the little tree was growing in the smallest flower pot that I had (there had been one smaller one at the old place, but it had a broken lip and large cracks, so I tossed it rather than move it to our new place). I was afraid the tree would quickly outgrow the pot. On the other hand, I didn’t want to damage its roots digging it up. So I left it in the pot over winter, intending to move the entire contents of the small pot into one of the big planters where I’m trying to keep my grandma’s irises alive. For whatever reason, the two pansies in the tiny pot had also survived the winter. Usually two or three of the fall pansies appear to make it through the winter, but usually in the spring when I start planting new flowers in the pots, a closer examination reveals that there are only a few green leaves visible above a decidedly sickly-yellow body of the pansy. Any time I tried to keep them, they usually died without blooming again. So I usually compost the over-winter pansies and replace them.

Since I was moving the entire pot, there was no point in pulling the two pansies loose. So they moved to the bigger planter along with the tree. It has been 9 days, and not only are they both much leafier and much greener than they were when I transplanted them, one has bloomed again! Which I’m going to take as a sign that the squirrel god is happy that I am trying to keep the tree alive. I know in the picture that the tree just looks like a stick, but just a few weeks ago it was a drab brown stick, whereas now there is clearly a lot of green in that bark. Plus there are a bunch of little buds all up and down the tree. So I expect it to be much leafier this summer.

I also moved my teeny wind chime from one of the medium pots to the bigger planter. My husband insists on calling wind chimes of all types “wind clunks” and gives me serious side eye whenever he catches me looking at them in stores. This little stained-glass butterfly and tiny chimes was a gift from a friend, and are so quiet that one has to be outside and fairly close to hear them, so my husband can ignore them.

I’ve been thinking about whether to move the bird feeder to a spot further down the veranda, away from the place where our chairs and table are. More of the birds might be brave enough to keep eating while I’m out there if it were further down. Also, most of the spilled hulls and seeds would be centered away from the section I walk on to get to the table. The down side is that the feeder would be harder to see from the living room window if I moved it down.

So, for now, I’m leaving the feeder where it is.

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