Snow and squirrels

Alan in Atlanta, Georgia, reports.

Here in Atlanta a few days ago we had 6 inches of snow dumped on the city, so everything has ground to a halt. I suspect the fact that there’s an increase in the water vapour in the atmosphere due to global warming is contributing somewhat to these ‘one time’ extreme weather events that seem to be happening more and more.

Well, it snowed late on Sunday evening and lucky for Atlanta the storm came through quickly and the temperatures were low enough to deposit powdery snow which also got blown off the power lines with the small amount of breeze. The worse situation which the people at Georgia Power were preparing for was a slightly longer period of snow combined with slightly higher temperatures allowing for ice to form, and by sticking to the power lines (and tree branches) to accumulate and eventually to bring down said power lines and branches. And then we would have had a big mess without power.

As it is, the city has had power all week, but because of low (below freezing) temperatures the accumulated snow on roads has refrozen into ice as cars attempt to negotiate the streets causing problems on hills etc. In northern cities accustomed to large amounts of the white stuff during the occasional winter storm, they have many, many snow plows that get the streets quickly cleared of snow. Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs lack these vehicles and have not even been able to get sand or salt on the roads to expedite the removal or snow and ice. We are left with just waiting for warmer temperatures, which may finally be happening today or tomorrow. It’s been sunny since the beginning of the week but the nature of the snow is that it just reflects the sunlight – we really need temperatures a good bit above freezing to do some good and actually rain to quickly get rid of the ice.

Having said all of the above, I must also hasten to add that Jane and I have been perfectly comfortable and really not the least bit affected by these events since we are warm, dry and have food. Jane’s been telecommuting to work (as have most of the other CDC [Centers for Disease Control] employees and a good bit of the city) so she’s not had to worry about those icy patches on the roads. I’m even able to electronically pay the bills these days so basically it could be a lot worse. I’ve posted a couple of Queensland flood links onto Facebook (such as http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DkYUpkPTcqPY&h=80ef4) so that my local friends at least know that they really have nothing to complain about weather wise. Having a work week at home with power and heat is really no inconvenience compared to having your house swept away in a flood of water and escaping through the roof of a neighbour’s house! I’m not sure if I got the exact details correct there, but I gather there are plenty of horror stories coming out of that mess.

That video on YouTube is really quite remarkable and I now see that Brisbane’s getting hit quite hard. I’m not going to complain at all about our snow since it’s just no big deal compare with what these people are having to contend with. Anyhow, I’m sorry to hear about your garden [Joy – My veggies have rotted away in the wet, alas]. I’m wondering if some of this water is getting down to Adelaide via the Murray Darling Basin. I presume that it’s all heading to the ocean. Google Maps is basically frustrating in that it only provides roads and not river basin information.

Speaking of people in water with rips, another video from Toowoomba shows a couple of guys out in flowing water up to their waists. This is not good, I’m saying to myself, since even if they don’t get pulled along by the water they could be hit by something.
Looks like you’re not going to have some relief from the wet weather any time soon with two cyclones to the north.

We’ve put out bird seed on our deck again (after many months of not doing so because of the squirrel risk) as they really have to do more work when it’s all white on the ground, and have therefore been attracting a number of different varieties of birds that are happy for an easy meal after presumably getting a little frustrated pecking around in the snow covered landscape. Anyhow I was pleased to see a couple of woodpeckers (red-bellied woodpeckers, Melanerpes carolinus – see http://www.fernbank.edu/Birding/birdID/red_bellied.htm) there this morning although those birds always make me a little nervous considering that we live in a wooden house! I guess if I were publishing the same type of blog that you are doing I’d be taking pictures of the birds and having quite a running commentary going [Joy: You can do that here if you want to – you have better photographic equipment that I do!].

Red-bellied woodpecker

I probably need to get out one of Jane’s bird books and make some identification of the types of birds being attracted to the seeds in the bird feeder although it’s probably not going to continue being a source of food for them if the squirrels (the grey squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis) persist in sitting in the feeder and gobbling up everything. We’ll remove the seed to discourage those animals as we don’t want any more squirrels deciding that they want to get into our house as has happened a couple of times in the past.

Having them attracted to the deck by seed could give some of them a bright idea that the house interior is a great place to get to. They’ll start chewing on the logs and then we’ll once again find ourselves hiring someone to trap and relocate them.

Grey squirrel - Alan's favourite animal (not)

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Here’s your friendly correspondent Alan (centre) with wife Jane (right) and Alan’s daughter, Maria. They all stayed with us for a few days at Larnook in 2002. I met Alan in 1971 at Adelaide University through the science fiction association. He’s been living in the States for almost 40 years.

Alan (centre), Jane (right) and Maria (left)

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