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Earth United States

Massive Storm Buries US East Coast In Snow and Ice 290

First time accepted submitter anthonycarlson writes "The second wintry storm in two weeks to hit the normally balmy south U.S. has encrusted highways, trees and power lines in ice, knocking out electricity to nearly a half-million homes and businesses." Kids are out of school, and houses are out of power, in much of a region that normally gets much rarer and lighter snowfall. If you're socked in, or if you're in the East Coast storm zone but have to venture out anyhow, what's been your experience? Some of the pictures are pretty impressive. Update: 02/13 17:24 GMT by T : Google Maps has a handy guide to weather alerts, shelters, and traffic info for those affected by the storm. (Hat tip to Chris DiBona.)
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Massive Storm Buries US East Coast In Snow and Ice

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  • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @10:30AM (#46237649)
    Kids making snowmen is considered geeky
    • Kids making snowmen is considered geeky

      Apparently even news for nerds is boycotting the Beta.

      • Bearing in mind these days in order to rebel against their parents kids are having to go t-total, drug free and celibate

        Dad you're fucked you need to speak to my financial adviser

        *Slits Wrist*

    • Peace and quiet. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:03PM (#46238483)

      Kids making snowmen is considered geeky

      It's considered human.

      Storms on this scale test infrastructure to the limits --- and it is interesting to see how and why things break. Burying power lines not always the answer []

      As for beta boycotts and related matters: the comments posted to Slashdot may be fewer, but, on the whole, appear to me saner and more focused than any I've seen here in quite some time. I intend to enjoy this while I can.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I like AGW! It's given us cheery snowmen!

      • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:56PM (#46238981)

        The problem with burying power lines is you can't completely seal them up. You need to be able to get access to them for junction points to connect the feeders to service entries for homes and buildings. Water, dirt and salt are the main enemies of underground service. Then you have contractors digging up wires either via negligence or from reading improperly marked prints. Its a tradeoff between the two really. Overhead lines are easier and cheaper to string up but can be taken out by vehicle crashes, trees (the main enemy of overheads) and ice. Plus they don't look as nice.

        On christmas day a family friends block was torn up and full of construction equipment after the manholes went up in flames. His wife had a video of flames shooting up about 2 meters high from the manhole in front of their house. Turns out salt had corroded the splices to the point where there was enough resistance to heat up, arc and start a fire. Smoke also made its way through the conduits into the homes closest to the manholes and they had the be evacuated while the fire department inspected them. This happened at 4AM and they didn't have power until 3PM albeit via temporary service lines.

        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          We've lived in a neighborhood (Fairfax VA) with all buried utility wires since 2002. In that time, our power has gone out several times, including once for three days. We've also lost cable/internet (Cox) numerous times. The vast majority of these outages were very local issues. So, for us, the only advantage has been missing the eyesore of wires strung everywhere. On the downside, whenever a neighbor wants to dig for something in their yard, all the utility companies come through to spray paint on our

          • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @03:23PM (#46240185) Homepage Journal

            We've lived in a neighborhood (Fairfax VA) with all buried utility wires since 2002. In that time, our power has gone out several times, including once for three days. We've also lost cable/internet (Cox) numerous times. The vast majority of these outages were very local issues. So, for us, the only advantage has been missing the eyesore of wires strung everywhere. On the downside, whenever a neighbor wants to dig for something in their yard, all the utility companies come through to spray paint on our lawn (it's been about a couple times a year), marking where the wires run.

            No problems with that down here in New Orleans, everything is above ground here.

            Hell, we don't even bury out DEAD here.


          • by xaxa ( 988988 )

            I've only ever lived in neighbourhoods that have had all-buried utilities for decades and decades, and none of it has ever exploded. I can't remember a power cut lasting longer than a couple of hours; normally there's a brief interruption (seconds to ~10 minutes) every two-three years or less.

            However, I don't live in the US, and probably pay 2-3x what you do for electricity.

        • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @01:56PM (#46239443)

          Overhead lines are easier and cheaper to string up but can be taken out by vehicle crashes, trees (the main enemy of overheads) and ice. Plus they don't look as nice.

          Raised in the country, I always found the poles and overhead lines reassuring and with a kind of rhythm to them.

          Rose City Road []

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 ( 410832 )

      You never read Calvin & Hobbes, did you?

  • just looks like minnesota in an average winter...
    • It's not the same (Score:5, Insightful)

      by yelvington ( 8169 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @10:48AM (#46237823) Homepage

      I lived through 14 Minnesota winters, and after a similar period in the South, I can say they're really not similar.

      Southern pines are spectacular, much taller than those typical in Minnesota, because they can grow for years without being beaten down by the weather. When once in a decade or so they get coated with ice, the result is chaos -- whole trees snapping five feet above ground, crashing through attics into living rooms, tearing down power lines along the way. It sounds like cannon fire echoing through the woods.

      The problems of winter hitting the South are not limited to lack of equipment, preparation, or winter driving skills. Nature just isn't ready for it.

      • Re:It's not the same (Score:5, Informative)

        by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @11:04AM (#46237961) Journal

        I have spent alot of years both in Minneapolis and in Wilkesboro NC. There is nothing similar about the winters. MN does not get icing like they do in the South except on very very rare occasions because its always cold in MN winter. The precip comes down as snow and it stays snow. MN has the interesting property that the snow gets deeper and deeper because it never melts, which cause load problems on roof tops and like but the snow mostly shakes out of trees and finds its way to the ground before it does them any harm.

        Both places have their winter weather challenges but they are very different.

        • There is nothing similar about the winters.

          That makes sense to me. I live in northern Alberta, and while we're all used to driving on ice and snow for 6 months of the year, it's the rare snow in June that does the most damage. We had around 2m of snow between late October and mid January this year, and I can't think of a tree that took damage due to the weight. By contrast, we had one rare snowfall in June last year and trees were snapping all over the place; power went out. It wasn't the snow that got them per se, it was the fact that the snow was

      • by mistapotta ( 941143 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @11:17AM (#46238081)

        This. When the ground temps hover around 40F, the snow melts quite easily. Then the air temps get in the 20's and water refreezes on the road. The ice is much more dangerous than the snow. That's why we close schools, businesses, etc.

        And it's not the dusting that we get annually. We can handle that. It's when we get 2-3 inches of precipitation that forms ice on our roads that makes it dangerous. We don't drive with bags of kitty litter in our trunks, or just whip out our chains when it gets dangerous. So we shut down. If its orchestrated well, it's a fun holiday we can all laugh about afterwards (See "The Snow" [] from San Antonio, 1985. If it's not orchestrated well, well... []

        We can all complain how people in other regions can't handle unconventional weather - Hurricanes in New York (don't build where it floods), 100F+ temps in the Midwest (install air conditioners), Snow in the deep south (buy more snowplows, chains, salt, sand, etc.) Yes, there are solutions that make the situations tenable. No, the capital investment for an event that happens every xx years isn't worth the financial losses from shutting down the city for the time it takes to deal with the situation.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 13, 2014 @11:52AM (#46238365)

          I'm in Wisconsin. We don't all have 4x4 drive, tire chains are ILLEGAL, I have no kitty litter in my trunk, and ice happens all the time. I drive a shitty little versa with 2 year old all-season tires, most people in Wisconsin drive normal 2 wheel drive cars, I drove into work in snow and white-out this morning and the plows have not even left the county garage yet. Made it in just fine, drove 10 under the speed limit, made sure to keep 5 car lengths away from the car ahead, and looked ahead for anyone slipping out in front of me.
          You people down south have this outsized idea of what a snowstorm is, and what we in the north do about it. Sure, a 1 foot overnight dump needs plows, and salt keeps the fender benders down.. However:
          In reality, the problem you have with this weather is not the temperature, the amount of ice, or your spending on road crews, amount of experience with snow.
          It is YOU.
          Almost to a person you don't drive safely even in good weather. I've been down there and even grandmas' tailgate on completely un-crowded roads. You speed to such a degree that when people go the posted speed limit you all totally go bonkers road rage.
          Hell, many people think you should be arrested for going the posted speed limit!
          I've been down south and saw in one day 10 cars/truck in the ditches because of RAIN. Fucking RAIN. You guys know what that is right? It happens, you know, as weather down there all the time?? Right?
          Slow the fuck down, start reducing speed half a block away from the stop sign or curve, look further ahead than your shitty wafflehouse coffee in your hand, stop tailgating, accelerate slowly, don't be Yee-Haww idiots.. Also, did I mention slow the fuck down?

          • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:18PM (#46238627)

            No problems in this Wisconsin?
            Well, you're absolutely 100% right about f-wit drivers around Atlanta.

            But as for Wisconsin ...
            I look at the web cams at about 10:00AM (Wi time)
            Does no one live there, or is there some reason almost no one is on the roads?

            70 car pile-up in the snow?

            Wi drivers have no problems driving in the snow?

          • by gfxguy ( 98788 )

            No matter who you are, where you're from, or what vehicle you drive, driving on ice is treacherous and dangerous. I will agree with you, though, that many southern drivers aren't merely ignorant about driving in ice and snow, they're downright stupid. The number of people sitting there spinning their tires thinking it would somehow help was ridiculous.... "oh, my tires are spinning... maybe if I push the gas HARDER they'll stop!"

            People still drove too close, which caused some of the grid lock problems as

      • by tomhath ( 637240 )
        A friend of mine said something similar about Kansas, where he was from. The wind is always blowing there, so limbs break off as soon as they get weak instead of building up for years and all coming down in one storm. Of course in Kansas they don't have many trees anyway.
      • Re:It's not the same (Score:5, Interesting)

        by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:21PM (#46238669)

        I want to echo this sentiment - I'm transplanted from NY, eventually ended up in Atlanta, GA. I drove many winters in NY, and being the youngest of four I learned a lot from my parents and older siblings about driving in the snow. I can tell you that no matter where you grew up, how great a driver you think you are, or what vehicle you have, driving on solid ice is not just difficult, it's treacherous. Add in all the hills we have around here, and you're really screwed.

        Now; first "snowpocalypse" from two weeks ago: it started snowing mid-morning. Around noon, people realized they'd better start getting home. By 12:30, the roads were ICY (not snowy); it's very hilly around here and many vehicles couldn't make it up hills. This caused massive gridlock; even people with 4WD, AWD, and yes, FWD that could have made it were stuck in the gridlock anyway. This all happened before the local and state governments could react... there were vehicles out salting and sanding, but they didn't get a chance to hit even a fraction of the roads. The traffic map on the GA511 website went from green to black in a half hour. Yes, I largely blame ignorant drivers who don't know what to do... all those mid-level pickups and sports and luxury cars with rear wheel drive, just sitting there spinning their tires (they didn't realize after a few seconds it just wasn't working? Unbelievable). The number of idiots trying the same things over and over again, getting worse and worse results was baffling. Once I got past a few gridlocked areas I made it home just fine with my FWD car... but the way I get out of the city is largely level once I'm away from the mid town area. Other interstates aren't so "lucky," virtually everywhere there was a hill there was gridlock. And yes, while I blame the drivers, the "pros" were no better - the biggest problems I encountered were buses and trucks which, when they spun out, blocked the entire road.

        Fast forward to this time, and all the gun-shy drivers just stayed home. Up in North Carolina they experienced the same problem this time that GA felt last time, and I won't belittle them about it. In GA, with everyone warned to stay home, the service vehicles are able to salt and sand the major roads. I want to make this clear - people didn't know last time how bad it would be, the storm was supposed to pass to the south and it shifted north. Even when it started snowing it was not icy, it was just snow... it just didn't last long. Everyone from schools, to private and government employees all left at the same time, when they realized it wasn't going to let up. A lot of people blame the government... I don't. They had trucks ready, it was just a bad confluence of events and eventualities that led to a bad situation. There was really nothing they could do. Even the supposed idea of staggered release times (first schools, then private businesses, then government) is ridiculous - and it's the fault of the people, not the government, because as soon as schools get released, everyone tries to rush home to beat the traffic, it's just the way people are (not all of us, obviously, I waited until late evening to even try to leave).

        The other BIG difference between this and last time - and this is how it usually is - the problems didn't start until Tuesday NIGHT, which means most people were already home from work. When it hits mid-day, people are already at work and screwed. Usually these accumulations happen over night, we wake up, and say "snow day!"

        It's like any other weather event; they can be unpredictable and catch people off guard. It's just the way it is sometimes... sometimes the best laid plans work, sometimes they don't.

      • by rvw ( 755107 )

        ....tearing down power lines along the way....

        This is something I don't understand. The USA - the technically most advanced country - still is not able to put powerlines underground. Why??? I can understand that this is too expensive over long distances, but in cities and small towns?

    • Not the same as down south. Been there, done that, glad to be away from it. Here in Minnesota, we get the snow, the ass-freezing cold, and the biting wind chill, but typically avoid most of the ice.
  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @10:33AM (#46237677)

    Up here where the US cold comes from it is nice and sunny and clear. Cold, but clear beautiful days.

    For you Yanks, here is the Canadian Forecast, temperatures in celsius []

    • Forecast is for +5C here in Sunny Alberta ...

      I do sympathize with the southerners, though... This is how we commute, 6 months of the year so we're used to it ... Our 'school closing' weather events are far more severe but it's all relative to what people are used to... I'm used to automotive fluids turning to butter at -40C... I'll walk around outside in a t-shirt if it's above -5C and sunny ...

  • I think everyone here learned from the Snowpocalypse last week. Most people stayed off the roads.

  • by Yonkeltron ( 720465 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @10:34AM (#46237689) Homepage
    The GOES imagery [] has looked really cool as of late. As I've watched the storm travel west and then north, it's been really awesome to see the progression and the effects of the Coriolis force.
  • -30C with the wind chill.

  • Meanwhile in Finland (Score:4, Informative)

    by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @10:45AM (#46237793)
    +1C, all snow soon melted away.
  • Looks like Slashdot's newest experiment is to pop an ad before you get to the article. Looks like I'll have that disabled in 5...4...3..

  • Rare? (Score:4, Informative)

    by CodeArtisan ( 795142 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @11:00AM (#46237929)
    I have lived in Connecticut for 17 years. There is nothing rare about the amount of snow that is falling today. It doesn't happen every week, but 12 inches (or whatever we are going to get today) is not exactly Biblical. Mild winters are the rare events.
  • Kathy Davies Muzzey of Wilmington, N.C., said she hid the car keys from her husband, John, on Tuesday night because he was thinking about driving to Chapel Hill for the Duke-UNC basketball game. He has missed only two games between the rivals since he left school in the late 1960s.

    Yeah, driving in a snow storm for a fucking college basketball game. Good to see people's priorities are straight!

    Soo Keith of Raleigh left work about a little after noon, thinking she would have plenty of time to get home before the worst of the snow hit.

    Instead, Keith, who is three months pregnant, drove a few miles in about two hours and decided to park and start walking, wearing dress shoes and a coat that wouldn’t zip over her belly.

    Do people not read the news or weather forecasts or something?

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 )

      Do people not read the news or weather forecasts or something?

      Unfortunately, some people's jobs force them to go in, even in a blizzard.

  • We got a light, dry snow over night. Its now lightly raining, packing the top layer. If you haven't started shoveling, do it now before it gets too heavy. I've got about 14" and the top 3 are as heavy as than the bottom 11.

    No ice yet, though its 31.

    • I'm in Northern Virginia. Similar weather here. Probably about 10-12" so far, all light. No rain yet though, thank FSM. I dug my Jeep out and drove around the block, but barely. Roads are plowed but the snow is coming down hard still and covering the roads.
    • by Anonymous Codger ( 96717 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @11:43AM (#46238293)

      Silver Spring, here. Shovel now, like you suggest, and you'll have ice directly on the sidewalk and the car. Have fun with that! I'm waiting until it's over so the ice is on top of the snow where it's easy to remove.

    • Take it weasy. Shoveling snow causes e lot of heart attacks every yeah. Shovel lightly, shovel often.

  • It was -5F yesterday and we got about 4 inches of snow. Nothing closed, the roads were fine, traffic was fine, and I even went out to eat. I heard parts of the East coast were acting like it was WWIII because 2 inches of snow was coming and people were known to drive 5MPH through it. I think everyone out there just needs to grow some balls and learn how to drive. I believe WI got around 3-4 feet of snow this winter so far.

    As for the power outage from a tiny amount of snow? built it wrong.
    • I live in New York, where it was also about -5F yesterday. And if we get two inches of snow before the plows get out, some people start driving 5MPH and thus slowing ALL traffic. And these are people who have lived in these conditions their entire lives. There's also the matter of southerners not having experience driving in snow any more than northerners are well prepared for going out in 115 degree summer heat.

      As another poster mentioned, the power outages are sometimes caused by nature - in his example,

  • While my parents moved to NC to avoid the winters, they are getting hit hard and in upstate NY we are barely getting a dusting.

    • While my parents moved to NC to avoid the winters, they are getting hit hard and in upstate NY we are barely getting a dusting.

      That's OK. It's been around 80 in Miami the last few weeks.

      No, 80 is NOT normal even in Miami. There's almost a hard border somewhere just north of Daytona where the temperatures have been pretty consistently cold while the southern and central parts of the state are practically breaking out the swimsuits. Go north of that line and you drop 10 degrees before you hit Georgia, and then the temperature REALLY starts to fall.

    • Yes, but the other 70000 times since they moved you were the one who got hammered.

      I didn't know what snow squall was until I lived in Syracuse.

  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @11:30AM (#46238193)

    Dear Mother Nature,
    You win at winter. Now please give us spring and win that one even better.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @11:36AM (#46238245) Homepage

    They call that "massive snow"...

    I have 6 feet of it in my front yard, and that is not massive. Houghton,MI I have seen 12 feet on the ground. THAT is massive.

  • by hbo ( 62590 ) *
    I'm waiting to see if my SFO to CLT flight will be cancelled this morning. Oh, right. This isn't Facebook.
  • But I'm working on a project with our DC team at work... I don't think much is going to get done on that project this week, as their internet is not the most reliable at the moment. >.>

  • I work from home you insensitive clod!

  • It must've missed New York City. I live in Manhattan and commuted to Brooklyn, but I didn't see anything I'd call a "massive storm". Just a light touch of snow...

    Still, I wish we'd get this snow on the weekends instead of the work days, I'd really like the opportunity to go out and enjoy it.

  • and it isn't about not having "removal equipment". This type of weather happens all the time, especially in the NE.

    The really thing we learn from this is that cars have reached a level of sophistication/tech that we all think we can travel in any weather. In reality, that's not true, we can be safer in any weather, but not capable. So the same rule of the last 50yrs still applies: 4+ of snow== stay at home. Walmart can wait. Let the crews do their job.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Thursday February 13, 2014 @12:22PM (#46238689) Journal

    Poolesville is a small town about an hour outside of Washington D.C. Our population is only about 5,500 and it's basically a farm community that grew into more of a distant bedroom community for DC metro area employees in the last decade or two.

    Around here, they've been very efficient at clearing a path through the snow, even though we've got about 11-12 inches of it this morning (and expect 2 more in a second wave late this afternoon).

    I've noticed with many of the more rural Maryland communities, they seem to do better job plowing snow and keeping the roads clear than the bigger cities do. I'm sure the fact we have a lot fewer roads to clear is a big part of it, but some of the towns like Brunswick are very hilly, so you'd think they'd be a difficult challenge. Nonetheless, they seem to have workers who have a real commitment to doing the job well, and perhaps the more rural upbringing makes them more adept at handling heavy equipment like snowplows and dump trucks? (I'm sure many of them know their way around large tractors and other farm equipment.)

"To take a significant step forward, you must make a series of finite improvements." -- Donald J. Atwood, General Motors