Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Black Ice And Other Slippery Subjects

This has been turning into another icy winter here in Iowa. You always hear that Eskimos (Inuits) have something like a hundred different words for snow; I have read now that is an apocryphal story, but I can definitely personally attest that Iowans have a dozen or more terms to describe ice... most of which include a couple of swear words.
However, when the conversation turns to black ice, it's almost like talking about the great white shark; an element of respect enters the discussion. Black ice forms on streets in winter when there is just a bit of sun late in the afternoon, but the air and the pavement are very cold; the snow melts slightly and then as the sun goes down, it immediately freezes to a very hard, glassy ice that is almost impossible to see at night on dark pavement until you feel your car suddenly sliding sideways and are foolish enough to hit the brakes... black ice claims another victim!
So far this winter has been very much like last; it never really warms up above freezing, so that the deep snowpack has been slowly compacting down into a thick layer of very uneven ice. More out of stubbornness than curiosity, I went out for a short garden walk this afternoon, but found it took me fifteen minutes to walk a block or so around one pathway, and I was hanging onto bushes part of the time. The deer look like they just got a new pair of rollerskates, lurching around with their shaky legs going about three directions at once. It's going to be a long winter for all of us.

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It's not like this in husker land, but was like that last winter. December was a** col, now it's in the 30s and 40s. When we were gone for the holidays it got up to 65 one day and the 3" of snow vanished. If it gets cold again I can kiss more plants goodbye with no snow cover. If I were you I'd plant sturdy shrubs next to the pathways so you can hang on to them....
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