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January 11, 2007

More Snowy Weather

Some more snowy weather in the Puget Sound area yesterday. There had been warnings about snow on Tuesday evening, but nothing really happened. It was clear on Wednesday morning, and everybody came to work. But around 4 pm, there was a sudden onslaught of hail, followed by a brief snowstorm. The result was roads that were snowy with ice underneath. Everybody decided to leave Microsoft at the exact same time, the roads near campus were at a standstill, and so the roads on campus were also at a standstill. It was shades of the big 14-inch snowstorm in 1990, which also happened entirely during the day, and also trapped everybody at work.

I normally work in Building 21 but I was teaching a class in Building 30. That direction of campus is next to NE 40th St, and it heads downhill somewhat steeply there (the rest of main campus is basically flat). So there was nothing moving when the class finished.

As it happens, that evening my wife and I were supposed to drive downtown to go see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She left our house for Microsoft (normally a 15-20 minute drive) at 4:20, and finally picked me up at 5:30. And that was only because I walked over to Highway 520. Looking at a Microsoft campus map will show my epic journey: I was in Building 30, at the top right corner of campus, and I walked/jogged west along NE 40th until I got to the highway. Seattle is to the south/west of there, so she was driving top-to-bottom on your radio dial. Since I could see that the streets were hopeless, she just got off at the exit for NE 40th, crossed over, and waited at the on-ramp to NE 40th until I got there (waiting right behind the 545 bus stop at NE 40th described in this story). It was about half a mile. Nice day for a run, as they say. We then headed off to the clogged-up highways, and wound up arriving at the Paramount Theater at 7:45, luckily missing only about 10 minutes (we arrived during "strabismus", if anyone knows the show).

When I teach a class and the weather is iffy it's always tough to decide whether to come in, because I'd hate to have someone struggle to get in from far away and then have me not be there (not to mention people from out-of-town). But I'd also hate to get there and have no students, plus if you teach to only one-third of the class who happens to make it in, then what about the rest of the students? It seems unfair to force people to come in just to avoid missing a class (we do try to reschedule people who miss classes due to weather into future ones, and possibly even re-teach a missed module, but it's still not ideal).

I actually had a class that was scheduled to end at 5:30 on both Tuesday and Wednesday. About 4 pm on Tuesday people started to filter out of class as the traffic cams revealed windy conditions on the 520 bridge (a prelude to possible closure of the bridge, although it never happened). Then yesterday people started to filter out early around the same time as the weather was about to get nasty (plus I think some people hadn't come it at all). In the end I was able to wrap class up early (around 4:30) without skipping anything, although that wound up already being too late to avoid the massive traffic.

Today campus was on "limited closure" but I wasn't teaching any classes so I didn't have to make any decisions about whether to come in or not (as instructors, we are supposed to call a number by 6 am the day of the class if we decide to cancel, and this is then reflected on a number that students can call, which is updated at 7 am). Today wound up being a clear-but-cold day, perfect for sledding with the kids, and also taking some nice pictures of trees, which are decorating this post (click on the pictures for larger versions). It's this kind of day that you sometimes get in Montreal but usually don't have out here, so it was nice to have a reminder of how pretty a snowy day can be.

Posted by AdamBa at January 11, 2007 04:44 PM

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While in Montreal, which historically averages 100 inches of snow a year (and one year, which I fortunately missed, 180) has had what 2 or 3 miserable inches and weather too warm for the snowmakers to do their bit on the ski hills. Last Saturday, I was in NYC and took a Subway in which the air conditioning was turned on. It was a beautiful sunny day (which we spent in Central Park with my two month old grandson) and a high of 70. They have had no snow whatever. Both Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence river show not a trace of ice (both are normally frozen solid by early January).

Posted by: Marble Chair at January 12, 2007 12:11 PM