Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

I am from Pennsylvania, and yes, I have actually been to Punxsutawney. (Actually, you can tell I'm from PA because I know how to spell Punxsutawney. We had to do this in my 9th grade social studies class. I can also tell you which county has the world's largest fiberglass elk. Elk County, not surprisingly. Though that may have changed since 1984.) Phil predicted an early spring this year, which he almost never does. Phil is full of crap, by the way.

And I mean no disrespect to Punxsutawney, but did you know they did not actually film Groundhog Day there? It was not picturesque enough. Ouch. What I know about Punxsutawney is that the boys' and girls' athletic teams are called the Chucks and the Chuckettes, respectively. (Short for Woodchuck, because if this isn't clear to you, a woodchuck is the same thing as a groundhog. I assume you know this, but I also suspect my semi-rural upbringing may have given me a heightened awareness of rodent taxonomy.) Also, in 1985 when I went there for a track meet, while they did have an asphalt track (raising them a notch above Lock Haven, for instance, which was still stuck in the Cinder Age), the starting line was drawn in red crayon of some kind. Ouch again. All kidding aside, running high school track and cross country in central PA was a life lesson in the economic impacts of declining coal, steel and manufacturing industries. I suspect--no, I know--at the time we kids from the swanky college town made fun of the Chuckettes on our bus and mocked their crayon starting line. I cringe for my 15-year-old self. I would also like to remind her she got beaten by a fair number of girls from poor towns all through high school, crayon markings on the track or no. Anyway, it seemed to me that the producers of Groundhog Day could have pumped a little money into Punxsutawney, put on a fresh coat of paint, and shot the movie there.

Groundhog Day in western MA was, fittingly, a repeat of the 50 other snow days we've had so far this year. Including the one we had yesterday. It feels like a weekend. Only with more shoveling.

Patrick scaled one of our snow banks, then spent the better part of half an hour yelling unintelligible crazy things at the top of his voice.  I sort of had the same impulse.

Keep in mind that all the snow I shoveled had to go over the top of those snowbanks. And it was a nice heavy, wet snow today, topped off with a maraschino cherry of sleet.

What I found really helpful today was the news that MEMA (like FEMA, only better) thinks we might want to shovel the snow off our roofs.  You can read the helpful tips for yourself here.  But some of the highlights:

If not cleared off, snow piled high on roofs can act as a sponge, absorbing any rain, which we might receive, adding additional stress to structures.

Why, yes it can, MEMA! I know this because the snow on the ground, which I spent all freaking day shoveling, did the exact same thing. Also, your comma usage is deplorable.

In many other cases, roof ice dams have formed causing water build-up, leading to interior damage.

It's like you know me, MEMA!  Like you've seen the ice-clogged gutters on my house, the toddler-sized icicles, and best yet, the damp spot growing in the middle of my living room ceiling.  And while we're on the subject, I DO NOT DESERVE THE ICE DAMS.  I raked my roof like a fanatic with each storm.  And then after one storm we got freezing rain, and it filled my gutters with ice, and voila: instant ice dam.  But not because I didn't rake, MEMA.  In fact, today I raked part of my roof that I'd never raked, because it doesn't have eaves, so it's not subject to ice dams.  And you know what?  I raked that ice storm right off, because it was deposited on a foot of snow, so the whole thing just came off.  I should never have raked the roof before that ice storm.

If roof snow can be removed or ice dams broken up safely from the ground with the use of a snow rake (available at most hardware stores), do so.

Are you paying attention here, MEMA?  I did rake.  And I got screwed anyway.  But just in case, I spent like 3 more hours raking today, and I even managed to launch the rake up onto the 2nd story of the back of our house, using all my core strength, teetering on a pile of snow, and I took off some snow and ice two stories up.  I also got hit in the face with a big chunk of ice, and it made my chin bleed.

Protective headgear and eye protection is recommended.

Little late for that, MEMA.

Honestly, I am not so impressed by MEMA.  "Shovel your roof," they tell us, and my local paper reports this.  But if you read the fine print--or use your common sense--you realize, "There is no way I'm climbing up onto my 2nd story roof to shovel.  I will die."  MEMA agrees.  So all they've really done is make us all very, very anxious about our roof, without giving us any tools to solve the problem.  It makes me think that when Michael Brown left FEMA (he left, right?  Please tell me he left), he went down to the state level.  Heckuva job on my FREAKING ICE DAMS.

It occurs to me about now that this is ostensibly a blog about triathlons, not about ice dams.  So I will share that today, between bouts of shoveling, I rode my trainer for 50 minutes as instructed, including 8 1-minute simulated "seated hills," which I simulated with my threshold wattage.  I had a blast.  For one thing, I didn't really have to use my upper body, which was still shaking from the shoveling/raking intervals. (Oops, back to the ice dam blog.) Also, you know what? I kind of like riding the trainer. Not in the same carefree, kid-on-a-bike way I like riding my bike outside in nice weather, but something about plunking down and grinding out intervals of one kind or another really appeals to me. 

By way of explanation, this fall I taught a class in environmental analytical chemistry (NO, you cry! Please, more about the ice dams!), and I had my students read an EPA protocol for determining total organic content in water. It was endless and endlessly specific. They even told you how to round your numbers. (Or more precisely, they referred you to a reference book that tells you how to round your numbers. I don't want to ruin your day, but if your number ends in a 5, you don't always round it up. Sorry about that.) And as I read it, I thought about how fun it would be to have that job, at least for awhile. You have a long set of tasks to do, each one very precise and controlled, everything designed to test whether or not your instruments and methods are functioning reproducibly. It was awesome. Thirteen of my 14 students were horrified by the protocol, and one shared enough of my OC tendencies to think it was kind of neat. The trainer is a little like that--tedious, repetitive, and controlled. I love it.

OK, time to go sleep under my compromised roof and its @#$%%^*!ing ice dams.

No comments:

Post a Comment