16 September 2002
Leaves that are green

The seasons in Oklahoma pay little heed to the calendar dates or, for that matter, to the position of the earth from which those dates are putatively derived. Still, it's possible to figure out the line of demarcation between one season and the next, and the task is easiest in the fall: take one day in the upper 90s (Friday), a day of heavy rain and thunderstorms (Saturday), a placid day about twenty degrees cooler than it's been (Sunday), and the pattern is set. It will still get hot from time to time between now and November, but it won't be the sort of I'm-gonna-kill-something heat that beats on us during July and August.

However, the one most recognizable feature of fall, the evolution of foliage from green to orange to lawn rakings, won't kick in for another month yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 AM)
23 September 2002
Turning another corner

Fall arrived this year with a full moon and temperatures uncharacteristically temperate. It won't stay that way, of course, but for now, these are among the nicest days Oklahoma has to offer. (I mention this in case DavidMSC is snowbound.)

Now comes the hard part: to get through some truly hellish weeks at 42nd and Treadmill and some truly stupid campaign rhetoric leading up to November.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:33 AM)
8 October 2002
In the early morning rain

This time of year, the sun doesn't come up until after seven-thirty, so there are a lot of poor souls wending their way to work, sliding along pavement just wet enough to confuse their tires. Ribbons of roads, seemingly stretched to their limits, shine eerily under the street lights. It's too warm for a jacket, too cool for summer gear. At the bus stop, umbrellas are conspicuous by their absence.

Later today, the rain will pick up, and so will the sense of urgency about it all. Swollen rivers in the northern part of the state will become more so. The sun may make a cameo appearance this afternoon, but no one is counting on it.

A fairly ordinary fall day in Oklahoma, in other words, and perhaps cherishable for its very plainness. Not everything in life has to make your synapses sizzle.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:22 AM)
15 October 2002
A lot like winter

They're not saying so, but what we have here is a mid-January weather pattern with mid-November temperatures. It's a pattern we all know: high pressure settles nearby, winds remain northerly, and so-called "normal" temperatures are missed by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, for a week and a half, maybe two weeks in a row. It's not actually freezing — yet — but it's not out of the question either. (Mid-October 2000 brought us three consecutive freezes at night, during a period where the official normal low is around 50, and then the daily highs rebounded into the 80s.)

I'm not actually complaining, though. Given the choice, I'd rather have a semblance of winter than winter itself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 AM)
25 October 2002
Chill thoroughly

Yesterday, while the sky was weeping upon us, the temperature managed to creep up only to 44 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps not the lowest daily maximum in the history of the universe, but by a considerable margin the lowest recorded on this date in Oklahoma City since formal record-keeping began in the late 19th century. During the coldest week of the year — normally the third week of January — the "normal" daily high is, um, 45.

Freakish weather is not news in Oklahoma, but I am sure that there's some homegrown Huffington out there who will blame it on all those Ford Expeditions and Chevy Suburbans in the parking lot.

(Dear Arianna: Yes, I still think you're a Major Babe, but you're way off base on this one, and I'm willing to bet you don't drive around town in a Hyundai Elantra.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:19 AM)
4 November 2002
Scraping by

Today marks the official opening of Windshield Ice Removal Season, which I find decidedly annoying, since the normal low temperature for this date is 44 degrees Fahrenheit, substantially above the freezing point. Then again, temperatures have been below normal for nearly a month — this October was tied for the third coldest on record — so, if anything, I am surprised it took this long.

I realize that there are some people who absolutely delight in this stuff. I am not one of them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 AM)
25 November 2002
And the freezer is open

Temperatures pushed into the 70s Saturday, and that was the end of that. This morning, just about the entire state is below freezing, and it won't get much above that for most of this week. Mercifully, it's actually colder than last week's projections, which means that the freezing rain with which we were threatened will likely fall as snow, which is a lot less of an annoyance, especially if you have to drive to work.

(Typical normal range for this week: low 34, high 55.)

What I want to know, though, is whether gas prices will pick up again by Thursday. Right now, nonbranded outlets are vending 87-octane unleaded for a measly $1.119 — perhaps less in other parts of the metro area — and I have an 800-mile trip scheduled for later this week.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:10 AM)
2 December 2002
Etched in the darkness

Half an hour before dawn. A sliver of moon hangs unsteadily above; only the vaguest hint of sunlight peeks over the horizon. The trees offer their bare limbs in supplication. The winds are hushed; only the occasional motor vehicle disturbs the silence.

Would that every winter's day began this way.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:52 AM)
3 December 2002
A touch of frost

We dodged last week's threatened snow and ice. We will not be so fortunate this week.

I still contend that the stories of immense heat in Hell are apocryphal; what is ordered up by the minions of Lucifer from the main tower at One Brimstone Centre is endless freezing rain, and the damned are always driving to work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:19 AM)
4 December 2002
Winter Wonderland and other myths

The weather outside is frightful. We didn't get a whole lot of snow, but we compensated by getting enough ice to serve the nation's bartenders through July. To the north and west, that ice is covered with four to seven inches of snow. About 27,000 people statewide are freezing in the dark.

I think I'll go knock on neighborhood doors and ask people to run their SUVs a few extra minutes today.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:17 AM)
6 December 2002
The iceman stayeth

The cloud cover that was supposed to bug out yesterday hung around until midnight, so the promised warmup fizzled out short of the freezing mark, and this morning, with skies clearing, the mercury hid in the bottom of the thermometer and refused to show its face.

As ice storms go, this one was comparatively minor, though I'm sure the folks on the East Coast who were subsequently hit by it would argue that point. Local damage was relatively slight, most homes are back on the power grid, and I'm sure sales of Frozen Tundra Barbie will recover before long.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:03 AM)
12 December 2002
Clouds from both sides now

Monday: high 44, low 40, overcast.

Tuesday: high 45, low 40, overcast.

Wednesday: high 44, low 40, overcast.

Today it's supposed to rain.

I realize that this isn't the worst possible weather pattern for winter — nothing's likely to freeze at these temperatures — but it might be nice to see the sun once in a while, just to jog the old memory cells.

And the sunset, such as it is, has gotten to its earliest point (5:17 pm); from this point on, it gets later. (Sunrise is 7:30 am; the latest sunrise, around 7:40 am, will be around Boxing Day.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
24 December 2002
Drizzle, drizzle, fizzle

You want picturesque? Head northwest, where they got five and seven and nine inches of white and fluffy.

We got two in a hurry, and then the next ten or twelve bands fell as freezing drizzle, which makes for a lot more Maalox moments than Kodak. This system is supposed to move out today, but since none of the previous predictions were on the mark, I'm going to assume this one is wrong also.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:22 AM)
15 January 2003
Turning point

When, precisely, is the Dead of Winter? Where I live, you can make a case for this week. The 40-year average of temperatures bottoms out during this period (at 46 high, 26 low), then slowly turns upward. And contrary to most people's intuition, the sunrise gets as late as it ever does (7:40 am) this week. (The solstice is indeed the shortest day of the year, about nine hours and 45 minutes, but the sunset reaches its earliest point — 5:15 pm — in early December. I attribute this situation to the state's position near the far edge of the Central time zone.)

By these standards, spring is on the way: today's average high is 47 and the sunrise is at 7:39. Perhaps needless to say, it's supposed to snow tonight.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:14 AM)
24 January 2003
Utter chirplessness

During the winter, the resident birds serve as a sort of aural thermometer: when the temperature drops into the single digits Fahrenheit, as it did this morning, they keep their big beaks shut. If you're far enough out in the sticks, which I'm not at the moment, you think you can actually hear tree limbs freeze.

Closer in, the predominant sound is water running — either people are letting the faucets drip so that the pipes don't freeze, or the faucets (and everything else) are dripping because the pipes have already frozen.

Still, there's something peaceful about the whole scene. Or there would be, if I didn't have to drag myself off to work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 AM)
6 February 2003
Snow is just a four-letter word

As I'm ducking into my car this morning, some doofus four or five doors down is spinning his wheels at a prodigious pace and getting nowhere.

What's annoying about this is that the snow has yet to fall; it's still (barely) above freezing and the rain let up an hour ago. Imagine how well this guy is going to drive once the white stuff settles in earnest.

Now multiply him by half a million, and you'll know why I get antsy about winter storms.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 AM)
13 February 2003
So it must be raindrops

It is indeed rare that we get an actual spring rain this early. A 120-degree change in the wind direction would mean, not a inch or so of rain, but nine or ten inches of snow — or worse. But here we are, nowhere near the freezing point, and there's even a chance of a thunderboomer before it's all over.

We've had 6.7 inches of snow this season, about two-thirds of an average winter here. While we're not getting it now, I'm going to flashback to a spring rain during an actual spring — specifically, last April, when I said this:

Start the clock when the first droplets fall, and this is what you will find:

The most inspiring moment during a spring rain is at approximately T plus two and a half minutes. This is the point where you learn if you're going to get a genuine downpour or just some random spattering. This is also the point where if you take a deep breath, you'll get a whiff of largely-desmogged air, faintly redolent of damp vegetation, a scent once considered by deodorant-soap manufacturers to be the Holy Grail until they discovered they could sell Strawberry-Daiquiri-with-Antibiotics in volumes even greater.

The least inspiring moment during a spring rain is at approximately T plus four and a half hours. This is the point when you (or at least I) start whining, "When is it gonna stop already?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:06 PM)
16 February 2003
Failure to prognosticate

Around 7 pm, what passes for nightlife around here begins, and everyone loads up the cars and heads out to the Interstates.

Where they promptly slid into the guardrail. The weather guys had said nothing whatsoever about freezing drizzle and snow flurries last night — wasn't any chance of precipitation at all, in fact — and right on time at 7 pm, with the temperature dropping just below freezing, out came the partygoers, wholly unprepared for the carnage awaiting them within the next couple of miles.

Well, okay, it wasn't that bad, in the sense that no one got killed or anything, but you can probably expect a higher proportion of tow-truck operators on your next Caribbean cruise.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:24 AM)
24 February 2003
Saturday night at the Equinox

Old Man Winter had been drinking. And between drinks, he was scowling at passersby and making notes on a three-by-five card, mumbling things I probably didn't want to hear and generally acting like a man who'd gone too long without a vacation.

I surmised that this wasn't the place to be, and I was halfway to the door when he spotted me. "So how'd you like that nor'easter?" he said.

I shrugged. "Wasn't there." Short, sweet, no details. Better that way.

But he wasn't giving up so easily. "Where you from, boy?"

I knew what was coming. "Saskatchewan, sir."

"Don't lie to me, boy," he growled. He looked at his card, looked at me, looked at his card again. "I know you. You run that damn stupid blerg, or whatever it's called. The one about the fruity pizzas." He spotted the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue at my side. "Well, Crustberries, or whatever your name is, since you're so goddamn anxious for spring, how'd you like a week in the deep freeze?"

"It is an honor I dream not of," I said truthfully.

"Spare me the cross-cultural references, Juliet. Get your fat ass home and get the snow shovel out of storage."

That was Saturday night. Sunday morning, right on schedule, the temperature dropped below freezing. It is not expected to recover until Thursday at the earliest.

Remind me to quit talking to this guy.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:28 AM)
27 February 2003
Enough with the ice already

After five days in the deep freeze, five days in which every conceivable form of ice except Italian and Vanilla has descended upon the city, I have decided that it is pointless to pay any further attention to the Weather Guys with their splashy graphics and their high-zoot equipment and their unctuous manner. I am weary of arcane jargon like "advection" and so-called "seven-day" forecasts which are revised and edited and revised again within seven hours. All I want to know is this:

When is this crap going to let up?

Until they can answer this simple question with some semblance of precision, I suggest they sit down, preferably off-camera, and enjoy a nice cup of STFU.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
5 March 2003
Forecast, schmorecast

The winds shifted around to the southwest yesterday, and the temperature climbed to a balmy 71 degrees.

Then the sun set, and the winds resumed their northerly angle of attack, and this morning it's snowing and the wind-chill factor is around 8.

It's enough to make you want to go buy a couple of SUVs and drive around town all day in second gear.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:49 AM)
13 March 2003

Equinox, schmequinox; you know it's spring in Oklahoma when God's own tympani roar out of the sky and the rain falls hard, sometimes in drops that cut through your very skin and sometimes in little clumps of ice the size of a golf ball. Add to this the inevitable electric light show, and you've got a storm to reckon with; the one we got late last night dumped an inch of rain in half an hour, and while I didn't see any ice balls with "Titleist" enameled on their dimpled surface, there were lots of chunks the size of M&M's. Peanut, not plain.

I celebrated the event by verifying that my air conditioner wasn't working — something one must do yearly, after all — and pulling Silvetti's dance number "Spring Rain" off the shelf where it's sat for the last twelve months or so. You know there's been a shift of some sort when I start playing the disco stuff again.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 AM)
27 March 2003
Technically, it blows

Any hawk making lazy circles in the sky today is likely to get caught in a downdraft and end up on somebody's windshield. Winds are running 30, 35 mph on a consistent basis, and will occasionally peak around 45 to 50. Great fun. The lawn-furniture alert has already been issued.

And then suddenly these winds, blowing from the south all day, will start blowing from the north and the temperature will drop from about 80 this afternoon to maybe 38 by tomorrow morning.

In other words, nothing especially unusual for March in Oklahoma.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 AM)
3 April 2003
Waiting for the storm

You know it's coming.

There's a tiny space between the clouds where the sun shines just as bright as can be, but otherwise the sky looks like something you scraped out of a garage-sale coffeepot. You listen for the thunder and reset your mental clock to register in seconds. As you round the corner, you catch just enough reflected glare to make you hope for enough rain to wash the top layer of crud off the car.

You know it's coming.

What you don't know is what will come with it. Will it be straight-line winds, depositing the trash (and sometimes the trash can) from half a block away in front of my door? Will it be the sort of lightning that defines shock and/or awe? Will some galactic equivalent of Tiger Woods spend two hours on the practice tee at Cloud 8, propelling balls of ice incredible distances? Will it be, heaven help us, all of the above?

You don't know. All you know is that you know it's coming.

Or it might not. For every storm that stopped and spent the night, there's another one that took a detour and dropped on somebody else.

Welcome to Oklahoma. It's spring, dammit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:38 PM)
7 April 2003
Time stands still

I guess it always will.

Out the front door at the usual time. Temperature around freezing: check. Stiff north wind: check. Sunrise not even slightly in evidence: check.

Yep. It's the second week of February. I have no idea why all these postings are coming out with April dates on them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:56 AM)
16 April 2003
Routine stormage

Only in Oklahoma, it seems, can a feeble 0.44 inches of rain turn into a storm of epic proportions. The winds were blowing 40, 50 mph, occasionally hitting 75 or 80, and the power was cycling at semi-regular intervals, to the point where I started yelling "Don't even bother! Leave it off until it's going to stay on!"

Which, eventually, it did, and I awoke to an alarm clock with battery backup that had gained thirteen minutes overnight, and a VCR forlornly flashing "1:00" in the next room. (It's one of those newer models that automagically adjusts for Daylight Saving.) And something took out the central boiler, so this morning's shower was a special treat, with water seemingly imported all the way from Hudson Bay, kept at a scientifically-controlled 2 degrees Celsius for maximum discomfort.

We can't control everything, of course — every spring storm is a reminder of exactly that — but if we could, we'd probably muck up stuff worse than we have. And I really don't think we could improve much on this morning's full moon, a picture right out of your Kids' First Book of Astronomy, low enough to the horizon that if you stayed in the left lane, you'd think you could drive right up to it.

But . . . 0.44 inches of rain? That brings us up to just about four inches for the year, at a time when we've normally had seven or eight. Too early to mention the D word, maybe, but I have a feeling this summer is going to be a scorcher.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:09 AM)
3 May 2003
Are we having funnels yet?

Not today.

Four years ago on this date — well, then we had some serious stormage. It passed fairly close to me, but the only damage I suffered was from high-speed hail.

This being before I started the daily blog, I reported thusly in a subsequent Vent:

You can't watch destruction at this level, even at a "safe" distance, without something happening to you. The deeply religious, and we have lots of them, saw this as a severe test of their faith; the vast majority of them, I believe, held on. For those of an environmentalist bent — and perhaps also for those who scoff at such things — the storm was a none-too-gentle reminder that Nature always gets the last word.

All my life I've always felt that I could laugh in the face of danger. This is the first time I can remember that it laughed back.

DavidMSC, who used to live here, seems to be almost nostalgic about it. Well, of course; he wasn't here when it happened. Still, storms, especially really big storms, have their devotees, and I can't deny the fascination; as the pundits say, there's a high level of shock and awe.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:22 PM)
8 May 2003
Everyone knows it's windy

I've been to the west side of Moore, and there's nothing there that screams to the heavens "Yo! Tornado! Over here!"  For some reason, though, it's the preferred point of touchdown for the nastiest storms on record.

This wasn't an F5 or anything, but F2 was definitely within the realm of plausibility; this particular funnel danced east-by-northeast across the south side of the Oklahoma City metro, taking out much of a bank building on I-240 and smashing roof and window panels at General Motors' assembly plant.

No damage chez Chaz, and this time I had enough sense to stay inside.

(Update, 9 May, 8:30 am: The Weather Guys have started classifying this storm as an F3.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:48 PM)
9 May 2003
Déjà blew

Last night, KWTV worked up a creepy-looking map of the storm path, and superimposed upon it the path of the 1999 F5 storm. And what's most telling is that those paths were almost perfectly parallel for a good six, seven miles before crossing, the Storm of the Century veering northward (towards me) while last night's funnels kept to a more easterly route.

I suspect at least some of the people who rebuilt after 1999 are thinking now that they've had just about enough of this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:14 AM)
10 May 2003
Instant respray

Yes, yes, of course there are more tornado reports, but this time there was a tinge of irony to the story: the storm tracked across the northeast-side area where the major television stations are located, and managed briefly to knock two of them off the air. National Weather Service radio booted its automated voice off the air in favor of live coverage; it was no less useful than the TV reports, and frankly, how much murky, indistinct video can one person be expected to watch?

The good thing, of course, is that despite two nights of this (and a slight chance of a third), no one was killed, and relatively few were injured, by the effects of the storms.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:50 AM)
15 May 2003
Now playing, somewhere else

Twice within fifteen minutes this morning, the NOAA weather radio regaled us with an explanation of tonight's lunar eclipse, why it happens, and when to see it.

The rest of that quarter-hour was devoted to the forecast, which made it quite clear that skies will be overcast for the next two days, with increasing chances of thunderstorms, and that our chances of actually seeing the eclipse were on par with those of a mascot at Satan's School for Snowballs.

I hate when they do that.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:01 AM)
3 June 2003
Drippity drop

It's the third of June. Another sleepy, dusty Delta day? Maybe down by some other river. We're getting rained upon — half an inch since sunrise, after which it started coming down faster — and a particularly wet pattern is setting up for the rest of the week. It's as though someone looked at the statistics and yelled, "Cripes, Marv, we're down forty-nine percent on rainfall for the year!" Which we are. Or were, anyway. There are no flood warnings up yet, but a couple more hours like this and you won't have to throw things off the bridge: the water will take it right out of your hands.

Still, better in June than in January, when the combination of flakes on