Category Archives: Weather Watching

Winter is coming.

trip-south

For various reasons we decided to head south December 1 this year. We knew we were taking a bit of chance weather wise and we weren’t entirely lucky. We left Alonsa after freezing rain and our original planned path through Bismarck was quite literally shut down due to a heavy snowfall. So we were stuck trying to head south along the infamous I29 corridor. I say infamous for a few reasons. It is the most boring drive in the world. It bypasses just about anything neat fun or interesting in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri. There are miles and miles of nothing but flat prairie. It is also infamous because in winter weather entire sections can be shut down. And if you are in a camper there is very little in the way of open campgrounds in December. It is also a major trucking corridor so you spend most of the drive wincing as the big truckers pass you by.

The first hour of of Alonsa was hellish because we were driving on sheer ice. I was so glad we had just put on new snow tires and had four wheel drive. Even then I could not go over 60km/hr (40mph) without the trailer starting to fishtail in a frightening way. So a drive we made many times over the summer in 20 minutes took over an hour. Once we got to McCreary the roads were wet not icy so we were finally able to hit 90k/hr (55mph). We made a pit stop to have our wheel re-torqued after the new snow tire installation and then we headed south. We took the Yellowhead into Portage La Prairie and then headed out joining up with with 75 in Morris.  We arrived at the border about 4:00pm. To our delight, this time we were waved right through. You never know what you will encounter at the border. Sometimes we get searched, sometimes we have to produce paperwork. This time all we got was a cheerful “Have a nice trip” and we were over the border. The road was clear and we were eager to get further south so we drove until we reached Fargo. In Fargo we joined about 10 other RVers parking in the Flying J. Apparently we aren’t the only snowbirds to wait for December 1. I actually like staying on truck stops. Most truck drivers are polite and professional. Always fun new stuff to see. The time it was the biggest dump truck I ever saw. We had a nice big American breakfast at the Huddle House.

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We then headed south to North Sioux City South Dakota where there is a year round KOA. We decided we needed an oil change before moving on so we had a side trip into Iowa to a service place before we continued south. It had still not gone above freezing so we arrived with ice and snow on our trailer. We rolled into another year round KOA in Kansas City Missouri about 8:00pm and finally it was above freezing. Our trailer began dripping as the ice and snow melted. We continued dripping and shedding ice and snow as we followed the I29 south and then veered off for a side trip through Oklahoma. It was a joy to finally leave the standard campground behind and stay at a state park. It was fun to see new territory in Oklahoma. I even felt a genuine Oklahoma earthquake, a gentle rattle and roll from a nearby 3.9. KOAs have their place in RV life and I do like them but not day after day. Plus the KOAs cost more and the campsite in Lake Eufaula State Park was huge, gorgeous and only $26 and we had a grand total of five other campers in the huge place. It rained all night. We woke up to find the ice and snow had finally melted away and the rain washed our trailer and truck clean. From there we travelled to Mt Pleasant Texas for a two day overnight break at another KOA. We had a breakfast meeting with a colleague, a much needed long walk on green grass with the dogs, laundry and quiet.

So that was it. Instead of a nice leisurely trip stopping to see sights along the way and taking our time, we did a straight flying trip south as fast as possible of 2300km running away from winter. And I woke up to news this morning that home has been totally socked in by a mega all out blizzard. So we didn’t leave ourselves a lot of room weather wise by leaving in December.

Will we do it again? I’m not sure. This part of our trip was not fun. It was all about getting south. We saved a lot of money by waiting an extra month and a half in terms of health care costs and our weak Canadian dollar against the American dollar. We got to enjoy our cosy home in Alonsa and the company of our friends for an extra month and a half. But it does take the joy out of the trip south. So we may not do this next year. We shall see.

Tornado Shelter – Part 2

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This is some lovely rotating clouds we saw from our front porch during a severe thunderstorm. Fortunately the rotating never organized into anything, but it sure makes you think.

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The roof needed to be made in advance and so we made it from 2 sheets of 3/4 inch plywood. These were glued together and attached to a frame of 2X4s.If we decide to upgrade to an F5 suitable shelter we will add 1/4 inch steel sheets. I don’t think we’ll bother though. The cost would be huge and the risk, while not zero, is extremely low.

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The space for the shelter is here under the main beam and near the stairs. Naturally Klinger supervises everything,

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We have a very high water table anyway and with heavy rain we get a lot of water. If the sump pump fails the basement fills with water to the height of the black on the bricks. So the flooring has a one inch space for water to flow to the sump pump. During a severe thunderstorm, a space like this can swiftly fill with water from inches of rainfall so we have to plan on being wet. Because of the wet, the bottom most layer and everything that touches walls is made from treated “preserved wood foundation material” lumber. We have also purchased an emergency back up sump pump that will run on DC power since any severe weather will likely mean the electricity is out. There will be a deep cycle marine battery in the space. We will also have lights from the battery.

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We originally were planning on bracing the roof into the beam of the house itself. But according to FEMA it’s better for the box to be self contained and not attached to the house in case the house gets moved off its foundation. So the box frame is bolted to the concrete with special 1/2 inch concrete anchors at six points on the floor and four on the roof where it attaches to the cinderblock wall that will act as the fourth wall. Each concrete anchor can take 1000 pounds of force with ten bolts we have 10,000 pounds. It’s not going anywhere any time soon. It would hold very nicely for an F2, F3, the kind typically found in Manitoba) and probably an F4. It might even be good enough for an F5 providing the tornado passed over very quickly and didn’t sit on us churning, since we are also below ground level.

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Now the roof is in. It’s all framed with temporary frames and bolts until the main interior framing is completed. I can’t say we worked all that hard. We took lots of breaks, had a rather leisurely dinner and we didn’t start until after noon. Plus we had an afternoon nap. We finished to this stage by 9:00 pm.

Storm Day

Looks like we are in for a nice day of storms with thunder and lightning, heavy rain, hail, high winds and possibly a tornado or two. There is a cold front crossing a warm front and it is currently three counties west of us moving east. We are staying indoors watching the radar, ready to move to a more sheltered spot if anything close by is threatening. Travel trailers do not take severe weather very well. In fact, statistically speaking, you are better off outside lying on the ground than sitting out a severe storm in your trailer. Meantime I have a bunch of figures for our book that need doing so I will flip back and forth between Compisitor and NOAA until this front passes. If you are in the way of any nasty weather, stay alert, stay safe.

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Sirens Sounding

We are sitting in a Milledgeville restaurant in downtown Milledgeville called the Local Yolkal. I woke up and saw an approaching storm system and it was aimed right at our little, totally vulnerable, camper. We were also under a tornado watch. The storm seemed to me to be increasing in intensity and I could see the beginning of the radar hook. So we decided to abandon our home and move to a safer location in downtown Milledgeville where the buildings are sturdy and there are basements. Just as we entered the cafe the sirens began to sound. The locals are calmly alert and ready. One fellow told us to move indoors now and suggested the Local Yolkal for breakfast and storm shelter. The waitress told us the place has a shelter big enough for all the staff and guests so if it gets ugly we can move downstairs. And so we now wait out the tornado. On its current track the storm will go between our present location and the trailer to the north. The biggest problem we may face is getting home if it damages stuff on the highway.

This challenging weather is why America will never be defeated. There is nothing any ISIS or Al Qaeda can produce that is as bad as what Americans regularly deal with from Mother Nature. Listen, react, take shelter, wait and then deal with it when its done.

Epilogue: The storm broke into two cells and one went between the town and the campground. The cell with the tornado passed to the southwest of us, veering that direction as these storms so often do. We saw a lot of heavy rain and a lot of wind but that’s all. Locals watched closely but made no move to head to the shelter so we just watched as well. There are some reports of an eighteen wheeler blown over and some reports of minor damage but not affecting us here in the restaurant.

We returned to our trailer to find the area littered with pine needles and pine cones and lots of running water on the hills and in the ditches, but otherwise no damage. Score one for Mother Nature.

Sitting out a Manitoba Mauler

Manitoba Mauler

Oh wow! First there was the Colorado low, then the Alberta clipper and now…wait for it….The Manitoba Mauler.

From NOOA
Short Range Forecast Discussion
NWS Weather Prediction Center College Park MD
316 AM EDT Fri Oct 31 2014

Valid 12Z Fri Oct 31 2014 – 12Z Sun Nov 2 2014

***Major trough setting up over the Eastern U.S.***

***Arctic surface high settles southward into U.S.***

The weather pattern will get interesting as we head into the weekend as a
Manitoba mauler (a low pressure system coming from the Canadian province
of Manitoba) dives southward towards the southern Appalachians by Saturday
morning. This will result in the development of a highly amplified trough
over the East Coast and a strong surface low developing offshore. In
terms of sensible weather impacts, expect much colder weather by Saturday
with numerous showers, and accumulating snow in the higher elevations of
the Appalachians. Rain and windy conditions are likely for eastern New
England by Sunday as the offshore low intensifies.

Manitoba Mauler – how appropriate! Since Manitoba is flat and opens right up to the Arctic, a Manitoba Mauler is a cold front that quickly brings arctic air south and east pulverizing the eastern midwest of the USA. Today we have very high winds, freeze warnings, a high barely above freezing and a low predicted for about -3C, below freezing. It will take two days to pass and will officially end the growing season down here in southern Illinois. We caught up with fall on the trip here and saw many trees in brightly coloured autumn dressing.

We are safely tucked in at a full service campsite just north of Champaign called D&W Campground and RV park and it’s really a nice little place to sit out horrible weather. Super wide sites, friendly people, all the amenities. I plan on doing some vegging out, some writing and today make stew and bread. We’ll wait out the Manitoba mauler in Champaign, Illinois.