Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Into The Boreal Malestrom!

     Yeah, it's so cold my thesaurus is stuck.  Best-read of the terrific lizards, but even on a steady diet of steamy beach novels, they grind to a halt when the thermometer drops below zero. Which ours has.  Well below.

     It's so cold that the giant CFL "farm light" lighting my back yard (which replaced the old mercury-vapor after it gave up over the course of a cold winter) is putting out a dim fraction of its usual light.  It's so cold that a local TV station, in the heart of central steam-heated downtown Indianapolis* went out into their parking lot and showed the Polar explorer trick of tossing a mugful of boiling water into the air, where it instantly froze to snow.  (The utility is assiduous about controlling steam leaks but in cold weather, a careful  eye can usually spot one or two manholes in the service area emitting a plume of steam.  I'll bet those are interesting in the cold!)

     City trash pick-up and Federal mail has been cancelled for today and tomorrow and the various road projects underway are all on hold until the weather improves.  Indianapolis is nowhere near the heart of this cold, but like most of the continental U.S., we're seeing temperatures that have been -- so far -- once-in-a-lifetime.

     Be careful out there.  Better yet, don't go out there.  Temperatures will be in the fifties by the weekend.
* Indianapolis has the second-largest steam utility system in the United States, delivering steam for heating and industrial purposes to businesses and residences in and near the"Mile Square" of downtown.  But good luck finding out much about it!  Currently, it appears to be run by Citizen's Energy Group, our public-trust gas and water utility, though as nearly as I can determine, the electric utility -- Indianapolis Power and Light at the time -- set it up in the 1920s and ran it for many years.  The steam is a byproduct of a generating station just south of downtown. which weaned itself off coal in 2014.  Presumably it burns natural gas now.  I have certain fondness for it; I lived for several years in a downtown apartment building on central steam heat, warm and a little noisy as air went knocking up the pipes.


Blackwing1 said...

I had a trip to my dentist planned for several months, so I ventured out this morning. When I left the house at 6:50 it was -27°F with a northwest wind producing a wind chill of -52°F.

I don't care where you're from, even here in Minnesnowta, that's a wee bit chilly. But a wool hat, good gloves, and a down parka with fur-trimmed hood do a pretty good job of keeping me comfortable on the walk from the house to the bus stop. Buses were running on time, albeit with almost nobody in them, and getting to my dentists office downtown was a snap.

Only issue there was that the exam/treatment room had a little problem in the form of water dripping from the ceiling fire sprinkler. The dental technician and I came in the room, and she saw the water on the chair, and thought maybe it had come from the dispenser; she wiped it up and I sat down and looked up at the ceiling. A few minutes later I watched a drop form on the sprinkler head and fall into my lap. We ended up in another room while they put in a call for building maintenance. That first exam room was on the north side of the building, but I'm sure hoping that their sprinkler system pipes didn't freeze overnight.

Back home now and the outdoor thermometer reads -21.8°F and the wind is still blowing. The snow plows still haven't hit the "odd-numbered" side of the street, so my truck is still sitting on the other side of the street, and it's probably going to stay there until after noon sometime when they finally get things plowed. Then I'll see if it will fire up, drive it around some to charge up the battery, and re-park in front of the house.

Of course, it's going to warm up right after this outbreak. The forecast for Saturday is a high of 35°F.

Ygolonac said...

Welcome to Montana. 20+ years back, we had a vortex reroute that dropped -50F (-80-85F w/wind chill) or suchlike right down most of the state, which has never been noted for balmy winters. (Date of my birth was right in the middle of a record-setting cold snap, in fact. Gee I wonder why I dislike the cold so much...)

Ahh, the joys of getting dressed and walking out to the car every couple hours, to run it for fifteen minutes or so and keep it from completely freezing - and this with a headbolt heater, at that.

Now I'm out in Eastern Washington, and it's only been a few times that I've felt it was anything like old-fashioned Montana winter, and even then it's almost always missing the wind. (The weather, I mean; I don't miss it at bloody all.)

Storyteller said...

Boy, I know what you're going through. Last night it got down to 62 degrees and I had to search for a darn blanket. During the day I had to suffer the cold 76 temperature nearly 3 hours. Wait, I live in Hawaii. Oh well, never mind. :)

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...


The steam system is definitely Citizens -- we deal with them down the street from you in that big building with the tall bell tower :)

Sometime in the past decade they built a chiller plant on Illinois between St. Clair and 9th to provide expansion to their existing chilled water service. It looks like a regular commercial building but it's just a shell built around a bunch of water/glycol chillers that provide air conditioning to customers in that immediate area. We looked at getting on to that (because our own chillers are getting toward end of life), but it's a pretty expensive service with a pretty big build-out cost (since their pipeline isn't close to us), and unlike steam it's not a regulated service, so Citizens could raise the price on it pretty much at will.