Sunday, January 16, 2011


I know I'm getting older and don't have the tolerance I used to, but this winter is kicking my butt. In the second half of December I could never seem to get warm and it always seemed really cold in the house, especially in the morning. Then I discovered that we had a bad zone valve on the heating system and we weren't getting much heat upstairs. Things got much better after I fixed that (duh).
 But for the last week or so we've had a lot of zero or sub-zero nights and boy is it hard to run out the door when the pager goes off. So far we've been lucky and only had one long roadside call, but the weather and terrain around here can make for 'micro environments' where a certain stretch of road in a small area can have arctic weather. Such is the case along the downwind edges of large frozen bodies of water such as we have now. The wind comes down with no impediments and hits the road carrying literally tons of wind blown snow which it deposits in unpredictable ways. Just a quarter of a mile away, things can be normal with a slight breeze, but when you are working in the target zone you may have 30 below wind chills and white-out conditions. This can be dangerous stuff and tactics have to adjust. Exposed skin freezes quickly in those conditions.
 The other night I had to cross one windswept road to get to an MVA on another windswept road caused by, you guessed it, snow drifting. It hadn't snowed for 24 hours, but I was driving the Engine through foot and a half high drifts and visibility was around 30 feet until I got out of the target zone and hit clean dry road. Here was the view from my cab:

 And of course, we have that white spit coming down an awful lot this year. At my place I put it at around 24 inches so far in the last few weeks. We've actually been lucky, some places within an hours drive are up around 3 feet already. We are starting to see the ice dams building up on the edges of roofs though and this will present the next battle if we don't get a warm spell.
 Every time I hear a neighboring Department toned out for a structure fire I cringe. It is brutal working in these conditions. As I type this, the next Department up the line is headed to a chimney fire. Bad enough on a night like this. We get a lot of those this time of year because when it gets this cold nobody wants to shut their stove down to clean the chimney. Some folks consider a small chimney fire a 'good way' to clean out the chimney.
 I'm on duty on the Ambulance tonight and I pray that the little old lady who has taken to calling us on Sunday night's for attention and a ride to the hospital will skip this week. It's just too damn cold.
 I am very ready to go some place warm for a few days.
Old Bussiness:
 In case you are wondering what happened to the eyeglasses in my last post, I swallowed hard and went back to the call location and returned them after confirming they didn't belong to one of our other people. I had hoped to just drop them off, but no, the family wouldn't have it and invited me in. They wanted to thank me and all the other responders who came so fast and did everything they could. One family member, who was doing compressions when I arrived, needed to talk things through and was looking for some closure. I assured him he did everything right and was doing a good job when I arrived. He just kept telling me how much of an impression I made in putting things in order and setting up the scene while continuing treatment. He said he didn't understand how we could get there so fast and be as organized as we are to do what we do. I told him I don't completely understand it myself, but it's what we do and it always seems automatic to me. I was there a half hour and was pretty drained when I left. I don't have much training in grief counseling. At any rate, they were very pleased to get the glasses, they had been looking everywhere for them and wanted them for the wake. They said his old glasses wouldn't 'look right'. I get that.
Be Safe, Stay Warm, and Stay in the House,

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