Dec
09

All about Preparing for Winter Weather

The topic on the floor of our off-Reecer Creek meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association (RCRGWD&OTTBA) was winter – and preparing for its vagaries – as we noted the icy parking lot beyond the window.

“I don’t know,” Homey allowed, “this just feels like one of those winters of surprises.” As resident meteorologist for our little think tank, I was thus driven to find what the guys with all the weather toys are saying. The current outlook for Paradise, in the eyes of NOAA’s National Weather Service, is 1) an equal chance for colder or warmer than average (“normal”) temperatures and 2) a high probability of a wetter than normal winter coming. (You can track this for yourself at www.climate.gov, with “2016-2017 winter” in the search box.) Given that “wetter than normal” means ice, snow or rain – depending on temperature – and that our odds for a warmer or colder winter are even, Homey wins. This could well be a winter of surprises.

Agenda items ranged from worrying about friends and older family members negotiating icy walks and streets to backcountry snowshoeing and skiing around avalanches to staying safe in a car stuck on one of the passes over the Cascades. Given the lack of enthusiasm among attendees for shoveling wet snow, I suggested we might save a few bucks with a group purchase of flame-throwers. My suggestion fell on deaf ears, however, and the topic shifted to safer shoes.

It is apparent that several homeys have discovered the use of strap-on ice grabbers. Names like Yak Trax, Shur Foot, Get a Grip, Omniteck Sandal Cleats and Due North Ice and Snow Grips were falling off tongues like winter poetry. I agreed to pass along the suggestions in these minutes, as well as assurances that Arnold’s Ranch and Home and Cle Elum Farm and Home carry these shoe safety tools, with a fair chance you will find them at Bi-Mart and Freddies. As our meeting adjourned and homeys gingerly approached their waiting vehicles, I was reminded to consider winter highway and mountain safety issues.

The frequency and severity of avalanches has yet to be seen for the coming winter – things could go either way. Still, recent wet and heavy snows are making the dangers more obvious. Homey Glenn Bandy would be urging me to remind you that venturing out for snow play on or below steep terrain requires that you educate yourself about avalanche hazard recognition and avoidance.

If you are thinking about spending time in the backcountry, alone or with family and friends, consider taking advantage of one or another opportunity to educate yourself. Real time avalanche forecasts and current Cascade snow pack analyses are available from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) at 206-526-6677 or www.nwac.us. Other information about snow and its science, along with most everything you need to know about avalanche and weather conditions in our backcountry will be found at www.turns-all-year.com/.

The CWU Outdoor Pursuits and Recreation Center will be offering several terrific seminars and workshops dealing with snow safety, the use of avalanche beacons, avalanche related snow conditions, and thriving/surviving in the backcountry. There will be daytime and evening programs. See www.cwu.edu/opr/events-page or contact Outdoor Pursuits and Recreation at 509-963-3537 for information about avalanche series, snowshoeing trips and other adventures as they are scheduled.

Being stuck in snow or caught in an avalanche in your vehicle can mess up your whole day.  Thus, over the years, members of our Winter Safety Subcommittee have thrown together an “auto be” list for the rigs of Paradise. Simple really: a full gas tank; tire chains (that actually fit the car they are in); a shovel; kitty litter (for traction); blankets; crackers and peanut butter; boots; and a cell phone programmed for both 911 and KITTCOM (509-925-8534). Traction tires are pretty much a given these days, and a lively discussion has always centered on making sure that tire tread is at least one-eighth (1/8) inch deep. These days, discussion of “siping” (cuts or slits in the tread) for better traction and cooler highway running is always on the table.

At some point in every winter shoe traction discussion, someone brings up The Story. As it is told, several of our members were sitting around a warm wood stove on a cold wintry day a decade back using one homey’s Dremel tool to cut deep into shoe treads for improved walking safety. Story goes that at least two of the craftsmen cut completely through the soles of relatively new and expensive shoes, sacrificing warm dry feet for traction. Names, actual date and location of that gathering remain hazy – perhaps because of the presence, on that blustery day, of a large quantity of an expensive imported malt beverage.

Our coming winter, no doubt, has surprises in store for us. Stand by – be ready.

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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