Wednesday's Play by Play
Snow it did! new Tiller Food everywhere! How sweet it was...prayers answered and all...
The weatherman had this one timed to the minute going in it seemed. Pellet-style snow was just starting to fall when I left the DaveCave for work. Light snow fell all the way to work, and up top the forecast winds started to ramp up during Shift Change. By the time I was settled into the Bison's throne, the wind was blowing like stink.
Conditions were difficult right out of the box. Even though the afternoon temps were 5F cooler than they'd been running all week, the piste was wet, wet, wet with a thin skin of new snow laying on top. We had to go as fast as we dared to keep the wet stuff from streaking and balling up. One touch of the blade to the pack, and you were looking for somewhere to hide the resultant glob...there was no feathering a blade-full until the temps dropped and the new snow started accumulating.
It wasn't snowing hard, but it was really starting to blow, making for tough going. We were joined by our newest team member Jake, an experienced winch pilot who's just learning our Mountain. He had a short To-Do list but the visibility wasn't helping any. I kept in radio contact, and offered to guide him to each successive trail as a precautionary strategy...no sense making extra work for ourselves. My regulars were getting lost an hour in...thankfully they weren't trailing a long invisible steel cable!
The forecast said the system would be short and sweet, and come through fast and furious. I dispatched everyone to their "Home Turf" where they'd be most comfortable (and most likely stay out of trouble) I went to my usual haunts as well...right in the Mid-Mountain WiFi cloud. I wanted to know when it would be over, so we could greet the morning with our best foot forward.
Having the internet in the palm of your hand, behind the sticks of a SnowCat is really something. I pulled up at the bottom of the incredibly wide, featureless home run trail I was working on and fired up the Radar Map from WeatherUnderground. What a beautiful picture! Vivid blues, greens and purples scudding right over us. I grabbed the mike and told the Guys: "It looks like this thing is more than half way over" "It should be clearing up by 4:00, 4:30" I opined. The pack was starting to get dry enough to put the blade into, but tight turn-arounds were bringing the goo up into blade territory, so I went with the Long Lines to keep turn ruts to a minimum.
An hour later, I checked the Radar again. I radioed "The trailing edge is east of Reno now, so this should be breaking up anytime now" I was transfixed by the images in my hand, I launched Tweetdeck and checked on Chain Controls, Weather Advisories, and the Local News. Chain Control was all the way down at Nyack to the west and down to Truckee in the east. I composed and sent my first message from the seat of my SnowCat on the iPod...I stepped into the 21st Century...with both thumbs.
I looked up and saw three hundred yards up the trail, and three hundred feet in elevation up the Mountain. I saw the vestiges of several wandering passes I'd just made, and decided to go to Plan B...I went up the mountain to find more confined spaces (read Landmark-Heavy trails) I'll come back down when things really clear up...before I even made 100 yards, the ceiling dropped down again, and the snow and wind kicked in again...big time. The Moon was up now, so at least I could navigate with my lights off, but the wind wasn't done yet.
Around 0430 I took my Lunch Break back in the WiFi Cloud. The Radar didn't show a single return, yet it was still snowing and blowing like crazy! My Twitter Feeds showed Chain Control had moved way up the hill to the west, and moved downhill in the east. This thing was nearly over, but didn't seem to know it yet! We chatted about it on the radio, and when I finished lunch, I lead Jake to the other side of the Mountain for his last two projects of the night.
Mercifully, the cloud deck rose off the piste just before sunrise as the winds subsided, making for a pleasant Home Stretch. We did everything the Work Orders asked for, the fleet performed flawlessly, and there was even some Sun breaking through the clouds when we pulled up to the Fuel Dock!
There's another little snowstorm working it's way across the State tonight. Chain Control has moved 1000ft up I-80 since I started this blog entry, and the Reno AFD says the bulk of it will be over by midnight's Shift Change. The wind will remain gusty into Friday afternoon, giving way to a nice sunny weekend.
It looks like winter weather will rule the day for the last three days of March...out like a Lion! Sweet!