Tag Archives: snow

Pandemic blog 44: white Christmas

Just above freezing today, a light snow falling. I took a walk down to Wingra Park, reading He Knew He Was Right, one of the funny parts where a hapless clergyman attempts vainly to not get married (I know that describes a lot of Trollope but the joke lands every time.) The near shore of Lake Wingra was a hockey rink for parents and their kids, on the last day of the long Christmas weekend. Last night, as the holiday requires, we ordered Chinese delivery from Ichiban (in Madison, for reasons lost to history, Szechuan restaurants have Japanese names) and watched the new Pixar movie, Soul. There are very few movies all four of us are willing to sit down and watch in full; I think this year it was just Soul and American Pickle, so I guess we only like to watch sappy movies about hapless comic figures who return from apparent death. The kids and I agree that cumin lamb should be one of those Chinese dishes on the permanent shortlist of American menu standards, like kung pao chicken and ma po tofu and beef lo mein; why isn’t it? Is it hard to make?

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Natural accumulation

Don’t even ask me how I fell down this rabbit hole in the middle of August but I was trying to understand the legal requirements in Wisconsin and other states concerning shoveling snow off the city sidewalk in front of your house.  It turns out there’s no state law requiring this (though there are city ordinances in Madison and Milwaukee to this effect.)

More:  there’s a 1956 Wisconsin Supreme Court case, Walley v. Patake, which holds that a property owner isn’t liable if they fail to shovel the sidewalk abutting their property, and someone falls there and is injured, as long as the snow and ice is “natural accumulation” — that is, it’s a different story if there’s a huge heap of ice on the sidewalk because you piled it there when you shoveled your driveway.  In Hagerty v. Village of Bruce (1978) the Wisco Supremes clarified that even when the landowner is violating a city law by not shoveling, they still don’t take on liability.  The theory here is that the liability for injury on a public walkway belongs to the city, and the city can’t delegate it; the point of the shoveling law is to require landowners to act so as to make injuries less likely, but that’s all; the city is still liable.

In Ohio (Brinkman v. Ross, 1993) you are not even liable when someone slips on the ice on your own property, as long as it’s natural accumulation.  I wonder to what extent this is the case in other states?  I wonder if there’s a law professor somewhere in America who’s an expert on icy sidewalk liability?



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Negative footprints

There should be a word for when you’re shoveling dry, powdery snow off the driveway, but the places where you stepped are slightly compacted and stick to the concrete, leaving raised snow “footprints” when the rest is shoveled away.


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(27 Jan 2011.  Posted under Creative Commons license by flickr user sushiesque, some rights reserved.)

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On the plus side, you rarely have to wait in line to get ice cream

For those reading this from outside Madison, here’s some data from the Isthmus about our recent streak of bad weather. Yesterday’s 13 inches of snow was the second-highest snowfall from a single storm ever recorded here. Classes were cancelled at UW for only the third time in the last twenty years. With six weeks of winter left to go, 2007-08 is two and a half inches away from being the snowiest winter on record. (78-79 holds the current mark.) On I-90 a little south of here, just past Stoughton, somewhere between a thousand and two thousand people were stopped behind trucks that couldn’t make it up a long, low hill; the backup started in the middle of the afternoon and some people were still there at 4am. Governor Doyle called out the National Guard to patrol the edge of the highway in snowmobiles, passing out blankets and army rations.

Some good snow pictures from the always-on-the-scene Letter from Here.

As for me, I spent an hour this morning digging out Mrs. Q’s plowed-in car. But after I finished digging — or at least dug until I thought I was finished — her car was still stuck in the snow, wheels spinning helplessly. Fortunately, we soon saw another plow, whose driver hitched his towline to the car and dragged it out of the snowbank. This was accomplished in a manner suggesting a much-repeated task.

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My God, it’s full of stars

A light snow fell all day in Madison. And it was sparkly. In the air, and on the ground, too, like flecks of mica in the pavement.

I’ve never seen snow do this. Is it because it gets so cold here? The high today was 16 degrees. I’ve heard people say it can be too cold to snow. That must be pretty cold.

Of course, I should have made checking the Straight Dope my first step. According to the all-knowing Cecil, what I saw was called diamond dust. Sources differ as to what precisely constitutes diamond dust, but it seems pretty clear it’s the stuff that sparkles when it’s well below freezing, and still snowing. Like today. Bring on April.

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Things I don’t know, winter storm watch edition

I somehow haven’t mentioned the very salient fact that 20 inches of snow has fallen in Madison in the last two weeks. The streets are clear by now, but there’s 3-4 feet of snowbank plowed up on every curb. Today I saw a little Bobcat transferring loads of snow into a dumptruck. Question: where is the dumptruck taking the snow? Do you dump snow at the garbage dump? In the lake?

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