Buffalo - Winter

:date: 2019-04-10 05:39 :tags:

When I first arrived in Buffalo last summer I pointed out to the astonished locals, who inevitably asked why I would move here from San Diego, that as far as I was concerned the problem with both places was that it was too hot. They would then answer their own question with a cry of, "Just wait for winter!" You see, in San Diego these days waiting for winter does little to relieve the "too hot" problem. Here, the weather is far more pleasant. For me.

Although I'm nostalgically keeping the snow poles in my driveway another week or so (and the chance of a decent snow is still pretty good), spring has definitely begun. It is time to review Buffalo's hallmark season, winter!

By autumn the "too hot" problem had definitely been cured and I was delighted. There was also a bit of apprehension  —  could it actually become not hot enough? There were ominous signs  —  the gleaming battlegroup of snowblowers lined up outside of Home Depot, the snow poles being planted everywhere, frost-proof plumbing, gates to close the freeways, a pretty decent amount of autumn snow. In November I saw some guys at UB testing out a snowmobile. All pretty exciting!

Perhaps one of the reasons that I like winter weather more than normal people is that when planning and preparation can easily cure an obvious problem, it's pretty much a problem I never have. So plan and prepare I did. I bought tons of winter gear, much it of while shopping in northeast Canada. I didn't just turn off my outside spigots to keep my pipes from freezing  —  I cut them out and completely removed them for the winter. I had so much fun buying weird stuff like snow poles, crampons, spiked bike tires, and snow shovels (yes, three). I worried that my little car would not be adequate but settled on getting the best snow tires money can buy. Etc.

As I braced for this famous heavy-duty winter, the weather actually turned annoyingly mild. The autumn snow melted and did not seriously make an effort to return throughout December. Just when my wife and I were beginning to think the whole winter thing was a hoax, it did finally show up. I will say that the weather here can be volatile!


Never a dull moment looking out the window! My time lapse video certainly illustrates that. Another example of that is the longer sunrises and sunsets this season. Here is a sunrise from our house.


A lot of those winter cliches are simply normal life here. For example, here is one of those little decorative trees they paint white to simulate snow contrasted with the real thing.


To get a feel for how this season went, I'll order some photos in what seems to be the wrong order, but which are in fact chronological.

Here's a flock (rafter?) of turkeys walking past my office window.

.December 17 20181217_101259-turkeys.jpg

Oh ya, serious winter here! Late December and I'm eating lunch outside (though not every day like I did in SD). Apparently authentic Buffalo "culture" would compel me to jump on that plastic table until it breaks. At least they like good music here. I was reminded of that as the holiday ear torture gave way to music with guitars again.

.December 20 20181220_131406-lunch.jpg

Christmas is so full of fatuous songs about snow, surely there will be snow, right? Not as much as I would have thought. Finally on Christmas day there was a bit of light snow (you can see falling), but e is standing mostly on what's left of November's plowed snow.

.December 25 20181225_123625-ee.jpg

After a sluggish start, by the end of January winter finally started to get interesting! Here is Lake LaSalle looking pretty wintry. (Summer version for comparison, camera vector is -1x.) The key point I was noting with this photo is the headwind which the blowing snow makes more visible than usual.

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And on the way home from work back through UB it was definitely nice and snowy, but very, very far from impossible to bike in.

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I had to get home early because I needed to get my skiing in. When my skis arrived in late January (as I report here), I decided I would ski every day it was possible to do so.

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I skied 9 days straight and (barring a prodigious amount of freakish spring snow) that was it for the entire season. Better than nothing to be sure, but I'd love to see a lot more.


Here's a single turkey walking through my backyard. There is still a lot of wildlife here in the winter.

.February 7 20190207_073124-turkey.jpg

We get rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, Canadian geese, and tons of other birds. Here four deer come to visit. I can only find three in the photo, but that's how those deer are  —  very good at blending in. I often find their tracks on the driveway when I shovel it.

.February 28 20190228_165716-deer.jpg

The only time I enjoy being too hot is if I am literally steaming. That phenomenon occurs only when you burn a ton of calories in a short amount of time and it's freezing cold. You can't quite see it in this photo of me cooling off, but I will remember that commute fondly.

.February 28 20190228_094237-steam.jpg

Riding through some tough snow on this bike path was fun. The hard part can be simply the rough surface of footprints frozen solid. It's like very rough cobbles.

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Here I was practicing my compulsory figures. The real objective was to try to dislodge the slushy snow stuck in my tires before bringing my bike inside. I finally worked out that I could go inside and get a pitcher of water and pour it on the tires. That was helpful for the salt buildup too. I did accidentally make a dangerous little skating rink one morning. Oops! Sorry! I thought it was mid 30sF but really it was low 20sF. Lesson learned.

.March 07 20190307_072654-figures.jpg

Although much of the core of winter was less snowy than I would have liked, even on the last day of March there was enough snow for everything to look nice and snowy. This is the view from my desk at home (cf. the autumn view).

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What the Buffalo winter taught me is that I probably should move to Canada or Alaska if I ever get the chance. I really enjoyed the winter as I previously reported. The week of that polar vortex stuff I was really taken by surprise. Not with the weather or the "cold" but by how much Buffalonicians really freaked out. It was nice how quiet the University of Buffalo was when it was closed because of snowy weather. That made cycling through it on my way to work that much more pleasant. But really? Closed? Everything was closed. For several days!

I didn't even think it was that severe. This was probably one of the coldest rides I did this season and it's nowhere close to my cold biking record temperature. One day my wife and I walked through the woods to go to a nearby restaurant  —  we found a sign "Closed Due To Weather". Sure there was some snow. Just like everyone expected, right? Come on now, maybe I'm some kind of cold tolerant freak of nature, but when my San Diego born and raised wife walks a couple of miles through the snow to go out to eat, we sort of expected the place to not have figuratively collapsed from the weather. (I did actually enjoy cycling into the same headwind that literally blew the roof off of the UB bookstore which I pass on my way to work.) My wife actually went out walking for at least an hour a day pretty much every day this winter. We both really appreciated the break from the heat. We both loved the winter weather and scenery. Our only complaint was there was not more of it!

I do, however, understand why people do not like the winter. Winter makes the horror of car driving much more salient. In mild weather it is too easy to forget how absurdly lethal having anything to do with cars is. Snow and ice intensify all of the problems with driving to the point that people start feeling the correct level of fear and stress. And those who don't, crash. I personally saw three cars seriously lose control and dozens of others smashed or stranded in awkward positions. But hey don't blame the winter. Blame the cars and their human drivers!