2009-2010 Winter: Rime Ice Twice, Deep Snow, Ice Storm, Optics, Freezing Fog and Steam Page 1

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Circumzenithial arc and sun dogs on a bitter day, December 9th, 2009. It's been a historic winter here. It's February 11, 2010 now and whatever snow is at the bottom of that stuff....is still here. Omaha has already broken its 6 inch, 9 inch, and 12 inch on the ground straight, duration records. The 1 inch or more on the ground straight record for Omaha is 74 days. I think that will break come the 15th or maybe it was the 18th. Doesn't matter, it will break. Though I sure as hell won't mind if it doesn't.

Anyway, this is a pretty long account covering a wide range of events, over this truly insane winter. It's been full of the "best of" in several categories for me, as far as extreme weather goes. Snow depth got to 20 inches and hung around there for a long time . That at least ties the most I've seen on the ground here my whole life. Other time was back in 2002. Coldest air temp I've ever experienced here was -23F to -25F area. Well this year there was a back to back night of that sort of air. I think for Omaha that one night was the coldest recorded since 1996 and it essentially did it back to back nights. Though not officially at that one station. Other areas were as cold both mornings. Also best of was light pillars and it happened a few nights. Another best of was rime ice. I'd never seen rime ice as thick as it got here, ever. Not even close. What does it do? It repeats itself! Fell off one day then did it again. Extreme fogging during that time. I've never seen so many consecutive dense fog advisories here. For days we were in dense fog, on and on. Freezing fog at that. Anyway, a winter that will be hard to top here. And remember the 7 inches that fell October 10th! That much in late October is special. October 10th is just silly.

Bright green flash. I still had that rented 600mm and 2x. My better elevated spot(Herman cemetery) was completely drifted in, so I had to hurry and find a new spot, which unfortunately was down low on the flats. So one can imagine the green flashing had I been higher up. That was on the 15th, after more snow, and it was brutal out.

It's now one of those -20F to -25F mornings. You know it's bad when an ice filled river steams like mad. January 4th. Bald eagle over there, dead center of tree line. How they don't freeze solid and fall off the tree in this stuff is beyond me. 10F sucks, brrrrr. 0F nose hairs readily freeze to one another. -10F some serious life hating ensues. -25F put all the crap on you can find and find it doesn't matter. Below -20F it is just amazing to me how fast cold moves through any layers. Have your hands out to take some shots and they get screwed up instantly. I use real thin "gloves". You don't have any choice but to use those. Finger tip gloves don't sound at all interesting to me in that stuff. Just use real thin ones like I have and keep them in your pocket until you have to shoot. They'll give you enough time to snap off a couple before needing to put them back in. An exposed finger on a finger tip glove just doesn't sound good in this stuff. 10F maybe. It's fun to realize -25F is 57 degrees past freezing. Anyway, it is only this year I discovered how well really cheap "gloves" like this can work. And they are the thinnest things you can imagine. At least you can run a camera with them on and they'll keep the air off for a minute maybe. Then you can easily stuff them back in side your coveralls or in your pockets. You'll see what gloves I mean in a bit here on the rime ice images.

Morning of January 5th now. Just as cold as the morning before. -25F is not fun to try and shoot at. That fog is steam off the icy river. On the Iowa side of the river the fog was thick as hell. I didn't drive out of it going away from the river either. I wondered what low dense fog would look like from Murray Hill now, with snow everywhere. Problem was the battery light came on in the van. Turned out it was on because that froze as hell battery wasn't getting charged at first. I had to idle around here so that the engine would eventually thaw it out some. Go on a drive and the wind blowing -25F air in there isn't going to thaw it out. This is why you see stalled vehicles when it is brutal out. Let the car warm so that it can warm the battery. Otherwise I don't think the battery charges worth a damn. I still did not like the prospects of the van dying as I drove up there. I went anyway. Too intrigued by what it might look like. This was at like 4 a.m. or so now. It just doesn't take long for that sort of air to ruin your day without protection/heat. I thought, I wonder how long I could wait in the van if it did die on me.

I make it up there and to my severe disappointment, the entire parking area was covered in 3 feet of snow. It was hard to see where it would even be. I was like, damn it, I'm finding somewhere to park and walking to it anyway. There was only one tiny area down below, just off the road enough to be ok. I'd have to walk further just to get to the bottom of the long hill. My clothes, with rubber boots and all, coveralls, weighs 14 lbs. I believe my tripod and camera gear also weighs around 14 lbs. This on a 130lb frame(on a good day lol). An out of shape one at that. The biggest part to consider is the current air temp around -25F. Don't ask me what is wrong with me. The only way to find out if the view rules up there is to climb it. Fog was still thick as hell at the exit off I29. I had to know if it ruled right now, with all the snow. I mean I've seen how cool it can be in the fall from up above it. Just never with solid snow around too.

I can't explain how hard it was to get through this first part. This grass stuff here is very tall. It is to your head in the fall and in some areas over your head. There was seriously 3+ feet of snow to wade up steeply through in this section. Wade is a really bad description. You sure don't float on the stuff with 28 lbs of weight added to yourself. It was a serious ass kicker getting to that first picnic table seen above, and I'm a ways into that task. I wanted to turn back already, as I thought it was a lost cause to try and get through this. Of course you still don't know what the view is to the south from that first spot either. The next top landing from that picnic table is MUCH further up. I had come that far, passing the parking concerns and car battery concerns, I wasn't about to stop now. Though my brain said to. I looked at the long, deep snow filled way to go, and thought, that view had better be awesome up there.

View after reaching that first picnic table, looking east. Deep as hell snow everywhere. Had to keep going up to the right/south. No easier path through the snow, just drifts the whole freaking way. The snow depth around here was around 24 inches without drifts.

Most of the way to that next landing in this shot above. This sort of air is kill you in a hurry air, if you have problems for some reason. I was sweating by now though. The worst part was simply breathing like crazy. My lungs started to feel messed up and I thought, oh duh, breathing as heavy as you can, has to be great with -25F air. Literally like give yourself a heart attack type of work out and breathing. I've done some serious exertion before, but this was the most ever. Frost bite your lungs anyone? I'd try and walk over on that grass stuff, as it was at least a bit less deep there, but it was covered in ice and you just get snagged on it step after step. Anyone that has walked any distance in deep snow knows how much harder it makes things. By several hands down this was the hardest thing I'd ever done for the sake of a picture. That first part made it so much harder, because it was soooo deep and you just had to kind of swim yourself up through it. And just look how steep it was on that first image, part way up it. You'd mostly have to lift the tripod and camera bag up a ways and set it on the snow. Then try and knee your way up to it. Just a fair distance of waist deep crap going up at quite the angle. I seriously wasn't sure that first stretch could even be done, as I started to make my way into it.

Sucking in that air was screwing up areas of my lungs, making you need more of it, as you drag your stuff the few more steps and stop again. I'd never been so pissed at snow lol. I was cussing it like mad. It is concerning though, if you have any problem, you're quite possibly a dead man. That road is lightly travelled and you're far enough from it to not be seen, no one would ever know you needed some help. Even in my pocket, inside my coveralls, my cell phone battery was being zapped dead by the cold.

Lung and breathing problems were what was giving me the most concern, as I tried to convince myself not to turn back now. You just think to yourself, if you fatigue yourself or screw up your lungs and have to stop and can't go anywhere, no one is around to come get you. My skinny self has zero cold tolerance. I was fine climbing, but second I stop, I get cold fast. I started cramping up too, from sweating and the work out(and the fact I cramp up with no work out lol....too much pop not enough anything else). Anyway, I was really wishing someone else was there to try that out. Not even for someone else to be there, just for the sake of someone else understanding how damn hard it was.

But yeah, it's not a massive stretch to consider how feasible it would be to get stuck up there. Without any injury it was a true bitch to get up that. With one, getting back down could be problematic. It's just that air that is around you too. -25F is simply nasty, especially to someone with not a heck of a lot of body fat. Like it is talking to you. "Hey, give yourself some problem and I will kill you." The only thing I thought of, was if I pulled or hurt something, or couldn't breathe anymore, I could drag myself to that steep as hell edge over on the right, and just let myself roll off it, down to the road below. Seriously. I thought, if the worst case scenario did happen, I can roll off that and someone can help me. Inside a nice warm home, it's difficult to get how dangerously cold, cold can be. And me and my brain have to sit there and toss out the worst possibilities as I do something.

To the top now and can see south! Extreme disappointment in the low fog coolness department sets in! LOL I can seriously feel my throat being like it was again, after typing all this out again and remembering. Throat was this odd dry scratchy feeling. Lungs felt like they were plugging up or something. The only sign of life that whole time were these lone tracks that started from the parking lot and continued on this drift edge up here. Probably coyote. I could take a coyote, one of the recently spotted mountain lions, not so much.

That first snow picture for this looking up at the picnic table was taken at 7:29. This one was taken at 7:54. I didn't stop and hang out anywhere along that path. You couldn't as cold as it was. That was 25 minutes of extremely heavy breathing of -25F air. It's pretty far from smart really. I know no one reading this will even get how hard of a work out it was. 25 minutes was a in a hurry version of it. That didn't include walking up to the parking area or the first part of the walk or the trip back down. I don't remember how hard it was to walk through the parking lot. If you could take your time, even through all this deep snow, this wouldn't be massively challenging. Needing to get up there and back out of that sort of air though, made you do it as quickly as possible. There were just a lot of factors that made this very hard. All for very little in return! Again, I have zero doubt this was the hardest picture I've ever taken lol.

Anyway I thought this lone animal trail with the human trail/road down below was kind of neat...especially given the current environment. Very very very far from being worthy of that trek though! Nothing beats a let down view after the hardest work yet. I spent no time up here after I saw it was not special at all. It was time to get the hell back to safety lol....which included praying the van would start back up! I don't care what clothes a person has on, you don't want to have to walk far in this stuff.

Down on the bottoms again now. Dense, cold as hell, freezing fog floating around. For some reason fog at -25F is strange to me. Seems it should just turn to snow and fall to the ground. It's interesting to think of it as essentially cirrus clouds around you. 30,000 foot cirrus isn't much colder.

Desoto Bend NWR now.

Skittish bald eagle and some hoar frost. This wasn't the rime ice event yet.

Under or near the upper level low of a soon to be blizzard on the 6th. There were these really cool looking bands just sort of stuck there. Actually there was a blizzard warning right now I think. I think this was the night with the -30F to -40F windchills expected. I know because I saw some light pillars under that thing/band and tried to foot chase them up the park hill. Again I was thinking, what is wrong with me, as the winds raged up there in the singe digit or worse air. The cool light pillars faded after I footed it up that hill. So I stood up there as long as I could stand it, making sure they wouldn't come back like before.

Morning now January 7th. Blizzard warning. -30F to -40F windchills expected this day. I stopped at this drift for obvious reasons. I feared the road drifting shut behind me and left. I already had to bust over a couple of the small ones to get here. Raging winds and extremely cold out.

Awesome sun dog display.


Driving, still the 7th. Shot quite a bit of video this day. Some roads were drifting badly. This highway has deep ditches next to it. By this point after a few blizzards and deep snow, they are completely filled. All the snow in the fields just blows freely across it now. Highway 30 east of Blair. This was a better visibility stretch of it. It has some white out stretches closer to Desoto and on east. Or maybe this was in that part at a better time.

Hey it is the 12th of January now and guess what, it is cold as hell out. Rime ice forming on the trees here. Rime ice is different than hoar frost. With hoar frost think of ice crystal flakes making up the accumulation of the stuff. Rime ice think of drops of liquid making up the accumulation.

Over at Desoto Bend now, same day. I'm about to be floored by the rime ice accumulations in open areas. The thing is with that stuff, a tree line will eat up the fog, so anything much on the other side of that tree line won't have much. You find something very much out in the open, like next to a field, and wow was the stuff insane.

Insane rime ice. It did this overnight. Since it is only on one side of things, it tends to limit composition options. This was one of the few "interesting" things I could come up with. Stop the lens way down and try and bury the camera back in there without knocking the stuff off.

The snow was so deep right here. Packed down from being so wind blown. Its smooth streaks were kind of interesting against the pointed rime ice formations. But anyway, you could really walk on top of a lot of this snow here.

Pretty wild stuff. These are my extreme cold weather photography gloves I mentioned earlier. Hey, at least you can run a camera with them on and easily put them back in an interior pocket without taking them off. The only other way I do it when taking photos, is to just not use any gloves. If I wear warmer thick ones, I just take them off to shoot anyway. The pull back finger tip approach doesn't interest me at all over this approach. Funny how sometimes the cheapest approach is the best anyway. This works quite well, surprisingly enough.

There was no hill around here to drift off of. Just a big open field and some trees to be a wind break. 5-6 foot drifting.

It's now the 19th of January. This is 4 days after the rime ice event. All that rime ice from before has blown and melted off long ago. Well thanks to all the dense fog, it went and did it again, just as thick but a bit differently formed. Cemeteries rule for being free of people, at least alive ones. You're in no ones way and no one is watching you wondering what you are doing. Great location for night shooting especially, since you'll gain attention about anywhere else at night, stopped on the road. I've yet to see any ghosts, but likely been seen by them! Yeah I'm toast the second I think about all that in those places. I'm best to just keep busy.


It's nuts it did this again so soon. I mean seriously, considering I've never once seen it be so thick here and in 4 days it does it twice.

So thick it bends the trees over.

If the winter hadn't covered enough aspects, it was about to cover another one. Keep this tree and its branches in your head. A bit of an ice storm was about to hit. I wondered if this rime ice stuff would make the ice storm worse. It would. I wasn't sure if the freezing drizzle could lock this fragile stuff in place, before it gets hit with freezing rain. It would. Just rather interesting how rime ice can make an ice storm a lot worse than it would have been otherwise. But really, just getting freezing rain onto rime ice this thick is nuts if you think about it. Like how often do you get thick rime ice, then an ice storm. Here we have rime ice I've never seen so thick before this year and it's now about to get freezing rain on it, a half inch of that here. Over an inch of freezing rain just 30-40 minutes northeast of here. Anyway, this tree here is freezing rain free yet. On the following page, the image will be the next morning.

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