Monday, November 23, 2009

Racing the Storm

At seven in the morning the snow has not yet started and the clouds are reported as 2000' scattered. It's still pitch black of course, so we can't peer at the clouds, just refresh the METAR over and over again to make sure a special hasn't reported it worse. The graphical forecast shows a huge area of low visibility and ceilings in snow sweeping to the east along our flight path (yes, company has advised us where we're going next, just in time). The word is yes, we are released.

The hotel shuttle doesn't starts operating until eight. The clients can't really drive us to the airport with our gear before then because they are busy packing their trucks with their gear, and they want to get on the road and get out of here before the snow starts in earnest too. We eat breakfast, go to our rooms for our gear, check out and it's almost eight anyway. A few light snowflakes are falling here and there. It's still good at the next station to the southeast, but they are all forecasting all kinds of miserableness for this afternoon.

We jump on the hotel shuttle, peering at the tiny bit of greyness that is the dawn. The ceiling is probably still coming down. We just need to sneak out from under this cloud before the visibility drops to nothing and we can arc south out of the path of the storm.

At the hangar the locals are there, unloading an airplane we saw them loading yesterday. That sounds productive, but the cargo looks very familiar. Yeah, it's the same cargo. They have a load that was supposed to go northwest; they didn't get through yesterday and they know they aren't getting through today. They put the freezer stuff in the freezer and the fridge stuff in the fridge, then put a pre-made laminated placard on the pallet with the non-perishables "CARGO IN FREEZER/FRIDGE." Good strategy.

We load our own gear in our airplane, secure it all down and get towed out to the apron. The ceiling is now 1500', but it's still not snowing. WE CAN DO IT! All systems are go and we call for taxi. Maybe it should have been a warning sign when it takes three radio calls to correctly specify our intended runway. I won't say who was on the microphone. I'm protecting the dignity of either myself or my sterling coworker. The FSS accepts all three of our choices and we finally depart off the one we meant. There's inbound King Air traffic, but he won't be an issue. We level off just below the cloud deck and head southeast. What I don't like is the lack of a nice clear view of the distance below the bases.

The visibility where we are is fine. It just kind of ends. We descend a bit, but so does the cloud. And the terrain rises here before it falls. We arc a little towards the river and lower ground, but there is no path out of here that meets our safety criteria. We call the FSS back to let them know we are inbound. The GPS says we have gone a total of 7.5 miles, but we retrace our steps and land.

On the taxi back to the hangar I text everyone to let them know we didn't escape. In the time it takes us to shut down, the snow has started. By the time we get to the hotel it's clouds to our elbows and snow to the ends of our noses. We're here for the duration. But can it really snow like this for three days? Sometimes a local forecast calling for three days of snow means three days in which it snows every day, not necessarily three solid days of snow.

Back at the hotel I ask that very question, "Do you think it will snow like this for three days?" There are two clerks at the desk. They don't hesitate, they don't look at each other for confirmation, they both simply nod, solemly, twice. It's like that scene in Fargo where everyone says "Ya."

They understand our plight and are nice to us, letting us check back in even though it's not yet ten in the morning. We say we're happy to have the old rooms back uncleaned, but it doesn't work that way. The rooms we just checked out of have already been stripped but not recleaned so they assign us new rooms. "You'll like them. They're bigger," she says. Ooh. They've been very nice to us. The new rooms are not only bigger but have full kitchens and a fireplace. I put away my luggage then spend an hour alternating between the waterslide and the hot tub in the hotel pool, then turn on the fireplace and snuggle back into bed with my laptop and the TV remote.

There are worse places to be snowed in. I know. I've been to many of them. I e-mail everyone to know we will try again if the snow lets up, but it doesn't. It snows all day.


flightless bird said...

Sounds like every cloud has a silver lining given the bigger room and the free time to spend on the waterslide. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I know you aren't still snuggled in bed with the smell of clorine in your hair and the fire place going, but are probably someplace else now, working long days...

When you do get another nice break, check out

Sarah said...

When you do get another nice break, check out

I bet she has, hence the earlier post titled "Easy Bake Pilots".

Maybe there's a post in the pipeline.
My guess is she "knows too much" about the Yellowknife company & individual starring and won't have much to say on the blog. I'd be happy to be wrong though. I am bummed that the series isn't available outside Canada.

A Squared said...

Pool with a waterslide and a hot tub? Either I haven't quite followed where you are, or it's changed a bit since I spent a week there waiting for it to quit snowing.

Aluwings said...

@Sarah - you might be able to get some excerpts or even find some other sources for the show?

this might be a good place to start:

Anonymous said...

You texted folks during the taxi? Methinks I know whose dignity you're protecting. Or can you text and taxi at the same time?

(It seems to me that it would be unusual for the pilot flying to turn the taxi over to the other pilot, except on those aircraft that use a tiller and have it only on the captain's side.)

Sarah said...

@aluwings, thanks for the youtube suggestion. I've looked there, but just found 2 minute clips & promos. Crumbs.

I'd go look for ... other ways ... but it's a lot of trouble. I'll just have to wait, or visit Canada, eh?

Icebound said...

For Sarah...

Complete episodes are supposed to be available on line after they have aired. First one should be there now...

Check out and search their video section.

Sarah said...

@icebound: Thanks, but I guess I wasn't clear. The complete episodes are not viewable unless you have a Canadian *.ca IP address. Apparently the rights were secured/purchased/sold only to distribute within Canada.

Now, there are probably ways to arrange a proxied IP endpoint, but I don't feel *that* strongly about it.