First, I'm pleased to share the 2022 Christmas letter that I wrote for my wife and I, which we call a Holiday Greetings to be all inclusive and non-religious. If you're addicted to reading Christmas letters, you can help feed your habit by clicking here, where you'll find the letters I wrote from 1995 onward.
After the letter, which is in both PDF and JPEG formats, I'll share some thoughts from unusually frigid Oregon about what freezing rain has to say about the Big Questions of Life. And also, mundane questions.
Download 2022 Christmas Letter PDF
Regarding freezing rain, it is one of many pieces of evidence that the laws of nature which govern our world weren't designed by a benevolent Creator, since freezing rain is the nastiest form of precipitation. Rain can be pleasant. Snow, which is frozen rain, also can be pleasant.
But freezing rain is just flat-out nasty. In February 2021 a freezing rain ice storm decimated our part of Oregon, including our rural property, as documented in photos I took.
At the moment a milder, but still damaging, bout of freezing rain is causing problems in northwest Oregon, where the temperature was a chilly high of about 26 today. Luckily, we live in an age of pretty damn accurate weather forecasting. Yay, science!
So meteorologists gave advance notice that after eastern Oregon got hit with the edge of a polar vortex that is causing very low temperatures and nasty weather in most of the United States, an approaching low pressure system from the Pacific would cause east winds to funnel cold air through the Columbia River gorge and other mountain passes into western Oregon, where I live.
Now that cold air from the east is combining with warmer moisture coming from the west to produce freezing rain. This graphic shows how freezing rain happens, which is related to sleet. Again, yay, science!
If you've never experienced freezing rain, congratulations. It's nasty stuff. Driving or walking in rain or snow is completely doable. I have winter tires on my Subaru Crosstrek. Snow is no big deal to me, aside from worries about other people with less capable vehicles running into me.
But freezing rain produces black ice. Usually you can't see it on roads or walkways. It's a sheet of ice. No matter what car you have, or what tires you have, going down a hill covered in ice is not something you want to experience (unless you have a love for frequenting auto body shops).
Yet currently some major roads in Oregon, including parts of I-5, are closed due to accidents, almost certainly because of freezing rain. Which leads to a Big Question: what causes someone to head out on a freeway, or any road, when freezing rain is forecasted?
For days, news stories have told people that if they don't have to drive on Thursday night or Friday morning, they shouldn't. It's just too dangerous with freezing rain a near certainty. Not a complete certainty, as this forecast from one of my weather apps for our location says.
I'm hoping that the ice we get tonight and part of tomorrow morning, before freezing rain becomes regular rain, is at the bottom end of the probability, rather than the full .4 of an inch forecasted. Currently we only have a tenth of an inch or so -- enough to make things really slippery, but not enough to topple limbs or trees on to power lines. I'm suspecting we might get a quarter of an inch by tomorrow.
But the odds obviously were that some freezing rain would hit western Oregon. Now, I realize that some people don't pay as much attention to news as I do. I also realize that some people don't believe the news, or weather forecasters, because sometimes they get things wrong.
Thus those are the people out on the roads right now, causing accidents. Maybe they saw that the weather was really cold but dry for most of today and figured that the forecast of freezing rain was wrong.
Now some of them, maybe a lot of them, are paying the price for believing that their personal thoughts about the weather overshadowed what professional meteorologists were saying about the weather. Probably few of them liked to say Yay, science!
Life is difficult. There's no way around that inescapable fact.
However, we make life more difficult when we fail to gather as much information about reality as possible in any given situation. If you go out driving when you don't absolutely have to when freezing rain is forecasted, you're causing yourself a preventable problem.
I'm not saying that I always practice what I preach. Yesterday I decided to start our Honda generator to make sure it was working if the electricity goes out in this ice storm. I found that the battery was completely dead. Thankfully, the generator started with a single pull of the manual cord.
It wouldn't recharge, so I ordered a replacement battery.
Then I recalled all the times I'd walked by the trickle charger connected to the generator battery in our garage, noting a single green light. There should have been two lights on: the green power light, and another light that shows the charging status, green if fully charged.
So that one green light meant there was a problem with the battery. I ignored what I kept seeing. I don't know why. Maybe because the battery was fine the last time I started the generator. Maybe because I simply wanted to assume that the battery was OK, and something was wrong with the trickle charger.
Whatever the reason, I neglected a fact that I should have paid attention to. Live and learn. That's all we can do, since mistakes are going to be with us as long as we're alive. My advice, though, is to do your best not to make the mistake of taking freezing rain lightly.