Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Critical Snow Failure"

"Make sure the drivers have a shovel and an intrepid spirit," said Jules, the Road Foreman down here in McMurdo, Antarctica, to my boss, Sharona.  A classic, so true, I love it! 

Jules is also the best equipment operator I've ever met.  But she has an awful job this year. The storm on December 5th and the very warm weather since then has made the roads nearly impassable.  Jules and her crew's job is to keep the roads open and vehicles able to use them. The massive storm on December 5th blew dirt and dust from Black Island onto the ice shelf and the road. This black dirt acts as a heat sink absorbing heat from the sun and melting the snow roads. So between that, the warm weather and the constant use, Jules says we have a "Critical Snow Failure" making the roads I drive on every day a very real challenge.  Several old timers say this is the worst they have ever seen the roads.  When the roads are made of compacted snow and the weather gets warm, well, here are some photos of the road this week that show the effects.

Ruts thru the road from trucks and vans.

A big hole from the dirt and dust.

More holes and ruts.

Dirty snow.

The soft snow means tire ruts every time you drive.

Milepost 11.5 to 13.5 is the worst.

Lane A, very soft, but packed down.

The flag line between the Track lane and Lane A.

I am following the compacted Delta tracks thru the snow.

View from a Delta, showing the ruts & dirty snow at mp 13.3

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