Snow Forms Wednesday, Jan 5 2022 

Winter definitely is here in the Chicago area. As I look out my window, teeny, tiny flakes of snow are falling, or rather briskly blowing. With a temperature of 18 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind chill factor of 3, that puny snowfall doesn’t call us out to play.

The chemical formula for snow is H2O. Snow is simply made up of one or more crystals of frozen water.

Snowflakes require a cycle of nature beginning with the evaporation of water from rivers, lakes and oceans. When temperatures drop to 32 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the moisture forms into tiny ice crystals. As the crystals fall, they connect with other crystals forming snowflakes. The more crystals that join together, the bigger the flake.

Snow may fall in various forms. The English language tends to describe snow with multiple words such as dry and powdery, wet and slushy, or round and icy. The Inuit people of the northern regions of Canada are said to have countless words for snow, perhaps as many as 50. However, this number is likely an exaggeration.

In the past few years, I’ve heard the term, “graupel” often used. Graupel is precipitation that forms when supercooled water droplets are collected and freeze on falling snowflakes and form into balls of crisp, opaque rime. “Graupel” differs from “sleet” in that graupel never re-freezes as sleet does. Sleet is ice pellets resulting from the re-freezing of liquid raindrops or partial melting of a snowflake.

Here are a few other interesting facts about snow.

  • Snowflakes usually have six sides.
  • Identical snowflakes are rare but possible.
  • Most of the volume of a snow layer consists of air.
  • Nearly every location in the United States has seen snowfall.
  • We know not to eat yellow snow, but it may not be a good idea to catch even fresh flakes on your tongue. Snowflakes can pick up specks of dust and other pollution along its descent.
  • Snow and ice usually appear white, because visible light is white.
  • Snow that looks blue is due to light waves scattered by the ice grains in the snow.
  • When falling crystals gather foreign substances such as algae and dust, the crystals pick up the color of the substance.

*Caring for a loved one with dementia? My books, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, and Inspired Caregiving may be helpful. The books were written from a personal perspective and include credible research. I do understand the challenges you face.

Step Carefully Tuesday, Feb 25 2014 

With the exception of my philtrum, (That’s the groove between the nose and lip. I just wanted to use that word because it sounds cool.), every inch of me is bruised and hurting. I fell last night and have more colorful spots on me than the tattooed lady at the circus my husband likes to talk about.

The snowplows pushed snow up to the top of our mailboxes on the street, which we have to step up on to reach the box. A brief thaw and refreeze turned the mound into solid ice. I took one step up and fell right down to the street with a thud.

It will be interesting to see the statistics at the end of the season on weather-related injuries. We’ve had so much cold and snow here in the Midwest; I’d be surprised if the emergency rooms aren’t keeping unusually busy with sprains, strains, lacerations, and breaks due to falls and heart attacks from shoveling.

I’m really good at giving advice that I don’t take but here are a few things we can keep in mind the rest of this winter:

  • Keep our hands out of our pockets. We can’t brace ourselves, or even balance very well, if our hands aren’t available.
  • Take small steps. It’s easier to recover from a slip if are feet are closer together.
  • Dress appropriately. At least my jacket offered some padding, and if I had to remain on the ground for a while, I wouldn’t be chilled.
  • Hold on to the handrails. When walking up and down stairways, the railings can prevent us from going all the way down should we slip.
  • Walk cautiously. My fall is a reminder to slow down and step carefully. If you don’t, nature will force you to do so. I’m not moving very quickly today.

And here are a few suggestions when driving:

  • Drive slowly enough for conditions.
  • Keep space between vehicles.
  • Use headlights.
  • Brake before turning.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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