Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Winter weather

It’s been a fairly nice week here in Las Vegas. We had a cloudy day yesterday for a change, and even some rain. It was part of that big storm system that covered California, but by the time it made it over the mountains there wasn’t much water left. We had about .14 inches of water fall from the sky yesterday, making February the wettest month in a year, with a whole .66 inches (what, just under 2cm?) of rain so far. This did result in another six inches of snow up in the mountains, so the Vegas valley is surrounded now by white hills. This was very noticeable this morning, with the sun coming up as I was driving in to work I could see the western mountains in my rear view mirrors and they were bright with the new snow. No clouds in the sky at all this morning, just that bright blue which drew us here and the nice sunshine.

The mountains surrounding Vegas are all rock, with no trees or shrubs visible. Mt. Charleston does have trees, and our local ski resort. It’s a forty minute drive north from downtown, and lots of people go up there just to play in the snow. Vegas is at about 2,000 feet above sea level, with our surrounding mountains around 10,000 feet and Charleston at 14,000 feet. Usually the mountains look black, after some snow last weekend they changed to white and then as the snow melted the past week there were broad horizontal bands of black and white and by Saturday they were all black again, but after yesterday they are now all white. It looks like we might have some clouds later in the week, but no rain predicted yet. It is 36f right now heading to a high of 53f, but by next weekend the temperatures will be up in the high sixties.

No pictures of the snow around us, there isn’t any place to pull over when driving into work to take a shot from, but last year when we drove up north I took this one, which is similar. Except we have a full wall of mountains to the west rather than one lone peak like this.

With the weather warming up and the freezing nights behind us it was time to do yard work, so this past three day weekend was busy with tree trimming and bush cutting and general cleanup. We had a big apple tree in the back corner, which looked to be about thirty years old. Unfortunately it has some kind of disease, and each year another big branch just died off. I started trimming it on Sunday when B suggested we just take it all down, so now all that is left is a big stump. With the rains the ground is fairly soft, so it looks like I’ll be digging up the stump this week. The apples were small and not very edible, so what we lost was mostly the shade. It was planted right underneath our power lines, so rather than put in a replacement I think I’ll stick in another one of the shoestring Acacias like the two we have by the kitchen. These grow high but do not spread, so I should be able to get it over to the side where it will miss the power lines, but being on the south side of the yard it should still give some shade over in that corner.

I have never had allergy problems, but since moving to Las Vegas six years ago I seem to have developed some. I was rather sick last week, the same symptoms as the flue, head all stopped up and hurting, dizzy and coughing from the drainage down my throat. I went to my regular doctor to see about getting another one of those Kenalog shots that has been working for me, but since I was a walk in at the doctor’s office I was passed on to somebody new rather than the regular doc I have been seeing. He advised against the injection as Kenalog causes diabetes as a side effect, which I do not want to even get into. He suggested that I see an allergy specialist, so last Thursday I took off early to see somebody new. It took him about three minutes, after saying hello and a little side talk, to say "Every February? This is the 12th, so you are allergic to ash trees". If I was later in the month it would have been mulberry, then on into other things that bloom. The end result: some new prescriptions, to be taken during the ash blooming season. Oh well, more pills, but they do work very well and my head is clear and clean. That is living in the desert - the trees and bushes put out so much pollen that almost everybody develops an allergy to something.

Last weekend B drove down to Phoenix to see her sisters. Our daughter came down with E to go along; I just got to enjoy her for a day between the plane flight from Portland and the drive down to Phoenix. The road down to Phoenix first heads east passes over Boulder Dam before turning south. The road over the dam is the only road across the Colorado for hundreds of miles, with Lake Mead stretching north blocking access. One of the security responses to 911 was the posting of guards on the dam, who search cars and trucks for something (I don’t know what). There is so much concrete in the dam that even a large truck filled with explosives was set off on top of the dam no major damage would result. The fear of that happening caused the closure of the dam route to large trucks, which are now forced to detour south a hundred miles to cross the Colorado River down at Laughlin. This also results in traffic jams near the dam, because of cars being searched, which can add up to six hours to a simple trip.

As a response to security concerns the federal government decided to build a bridge across the Colorado just south of the dam. The bridge has been under construction for several years now, with another year or so to go before completion. The one think the government did not fund was the road leading to the bridge. This is unfortunate, as little Boulder City sits between Vegas and the new bridge. Boulder City was created back in the ‘30s to house people working on construction of the dam, and due to some severe growth restrictions has remained a rather small town. Traffic to the dam passed right through downtown, and in the past few years traffic has increased and the city has created a bypass road that circles through traffic past the city center, but still on surface streets. With all trucks routed south on I-95 for the past seven years the city has still had a big increase in car traffic. Once the bridge is open all of those trucks will once again pass through the middle of Boulder City, and they are not looking forward to the increase in traffic. City officials have been searching for money from somewhere to build a big freeway around the city, to get all of those wheels off the downtown streets, but now with money tight it looks like nothing is forthcoming. B took a picture while on the dam looking south at the new bridge.

You can’t see it too well in the picture, but the big arch that will support the roadway from underneath is being put together from both sides, creating a 2,000 foot long bridge with one arch. Well, with the canyon and river below there isn’t any other way to do it. There is a cable system up above it all that works like a big crane, lifting segments and supplies. A few years ago high winds ripped the cable system out of the mountainside, resulting in a delay of almost a year while it was rebuilt. There is a web site devoted to the project at Dam Bypass, there is even a webcam that you can use to look at construction. Here is what it is supposed to look like when finished:

OK, since we’ve missed her for a few weeks, here she is wearing Grammie’s glasses.

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