Nov 30 2010

“Chutes” of Snow

by at 10:07 pm

Last week we had something of a mini blizzard here in Lausanne with multiple inches of snow dumped from the sky, a welcome excuse to post another photo of Ruben, for whom snow combines everything great in the world: he can lick it, he can hop around in it, and he can chase after it. Though it does stick to him in funny little snowballs. Tip for coton de tulĂ©ar/bichon/dogs with long-hair owners (who found this while googling “how to get snow out of fur of dogs with long hair”): if your dog doesn’t mind water, have him stand in a tub with warm water for 30-60 seconds and it’ll all melt. Then dry/comb/blow dry as appropriate.

Super Snow Dog!

But that wasn’t the end of it. This morning, I e-mailed Jackie to say that the prediction was for 15-20 cm (6-7.5 inches) of snow starting tonight and going through tomorrow, and it’s since been revised to 20-24 cm (8-9.5 inches), meaning according to the meteorological service the alert has reached: Great Danger (seriously…) Also, the meteorological service apparently calls the area of Switzerland near Lake Geneva the “lowlands.” As if we live in Scotland—also, Lausanne is nothing if not hilly.

At work, the administration sent an e-mail early in the afternoon which I didn’t get for some reason, warning of a “forte chutes de neiges” (i.e. heavy snowfall) and people started packing up to leave early right away. I only gave myself an extra 20 minutes for my bus ride to the train station, assuming that the bus might be a little screwed up, but trains in Switzerland travel through snow all the time, although not often in this area, so there wasn’t much to worry about. After sitting on the bus, in the parking lot, for 10 minutes, I realized that we weren’t going anywhere because the bus was stuck—not in the snow, which was at this point coming down quite heavily, but in traffic.

Out on the street, traffic was apparently backed up for blocks, so no cars could exit, and neither could the bus, which uses the parking lot as the start/end of its line. A few blocks away there are trams, which a few of us hapless passengers thought might be working. We asked the bus driver, who didn’t have any inside information. But when asked, he did offer an assurance that if he happened to pass us while driving and we were walking, he’d be happy to stop and let us back on. He also asked if there was any coffee available inside. The cafe was closed, and the vending machines aren’t easy to find, plus he’d have trouble passing through security, I informed him, while drinking tea from my travel mug. He noticed, and laughed, so I offered to run inside and get him coffee, as long as the other people now motivated to set off into the snow in search of moving transportation would wait for me. Two minutes later the bus driver had some coffee, and we were off. We passed the long stretches of backed up traffic, arrived just as a tram was pulling away, and decided to continue on the train station on foot. I was chatting with an American I didn’t know, so the 25 minute walk to the train station was not bad at all, even in the snow.

I expected some delays, so I wasn’t so worried about making a specific train. But at the train station, chaos. Signs claimed that trains were anywhere from 8 to 22 minutes delayed. Or flat-out canceled. Information I found online using my phone warned ominously of a “signal box malfunction,” which is never a good sign. I boarded one train, standing room only, and after 15 minutes an announcement was made inviting us to kindly disembark, since it wasn’t going anywhere. I boarded another train, this one marked as having an indefinite delay. From in the stationary train, we could hear the announcements in the station—indefinite delay for all trains to Lausanne. But after another long wait, things became more promising and after another wait, we left! The conductor announced that we were 60 minutes late (not an hour late, but 60 minutes) and the train was quite local so it made a bunch of stops, but eventually I made it home to Lausanne, where the metro is still running perfectly. Jackie had to leave for choir, but Ruben (and dinner…thanks Jackie!) were waiting for me.

According to 24 heures, train traffic will remain quite messed up between Lausanne and Geneva all night, with intercity trains all canceled, and shuttle bus service replacing part of the line. The Geneva airport is apparently closed, and the bus system in Lausanne was completely paralyzed, but may be resuming shortly if the roads get cleared (looking outside where it’s still coming down hard suggests otherwise.)

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