Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas from London, Ontario, Canada

Fiona got lots of gifts and their value ranged widely. But one gift that got lots of attention cost but $2 at the Dollar Store: a simple xylophone. A toy with a history going back a hundred years was easily able to compete with her other favorite toy: Mom's iPhone.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas from London, Ontario, Canada

Merry Christmas
and a 
Happy New Year
to all!

. . . and now to go and watch Fiona unwrap her gifts. Maybe I'll post some pictures. I do hope you are all having as wonderful a Christmas as I am. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

More on the upside to snow

A family enjoying the deep snow on the long, steep hill near Lookout Crt.
Families can often be found taking advantage of the steep neighbourhood hill running for hundreds of yards behind dozens of suburban homes in the Byron subdivision in the southwest of London, Ontario.

It's a bit of a climb back to the summit.
The hill is so long and steep because it is what remains of a very deep gravel pit that was closed and rehabilitated.more than a decade ago.

The runs are fast but the climb back to the top slow can be slow, especially when the snow is deep and fresh.

Although few wear helmets, they would be a good idea, especially here. When the snow gets shoved aside by all the sledding, sometimes a rock will jut out of from the slope.

If you're dressed for it, one can simply rest in the snow.
One thing we learned from the unfortunate death of actor Natasha Richardson was even small falls pose big dangers. Richardson died after taking a tumble on a beginner hill at Mont Tremblant, Quebec.

Every year thousands go to the hospital with injuries sustained playing on slopes. Helmets are a good idea, even if they're not popular.

It can be difficult seeing where you're going with the snow flying.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The upside, the upside downside, to snow

This boy knew just where to aim his sled. He took to the air on each descent.
I live in the suburb of Byron in southwest London, Ontario. At one time there was a gravel pit across the court from my home. Today the gravel pit is filled and there is now a park there. In the spring it's a great place to fly a kite and in the summer it has a well maintained diamond for baseball. But it is in the winter when the former pit really shines. It has a long, steep slope that is easy to reach and great for sledding, tobogganing, or even snow boarding, if you don't mind a short, fast run followed by a long, slow climb.

Glasses aren't much good when you have your eyes closed.
Today I noticed more than the usual number of cars in our court. This could mean only one thing: The slope is snow-covered and perfect for sledding. The word was out.

I grabbed my camera and headed into the snow. I followed the last group to arrive down the path behind a row of suburban homes until we reached the crest of the toboggan run.

. . . or when they are covered with snow.
The countryside surrounding London is quite flat. Oh, there is the occasional small hill but I do mean small hill.

The are only two ski hills in the area and one is quite close to where I live. Boler Mountain has a vertical height of a hundred feet. That's correct: A hundred feet. It is better known as the Byron Bump.

Now you understand why the small hill across from me is so popular. Heck, when I was a boy we took our toboggans to an overpass on 401 in order to find a slope.

Making it all the way to the bottom is a challenge.
Close to the ground is good. Less distance to fall.
More pictures to follow tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

300 stranded, OPP asks military for help

By mid-afternoon the severe weather was pounding London, Ontario.
Early Tuesday Search and Rescue technicians (SAR) and air crews from CFB Trenton began airlifting stranded motorists who had been trapped overnight on Hwy. 402 between London and Sarnia by a severe winter storm.

Capt. Annie Morin, public affairs officer for 8 Wing Trenton, confirmed that by 5:00 p.m. the military had rescued about 70 people. The OPP, assisted by local volunteers, together rescued a further unknown number. Designated locations have been set-up in Sarnia, Strathroy and Wyoming to receive the evacuated travelers.

By 7:00 p.m. CBC News was reporting: "All stranded motorists have been rescued, and police are now checking each vehicle to be sure no one was left behind."

Capt. Morin said two Griffon CH-146s and a special search and rescue configured Hercules CC-130 were dispatched from CFB Trenton just after midnight Monday at the request of the OPP who sought their assistance with the rescue of 300 motorists and their passengers. They were trapped in their vehicles along Hwy. 402 by a fierce winter storm .

Looks can be deceiving. West of here it was winter hell.
"The weather was not cooperating and our crews had to land in London for a few hours before taking off again. They reached Highway 402 at about 7:00 a.m. this morning (Tuesday)," Morin said.

The Hercules is equipped with portholes through which spotters peer to sight stranded motorists and guide the Griffon helicopters. The Hercules circling overhead also acts as a flying communications platform for the rescue operation.

The stranded motorists were not dramatically airlifted from the scene in baskets. Instead, the Griffons landed near the snow-trapped vehicles but far enough to not endanger anyone unfamiliar with helicopters and the dangers posed by the spinning rotors. The people were then able to walk to the helicopters, where they were strapped in to be airlifted to one of the designated areas.

The SAR technicians are prepared to handle medical emergencies but Morin had no word on the state of health of the evacuees.

A truck sits idle, as its driver waits for Hwy. 402 to reopen.
The winter storm that had closed Hwy. 402 Monday from London to Sarnia and kept it closed through Tuesday has now worsened, earning it the moniker "Son of Snowmageddon." It was just days ago that London suffered through a storm that dumped an almost record breaking amount of snow on the area.

Lake effect squalls have closed the Bluewater Highway heading north from Grand Bend to Port Elgin.

Check out the video from My Fox WJBK Detroit that is embedded into my Digital Journal story.

Click on the link.

Blowing snow at the 402 Lambeth exit hints at the conditions west of London.

Photojournalist Morris Lamont, reporter John Miner and others from the local paper, The London Free Press, filed storm photos to Twitpics.

#whiteout a mom comforts her little daughter while stranded f... on Twitpic A stranded mom comforts her daughter.

#whiteout just got back from Strathroy covering the storm. He... on Twitpic It looked like this on Highway 22 at 81.

OPP officers brought in from Perth County prepare to head out... on Twitpic Perth OPP brought in to help Strathroy police.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Cleaning up after snowmaggedon

Traffic backs up behind a snowplow in Lucan, just north of London, Ontario.
It is snowing again in London, Ontario, and region. It is going to be hard getting around the area at times again tomorrow. Ironically, if it isn't snow blocking your way, it might be a snow plow.

During the recent heavy snowfall in London, Ontario, it was reported by The Beacon Herald, the paper in neighbouring Stratford, that London expected to have about 160 pieces of snow-removal equipment on the city's roads, up from the usual 127. Now you know why the clean-up after "snowmaggedon" might be a $1-million-plus snow-clearance job.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Four day snow storm buries London

London is heading into its fourth day of heavy snow. With already about 100 cm of snow on the ground in certain parts of town, another 20 cm expected to fall over night and more hitting the town again tomorrow, London will be absolutely buried.

The University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College have both announced that they will not be open until Thursday. Banks closed early Monday and stayed closed today, Tuesday. All three major London Malls were closed by Tuesday afternoon. At the peak of the Christmas season, this is no time for the malls to be closed.

For more on this storm, see my article in the Digital Journal.

The snow banks at the sides of this chap's driveway are almost as high as he is tall.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ceiling or daddy long-legs spider

 Some books call this spider a daddy long-legs but I don't. The daddy long-legs with which I am familiar have different bodies. No, this is what we called a ceiling or a cellar spider when I was a boy.

The spider that I called a daddy long-legs is also called the harvestman and I understand it is not a true spider. I think the term daddy long-legs fits the harvestman more than the cellar spider and so I'm staying with my terminology.

There is a myth that a daddy long-legs (cellar spider) has the most potent venom of all spiders but because it is unable to pierce human skin, it is harmless.

This myth was tested on Myth Busters and it was busted — twice. It seems the spider was able to bite through Adam's skin but he reported nothing more than a very mild, short-lived burning sensation. Analysis of the venom proved it didn't approach the potency of the black widow spider.

Apparently one story isn't a myth. Cellar spiders do hunt and kill the dangerous-to-humans black widow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Storybook Gardens Rink to Open

A few years ago the City of London put an almost kilometer long curving loop of concrete in Storybook Gardens. It's a fine place to stroll in the warm months but in winter it becomes a truly fine skating rink. The concrete ice pad even contains refrigeration pipes.

The rink would be perfect except for one thing: It isn't all that popular.

I think every Londoner should grab their skates, and with kids in tow, head for Storybook Gardens this winter. If support doesn't materialize for this project, I'm afraid it may come down to "use it, or lose it."

Last winter I took some pictures at the Storybook Gardens rink filled with skaters. If you are interested, check out Storybook Gardens skating.

For a little background on the photography for this piece and some direction and encouragement in shooting your own picture stories, check out Rockinon: Photography.