Friday, February 26, 2010


Here's someone's name and work affiliation, but without the context you would expect it to have. Can you imagine what the larger image looks like? Here's some hints. It is a photograph I took in Bethesda, MD and the name is painted on the outside of the building. Any idea where it is?

Don't look at this link until you know the answer.

Where snow goes to melt.

I was walking down St. Elmo Avenue in Bethesda, MD and noticed this disused parking lot had been filled with truckloads of snow, presumably removed from other parts of Bethesda. I took this picture this morning, more than two weeks after our big snow, there is still a lot to melt. I'll keep an eye on it and see how long until it melts completely.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Watch for Potholes

The last set of snowstorms has left behind potholes, especially along Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, MD. I saw one Northbound at the Caribou Coffee and another Northbound at Arlington Road. The picture is of a car driving through the latter. There was also one southbound at Del Ray Avenue. Wisconsin Avenue looked better, I didn't see any on the short stretch I walked along.

Both the county and the state have web sites where you can submit pothole sightings. For state roads (like Old Georgetown Road, MD-187 and Wisconsin Ave, MD-355) you can use this form. Use the topic "Potholes / Holes / Sinkholes" You can remain anonymous if you wish, or fill in your contact info if you want them to contact you. For county roads, use this form. It is specific to potholes and you must provide contact info (boo).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ice Dam Ice

You may have noticed ice dams on many of the houses, perhaps even yours. Ever wonder if they, and the icicles that go with them can cause real damage to your house?

What Causes Ice Dams: Ice dams form when snow on your roof melts, then the water runs down into the gutter an re-freezes. There are generally two ways the snow melts, either the sun shining on the roof melts it or heat escaping from your house into the attic melts the snow from underneath. The latter is usually the cause, most of the houses here in Bethesda are old and poorly insulated.

What type of damage can occur: There are two primary types of damage ice dams cause. The gutter can pull away from the roof and fall. In the top picture you can see that the the bottom of the gutter isn't flat, it is leaning down. This is because the gutter, and the board it is attached to is pulling away from the side of the house. I could actually look into the attic from the outside.

The ice dams in the gutter can cause melting water to back up behind them and go under the shingles and make it into your attic. The water then can drip down through the ceiling into the rest of the house. I had this occur after the last snow, a steady drip of water coming in near one of my windows.

Short term fixes: If you actually have water leaking into your house, the first thing you want to do is stop it. I have run across three actions you can take to stop it quickly and you may want to do all three.

  1. Put a fan in the attic blowing towards the leak. This is probably going to be your quickest and easiest solution. Generally it isn't the whole attic that is too warm, just a few spots where the insulation is thin or air is leaking up through the walls. The fan blows cold air under the leaking water that re-freezes, causing the leak to stop. This is a very short-term solution, as soon as you turn the fan off, the ice will start melting.
  2. Shovel off the roof. If there isn't any snow to melt, there won't be any water to get in the house. You likely will just have to shovel off the area above the hot spot. This can be dangerous, see below for more tips.
  3. Fill a stocking full of rock salt and put it over the gutter. Take a look at the picture below, you can see that I put the stocking vertically down the roof and over the ice dam in the gutter. The salt keeps melts the ice forming a channel through the ice dam that water can go through. It took about 2 days to melt the channel you see in the picture. You can use any solid snow-melting compound, it doesn't have to be salt.

Long term fixes: Fixing the problem for good will cost a bit of money and can't be done while the ice dam is there, you'll likely need to wait until spring. Here are a few things you can do:
  1. Install gutter heating cables. These are electric heaters you plug in, they will keep a channel in the gutter clear for water to flow through, you also put the along the edge of the roof so water doesn't freeze there
  2. Insulate your attic better. If the problem is caused by heat escaping from the house through the roof, insulating the attic can fix the problem and save you a bit on your heating bill.
  3. Put an impervious barrier under the shingles. This of course means removing all the existing shingles and putting new ones on. This can be a large added expense but if you were planning on replacing your roof, it may make sense. This doesn't actually prevent ice dams, it just prevents water from leaking into the house, you could still have problems with the gutters pulling away from the house.
  4. Rent. This doesn't really prevent the problem, it just makes it someone else's problem.

Shoveling the roof: The recommendation that I hear is to let a professional do it, and for good reason, it can be very slippery on the roof, you could easily fall and hurt yourself. You can also damage the roof with your shovel. If you choose to try it yourself, here are a couple of things I noticed: Stand in the snow. Usually you stand in the area you have already shoveled but on your roof that isn't a good idea, the snow provides more support than the cleared roof. Shovel from the top down, particularly if you are clearing the whole roof. I found it was easier to stay standing in the snow, and I didn't have to worry if I didn't through the snow far enough and it landed lower on the roof, I'd get to it later. Shovel from the outside in. You can push the snow off the edge of the roof. I had good luck starting at the top of the roof at the edge and working my way down, then going back up to the top and clearing another row down. Once I was far enough in that I couldn't get the snow off the edge, I'd toss it to the bottom. Don't do it alone. If you do fall, you want someone to notice and get help, you could be hurt badly. Call a professional. Even if you are being careful, it is still a risky activity. Pros have a lot more experience. I started to slip several times while on the roof.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The snow cleanup restarts

For those of you playing along at home, here is what has been going on in Bethesda, MD today. This morning, the one-way stretch of Old Georgetown Road was again a total mess. This picture was from 10am. Now the road is much better with two lanes that are pretty much down to wet pavement.

Look at all the snow in the bus bay at Bethesda Metro station. Lots of snow had blown in and it was about 4 inches deep. It also covered much of the kiss and ride area. (picture from 9:00)

Woodmont Avenue was pretty good by 10:00, you can see people shoveling out a parking garage, the snow piles are as tall as they are.

The plaza above Bethesda Metro Station is criss-crossed with trails you don't have a direct route anywhere.

The sun has been out all day and by lunch time so were the people. Bethesda Avenue was crowded. Lots of parents with school-aged kids, maybe they just needed to get out of the house for a while.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Today's Weather

I think there might have been snow today. It is hard to tell how much, somewhere between a quarter of an inch and twelve inches, depending on how the wind was blowing. It was super windy and I had trouble telling how much of the snow was new and how much was just getting blown around and around. This was a win for the weather, the whole area pretty much gave up today, no metrobus, no Ride-On bus, no trash pickup, schools closed for the rest of the week. The upshot of this was the roads were pretty empty and the plows could get some real work done. It will still be messy in the morning but there shouldn't be deep snow on the roads.

Here are some pictures from a walk I took around 4:30-5:30 today in Bethesda, MD.

Old Georgetown Road near Democracy Blvd 5:10pm. Not much traffic on this snow covered road.

Intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Democracy Blvd 5:10pm. It has been plowed several times but there is still lots of loose snow around.

It will take a while to dig out this bus shelter near Davis Library in Bethesda 5:15pm.

Sometimes you really have to bring out the heavy equipment to clear the snow. This front end loader has had it's bucket replaced with a plow 5:25pm.

Bethesda warm springs 5:30pm. A water main break bubbles water up through the ground.

A walk down a quiet road 5:35pm

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More snow pictures

I was going through the pictures I took in Bethesda, MD over the past couple of days and found a few more to share with you.

This was just after noon on February 8th. Two days after the snow ended. Wisconsin Avenue is still very slushy and messy. Old Georgetown Road (on the right) is just as bad if not worse.

Another one from the 8th, just after noon. Two lanes getting through the slush on southbound Wisconsin Ave. This is a heavily traveled stretch of road in Bethesda.

This bus was stuck for a couple of hours before the firefighters showed up. They were unable to free it and so it stayed there for a couple more hours before breaking free. Feb 8, East-West Highway at Wisconsin Ave.

The sidewalk used to keep going. Now there is a huge pile of snow at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street. Feb 9, 3:30pm.

They might have trouble keeping the streets and sidewalks plowed but the Capital Crescent Trail has been cleared of snow. Feb 9, 3:30pm This was only about 5 minutes before the next snow storm started.

Bethesda, Actually

I just ran across another blog about Bethesda, MD called Bethesda Actually. They have had a lot of updates about the recent snow, so check them out.

I have had spotty power and internet access so who knows what will happen with this storm.

The cleanup continues

This morning they were finally working on some of the really bad roads in downtown Bethesda, MD. Montgomery Lane between Woodmont Ave and MD-355 was temporarily closed while the plowed, sanded, and salted it.

Old Georgetown Road between MD-355 and Woodmont Ave was also getting some love. This time by the Bethesda Urban Partnership plow. There were also half a dozen Bethesda UP people shoveling the sidewalks at that intersection. Local businesses fund BUP and I think their money is well spent. The past couple of snow storms I have seen a lot of their crews working on the sidewalks near intersections.

Other areas still need attention. Southbound Old Georgetown Rd between Arlington Road and Woodmont Ave is still only a single lane and Wisconsin Ave is still a mess of snow and slush.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another Snowpacalypse.

Another day, another major snowstorm. This one was even bigger than the last, about 2.5 feet here in Bethesda, MD. In my mind, this tops the snow of 1979, in part because the quantity is similar and in part because I lost power for 35 hours.

At 5:15am on Saturday morning I was working on the computer and I see a bright flash of light out the windows. With that, the power goes out. There were two more flashes in the next minute or so. The snow kept coming and the power stayed out all day.

Late on Saturday, when the snow stopped I pulled out the generator and wired it into the furnace so we had a little bit of heat. I didn't run it overnight so it was 50 degrees when we woke up. I also had a tree fall across my driveway and I only have an electric chainsaw. Again, the generator came in handy and I cleared it Sunday morning. We finally got plowed and power back on around 4pm Sunday. Some people in the neighborhood have gas fireplace inserts and although they didn't really keep the house warm, they did keep it from getting too cold. People totally without heat woke up Sunday morning to indoor temperatures in the low 40s and it kept cooling down throughout the day.

Monday Morning around 9am Woodmont Avenue and Old Georgetown Road: I took a walk to Caribou Coffee but it wasn't opening until 9:30. The bus on the left was stuck and had been for a while. You can see a brown UPS truck in the distance trying to make a left turn. It took him a couple minutes and lots of wheel spinning to make it.

Streets in Bethesda, MD are a mixed bag. Most of Old Georgetown Road was good except between MD-355 and Arlington Road. That is the snow-covered mess you see here. Wisconsin Ave has snow and slush on it but is drivable. Some sidewalks are cleared but many are not.

I also went to the Safeway to see what they had. It was surprisingly well stocked. Brand selection was limited for some popular items but they didn't seem to be out of much. There was plenty of milk, bread, and meat (but not much chicken). They were busy re-stocking shelves while I was there.

Here's a story that Channel 9 did on one Bethesda neighborhood. They were plowed and had the power back on a few hours later, I don't think it was a coincidence.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The perfect snow?

We got around 4 inches here in Bethesda, MD and I think this might have been a perfect snow. It was right around freezing so it was easy to keep the roads clear, it stuck to the tree branches and made the morning beautiful.

By late morning the sun came out, the sky turned blue and it warmed up.

This weekend we are going to get another storm, and it has the potential to be a big one, perhaps a foot or more. As the week progresses we will know more. Don't wait until Friday to do your grocery shopping, clean out the stores now!

Another incident at Bethesda Metro Station

Metro rail incidents are happening with alarming regularity. This morning something happened at Bethesda Metro station and they closed it and called in the fire department. Their alerts were somewhat unhelpful "Red Line - Disruption at Bethesda in both directions. Trains sharing same track btwn Medical Center & Friendship Hts. Due to a track problem outside Bethesda. Delays in both directions." According to a fireman at the scene, there was some problem on the tracks between Bethesda and one of the other stations. He wasn't sure what the issue was.

Apparently, it wasn't too serious because the equipment has already cleared the scene.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Cordell Ave and Woodmont Ave For Lease

A little over a year ago, there was a bank standing here, they tore it down, dug a new foundation and put up this building. It has retail and office space for lease now, It doesn't look like they have tenants lined up yet though. Originally this was planned to be finished last Fall, they missed that date by a couple of months, but still, they made pretty quick work of the job. This is how the building looks on the Cordell Avenue side, you can see the yellow awning of the "Harp and Fiddle" in the background.

On Woodmont Avenue they have painted an interesting mural along the side. I'd prefer that it were actually at street level instead of raised up 5 feet but I suspect they couldn't have street level entrances on both Woodmont and Cordell.

have posted about this site several times, you can follow along.

A little bit of snow

I wasn't expecting much from this snow, originally, they forecast 1 or 2 inches here in Bethesda, MD, nothing big. On Friday night, they raised the forecast a bit. Saturday was great, it snowed all day. I was out driving in the morning and it was a little bit slick but not too bad. In the end, we got 4 or 5 inches, just the right amount.

Since it was so cold leading up to the snow (and during it) the snow was very dry. On Sunday a bit of sun made it almost packable. I was able to make a very small snowman with sticks for arms, but no matter how much I rolled, the snowballs didn't get any bigger.