First Snowfall of the Winter

And here it is... the first snowfall of the winter in Nanaimo. This is pretty unusual for us, as we don't typically see our snow until early in the new year. Valentine's Day seems to usually see snow, with our heaviest concentration coming in March. Being that Nanaimo is a coastal town, snow is a rare occurrence, so to get accumulations like we'd just had is really something... er... special.

So how much? I know my friends in Sweden and other parts of Canada will laugh at this, but we've had seven inches in the last 24 hours. For any of you who have not driven in coastal snow, it is extremely wet, and very slippery. Not at all like the dry powdery (and relatively sticky) stuff you get inland. This picture shows the ruler stuck in the snow on my deck railing (from four and a half hours ago).

The ironic thing about this? Yesterday morning my wife and I were at Home Depot looking at snow shovels. They had this "ergonomic" one, with a bent handle, and we didn't buy it because it's the same model that broke on us last year. (The bent handle just folded in half on us.) They had another one, too, which looked like a big scoop, but it didn't have a metal strip, so we passed on that one too. We walked out of the store with no snow shovel. 🙁 It started snowing like crazy about two hours later, and hasn't stopped!

Home Depot now has no snow shovels left at all. We've been talking about buying one for a month now, and just never got there.

Fortunately, our neighbor lent us there two shovels, one of which is the exact scoop design we passed on. They worked great, and the driveway is now clear... until we get the rest of the snow that is forecast to come tonight.

Now, this wouldn't be a technology blog of any merit if I didn't share some techy stuff here too. So if you are not tech inclined, stop reading now. 🙂 If you are, then have a good laugh at my expense. 😉

As is natural to happen when we have any kind of natural weather phenomena around here, the power went out at work. Who cares, right? I do. Being the guy responsible for our network, I have to drive in and restart the servers when things go down.

Oh, I can hear you now. "Ken! There is power management software to do that for you, you know!". Oh, I know. I even have it! My servers are smart enough to shut themselves down on their own, and they even text message my mobile phone to tell me they've done it. In fact, they even text message me when the power comes back on to tell me that they are rebooting.

Unfortunately, we have our data stored on a SAN device (Storage Area Network), that attaches to our file servers by direct SCSI. (I tried iSCSI at one point, but the device I got wasn't compatible with Novell at that time.) The issue, according to one of my external consultants, is that the SAN device does not initialize before the Novell servers try to contact the SCSI connection, and therefore the SAN never mounts. Basically, this means that we have no access to any of our data until I drive to work, flip the rocker switches on the SAN to off, shut down the servers, turn the SAN back on, let it fully initialize, then boot up the servers.

Honestly, it's no big deal, and it takes me about an hour, all told, to drive to work, reboot everything, and drive home. The frustrating thing is that, as Murphy would have it, the calls always come at 2:00AM, on the weekend, or at any time that it is inconvenient. Further, the reason the power usually goes out is that is that we've had big storms. The last kind of weather that you want to go out in. In fact, I've had to journey out three times in the last month, through record rains (and huge puddles on the roads,) to get in there and clean things up.

Only now it snowed. The radio is telling people to stay off the roads as they are a mess. And now I have to go in to deal with the servers. To make matters even worse, my car would not even have made it to the resort, as there was over a foot of snow in some areas. 🙁 Fortunately though, my boss is a super nice guy. He has a nice 4x4 truck and offered to give me a ride out to the resort.

Pockets of the town were powerless, many traffic lights had been turned into four way stops, cars in the ditch... it was ugly out there. But we did it, and we're both home safely now, with the resort back up and running.

Now, the ironic thing about the whole power management thing is that we have tests scheduled, and have since a month ago, to run the servers through a full power outage on Tuesday morning. There is a time controlled power bar that I can buy, which will allow you to program how long each port starts up after power is restored. So the purpose is to shut everything down, and simulate using this power bar. Starting with the SAN, we'll reboot the system in the order we know works. I do have some reasons to be skeptical here, but we're going to try it out. If my system tech wins the bet, and it works, then I'll be a happy guy. If not, I'll blog about why. 🙂

Here's to hoping that it works, and that I don't have to put my life at risk to reboot a few servers!

5 thoughts on “First Snowfall of the Winter

  1. Or... maybe not.

    It's dumped a bit more snow overnight, and the power went out at work twice. Once around 2:00AM, and again at 5:00AM. BC Hydro says that they had "several" transformers blow last night. They're not expecting power to be restored until at least noon today.

    The forecast isn't pretty either, with temperatures dipping more, so the roads could be even worse. I've cancelled our power test for tomorrow, as it doesn't make sense to kill ourselves to test a system that should help prevent us killing ourselves. 😉

    My wife tells me that the ruler now shows we're over eight inches, and still counting. This is the scary kind of snow, though. It's the powdery kind, which now sits on top of the wet stuff from yesterday. This is the killing snow, as you have a sheet of fluffy powder on a very greased road.

    The schools are all closed today, and I've called all of my staff to tell them to stay home as well.

  2. And it continues...

    For the last couple of days, my boss has been giving me a ride in to work. After a power was restored the other day, we came in only to find it out again. I unplugged all my servers, and actually managed to perform the power outage test that I'd cancelled. Lucky for me, it looks like the pwoer bar thing may solve my issues, so it's on order now.

    My wife, child and I ventured out last night to go and get groceries as there was more snow in the forecast. Naturally, we got rear-ended at a traffic light, but luckily no damage to the car or occupents. 🙂 It was a sheer sheet of ice where it happened, and was not apparent until you were on it. I'd steered out of two skids (at low speed) only seconds before, so wasn't totally surprised when we got nailed. They kid who did it was pretty shaken, and was really good about giving me all his info.

    And now the snow is back. We're forecasted to get another 4-6 inches today, along with up to 70 kmph winds. The towns just north of us and across the straight are in white out conditions, and the storm is headiing our way.

    It should be interesting to see where it goes from here, too. It's supposed to change to rain later tonight. With the storm drains all covered in snow, I wonder how much flooding we'll see. Shouldn't be an issue for my house, but...

  3. Gee Ken, don't think I'll complain about the weather here anymore. Very nice photos though.

    Ever mention I sell snowshoes? At least I used to until it became an expensive hobby (bad exchange rates)

    Not a cheap plug, but the best brand you can get are called Yowies from Australia ("Yow" as in "cow").

    I've tested them in chest deep snow. Anything else would break due to the weight of the snow on top of the snowshoes, that is if you were able to lift your feet. Yowies don't break because the binding straps actually pass through slots in the snowshoes, they are not riveted on like most others. Extremely tough, they are used by a few Search and Rescue units around the world.

    Hope things get that bad that you need them though. Take care dude.

  4. That weather really looks bad, but if you will choose to live in Canada ...

    We are further north than you, about a degree or so, but we rarely if ever get snow, a light flurry is usually the most that we get. It is very wet and blowy here, but that apart it is balmy, warm days, far above the seasonal average.

    My daughter would love a snowfall like that, but I am happy not to have to drive in it.

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