49 of 50 U.S. states have snow

With ferocious blizzards pounding the East Coast, and a number of other storms blowing across the western U.S. and plains states, the country now has the presence of snow in 49 of the 50 states. An arctic blast rolled across the country earlier this week, sending temperatures falling in southern states that normally are spared winter’s wraith. Only Florida remains free of snow at the moment.

Despite the fact that snow was found in all 50 states last February, it is a rare occurrence to have so many places in the U.S. have snow on the ground at the same time. According to CNN, meteorologists estimate that approximately 69.4% of the lower U.S. states are currently buried under some amount of snow. Alaska of course has snow all year round and it is not uncommon for Hawaii’s Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea mountains to have snow throughout the winter either.

The news didn’t improve as the week has gone along. A Midwest storm combined with the one that hit Atlanta a few days back, and created the massive blizzard that dumped plenty of the white stuff on the New England states yesterday. Many residents in the Northeast are still digging out from 10+ inches of snow, and travelers have been left stranded throughout the country as well.

Here in Texas, where I live, we’re suppose to hit 60 degrees Fahrenheit by the weekend. But for those of you living in less warm conditions, keep your chin up. We still have several months of winter to go, and we’re probably not through the worst of it yet. Perhaps now would be a good time to take up snowshoeing or skiing?

NYC Fails at Blizzard Cleanup

Residents of New York City were promised that every street in the city would be plowed by Thursday morning. With several city streets still snowbound, that promise seems to have been false. Stranded without access to buried cars, many city buses, or taxis, the snow in New York has made it difficult for some commuters to even use the subway.

City sanitation commissioner John Doherty promised on Wednesday during a news conference that every street across the five boroughs would be plowed by 7 a.m. Thursday morning. With that deadline not met, Mayor Bloomberg acknowledged the problem in a Queens news conference.

“Our response was inadequate and unacceptable,” said the mayor. “Clearly, the response to the storm has not met our standards.”

Garbage is piling up, cars are covered to their hoods in snow, and the blizzard from last weekend remains a huge problem for New Yorkers. Read more about the blizzard cleanup in New York on the New York Daily News website, here.

[photo by Jillian Steinhauer]

SkyMall Monday: The Wovel

Here on the East Coast, SkyMall Monday headquarters is being bombarded by a blizzard. Thankfully, our New York City location means that we don’t have to do any of the shoveling. However, for millions of people who have to keep their driveways, walking paths, sidewalks and outdoor dance floors clean and snow-free, storms like this create hours of backbreaking labor. Shoveling snow can cause back pain, frostbite and, sadly, cardiac episodes. However, you can’t just ignore the snow because you’re scared of dealing with it. Eventually, you’ll need to dig yourself out. How can you do that safely? Other than paying some neighborhood kids to do a half-assed job or borrowing your obnoxious neighbor’s snow blower and then having to owe him a favor that he will inevitably redeem when he wants an invitation to your annual bathing suit-optional pool party, what options do you have? Well, now, thanks to SkyMall, you can shovel your driveway safely using the powers of physics. Throw out of your measly shovels and get ready for the Wovel.Few things work as well in the snow as wheels. Slippery conditions mixed with thick, wet snow are ideal for a single thin wheel. The Wovel’s ability to pivot also allows the shoveler to shower himself with snow, which is perfect for reenacting everyone’s favorite scene from Flashdance. What could possibly go wrong?

Think that there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned shovels? Believe that a giant wheel is bound to struggle in deep snow? Curious how one might store this device in a crowded garage all year long? Well, while you’re stuck inside your house asking yourself rhetorical questions, I hope you’ll find time to read the product description:

At first glance, the Wovel might appear to the layperson to be a novel-looking device counterintuitive to effective snow removal. In fact, the Wovel is an elegant and efficient design based on two of the oldest and most commonplace scientific principles ever put into use: the wheel and the lever…The Wovel (rhymes with shovel) is the safe alternative to shoveling. Now, with virtually no effort, you can throw snow without twisting or lifting.

Actually, at first glance it looks like a shovel and a wheelbarrow had a baby after a drunken night in the tool shed. I must agree, however, that it is elegant. It’s all-black design makes it perfect for formal affairs from weddings to cotillions.

As snow blankets us, let’s make sure that we’re prepared for the worst. Stock your pantries with canned goods, plug in all of your electric blankets and make sure that you shovel – er, I mean Wovel – safely.

UPDATE: Learn exactly how to use the Wovel (hint: it’s all about the wrist snap) using this instructional video (thanks to Meg Nesterov for finding this).

Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.

Escape from New York: Five tips for leaving the city when flights fail you

New York is no stranger to tourist and business travel. We get lot of guests here, and eventually, their trips must come to an end. When the weather turns harsh, this can be problematic. Spring may be close, but March and April snowstorms happen, and there are always spring showers to make getting off the ground at JFK or LaGuardia a pure living hell. Whether you’re traveling in the northeast corridor or need to get to a different airport to get home, there are options.

I came face to face with this problem around six years ago. I was trying to get back to Boston, where I lived at the time. I was in New York every week on business and by Friday wanted nothing more than to get home. I stepped outside at 2 PM and saw snow accumulating on the street, even despite the city traffic. I checked Delta‘s website and saw that nothing had been canceled. So, I high-tailed out to LaGuardia hoping for the best. After a two-hour cab ride, I hit the Marine Air terminal only to find that the website wasn’t being kept up to date.

I needed some options and the thought of another two hours of taxi rides in a blizzard didn’t thrill me. Back in Manhattan, I figured I could pick up a train on Amtrak from Penn Station (which wound up working out). Along the way, I learned some tricks that can help anyone traveling the northeast or looking for an alternative airport when hope appears to be lost.1. Don’t fear public transportation
There’s no subway to LaGuardia, but there are buses. Catch the Q48 from the main airport or the Q47 from Marine Air (if you’re taking the Delta Shuttle). Get off at Roosevelt Ave in Queens, where the F or 7 train will get you back to Midtown. From there, it’s easy to hit Penn Station (New Jersey, Amtrak) Grand Central Station (Connecticut and New York) or the PATH train (if you want to try your luck at Newark). From JFK, you can catch the Skytrain to the subway, but brace yourself for a very long ride – the fastest I ever made it to Midtown was around an hour and a half.

2. Rental cars are risky
First, when flights aren’t taking off, there will be no shortage of people with the same idea. So, supply will be limited. Also, nasty weather makes for nightmarish driving conditions. You’ll be extremely unhappy behind the wheel, a situation that’s likely to be made worse by traffic. If you want to try driving, take public transportation out to the ‘burbs and use a rental agency out there (call first to make sure they can help you out).

3. . Be mindful of the other side
Getting out isn’t enough: you also have to think about where you’re going. If bad weather’s pounding New York, there’s a pretty good chance the situation in Philadelphia, Newark and Boston is also pretty ugly. If you’re having someone pick you up, call ahead. Arrange for a taxi or town car in advance. Definitely check the situation on the ground if you’re trying one of these airports instead. During my trek to Boston during the blizzard a few years ago, I called a local taxi service and asked to be picked up at South Station – and requested that they ask for my name before letting anyone into the cab. Sound arrogant? Well, it saved my ass. I saw the driver turn at least four people away as I pushed through the crowd, and I have no idea how many people tried before I got there.

4. Giving up may not be an option
Sometimes, it’s tempting to quit and just get a hotel room for a night (or a few, depending on how severe the storm is). Depending on what’s going on in the city, however, this may be a pricey alternative. As with rental cars, you won’t be the only person to think of this. Also, a busy night or weekend can cut available rooms down to nothing fast. If you are able to score some digs, you could wind up paying a fortune. If you do decide to stay in the city, hunt for the boutique hotels that y may never have noticed otherwise: they’re your best bet.

5. Draft your friends and family
During my escape from New York, I called my wife and asked her to book my train ticket for me. Handheld computing has come a long way since then, but it’s still inconvenient to hunt for alternatives on an iPhone or Blackberry. If you have someone who’s sitting in a warm office or home, hit him or her up for a hand. They’ll be able to find hotels or other travel arrangements easier than you will. By the time you get from the airport back into Manhattan, you may have a plan that only needs to be executed.

Photo of the Day (12.31.09)

More snow is expected for today in the Boston area. I’ve been trying to capture snow with as much impact as possible, but I haven’t been happy with the results.

This picture from PDPhotography taken in Toronto really gave me a chill. Now I’m off to try to re-create the look. If I could just find a bus around here.

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful new year. Why not make it a New Year’s resolution to make an appearance on one of our Photo of the Day posts? Submit your picture to Gadling’s Flickr group right now! We just might use it for a Photo of the Day for 2010.