Just how big is the upcoming Midwest snow storm? Check out this NOAA satellite image!

We already posted about a big upcoming snow storm heading to the Midwest and beyond – and yes – we know that people in New York are under the assumption that their snow storm was worse than anything ever seen in the whole history of the world. But this image from the NOAA GOES-13 satellite shows just how much snow is on the way.

With reports of blizzards carrying as much as 22 inches into the area in a 24 hour period, flying through any of the Midwest airports in the coming couple of days seems like a really bad idea. Thankfully, airlines have already started issuing change waivers.

For a larger version of the image, or to learn more about the image, head on over to nasa.gov.

[Via: Twitter]

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]

Snow and ice strand travelers in their Smoky Mountain cabins

Dozens of travelers to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee were left stranded in their rental cabins earlier this week thanks to snow and ice covered roads. Most had a minimal supply of food and were unsure when they could resupply thanks to the treacherous conditions.

Winter storms dumped several inches of snow on the region, but it was the ice that posed the real danger. The narrow and winding mountain roads became impassable thanks to a thick coat of ice which caused many vehicles to slide off the pavement and become stuck in ditches. Without ice chains on their tires, most vehicles were useless on the slick surface, which meant that visitors to the Majestic Mountain Lodges near Gatlinburg were forced to stay in their cabins and wait for assistance.

Some couldn’t wait however. Running low on food, many of people set out on foot for the nearby town, pulling sleds behind them as they went. Once they made the walk into Gatlinburg, they would purchase their needed supplies and then hike back up the mountain to their cabin. That round-trip trek would take several hours to complete.

Slowly the conditions have begun to improve over the past few days, but even salt trucks and plows have had problems getting up the steep mountain roads. For now, most of the visitors have had to stay in their cabins and wait for the ice to clear.

Would this kind of ice storm be a fun winter adventure or leave you with severe cabin fever? It seems that if you were well stocked on food and supplies, it would be fine just relaxing by the fire. But if you were running low on those things, it wouldn’t be much fun at all. I’d hate to be the guy that drew the short straw to make the beer run.

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.

Bad weather continues to delay travel in Europe

Snow and ice have been causing travel delays in Western and Northern Europe since last weekend, and another round of chilly weather is causing new trouble, the BBC reports.

Parts of Germany got inundated with freezing rain last night and today and some roads are covered in up to 2 centimeters (almost an inch) of ice. This has caused numerous accidents, although thankfully nobody has been killed. Icy and snowy conditions are also causing delays for rail service and automobile traffic in France and the UK.

At least there’s some good news. After a big backlog of flights, Heathrow is running at almost full capacity. Delays at the world’s busiest airport had created knock-on effects at many other airports.

If you’re traveling to, from, or within Europe, do yourself a favor and check to see if your flight or train is leaving on time. If you’re driving, please drive carefully.

[Image courtesy Alex Sven via Gadling’s flickr pool]