Pat Shingleton: "The Driest Dessert, Blizzards and Icing..."
The Atacama Desert is located in the upper reaches of Chile in South America, extending from the Peruvian border to the town of Copiapo. To the west is the Pacific Ocean and on the east area the high central Andes, spanning 100 miles at its widest section. The yearly precipitation totals vary in the desert with the wettest locations getting only 3 millimeters yearly. For 67years the coastal town of Arica, on the northern section of the desert, yielded an average yearly rainfall of 0.5 millimeters and between October 1903 and January 1918 not one drop of rain fell on Arica. The Atacama is the driest desert on Earth and from December through March temperatures rarely exceed 90 degrees... A blizzard is a storm with sustained winds of 35 m.p.h. for three hours and blowing snow reducing visibilities to a quarter mile. January 13th marked the anniversary of one of the worst winter storms to hit United States in 1888. From the Great Plains to Texas, temperatures dropped, winds howled and snow fell as 235 perished in snowdrifts. Most of the bodies were not retrieved until the spring thaw. Later that same year on March 12, the Great White Hurricane slammed the East Coast, lasting three days. Fifty inches of snow fell in Massachusetts with 50 foot snow drifts from Maryland to Canada. The storm sank 200 ships and killed 400, including 100 seamen. It is considered the worst blizzard in United States history. In closing, years ago, plane de-icing was randomly performed and now is a regimented, regulated program. On January 14, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the icy Potomac River, 30 seconds after takeoff from National Airport in Arlington, Virginia. The casualty count noted 78 deaths, including four who were in cars on the 14th Street Bridge. Weatherwise magazine noted that the National Transportation Safety Board determined the cause of the crash was the failure of pilots to abort the takeoff and activating anti-icing equipment. Ice on wings is dangerous because of additional weight and the loss of lift for the aircraft, causing drag on the aircraft’s body. A wing can lose 30% of lift with a small accumulation of ice.