LOCAL VIEW —A forecast to cringe at—(Updated with storm summery)

The last thing we needed around here last Friday was a forecast of more snow, but apparently we hadn’t learned our lesson, and had snow in the forecast for Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. At that point the weather bureau had compassion, for even though their long-range maps clearly showed further snow on the following Thursday and Friday, they left it out of their long range forecast.

The forecast was enough to make a grown woman stop crying. I don’t think it was my imagination that detected a certain grimness in all expressions, quite unusual for a Friday afternoon. There was a wrench in the works of a weekend, and the wrench was snow.

However at least there was sunshine, as temperatures inched up from -7.6° to 14.9° (-22.2° to -9.5° Celsius), and a very weak impulse moved by to our northwest. There was even a stub of a warm front pointing down in our direction.

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Not that I trusted that stub of a warm front. I’ve often noticed that at the end of a warm front, where you might think the weather would stop, there is a sort of micro-disturbance I call a “stubber”. Perhaps it is some phenomenon associated with the lengthening of the warm front. In any case I noted the radar showing snow out in New York State, and adopted a cynical attitude about the sunshine.  But I could hope that the stub of a warm front meant that, while we might not get a full blown Chinook like they were getting out west in Nebraska and Kansas, at least we might face a night where temperatures didn’t drop below zero.

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As I left for work I noted one of my front tires looked low on air. When it gets really cold the air in tires contracts, and you often have to add a little, so I stopped in at the local gas station to add some. There was a line of other cars doing the same thing. You don’t often see a line of cars at the local air pump. I noted it down, and thought it would be a good thing to mention in this blog.

Not that I’d have any time for blogging. With all the snow in the forecast I not only had to do my ordinary chores, I had to finish up all the clean-up from the last storm and make ready for the next storm. For example, we’d just about used-up all the firewood on the porch, and also I’d never had time to shovel the snow from the back of my pick-up truck, and it was starting to block the view of my rear-view-mirror.

Having all the extra work made me far more efficient than usual, and I felt a bit smug about how efficient I was being, which I caught myself doing, and tried to slap out of my system. I’ve noticed, in the past,  that as soon as I feel smug, something goes wrong. Call it a superstition if you will. In any case, I hoped I’d caught myself in time, and headed to my truck with an extremely humble expression. Then I noticed the front tire again looked low on air. I couldn’t blame it on contraction, with the temperatures rising, and my humble expression veered towards exasperation. I headed back to the gas station a mile away, but began to feel the truck pull to the right. I stopped, and saw the tire was now nearly on the rim, so I drove the rest of the way slowly, with the tire over in the soft snow at the side of the road, but I was down on the rim as I pulled in to the station.

The fellow at the station told me the tire was no good. He called it “dry rot”, which I knew effected wood but never knew effected rubber. However I suppose it serves me right for being cheap. Rather than buy new tires I often buy the tires from wrecks at the junkyard for only $25.00. This tire was apparently a very old one, though it didn’t look it. The rubber had actually cracked, in the sub-zero cold.

It turned out to be a good thing I haven’t had time to do all my chores, because one reason the heap of snow was so large in the back of my pick-up is because, when I actually broke down and bought new snow tires a fortnight ago…(was that a premonition or what?)…I threw the summer tires in the back of the truck, and simply haven’t had time to get them into the barn at the farm. Unfortunately the fellow at the service station had two other cars up on his lifts, and wouldn’t be able to get to my truck for a couple hours, but the other side of fortune is that my house was only a five minute walk away. I figured I could grab lunch and work on stocking wood on the porch.

I started home in the cold, missing my truck’s heater a little, but also thinking this would be good chance to observe stuff to put in my blog.

My town only has one real sidewalk. (There has been talk for years about putting a second one in on Main Street, but it would involve knocking down the tall stone walls in front of people’s houses, and in one case even moving a house back from the road, so the talk has never become action.) It is a real battle to keep our lone sidewalk open, as it runs along “The Turnpike”, which was a toll road back in the 1800’s, and is now a State Highway. The State Plows rumble by and turn our only sidewalk into a mountain range of snow. Then a fellow from our town road crew squeezes into the minuscule cab of a tiny blue tractor with a snow-blower at its prow, and labors to mine a canyon through the mountain range. I could see him up ahead of me, adroitly and diplomatically maneuvering the chute of the blower so as to enrage as few townsfolk as possible by adding to the snow-piles on their lawns and beside their drives. (You can’t please everyone, especially as some of the piles have become so tall there are mini-avalanches, and snow slides back down into driveways.) Despite his efforts the footing was treacherous, as rather than flat the sidewalk was covered with round spheres of packed snow about the size of baseballs. It was a bit like walking on a cobble beach, and made me feel I must look less than dignified, as I proceeded gyrating like a spastic. However I was in a hurry, and when I’m in a hurry I say to heck with dignity.

As I walked I noted the sky had filled with cumulus and alto cumulus, and suddenly flakes were floating about, though the sun was shining. I decided this was a good thing, as it added to our streak of days with snow. In the future I will not need to mention that by the time I returned and picked my truck up the sky was without a cloud.  Instead I’ll say, “Back in February 2015 it snowed for X straight days.”

I decided snow that falls when the sun is shining, snow that glitters and doesn’t accumulate, is my favorite snow. Who needs the other stuff?

I wasn’t too impressed with the stub of a warm front, as evening came on. It was another afternoon where the children at the Childcare do fine, as long as the bright February sun is shining, but I get cold. I warmed myself by cutting blocks of snow from a snowbank and constructing an igloo. It’s hard, as the snow is dry and doesn’t stick, but the snow doesn’t stick where the Eskimos build theirs. Of course Eskimo’s likely don’t have a hoard of children clambering over what they build. I did manage to complete an arch. (The Romans would be proud of me.) Then the the shadows grew as the sun began blinking from behind the pines, and abruptly the kids weren’t having fun any more. (I noted the ones who skipped afternoon snack got cold first.)  Temperatures were sinking down into the single digits fairly swiftly, and I herded everyone indoors for the final half hour before parents began arriving, all abuzz about the coming snow.

By the time the place was shut up and the animals tended-to and I headed home for supper and a bit of paperwork, temperatures were looking like they might sink below zero again. They were at  3.6° (-15.8° Celsius) by 8:42 PM, when sleep brought his hammer down. As I drifted off I was thinking the old line, “It’s too cold to snow.” The map didn’t show any big storm down the coast, and the radar showed a nation surprising free of snow for February.

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Toil is an excellent narcotic, and my ordinary insomnia has a hard time raising its head before the hammer of sleep lays it low again, but I did wander down to use the bathroom in the dead of night and note the temperature had not fallen, but risen to 5°. Next thing I knew it was the dusk before dawn, which means I’m late for work, so I adroitly ducked and and dodged the hammer of sleep, staggering downstairs for a coffee, which wakened me enough to realize it was Saturday and I didn’t have to work, but I did note the temperature had risen to 9.1° before staggering back upstairs and letting the hammer of sleep sock me right between the eyes. Next thing I knew I was contently stretching and glancing at the clock, and realizing I’d basically spent twelve hours snoozing. I can’t remember the last time I did that, without the excuse of a fever of 102°. However, like I said, toil is an excellent narcotic, and people not all that far south of here can have no idea of the toil three feet of snow adds to an ordinary life.

However I felt very little self pity. Sleep is a lovely thing, healing many wounds,whether they be physical, emotional, mental or even spiritual, and I’d had twelve solid hours of it. Furthermore, the sun was shining. My body might be a bit creaky, but a couple asprin could deal with that. I launched into the day being very careful to be humble about how amazingly efficient I was, hoping to get so much done I’d have time for this blog.

It has been cold for so long that anything above 20° (-6.7°) feels merciful. I know this sounds ridiculous to people in warmer places,  but warm and cold are relative things. (One time, in India, I saw temperatures drop just below 60° (15.6 Celsius), and people were walking about in woolly hats and scarfs.) In any case, for just a moment around noon temperatures rose above 20° and the sun was still peeking through the thickening clouds. For just a moment it was nice out, before the sun vanished, and even though the temperature rose to 25.7° (3.5° Celsius) it felt colder as the sky grew gray.

The weather bureau was warning that a front would drop over us and then stall for days, and it would snow, snow, snow, for days, but it was hard to take them seriously. A few enormous flakes fell Saturday afternoon, as if warning-shots, but they swiftly turned to smaller and more incidental stuff. I was able to stock my porch up with wood chest high, feeling a little silly to be acting as if a big storm was coming when maps and radar only showed a front.

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I figured I could take notes, as I worked outside, and use what I observed to write a sonnet, or at least a blog entry. However when I stepped inside, expecting to relax, and sat down at my computer, I got emails that informed me there was no rest for the weary.

Because the forecast was for snow, the guest speaker at our tiny church could not come. As we have no pastor, and as a coin-flip made me “Chairman of the Deaconate”, that meant I had to deliver the “message” at church. So, rather than this blog, I wrote a sermon.

I think it was rather cool. It involved the time roughly 3400 years ago that the “Chosen People” were such losers that the Philistines could walk in take the Arc of the Covenant. However it will likely never be heard, because Sunday morning saw snow falling like gangbusters with nearly 4 inches on the ground, and church was cancelled.

Well, I thought to myself, I can at last work on my blog, but I was wrong.

It turned out a much-loved member of the community, who had taught shop at the high school for over forty years, had perhaps shoveled too much snow, but in any case had passed on at home, of a heart attack.  He was so loved you can expect as many as 300 at his funeral. The problem is that, while everyone expects the community church to “host” a funeral, very few actually attend the church. Thirty have to attend to the details of a funeral involving 300.

So I had to deal with that, today, as well as snow-blow six inches of snow from my farm-childcare’s entrances, exits, and parking lot. Only now, late on Sunday, do I finally have time to work on my blog.

They have already cancelled school tomorrow, but as far as I can see there is no big storm on the map.

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In terms of snowfall, it has nearly stopped, as radar shows a “hole” appearing over southern New Hampshire.

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Temperatures have fallen slowly but steadily all day, from 21.2° at around 5:00 AM to 9° late Sunday night.

All in all, I’d say that, for all the fuss and hoopla about this snow, six inches is no big deal. When I look out the window I see that, while the snowbanks are indeed large, so far we only match other rough winters. The snow doesn’t yet surpass other winters I can remember.

There are far rougher things to deal with than six inches of snow. One is for me to try to act like a pastor, when I am not. To be a pastor you need to be gifted with eyebrows that are low towards the temple and rise up sympathetically to the bridge of the nose. My eyebrows are all wrong: High on the outside and dipping down towards the middle.

But a guy’s got to do what a guy has got to do, so I went and met a widow today, rather than working on this blog. And I swiftly understood a widow also has things to deal with far rougher than six inches of snow.

MONDAY MORNING UPDATE

We only had an extra inch overnight, which is fine with me. The map shows the front may be finally come together and form an actual storm, while the radar shows heavier snow to our west. The temperature has remained level all night, and stands at 9.3°.

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So on we go, into another week. I’m off to the farm-childcare, because I imagine the exits and entrances have been blocked by plows.

UPDATE AND STORM SUMMERY

We’d actually had three inches over night, with another inch in a burst as I started snow-blowing. I could rip along in third gear until I came to the entrances and exits, where the plows had erected a mountain of packed powder up to two feet tall, and six to ten feet wide. It is annoying, but they cannot help it. The tall banks at the side of the road are up against stone walls and trees, and so the snow tends to be pushed ahead rather than sideways, until they get to a nice, clean driveway, and then it all goes sideways. You just have to grin and bear it, and clean it up.

The snow was fairly light all day, as we seemed in a sort of “snow hole” downwind from the Berkshires of Massachusetts and the Green Mountains of Vermont. The waves of snow came from the west, (different from a coastal storm where they come from the north, north-east or east), and often disappeared from the radar, though the fine flakes still fell.

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Temperatures remained cold, rising from 9.1° only to 15.6° (-12.7° to -9.1 Celsius). We only had a little over an inch, but plows deposited another foot in the entrances and exits.

The storm seemed to be shifting a lot of its energy south to a final low moving through Maryland. It seemed the snow was ending. After dark temperatures stayed level, dipping only to 14.5° (-9.2° Celsius).

As it grew dark I noticed a little sleet was mixed in, despite the cold. I suppose that bit of warm air aloft was all we’ll see of the major Chinook that occurred out west, giving a town in Kansas readings of 80° (26.7° Celsius) on Saturday. That was followed by some big, fat snow flakes, which often happens when snow is about to end.

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I awoke after midnight, and before going back to sleep noticed it was still  snowing. That keeps our streak of days-with-snow going through Tuesday.  By dawn it had stopped, but still was cloudy. The radar showed the energy had headed south to Cape Hatteras. Ordinarily this would worry me, but instead all eyes were on the clipper plunging through the Dakotas.  “Accuweather” had a graphic showing it becoming another blizzard for Boston on Friday, which freaked everyone out. (This radar doesn’t show it, but a small pocket of snow was still falling in Boston’s western suburbs this morning.)

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The map showed the storm to our south in a worrisome position, but slipping out to sea, even as the next storm approached from the west.  When I got to work I discovered another 2 inches had fallen overnight, and plows had placed another foot in the entrances and exits. Besides clearing up that mess, I snow-blowed the various paths in the playground which allow the kids to run, and not just wallow.

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As the morning passed the sun finally appeared, and temperatures rose from 14.9° at dawn to 27.3°, (-9.5° to -2.6° Celsius), which actually felt quite mild. The bright sun was able to get the salt working on the streets, and bare tar appeared on the state highway, and even on spots of the side roads.

I managed to get away to check the parking lot at the church, and found the fellows busily shoveling, as a snow-blower had broken down and the plow had snapped a strut. I tried to be helpful, and find someone who could come and weld the strut, but only succeeded in getting another good fellow with a shovel. Just about the only good news was that “Accuweather” had revised it forecast from a blizzard to 1-3 inches. (“Weatherbell” was being a bit non-committal.) It will be rough to be ready for a funeral at our church on Friday. However I had to hurry back to work.

At the Childcare the children were having a blast running about the paths I’d made with my snow-blower in the playground. In the center of the playground I’ve gone around and around in a spiral, aiming the chute to a place in the center, and now have a mound six feet tall and ten feet across.  The children have a worm-hole through it, and various slides down the sides. (I plan to carve an igloo out of it, if I ever have the time,) The sky was blue and the temperatures kindly for winter, and there was no wind. Not one child asked to go inside even as the sun sank.

The sunny afternoon didn’t prevent the plows from coming by a final time, just as parents were picking up their children in the evening, and putting another foot in our exit. One young mother couldn’t get over it, but fortunately we could back her up, and then a young father with a plow dropped his plow as he departed and pushed all the snow back out into the street and down the road, and the mother was able to depart.

It was clear at twilight, and temperatures were dropping as night fell, so I guess we can call this snow-event over. Just adding all the amounts I’ve blown from the parking lot, we got fifteen inches.

All eyes are now looking west to the next clipper. It doesn’t look all that impressive on the map, and in fact I’d ordinarily be more focused on the bigger storm off the coast of the Carolinas.

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However something about the look of the radar shot makes me think my next post may have some howling winds. The one good thing about the last snow was that there was no wind and no drifting. Even if we got only an inch with the next storm, because all the snow around is powder, strong winds could make a mess of things.

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It is far worse down in Boston.

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2 thoughts on “LOCAL VIEW —A forecast to cringe at—(Updated with storm summery)

    • Thanks for the information. I’m never too old too learn, though my kids may think that after a certain age I’m susceptible to cracking, just like my tires.

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