LOCAL VIEW —BOSTON BLIZZARD AFTERMATH—(Updated thrice)

When I awoke this morning it was snowing like crazy and the barometer was down to 29.37, with temperature at 12.7°. Radar showed the snow backing west from the ocean over us, as the map showed the storm rapidly deepening off Cape Cod.

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Now, at 9:00 AM, the radar shows the storm has shifted its snow south, with even Boston getting a bit of a break, and no fresh snows heading in over land from the ocean. Out the window the snow is slacking off. The pines are roaring up in the hilltops, but the wind isn’t bad down in this hollow. The pressure is starting to rise at 29.47, and the temperature is 13.6°, though I likely have to go out and make sure my thermometer is not in a drift.

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It looks like this “blizzard” gave us a quick 8 inches, to go with the 4 inches we got yesterday. Another foot. A foot of snow is no big deal up in these hills, but a foot here and a foot there, and it starts to add up. Even with settling I’d say we have four feet on the level, however that is much less than Boston, which has received an amazing seven feet over the past 24 days.

Those poor flatlanders simply can’t handle it. They are a commuter society, and if you take away their commute, what can they do?

In order to answer this deep and pressing question I think I’ll make a couple phone-calls to my unpaid correspondents down in those hinterlands. I’ll report back later. In fact this post will be more about people reeling about, in the aftermath of too much snow, than it will be about the snow-event itself, which appears to largely over.

REPORTS FROM THE HINTERLAND

We, here at the center of the universe, have no idea how primitive and backwards the people are in hinterlands such as Boston and Cambridge, however my fearless corespondents dare walk those fearsome streets. Or, actually, my sister didn’t feel like going outside, but she looked out her window and saw a neighbor tossing snow up eight feet, while clearing his driveway, which slants down slightly from the street. My youngest son reported the Charles River is frozen over, with snow swirling and whipping across it, and a few people venturing out onto the ice despite the fact some of the inflow into the basin is unnaturally warm.

Some sort of snow-melting gizmo was driven up from New York City, though no Bostonian is quite sure how it works. All sorts of outlandish explanations are being invented by the drugged savages who inhabit places called “colleges”,  with many of these explanations contradicting each other, but as best as I can tell the gizmo is a truck with a heated bed which may or may not be positioned over a city drain. As fast as it is loaded with snow the snow melts and drains out the bottom. This is an advancement to the old approach, which was to load dump trucks with snow, and drive them to the harbor, and dump the load of snow (with a fair number of trash cans and transients) into the water, like a modern Boston tea party.

Gradually they are gnawing canyons through the snow.  In places there are sheer-sided streets, next to a sheer-sided bike lane, next to a sheer-sided sidewalk, but the cars, bikes and pedestrians cannot see each other, as they are separated by sheer-sided walls that are eight feet tall. In some places the walls are thin, and there is a general nervousness about what might happen if one of these walls falls over. I myself wonder what sort of idiot bicycles in the dead of winter in -20° windchill, however I suppose I need to be more patient and tolerant about the strange beliefs and religious rituals of savages in the hinterland.

The view up here in our hills, at the center of the universe.

Temperatures only made it up to 14.2° (-9.9° Celsius), despite the fact the sun began to shine through a bleary overcast of cirrus and cirro-stratus. Winds gradually picked up during the afternoon as the storm grew out to sea, but it wasn’t positioned correctly to surge moisture inland, and in fact blew all the snow down south of Cape Cod.

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As the bleary sun came out I had to attend to clearing the snow at the Childcare, and feeding the animals. The snow was as dry as sand and as light as dust, and starting to whirl about in the wind as it rose, but the driving wasn’t bad, for the snow was squeaky rather than slippery. When I came to the three foot tall wall of snow that plows had built at the entrance to the farm, my truck plowed right through it like a pile of feathers.

For some peculiar reason the snow-blower started right up, at my first try. Perhaps nearly constant usage makes it run cleaner. I settled in to trudging behind it, aiming the arch of snow towards places where the piles were lowest. The clouds faded away and the sun grew brighter even as it sank towards the trees, and the wind kept rising. At times gusts caught the entire arch of billowing snow and tore it into a wraith of white, billowing away downwind. Other times it blew back into my face like burning sand.

It was twilight when I was done, and temperatures were down in the single digits. I headed off to a prayer and praise meeting, feeling dulled, but as usual singing lofted my spirits. A sort of stupidity settles in, dumbing you down, as the winter goes on and on, and you have to fight it. The winds were so strong the walls of the old church creaked.

I turned in early, noting it was already -2° before 9:00. When I awoke at 1:00 AM to restock the fires it was down to -8.0° (-22.2° Celsius), but then a little ocean air must have been mixed into the northern blasts by the storm, for the temperature has nudged up to -6.5° when I was next up at 5:00 AM, though it sank back to -7.6° at sunrise.

The winds were still blustery, as the storm bombed out to or northeast.

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However eyes were already looking towards the next storm to the southwest. The main hope is that the storm to the northeast will shunt the storm to the southwest to our south.

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BITTER WINDS, DRIFTS, AND EXHAUST OUTLETS

It was a dazzling day, and, if you could find any place out of the blustery wind, the sun felt warm on your face, and south-facing streets actually melted a little, but such mercy was rare and only around noon. Elsewhere the wraiths of snow swirled, or sizzled over the snow, turning its surface to a shifting, flowing whiteness. The temperature made it up to 14.5° (-9.7 Celsius), but with winds gusting over thirty mph much of the morning, and up around 25 mph through the afternoon, we again didn’t let the children outside at our Childcare. I might have taken the tougher kids out for a spell, but I was too busy dealing with problems the weather’s slapping me with.

In the old days when propane heaters were only around 40% efficient you needed a chimney to vent away the exhaust and wasted heat from the roaring furnace, but modern heaters are around 85% efficient, and purr rather than roar, and the exhaust vents out through the side wall, with the warm outflow in a central pipe that warms the inflow in a larger pipe surrounding the central pipe.

The only problem with this arrangement is that, when snow gets deep, it blocks the outlet. Rather than asphyxiating the people within, the heater promptly shuts down. In the case of our Childcare, this would cause children to cry, staff to quit, pipes to freeze, and would generally defeat the purpose of having a heater in the first place. Therefore I watch the outlet like a hawk, especially as our structure has a snow-shedding roof, and can dump amazing amounts of snow at the base very quickly. I am on the ball on my toes, and you aren’t going to catch this old geezer off guard, No sirree.

Unless, of course, the snow is so light and fluffy it doesn’t have the weight (and there isn’t enough melting) to get the glacier moving and to slide the snow off a snow-shedding roof. In such a case beautiful drifts form amazing shapes up on the roof, and the upstairs exhaust outlet for the upstairs heater can get drifted over. In this case even a crafty old geezer like me can get caught off guard, and ice can form in the upstairs toilet bowl, and icicles hang from the upstairs sink faucets (if they drip), and, because the bizarre plumbing of this old farm out-building goes through the upstairs before it goes to the downstairs, there is no water for the Childcare, even if it warm down there, (and if you think you can run a Childcare without a toilet that flushes you are probably right, but the State inspectors will frown and call you wrong.)

Before the water arrives upstairs, at this strangely designed complex of buildings, it must first come from the well via the old farm house, which is in a dilapidated state and unheated, except for the part of the cellar where the pump, pressure tank, and water softener reside. The pressure in the pressure tank is governed by a gizmo which apparently doesn’t like it when pipes freeze in a distant out-building, for it chose this morning to start behaving in a balky manner, allowing the pressure tank to have no pressure.

What this did was to add an interesting complexity to the solution I was seeking to find. Was water failing to come out of faucets because pipes were frozen?  Yes. But would water come from the pipes when they were thawed? No.

I am pretty proud that I had the pipes thawed and waded through 4 feet of snow to the old farmhouse and got the balky gizmo in the cellar working before 11:00 AM. My goats, however, were indignant. They thought they should come first, even before the business that buys their grain and hay. Rather than thanking me for keeping the business running so they could get grain and hay, they demanded grain and hay. One even ventured out from under the barn to plunge through snow up to her chest to nag me. And goats do nag, when they are pissed off. Anyone who says they go “baa” has never pissed a goat off. The expression on the face of this goat was priceless. Her neck and head stuck up from the deep snow like a sort of demented swan, as she said, “Where the fuck is breakfast!” I was very understanding, as I was thinking the same thing. Proof of my highly spiritual nature lies in the fact I fed the goats (and chickens and rabbit) before I fed myself.

I only bring this trivial incident up to demonstrate how triviality, brought on by a hard winter, can take up more and more of your time. The first thing on my list today was, “Go to the bank”. I never made it to the bank until after I had breakfast at lunchtime. Then, as I looked around, at the bank, I saw a lot of fellow townsfolk in the same shoes. It seemed just about everyone was having a bad hair day.

Looking at the map and radar, it seems we will be hard pressed to shunt the next storm south of us, tomorrow.

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Believe me, there are things I’d rather be writing about than “Local Views.” I want to write about arctic sea-ice, amazing weather in Europe, and the next chapter of a cool novel involving my boyhood buddy “Durf.” But a hard winter grinds you down. It tells you that dinky little snowflakes have more power than your almighty personal ambition.

And I hate to say this, but sometimes winter is right.

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