LOCAL VIEW —Boston nears all-time record snowfall—Updated twice with summery

For me it was Monday, back to work and back to winter. We had yet another “snow-event” overnight, and as I awoke my ears listened for the scraping of a plow, passing the house.  I really was expecting it, as this winter has been beating me up, and it would seem quite normal to begin another work-week having to go to work early and spend time trudging behind the snow-blower, clearing the entrance and exit and parking lot of our Farm-Childcare. Also I have been indulging my creative side, and whenever I goof-off in a dreamy manner it seems reality likes to bring me down to earth with a solid thump. To my amazement, I heard nothing. Despite the forecast for two to four inches, (which has usually meant at least six inches, this winter), the disobedient skies had only produced an inch of fluff, despite the map and radar looking like this, as I sought a Sunday evening slumber. (Clicks images to clarify and enlarge)

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As has been usual this winter, (and quite the opposite from most winters), the radar shows Boston getting heavier snows than the hills where I live, in southern New Hampshire. They got another two inches, putting them just over 104 inches, and very close to the “all-time-record” of 107.6 inches in the winter of 1995-1996. This is all the more impressive when you realize that in the middle of January their snowfall was below normal for the season. They have had over eight feet since January 24.

I don’t think anyone was in the mood to break a record this Monday, and were glad to see the snow swept swiftly  out to sea .

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The amazing thing about Boston’s winter is that so little of their snow has been washed away by rain. I grew up in the hills roughly twenty miles west of Boston, and can recall how often the rain would change to snow as you drove out through Waltham, (on the “Boston Post Road” [route 20], as the “Turnpike extension” [I-90] hadn’t been built.) I actually think the winter of 1968-1969 might have been snowier out in those suburbs, as I can recall jumping from a second story roof into snow so wet and heavy my feet didn’t touch the ground as I plunked down, winding up in deep snow to my armpits, (and only then wondering how the heck I was going to extract myself). However this winter Boston has had little rain to wash away the snow, and is even snowier than the suburbs or New Hampshire hills.

As I cleared inch of snow from the front walk and nearest parking places with a shovel it didn’t seem cold at all. I didn’t even bother with a hat. Seeing the thermometer was down at a morning low of 19° (-7.2° Celsous) surprised me. You know you’ve been through a cruel winter when that seems warm. I felt no pity for the parents returning from vacations in Florida and California, who arrived muffled and hunched over, with their metabolisms out of whack. They’d had their way; now they must pay.

I had my own vacation in the dreamy landscape of creativity, and had my own readjusting to do. I think I did fairly well, especially dealing with small children who had flown home on the red-eye, the night before. Perhaps we were in some ways on the same page.

I was very distrustful of the puffy clouds passing overhead. As soon as the calender states it is March the sun starts to turn what is merely scud in December into “thermals.” Weathermen suffer many embarrassments as cumulus puffs up, turning from a passing cloud to a passing flurry, and then the flurries add up. Today they didn’t add up, but a few passing clouds did cast a handful of surprisingly large flakes down.  All the while the wind picked up, as our “snow event”, (which actually was little more than a glorified warm front), blew up into a decent storm up towards Labrador. We hit our high temperature of 28° (-2.2 Celsius) in the late morning, and then the north winds began to drag winter back down from the north. The inch of snow began flying around as the white wraiths and swirls of powder we’ve grown all too used to this winter.  We have yet to have any of the sticky snow children love, because it clings and makes the construction of forts, igloos and snow-men easier.

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Although the snow still swirls powder, as if it was January, and though it has been weeks since we’ve been above freezing in these hills, on south-facing roofs, and hillsides, and roadside snowbanks, the deep snow is starting to sag in the strong March sunshine. A top fence-rail has reappeared in part of the pasture. For the moment the spring is winning, and the depth of the snow is shrinking slightly.

In the above map you can see the true arctic front is still north of us. The temperature is only down to 18° at 9:00 this Monday evening, despite the gusty north winds.  It is likely to drop sharply towards morning, but few are looking north. Instead the weather bureau has all eyes looking hopefully west towards the next glorified warm front,  and is tantalizing people with the prospect of temperatures above 40° ( +4.4 Celsius) on Wednesday. For the locals who haven’t been able to escape to Florida that will be an excuse to wear a short sleeved shirt, especially if the sun is out.

However I have doubts the mild air will make it north. It may do so up a thousand feet or so, but with the Great Lakes frozen and hundreds of miles of deep snow in the way, the air at the surface often hangs tough. (Also Joe Bastardi explains, over at his excellent site at Weatherbell, that something called a “thermally induced eddy” creates light north winds ahead of such a warm front, at the surface.)  In any case it may only barely nudge above freezing, and only after glop. (“Glop” is snow-turning-to-sleet-turning-to-freezing-rain-ending-as-light-drizzle.)

This will depress the people of Boston, who are sick of snowbanks. They are hoping for a light but warm rain, with lots of snow-eater fog, which can swiftly reduce the snowbanks without flooding. Instead they may get glop to add to their snowbanks.

The good thing about glop is that they make snowbanks by roads much firmer, and more able to keep skidding cars on the road.  The current snowbanks contain far too much powder snow, and it is all too easy for skidding cars to penetrate them and hit trees.

This brings back a memory from that winter of 1968-1969. My mother didn’t want to have to pick me up after the bus got back to the high school from an away wrestling match, as she had a Christmas party she wanted to attend, and so she did a foolish thing. She allowed her sixteen-year-old son to drive her husband’s car to that wrestling match, so he would not have to take the bus.

When driving back from that match in an elated state after a splendid victory, I was toodling east on the Massachusetts Turnpike at around 85 mph when I noticed I was missing my exit, and swerved sharply from the highway, which was dry, into the exit-ramp’s cloverleaf, which was snow-covered.  Instantly I knew I’d made a big mistake, as neither brakes nor steering had any effect, and all I could see in front of me was headlight-lit snow shooting straight up in the air. Fortunately the huge snowbanks along the cloverleaf functioned much like the walls of a bobsled run,  and I proceeded around the cloverleaf until, after fifteen to twenty seconds, the vehicle stopped. I could see nothing, so I turned on the windshield wipers. I then saw a man in a toll booth, looking at me with a totally amazed expression.

This was one of those times I feel God was sending angels to watch over me as a teenager.  Any time my luck doesn’t seem good, in the present tense, I just think back to this event, and see I likely used up all my good luck early in my life.

This also shows you how difficult it is for me to come down from my creative state. I am suppose to be talking about the year 2015, not the year 1969.

(However maybe I can sneak one more chapter in, before the weather turns bad again.)

I’ll update this post as the next “snow-event” advances.

UPDATE  —Tuesday morning—Winter weather advisory—

A shot of arctic air came south over us, with flurries, and it was down to 6.3° (-14.3° Celsius) by dawn, when the gusty wind had already died. No one was paying much attention to the north winds and the arctic air, as all eyes were on the south winds on the west side of the same high pressure, dreaming fond dreams of the magic, the heaven, the ambrosia of forty degrees.

Unfortunately the radar didn’t show much warm rain.

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I’m nervous people aren’t giving the arctic credit for having the pressure it has. It has been pressing air-mass after air-mass south. If you are terribly old fashioned, and keep track of air-masses, then an arctic air-mass has a quality which differentiates it from tropical, even if it has been greatly moderated by sitting over the Gulf of Mexico. And the air sitting over the Gulf of Mexico now, south  of the stationary front strung along the gulf coast in the above map, is just such extremely stale arctic air that came south over a week ago. The true border between arctic and tropical is a vanished front, a “ghost front” as it were, which has pushed south of Cuba and along the southernmost border of the Gulf of Mexico.  That is where the true tropical juice now lives, lurking and waiting for its chance to rebound north and pour gasoline onto the development of a storm.

All the moisture involved in the approaching storm is largely home-grown. If it has any sort of tropical origins they lie out in  the Pacific,  and have been mingled with Pacific polar air and wrung out by the Chinook-effect while encountering the speed-bump of the Rocky Mountains. Most of the moisture has been sucked from American snow-cover or American soil,  which isn’t exactly tropical right now. In conclusion,  the approaching warmth is not the most powerful warmth we have seen. Meanwhile the cold, still pressing from the north, has been some of the most powerful we have seen. In fact there is a veritable river of bitter cold pouring from Siberia, over the Pole, and down to the eastern USA, as today’s Polar shot shows.

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So what we have is a weak army charging north to meet a strong army charging south. It seems fairly obvious who the winner will be. Call me a pessimism if you will, or a wet blanket on a party cheering for forty degrees, but I just feel all the warmth will be lifted high off the ground, as the cold presses south like a wedge beneath. I’m girding my loins for more battling with winter. I hope I’m wrong, and can face forty degrees and be pleasantly surprised.


EVENING REPORT: Snow HAS started. Today’s high was 27.1° (-2.7° Celsius.) Sky went through awesome shifts and changes, through all the moods between pure blue and pure gray. Despite obvious influx of southerly air, smoke from chimneys has stubbornly drifted away to the south, showing a north wind that will not quit. Here are the maps:

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INSOMNIA UPDATE  At the time of the above radar shot the temperature had dropped to 20.8° and the snow was thumping down, and it looked obvious I’d have to get up early to snow-blow the Farm-Childcare. I wasn’t too thrilled, and after an excellent meal ambition was at low ebb, and I slipped into a nap. A couple hours later my wife woke me to tell me it was time to sleep, and I was surprised to see the radar radically changing.

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Temperatures are up to 28° and the snow has changed to a swirling, freezing drizzle, but there seems to be little snow-eater fog. The wind is really roaring in the pines. I have a sense the press from the north is squeezing everything east in a big hurry.  Also that I might not have to snow-blow in the morning. Maybe I’ll work on my novel a bit.

 SUMMERY  —Brief Thaw—

After the thump of snow gave us perhaps 2 inches in the late evening, the rushing west winds flattened the precipitation to our south. I wasn’t faced with snow-blowing in the morning, but did have to push some heavy, wet snow about.  The two inches had settled to a little more than an inch, which is too little for a snow-blower but enough to force you to run to and fro with a shovel, basically plowing a driveway with a blade only a foot wide.

I also spread some sand. After a solid month of powder snow and sub-freezing temperature, the surface of the drive is not sand, but rather a couple inches of incredibly packed powder snow, which remained squeaky but adopted the consistency of glass. As soon as such a surface gets a little warm it can become amazingly slippery, which is why I scraped it clean and then scattered sand.

  Then, during the morning, temperatures did rise above freezing, and near 40°.  There were rumbles and crashes as massive icicles on south-facing roofs melted as a glazed sun peered over the southern overcast, and shone heat through the clear ice to darker shingles below.  This was followed by a softer thunder as snow-shedding roofs did what they are intended to do, but have refused to do for over a month; IE: Shed snow.

At the Farm-Childcare, this dumped large amounts of snow abruptly in front of exits which, by law, must be clear of snow. I would have been law-abiding, and promptly sent all the children home until the exits were clear, but the working-parents likely  would have tarred and feathered me. Anyway, as our Childcare is focused on the outdoors, none of the children were in the buildings, and the emergency exits being blocked had little meaning, unless you are a bureaucrat and want to show off your power.

Still, when you only have had an inch or two of snow, you don’t expect to have to deal with three or four feet blocking doorways. Nor is this snow the fluff that falls from the sky. This is snow that has lain about on a roof, and compressed for thirty days, and then become slightly slushy, and then pounded down. It is like concrete that hasn’t quite hardened all the way.

I dealt with it, but was in no mood to post updates to this blog, afterwards. You’ll have to forgive me for that.

Boston also got 1.6 inches of snow, which brings their total very close to the all-time record.  However their snowbanks remain substantial. They have slumped but are now more compressed, and again are freezing solid as the cold returns. We remain vunerable to the whims of weather, for a big snow could still bring things to a standstill, with little space for plows to push snow. Worst would be a heavy and wet snow, as often comes with March snowstorms.

I’m not all that concerned about the current front, which is giving some snow to the folk down south. (A close friend is just back from travelling down their to hold a new grandson in his arms, and he brought our snows with him, and he rolled his eyes about southern drivers, stating only two inches of snow created a situation where he saw eight cars off the road in a five mile drive.)  The current front is settling south, with storms mere ripples running along its edge.

Instead my eyes are watching down in the Gulf of Mexico. No model yet shows the rebound I expect. When the cold presses to true tropical juice all the way to the southern part of the Gulf of Mexico, it is an action which I’ve often seen provoke a reaction, and I am nervous about high pressure setting up south of Cuba, and south winds developing over the Gulf. Once that tropical juice starts north it has a habit of gathering steam and being the warm sector of a mighty nor’easter that charges up the coast. And I have an intuition we have such a storm in the cards, before this winter relents.

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