The final New Ipswich storm total was 36 inches. Picture of my cozy home:
We actually were struck by two storms. The first was a surge of mild air ahead of both the upper air trough and the surface low, that I would call “a warm front”, but I understand is now called “warm air advection”. The upper air jet zooming around the bottom of the upper air trough spread out as it moved away, which created suction aloft that helped the warm air, which wants to rise anyway, rise faster. This stuff, called “divergence” and “diffluence”, is all very fascinating, but doesn’t necessarily translate into a good forecast.
They were predicting 4-6 inches by the morning of December 2 here, but I was wary, using my old fashioned concepts of warm fronts. I know that warm fronts give us southeast winds which run up against our east-facing hills and increase uplift, which means we can get more rain or snow than folk down on the flatlands. Also air cools as it rises, so we can see the snow change to rain far later than the warm front changes things, at the coast in Boston. If temperatures begin cold enough, the snow may never change to rain or sleet at all. As it was 13 ° (-11.5 Cesius) at dawn on December 1, when the high clouds first started moving in, I knew we had the available cold. Last but not least, over on his blog at Weatherbell, Joseph D’Aleo was focusing on some of the computer models that showed the warm front could dump a stripe of deep snow over southern New Hampshire. So I was forewarned, even if the weather bureau slipped up, and we got more than the 4-6 inches they predicted. I just wasn’t forewarned enough.
Even 4 inches (10 cm) means I have to arise early to snow-blow the Farm-Childcare driveway, and in the pitch dark of December 2 the first thing I glanced at was the weather radar. It was clear the front was clobbering us and wasn’t going to change to rain.
Turning on the porch light I saw the steps made smooth by snow, and guessed we’d had ten inches, (25 cm), but as I stepped off the lower step and had snow pour into my boots I realized we had 18 (46 cm). It was the start of a long ordeal, as the snowblower had to crawl along at its slowest to deal with that depth, but even though I was late clearing the Childcare’s entry and lot, the few customers who made it through the snow were also late. The snow-removal crews (besides myself) seemed also taken by surprise; they were late to start plowing and had a hard time catching up, even working all night, because the snow fell with such intensity.
The snow became light after sunrise, but all eyes were on the heavy precipitation down around New York City, in the above map. There was an idea a secondary would form and roll towards Cape Cod and then up into the Gulf of Maine, and some forecasts stated we could get six more inches as it rolled past. Fortunately we only got a dusting all day, for around town a lot of equipment was breaking down. My snowblower snapped a cable controlling the transmission, and I worked with unfeeling fingers jury-rigging a repair made of electrical wire, before finishing the drive to the barn and various paths to fire-escapes. I didn’t get to study maps as much as I like, but could utilize my cell phone to check the radar, on guard for heavier snow driven inland from the Gulf of Maine. But no storm appeared there. In fact the swath of heavy snow and rain associated with the warm front took off to the northeast with (to me) astonishing speed. I had the sense that a lot of energy that might have gone into a secondary low was being “robbed” by a low developing up past Nova Scotia. I’ve seen such “robbery” occur many times in the past, turning forecast storms into non-events, and it seemed to be happening again. The forecast six inches never materialized, and we got about a quarter inch. This gave me time to attend to the edges and corners I neglected in my first frantic attempts to open my Childcare, and also attend to my chickens, who had never seen snow before and were severely traumatized by 18 inches. (My older and wiser goats just hunkered down under the barn.) The recovery seemed to be going well until I noticed, in the afternoon, the light, falling snow seemed to stop getting lighter and lighter, and the sky stopped getting brighter and brighter as well. Slightly nervous, I checked the animated weather-radar, and noticed an ominous (and also very-cool) thing:
Even though the winds had been southeast, on the radar-map precipitation had been tracking southwest to northeast, as if in a hurry to follow the warm front up towards Labrador, but now it was all slowing, and out to sea was turning around and moving east-to-west. Was a secondary developing after all? To top it off, one mother picking up her child had heard a forecast different from the other mothers. Most opined we’d have flurries over night, but one stated she’d heard we’d get four inches.
This troubled me, for it suggested I might have to snow-blow the whole danged place all over again. So I was in a hurry to get home to my computer, but at the door I was met by the dog, who informed me with a pained expression she had been severely neglected, so I took her out.
Some state dogs can warn you in advance about events such as earthquakes. My dog ran about barking at snowflakes to an absurd degree, which is exactly how she behaved the night before. This should have alerted me. Instead I judged my dog insane, and after she had annoyed the neighbors for a period I decided might stress the limits of their tolerance, I dragged her in, fed her, and hurried to my computer, to seek the “weather updates” of every nearby station I could access.
The forecasters who were using old copy, or who had recorded their forecasts early to hurry off to watch Monday Night Football, were still predicting barely a dusting overnight, but the more active and animated forecasters were forecasting 4 inches (10 cm) [Hmm…where have I heard that before?] The most accurate forecast turned out to be in the old blog posting by Joseph D’Aleo, which should have been like day-old-bread. In his assessment of possibilities he described exactly what happened.
In the far-above radar shot you can see the circulation associated with the upper air low far to the west, moving from Indiana to Ohio. It was so far west it could delay the development of the coastal low, turning a single event into two events.
I kept shining a flashlight out the window during dinner, only slightly annoying my wife, who, though she wished my full attention, understands I’m like our dog, and on occasion have accurately predicted earthquakes. I could see that, although the snow was only intermittently moderate, we already had an inch on our steps, and the forecasters watching Monday Night Football were going to be embarrassed in the morning. I was convinced I was going to have to get up early and snow-blow four inches, and retired to bed early and glum.
When I got up I turned on the porch light even before I checked the radar. My jaw dropped. Once again the front steps were smooth. Wading out to my car I estimated we’d had a little over a foot. Those who the TV stations consult stated we’d had 14 inches (35.6 cm) which gave us a total of 32 inches (81 cm).
It took me 45 minutes just to shovel a short path to the street in darkness, so I could drive to the Childcare to snow-blow the entrance and lot, so customers could come. But I did it. Only six children showed up, and all were late.
Radar showed the storm indeed did develop and move up into the Gulf of Maine, giving us “backlash” snows.
It was a case of perfect positioning and alignment. Quite often such storms cycle the precipitation into the White Mountains, and the air is robbed of moisture and is down-sloping by the time it gets around to us, so we get only flurries. But this time the radar showed the precipitation come straight in from the ocean and then take a sharp left just inland of Portland, and then move south-southeast east of Concord, largely over coastal plains, so the air stayed juicy and then was uplifted when it hit our hills. This created a “perfect storm” scenario, and is why our storm totals were so high when Concord only got six inches.
In Atlanta life may grind to a halt when there is 3 inches of snow, but up here we can’t get away with that. Maybe we would if we could, but we can’t. If we let a little snow stop us, we’d all be unemployed from November to April, and likely would starve in the process.
It is like a fifteen-round-fight to keep roads open, when snowfall is over a foot, and after such a battle the warriors desire rest. Very seldom does a second snowfall-over-a-foot happen the very next day. Around here the warriors just faced the music, and without rest fought a second fifteen-round-fight. The roads stayed open, as did my Childcare. (After all, someone must care for the children of the men who clear the roads, as their wives work in hospitals caring for those who slip off the snowy roads).
One redeeming thing about having to go out in such weather is the views one sees. There are times you don’t even want to clean up the snow, because it will spoil the view. For example, who left the back, screen-porch-door open after thanksgiving dinner?
There was very little wind with this storm. Check out the railing at my home’s front entrance:
A new state-law insists you can’t drive with heaps of snow on your car roof, and my wife is law-abiding. Yet she is reluctant to clear 32 inches off her car and have it fall in her own parking place. So she backs her car to where the person who plows our short, private road will have to plow it.
The reason my wife can do such a thing is because our eldest son plows the small, private road, but the reason I had to shovel my way out earlier was because he hadn’t been able to get to our road, despite working without sleep. Nor would he find time before afternoon. But what if an ambulance had to head up that road? Because I was busy cleaning snow from the Childcare, he turned to his father-in-law, who showed up in a small pick-up and cleared just enough and no more.
By afternoon the snow at long last stopped, the low sun peeked out, the copious amounts of salt state crews sprinkled on the highway in front of our street began to melt the tar from white to black, my sleepless son appeared and made our small road look better, and we had once again demonstrated there is one thing we don’t entirely do when faced with a winter storm.
To conclude, I cannot resist a political dig at certain Alarmists who call me a “denier”. The comment below is for them.
I am well aware you Alarmists are attempting to switch the goal posts, and make the term “Global Warming” politically incorrect while stressing that the term “Climate Change” is the only term now allowed, but I must remind you what you insisted, fifteen years ago. Your so-called “climate experts” announced, “Our children are not going to know what snow is.” You did not dare disagree, but my grandson (and his buddy) would dare disagree and beg to differ with you.
So is my grandson a “denier”, or is it you?
The most amazing (and perhaps disconcerting) thing about this snowy situation is that winter hasn’t even started yet. The solstice is still more than two weeks away.