LOCAL VIEW –2017 Boston Blizzard–Winter’s Revenge (With post-storm update)

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In order to fully comprehend the irony adopted by New Englanders, its important to understand the weather has been attempting to play us for chumps, with many signs of an early spring.  A couple February storms had given us a quick three feet of powder snow, but then mild breezes swept north and the snow vanished with amazing speed. Signs of an early spring were everywhere. The pussy willows budded (wearing warm coats, which shows you they, at least, are not fooled by the weather).

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Mosses greened on the forest floor:

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And, of course, we had a hard time keeping coats on the kids, at our Childcare. Even when they sort of kept them on, they seemed to think they served better as sails in the warm gales from the south.

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The sap was running so fast in the maples the sugar-makers furrowed their brows with worry that it would be a bad year, with the run of sap over-and-done in a flash, and I was amazed by how quickly the ice vanished from ponds.

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Usually in late February we are still tromping across the ice, and it is March first when I start to be very careful, because strong spring sunshine has a way of thinning ice even when it is below freezing. (I think the ice may be like the roof of a greenhouse, and warms the water just beneath.) This year I didn’t worry about that, and instead had to keep an eye out for kids falling in at the edge. There is something irresistible about water,  to children in the spring.

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And even if they don’t fall in, children can find ways to get very wet.

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But this was February, and old, cantankerous anachronisms like myself are not fooled. We know March comes in like a lion.

The cold front that came was fascinating to me, for it was very dry on both sides of the front, so there was no line of showers or thunderstorms. However I did notice the sky, which had been perfectly blue, suddenly had a few small cumulus to the north, coming south fairly rapidly. I was herding a small gang of 6-9 year-olds out to the bus stop, and the sky was so fascinating I was unimpressed by a drama occurring between a boy and girl right in front of me.

The “official rules” state one cannot “save” their place in line with a backpack, but one girl was seeing if she could break the rules, and the boy objected. Rather than seeking me (as I am judge and jury) he booted her backpack about fifteen yards away, which breaks another “official rule.” The girl then flopped on the ground and sobbed, achieving a level of decibels that might make a jet airplane cower. The boy folded his arms and sneered at her. Rather than giving the children any attention, I pointed at the sky and exclaimed, “Will you look at that!”

The other seven children were shrugging and rolling their eyes, for the drama was everyday. Perhaps that is why I was giving it so little attention. No matter how much I arbitrate, that boy and that girl always seem to enact the same drama. However the young girl was having none of it. She was bound to get my attention by hook or by crook, and was working herself up into a hysteria, as the boy just tugged the brim of his baseball cap down over his eyebrows and looked all the more ruthless. I pointed off at the horizon. “Look! Entire trees are swaying. Big wind is coming!”

I have a reputation for attempting to deal with some petty squabbles with distractions. (I basically change the subject.) Perhaps this explains why absolutely no one payed any attention, as a roaring noise approached. The thaw had uncovered the unraked leaves in the pasture…

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And suddenly the leaves stirred and then swirled up like a vast dust devil and came charging towards us. “Here it comes!” I shouted, and then we were hit by a blast of wind I would guess was around 70 miles an hour. The seven children who were onlookers all screamed for the sheer joy of screaming, the hysterical girl became owl-eyed and silent for roughly a second, before starting anew, and the tough boy burst into tears, for his favorite baseball cap took off for Europe. Meanwhile a mother was just arriving with her five-year-old, and looked around at all the screaming and sobbing midst swirling leaves with deep concern, as her child looked about with a sleepy expression, and then smiled in approval. I just shrugged and said, “Don’t worry. It goes with the territory”, and then went to retrieve the boy’s hat from across the street, as the bus came lumbering down the road. Roughly fifty seconds later the wind was dying down, and the noise was the bus driver’s problem, and peace returned. However I could feel the difference in the air. By afternoon flurries were dusting the landscape, and the mud I had told the children to stay out of was becoming hard as iron.

March had definitely come in like a lion. The expression that is used in many lands, “If you don’t like the weather wait a minute” is said to have originated in New England (when Mark Twain lived here) but everyone else says it originated in their neighborhood. I don’t want to start any fights, so I’ll just quote what Mark Twain actually wrote:

“I reverently believe that the Maker who made us all makes everything in New England but the weather. I don’t know who makes that, but I think it must be raw apprentices in the weather-clerk’s factory who experiment and learn how, in New England, for board and clothes, and then are promoted to make weather for countries that require a good article, and will take their custom elsewhere if they don’t get it.

There is a sumptuous variety about the New England weather that compels the stranger’s admiration — and regret. The weather is always doing something there; always attending strictly to business; always getting up new designs and trying them on the people to see how they will go. But it gets through more business in spring than in any other season.

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four-and-twenty hours. It was I that made the fame and fortune of that man that had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial, that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, “Don’t you do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day.” I told him what we could do in the way of style, variety, and quantity. Well, he came and he made his collection in four days. As to variety, why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity — well, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor.”

As an old grouch I began warning people to keep their guard up as soon as this winter had a nice spell in January. Then I looked very smug when we got three feet of snow in early February. Then, when that melted, I pouted only a little while, before I remembered the winter of 1887-1888 was remarkably mild and snowless, before THE blizzard of 1888 struck on March 11, and lasted until the 14th. New York City got four feet.

http://myinwood.net/a-buried-city-the-blizzard-of-1888/

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It is always good to have some history, if you want to be a pessimistic old grouch, and spoil another’s good day. However it is quite another thing to actually predict when such a storm will happen. Here I must be humble and state I bow before the ability of some meteorologists, especially Joe Bastardi and Joe D’Aleo, who gave me a heads-up over a week ago on their Weatherbell Site, when the computer models were still waffling with a wide variety of possible solutions.

I know just enough about meteorology to know how many things can go wrong with a forecast for a storm. I have suffered considerable agony over such forecasts, for when I was young a storm was a gift from heaven, freeing me from the purgatory of school and allowing the sheer paradise of play. My opinion of the white stuff has considerably altered since then, but I still recall the shamefaced TV weathermen explaining why certain storms of my boyhood failed to manifest. They could veer out to sea, or they could “elongate” and become two or three weak storms rather becoming a single gale, or, worst of all, they could hook inland and turn the snow to pouring rain.

A lot of things have to happen right, but when they happen they can happen fast. I recall reading a description of the blizzard of 1888 from the perspective of fishermen, (I can’t offer a link, because I have never found that article again), and apparently even the sailors were fooled. The sail-powered Long Island fleet was trying to sneak a trip in, on a balmy spring day, and suddenly the sky swiftly grew black and they heard thunder, and it was a battle to get back to shore, and not every boat made it.

This abrupt development of a storm (not a lone thunderstorm but a gale many hundreds of miles across) is dubbed “bombogenesis” by meteorologists, and while the word has not yet been accepted by Webster’s Dictionary, it does express the explosive nature of the development. Joseph D’Aleo is an expert on how it occurs, and to simplify his excellent explanations, (found on his Weatherbell site), what occurs is that a “lid” which has been holding ocean-warmed air down, and keeping it from rising, is abruptly removed as a high pressure’s descending air moves away. Then the uplift is further enhanced by one or two jet-streams.

One fascinating thing about jet streams is that they don’t merely move in a straight line, but corkscrew in a clockwise manner at the front and a counter-clockwise manner to the rear (facing forward.)  Therefore if the back of a departing jet lines up correctly with the front  of an arriving jet, the uplift can be extreme, and storms go from having a lid on them to having every encouragement to explode upwards.

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What amazes me is the ability some meteorologists have to see when this “might” occur, days in advance. I think meteorologists deserve far more credit than they get, for giving us fair warning. Everyone is eager to make them a laughing stock when they are wrong, but they sometimes are right, and when they are right they deserve thanks, because, to be honest, I doubt we’d have a clue these storms were coming without them.

I like to test myself.  I spend a lot of time outside, and like to see if I can tell when a storm is coming, by only using what I can gauge with my own eyes. I saw very little that clued me in this past week. Not even my goats seemed to be wary.  Yesterday morning there was a weak low down in the Gulf of Mexico, and a small storm rolling across the Great Pains, and a “lid” of high pressure off the east coast.20170313 satsfc

The radar showed some snow over the midwest, but no sign of a bomb to the east and only a few sprinkles of rain in the Gulf.20170313 rad_nat_640x480

We’d been experiencing bitter cold:  -2° on Sunday morning and 3° on Monday morning (-19° and -16° Celsius) with Sunday’s bitter winds giving way to Monday’s calm. Rather than falling the pressure kept rising, to 30.17 at noon on Monday. High clouds made the skies gray around noon on Monday, but then it cleared off. I joked it was a gorgeous day, and people were foolish to be rushing about, but they continued. The stores were crowded with people stocking up, though there was no sign of a storm. In fact it was the dull sort of day worthy of one E.B.Webster’s “Life’s Darkest Moments” cartoons.

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I was able to salvage some of the afternoon by allowing the older boys (8 years old) to start a fire on their own, and then showing them tricks to success when they failed.

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However the future still looked dull, though word came school had been cancelled at the public schools, the following day. (Our childcare has never been closed.) Then the evening map showed some signs the northern and southern lows were “phasing”

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And the radar showed the “lid” was coming off at the coast, but it looked like mostly rain.

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Still, the moon was bright, and the barometer was high, only slightly falling, 30.15 at 7:45 PM and 30.11 at midnight.

Then, this morning, the storm had appeared on the coast, with the barometer starting to fall more swiftly to 29.98, and light snow falling outside.

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The rain had changed to snow as it pushed north, and after bottoming out at 17° my thermometer was refusing to rise.  It looks like bombogenesis for certain.

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Update.  Only one boy showed up at the Childcare. Everyone is hunkering down, as the forecast is ominous for the afternoon, with gusts to 60 mph and perhaps some freezing rain briefly mixing in to break branches and perhaps knock out our power, in which case I guess I won’t update, (Ha ha).

Barometer is falling rapidly to 29.65, and temperature has nudged up to 19°. (-7° Celsius)

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Snow is moderate. We have 4 inches. The real heavy stuff is not far to our south.

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Update: 1:41 PM  Heavy snow and windy. — 23° — 29.38 and falling rapidly.

Update 3:30 PM  Heavy snow and windy — 23° — 29.16 and falling rapidly. Snow may slack off as dry slot pushes north from south of us.

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Update: 4:08 —24° — 29.06  Windy but snow slacking off. Now it is fine, sifting flakes penetrating chinks of clothing on a strong wind.  No way am I heading out to clean-up quite yet, but I can take a picture out my front window.Z12 IMG_4447

5:00  –24°–  –28.98 — No snow shows over us on radar, but the fine stuff is still falling. The wind is going to make clean-up problematic, as places will drift back in. In fact, by raising walls of snow either side of a walkway I may merely make a deeper place to drift in. Therefore perhaps its wiser to stay indoors?

6:07 PM  –24°– –28.86– Dry slot over us on radar but steady light snow falling

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9:50 PM Clean-up done at childcare. Snow was not light and fluffy. It was starchy and fairly heavy. Hard to gauge depth, due to drifting. I’d guess 16 inches.  Wind slacked off, with occasional big gusts. Snow was fine and didn’t show on radar, but in the past half hour big flakes began falling, and abruptly appeared on the radar.  Barometer 28.88 and steady. Temperature 23° (-5° Celsius) .

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Update:  1:00 AM  –18°– –28.99–Still some light snow

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7:00 AM 9° — 29.13 —  Blue skies we had about another inch, but lots of drifting.

POST-STORM UPDATE 

11:00 AM  Sunny 19°; Barometer 29.15 and steady. Winds surprisingly light, considering how tight the isobars look on the map. Backlash snows well to our west over New York State.

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I had to do more clean-up due to drifting, and also due to the fact State Law wants all exits clear. (I think it is so Child Care Professionals can escape the building when the kids are about to drive them bonkers, but I could be wrong about that.) There was a two-hour-delay, so the older children got to stay with us longer before the bus came. I tried to look appropriately sad about leaving the din to go out into the gorgeous sunshine, but my frown was upside down.

The snow was stiff and starchy and the snowblower has only five blades working because a rock broke a sheer-pin on the sixth, so the blower crept through the deep snow with exasperating slowness. I’d say it moved at around a yard a minute.

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There were some emergencies that couldn’t wait for a path to be cleared. There was no heat in the childcare, and I assumed the air-inlet was blocked by snow, and that I needed to trudge through the drifts. (Inlet just beyond blocked exit).

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I was able to clean the inlet with my pinkie finger, and saved the day. This is the fourth time I’ve been a hero with a minimum of effort. Ice was starting to skim the upstairs toilet, but I realized the upstairs heat had been accidentally turned off, so I fixed that problem by turning on the heat. Then the water pressure was low, and I became aware a pipe had frozen and burst because a window had blown out in the basement of the old farmhouse, which seemed major, but I fixed the window by picking it up from the floor (it had six panes and not one broke), and jamming it back where it belonged, and then the broken pipe turned out to be a side-line leading to an outdoor spigot, so I simply turned a faucet handle and shut off that line (to be fixed when the weather was warmer), and just like that I’m a hero again.

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Then I could get back to clearing the exits. Unfortunately the blower only clears snow two feet deep, which is only enough for a dog door in some exits.

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I was thinking of telling my wife that in an emergency people could crawl, but after further consideration I broke down and used an old fashioned shovel. I’m still alive.

Now all eyes are looking to the Canadian prairies. An Alberta Clipper is expected to slide down from there over the next few days, and again there may be bombogenesis on the coast.  Never a dull moment.

From Joe Bastardi’s blog at Weatherbell, here is how one model sees the snow this weekend. (Cape Cod gets hammered, and we only get an inch….fine with me.)

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2:30 PM  29.22 and steady. 21°,  and partly cloudy; some high clouds of the “junk” variety, but mostly low cumulus looking suspicious, like we might get some flurries.

10:00 PM –29.41– –14°–Scattered flurries

Thursday, 7:00 AM –29.55– –13°– Partly cloudy (Overnight low 10°)

 

 

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AMAZING CAPE COD SEA-ICE

These amazing pictures are from the Dapixara Blog at:  http://www.dapixara.com/News/files/Human-Size-Icebergs-In-Cape-Cod.html

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I lived on the coast of Maine during the very cold winters in the late 1970’s, and never saw the sea-ice this thick, though it was thick enough back then to allow me to walk from Freeport to Eagle Island out on Casco bay.  These pictures are from further south, on the “inside” beaches of Welfleet, out on the forearm of Cap Cod. Though the beach pictured is on the “cold” side of Cape Cod, it is not as cold as Maine.

What we are seeing is (hopefully) a once in a lifetime event. I find it amazing.

Even over on the “warm” side of Cape Cod, down on the Island of Nantucket, it was cold enough to form “slurpee surf” of slush, back in February.

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Shortly after the above pictures were taken, the surf froze solid.

For this to be happening out on Nantucket, which after all is not all that far from the Gulf Stream, is amazing to me.

However there was something even more amazing. It was the attempts of Global Warming activists to blame the freeze on some freakish side-effect of a “warming world.”

One of my favorite attempts was by Dr, Michael Mann (of “hockey stick graph” fame). Shortly before the seas froze up as pictured above, he blamed the blizzards Boston was experiencing on extra moisture put into the air by warmer-than-normal waters off Cape Cod.

The timing of these fellows is simply amazing. They are the only people I know who manage to shoot themselves in the foot at the same time it is in their mouth.

If that water is warmer-than-normal, I’d sure hate to see it turn colder.

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LOCAL VIEW —Waiting for Grrr-Blow—(updated twice)

After our first thaw in weeks, (perhaps in over a month), up in these hills in southern New Hampshire, the cold air has come pressing slowly back south. In fact even as our thaw came in on Wednesday, the wind was already shifting around to the north side of west. The air was Chinook air, greatly moderated by passing over an entire continent of snow. It wasn’t the tropical stuff that makes a snow-eater fog drift over cold snow, but was rather dry, and both maps and radar showed we were on the north side of a boundary between continental warmth and polar coolness, with the arctic upstream and waiting in the wings.

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It was just mild enough to allow the snow-shedding roof at the Farm-childcare to actually shed snow, for the first time all winter.

I never was fully aware of how such roofs require a thin film of water to exist between the roof and the snow, in order to shed the snow. Or I never was aware until this winter. This winter it was so cold (and the insulation of the building is so excellent) that no such ultra-slippery slickness ever developed between snow and roof, so the snow just sat up there. Fortunately the winds blew some of the snow off the upper roofs, but unfortunately it packed the rest into over a foot of layered, packed powder. Because the structure was originally a barn, it has a barn’s roof, with a shallow slope at the peak, becoming a steep slope halfway towards the eves. The steep-slope has shed its snow, but the shallow-slope retained an ominous load of snow. I had to become a grouch and meany, and forbid the little children to play next to the building, (which they like to do as it is warmest next to the south-facing wall),  because I was concerned they might be hit by a heavy weight of accumulated snow, if the roof ever got around to doing its job. This concern was only increased when the local newspaper reported that a man the next town over was buried and trapped for two hours by his snow-shedding roof, before someone heard him yelling for help.

In conclusion, the snow-shedding roof was a failure, this year. It is suppose to spare me the bother of shoveling off roofs in snowy winters, but I had to shovel the lower roofs of the entry ways and porches, where the wind heaped snow rather than blowing it away. Also the snow got so deep up there that a second story outlet for a propane heater was blocked, the heater shut down, and despite excellent insulation pipes froze. Lastly, when the snow finally did come down yesterday, it fell with a sound like soft thunder, and packed into a substance like stiffening concrete, and blocked emergency exits with four feet of snow. I was not pleased, as I faced clearing paths to the exits.

At least I don’t have to worry about the roof collapsing any more. (The stable for the goats has required some roof-raking, as it has old fashioned shingles.)

There have been some roof-collapses in the area, or “partial collapses”, (whatever that is). This is a big worry for high schools, which tend to have flat roofs. This is also a big boon for roofers, who tend to be out of work this time of year. However they don’t work cheaply. A degree of danger is involved, as well as discomfort when the temperature is below zero, and a guy shoveling a roof will get $50.00 an hour. When twenty men are shoveling the roof of a high school, you are talking a thousand dollars an hour, and then there is the cost modern hoists and lifts and front-end-loaders and cherry-pickers. At a school not far north of here the taxpayers were informed by a contractor that to have their school’s roofs cleared of four feet of snow would cost $60,000.

The response of the local taxpayers was a rebellion. A large number of taxpayers showed up first thing Saturday morning and, with surprising speed, they cleared off all the roofs. They had to work fast, because if the School’s insurance company found out they would have forbidden such volunteerism.  However, if the insurance company found out it was too late; they faced a “fait acompli”.  (This is not to say some adjuster could be all bent out of shape, and, to display his petty power, cancel the town’s insurance, however such people gain a reputation for being a “stinker”, and it has been my experience that, in the long run, they get transferred to Siberia, where they have plenty of time to contemplate the wisdom of always stressing things be done “by-the-book”.)

I had a different concern, regarding collapsing roofs. I like to provide the children with igloos to play in, at our Childcare, however because the snow has never once been the sticky snow children make snowmen and snowballs from, all winter, I had to construct igloos of blocks of packed powder. This is actually what Eskimos build their igloos from, up where temperatures are -40.

(Please do not inform me I am disrespectful to use the word “Eskimo” and should use the word “Inuit”.  Such people know I have huge respect for the ability to survive vicious winters, but think lesser respect is petty, and superficial. Furthermore, if they really care about such petty things, I’ll make a deal with them: “I will call Eskimos “Inuits” when they respect a sacred tradition of my tribe, and always follow the letter “Q” with the letter “U”, when using a form of communication called “writing”, which, as far as I know, Eskimos never developed on their own.  They likely didn’t bother because writing is a petty thing, compared to surviving when it is forty, fifty, sixty and even seventy below zero. )

In any case, despite the lack of sticky snow, I created a structure the little children delighted in. By running the snow-blower around and around in a circle in the playground, aiming the chute in towards a central area, I could turn four feet of snow into a mountain of packed powder they could climb up and slide down. Then a sort of worm-hole was carved through the mountain, and at one end I carved blocks from the mountain and constructed an igloo of chunks of dry snow that that didn’t stick together, and only didn’t fall because employed the principles of the arch, which was first discovered by the Roman Empire and Eskimos, but not by the Inca.

The problem is that children are not satisfied by crawling into an igloo. They have a strange desire to scale the outside as well, and sit on the top. Because the structure was not made of sticky snow, and only made of blocks of dry snow, I had to again be a grouch and a meany and forbid climbing the roof of the igloo, especially as I got a bit carried away, and the roof was seven feet tall.

Only yesterday was the snow, for the first time all winter, sticky. As soon as the drive and walkways and entrances were clean, the very first thing I did, (after attending to the nagging goats), was to head straight to that igloo and pack all the chinks between the dry blocks of snow with sticky, wet plaster.  (I only did the outside; the inside must await a warmer day.) The structure went from looking like a Yankee stone wall, laced with cracks and chinks and crannies, to looking utterly smooth.)

I’m not sure why I did this. I sure didn’t need the exercise, as I already was gobbling aspirin.  But I’m glad I did it. Everything froze solid last night, and stayed below freezing as today dawned gray and cold, and only got up to 27.9°.  Towards noon, as I drove into the parking lot, bringing my gang-of-six back from half-day kindergarten, I glanced toward that igloo, and seated at the tippitytop was a curly-headed three-year-old, waving merrily at me.

(I’m going to have to have words with the staff about igloo-watching.)

Another concern I face this time of year is that the sledding suddenly goes from slow to rocket-speed. For the entire winter the trails have been packed powder, and any crashes were into fluff. Now a glaze forms on the trails, and increasingly the snow gets crusty, and crashes are into snow that is less kindly. Small children delight in going much faster, and need to instructed about the dangers of speed. Such awareness doesn’t seem to be something humans know about, in their chromosomes. (Nor do small children listen to me, as much as they learn from first-hand experience, and having a scab on the tip of their nose.)

Parents who allow their children to come to our Childcare are not the sort who feel children should be bubble-wrapped and placed in a padded cell. They understand healthy children tend to have scabs on their knees. However I myself don’t like scabs on the tips of noses, and do everything I can to avoid what we call a “face-plant”, which causes such scabs.  However today we had our first face-plant, six feet away from a mother, and it happened not on the sledding trails, but at the igloo.

I can’t blame my staff, because I was working, but I was busy adding a new room to the igloo, and was not attending properly. The mother had arrived, and her boy, who loses his mittens with amazing regularity, had already turned in his “loaner” mittens and therefore had naked hands. I expected they would head to the car and go home. However the mother got to talking to a member of my staff, and somewhat to my astonishment, these supposedly mature women came out to the igloo and lay down and went worming in through a child-sized entrance to investigate the cavern at the side of a snow mountain. Meanwhile the small boy, with nothing better to do, decided to climb the snow mountain without using his naked hands. Bad idea. Because he was protecting his hands, they somehow got trapped beside his body as he slid face-first like an otter, and he did a face-plant, just as his mother was reappearing. feet-first, from the worm-hole.

He suffered a nick on his nose, and another on the skin above his upper lip, and his chapped lower lip split slightly (but didn’t turn into a “fat lip.”)  However facial wounds bleed a lot, especially in the case of young and healthy circulations, and though in this case the bleeding lasted all of thirty seconds, five-year-old boys are not macho at the sight of blood, and this child let loose a bawl likely heard on the far side of the moon.

As one of the older children dashed off, and swiftly returned with roughly half a box of Kleenex in a huge wad, and we mopped up the blood, I figured the mother would be displeased with my skills as a childcare-provider. To my surprise she wasn’t. She watched as I went through my usual routine, admiring the blood and the loudness of the bawling, and then acting a little disappointed that the bleeding had stopped (as was shown by the failure of the Kleenex to mop any more,) and even more disappointed by the failure of the bawling to get louder. I was helped by the fact the mother was present, and could give the magical hug that makes hospitals look pathetic, as it stops crying far more swiftly, at no cost. However, as the boy returned from trauma to laughing, I was surprised the mother was so stoic, and wasn’t mad at me.

It turned out she was surprised I wasn’t mad at her. She thought her boy was bleeding because, as she squirmed out of the igloo feet first, she had accidentally kicked her child in the lip. She was very glad she hadn’t kicked him, and a face-plant was to blame.

This demonstrates the complicated social interactions which lawyers and bureaucrats would take months in courtrooms to resolve, but which mothers and childcare-providers deal with swiftly, and often do so several times in a single hour.

What do we understand that they don’t?  Perhaps we simply know that in a month all the snow will be gone, and none of this will matter or even exist any more.

However it is going to be a long, long month, I fear. For the time being all the snow may be suppressed south, and it may be southern states getting the record snows as the cold sinks south. We only had a few flakes today, and Boston only got a dusting.

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Currently we are only spared because the current upper air trough is “positively tilted,” and the front is a “anafront”.  (On his superb blog at Weatherbell, Joseph D’Aleo has a wonderful explanation of such meteorological concepts, today.)  To simplify greatly, all the weather is sweeping west-to-east out to sea, to our south.

I look further south, to the Gulf of Mexico, where I see the above maps show a sort of weak, winter “Bermuda High” is starting to bring up tropical juice.  I have a very nervous feeling we  will not get out of this winter without a surge of that tropical juice interacting with arctic air, and giving the east coast one, last, farewell kick in the butt. After all, this far north March is still a winter month. In 1993 the entire east coast was clobbered by a magnificent storm, but even that amazing event was small potatoes compared to a storm that hit between March 11 and 14 in 1888.

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That 1888 storm hit after a mild winter, when they had no snow banks to begin with. If such a storm were to hit us now, with the huge snowbanks we already have, New England would be basically be shut down. Of course, we’d make an effort to clean up, but the real clean up would be done by spring sunshine in April. For the most part we’d rely on that, and not on bureaucrats, lawyers, and politicians, who think they have power, but are pawns to a realer Reality.

UPDATE  —SUPER SUNNY—

It was -2.0° (-18.9° Celsius) just before sunrise this morning.  It’s unusual to get sub-zero cold in March. It’s also unusual to have the entire USA basically storm free, without any rain or snow except  a few showers off the southern tip pf Texas, and flurries up in Washington State.

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I refuse to be fooled by this benign map. I’m waiting for Grrr-blow (play on words: Waiting For Godot), and will not lower my guard and be hit by a sucker punch.

However I have to admit the March sunshine does get to you. It has a sort of exuberance utterly unlike December’s sun, and gets under your eyelids and chases gloom from the caverns of your mind. Even our old, fat cat waddles to the front door and stands by it, as if it actually will go outside for the first time in months. Of course, if you open the door, it recoils from the inrush of arctic air, and does an about-face. However the sunshine pouring in the window can fool even a comfort-loving cat.

Into my mind this morning came exuberant sunshine, and out of the blue I recalled a song I wrote at age 19, after a long, cold, and seemingly hopeless winter.

Is that there a willow tree
In the winter’s gray?
Clowning yellows happily
And laughing in its play,
“Spring will come some day.”

Can it be a hidden grin
Is bursting out aloud?
A boatless sailor’s porpoise fin?
I see you’re in
Beneath your shroud.

I had better be careful. If I don’t watch it I’ll be fooled into smiling by something you can’t put in a bank: Sunshine.

EVENING UPDATE;  ARCTIC SUNSHINE

Today was dazzling, so brilliant that I verged on snow-blindness. When I stepped indoors it seemed very dark, even when I turned on the lights. The temperatures only topped off around 20°. ( I have to move my Christmas thermometer, for the sun has gotten high enough to mess up its midday readings.) Yet the snow softened next to south-facing walls, or on south-facing slopes, and I was able to transport sticky snow in a sled to my  igloo and strengthen the walls. The snow has settled to a degree where small children can walk on top of it rather than wallowing through it. It remains amazingly deep, but definitely is on the defensive.

The snow-cover is extensive. Joseph D’Aleo had some great satellite shots today on his blog at Weatherbell. However what I notice is how it is largely to the east. The snow-cover had record-setting readings way down in Kentucky, (-9° in Monticello). Meanwhile way up in Wyoming there is hardly any snow-cover across the entire state.  To me this suggests things are out-of-balance, and some peculiar adjustment will occur. My forecast? Planet Earth will abruptly veer from its orbit and head off towards Pluto.

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I think it was a dazzling day over a lot of the USA. Mighty March sunshine briefly rules. A single weak clipper-like storm nudges into Minnesota.

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I worked a long afternoon shift at our Farm-Childcare, including “quiet time”, which involves watching innocent children nap. Usually at least one is trouble, but today, for some strange reason, all konked out. So I sat and thought about March sunshine and wrote a couple of sonnets.

All winter the snow’s been powder, never
The glue you can stick together and shape
Into castles and forts and other clever
Constructs of winter minds, until now, too late
To build anything lasting, snow’s sticky.
What’s the use of starting? Forts won’t last.

What’s the use? Ah! There thought gets tricky
For all things will someday crumble, be past,
Yet who can resist building castles of sand
At the beach, despite a gargantuan
Snoring, a stone’s throw off? It’s our demand
That we bloom; fruitfulness is part of man.

Therefore I’ll build snow forts in sunshine
That will erase all, and leave not a sign.

********

Moved by March sunshine, my wise, old, fat cat
Waddles to the door and looks up at me
As if she might go out. Fat chance of that
When the temperature won’t nudge past twenty
At noon, and yesterday’s slush is so frozen
That light-footed ladies crunch like elephants
Passing in the street. My cat hears, and then
Turns away from the door, not taking the chance
Of wincing whiskers with in-rushing arctic.
Still, the sunshine is March’s, so the wise cat
Walks to where light pools, and pauses to lick
Her paws, and then slides into warm honey that
Will push her across the rug all morning.
March sunshine moves us, without warning.

I get a lot of quiet joy from playing with words and penning sonnets, and tend to softly chuckle to myself  and, if I am describing a cat,  to take on the cat’s facial expressions as I describe it. Just as I was finishing the second sonnet I glanced up, and saw a small six-year-old girl, with her head up on her elbows, was studying the contortions of my face with obvious, deep, and grave interest.

One wonders what she might tell her parents.

LOCAL VIEW —BESIDE BOSTON’S BLIZZARD—(Updated twice)

We only have three feet of snow up here in our hills, which is not all that rare. I know it is getting bad when the snow gets up to the top rail of the garden fence. Ordinarily I only need drive down south fifteen miles or so, to where the “flatlanders” live, and snow depths drop off dramatically. My sister, who lives in Watertown right up the Charles River from Boston, often has bare ground and is amazed when I send her pictures of drifts up to the eves of the barns snow-shedding roof. Not this year. Boston is buried.

Its not really  fair for people who live in areas that have more snow to laugh at people who don’t, when they do. I used to work for a guy who lived by Lake Erie when young, and he would roll his eyes when people in New England exclaimed at snows of over a foot, saying it was merely a flurry, compared to lake-effect snows. (He neglected to mention how localized such snow is, how light and fluffy it is, and how lake-effect snows shut down nearly completely once Lake Erie freezes over.) Furthermore, he muttered and cursed as much as any New Englander when he had to deal with the conditions created by coastal snows.

It is hard enough when dealing with a foot or two, but now Boston has had 80 inches, most of it in the past 21 days. Despite settling and a little thawing there are 4 to 5 feet in places. They are not used to it. It is difficult to prepare for what has not happened in the lifetime on anyone alive.

Now they are expecting another foot, with temperatures at 10° ( -12.2 ° Celsius) and winds that could gust as high as 70 mph. It is a time to hope the forecast is wrong. The city will be shut down if it is correct.

Up in these hills we are basically onlookers. We will be greatly inconvenienced by more snow, but not shut down.

We began this morning with a blast of cold air. Temperatures kept dropping even after the sun rose from 7.9° at 5:00 AM to 1.9° around 8:30. Wind whipped yesterday’s 2 inches around as dazzling clouds of stinging white. And this is just yesterdays storm blowing up, as it moves away far out to sea. The next clipper is expected to blow up nearly on top of us. We shall see.

Right now the low looks very innocent, over South Dakota. It’s pressure is at 1021 mb, which likely makes Europeans chuckle, as they call that high pressure. If the forecast is correct, it could be east of Boston in 48 hours with a pressure of 960 mb.

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The radar shows only a small patch of snow out west.

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This should be fun to watch, but I can only do that if I don’t have to go out in it, so I’d better get to work on my chores. I’ll update when I can.

UPDATE #1 —Brutal cold funeral—

Yesterday’s high was only 8.1°, (-13.3° Celsius), despite a brilliant sun. The wind was cruel, and it was one of the rare days when the children at our Childcare didn’t go outside, despite our focus on the outdoors. I might have taken a few of the more energetic children out for a half hour or so, for I noticed our goats did leave the shelter beneath the barn to wade through the deep snow and eat the ceder shingles off the side of one of our out-buildings, so I knew there were sunny patches out of the wind worth visiting, albeit briefly. However, right in the middle of the day, my dwindling church was hosting a fairly large funeral, for a small town.

It was in some ways an impossible task, as the smarter members of the church are in Florida, either retired or on vacation, and on paper it looked like seven people had to host a funeral three hundred might attend. It was a task we were sort of stuck with, as we are the “community church”, the tiresome Calvinist remnant of the original 150 European settlers, who at one point were the government of the town, and who became so vocal that the rest of the USA took a condescending view and called New England the “Bible Belt” (the same way that people view parts of the American South, today).  Obviously a reaction occurred, as New England now is home of just about the most virulent distaste towards Christianity imaginable, in various liberal guises. (Some would rather take LSD and converse with a chunk of crystal quartz, than put up with a preacher.) Be that as it may, we happen to have a big building, if not a big membership, and this means we have this thing called the “facilities” for a funeral. So we were stuck with the darn job.

The weather was uncooperative, unless some prayer was answered that pushed the last storm out to sea. It took a major effort just to clear the parking lots. Then the wind howled behind that storm, and even though it “missed” us, it whirled clouds of stinging snow about. I found time to zip over to the church in the orange twilight before dawn to shovel the drifts from the doorways, focusing on the handicapped ramp over which the coffin would be rolled. Then, feeling virtuous, I hustled off to open the Childcare. The wind hustled to build a new drift, and then a elderly lady, arriving to work in the kitchen, shoveled away the drift a second time. However when the coffin arrived it bogged down in a third drift, and the guys from the funeral home had to do some swift work. Maybe they put chains on the wheels of their coffin-roller. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

I showed up briefly after dropping off the gang-of-six at kindergarten, and was amazed at the hive of activity. As a person who was opposed to the draft in the Vietnam war, I am reluctant to draft anyone into any activity, however other church members have no such scruples.  Things got done. Even the programs to be handed out to people entering the church involved work as clocks approached midnight, the night before,  but they were done. I take no credit. I was having a hard time finding time to change into my suit.

The gang-of-six had some choice remarks to make about me being “:dressed funny” when I picked them up from the half-day kindergarten and dropped them off at the Childcare, and they frowned on me for not staying. However I was late to a funeral.

It was great to see our church filled, for a change, and have it be for a good fellow who taught shop at the school for 40 years. Some day I hope to tell how, like a pebble dropped into a small pond, his influence spread out like ripples, and there is fabric on the surface of Mars, amazing glass-walled hotel lobbies with two-story-tall trees growing in them, and lazer technology used by the construction industry, which can be traced back to his shop class. For now, let it suffice to say he was remembered well, got a good “send off”, and we had a “celebration of life”.

Of course, none of that really matters when facing the starkness of death. We can “celebrate life” all we want, but death has a nasty habit of reducing all such banter to absurdity. Especially when a good man wasn’t even seventy years old when he died. Under such duress, perhaps people just need to cry.

Having faced that winter, it was time to change back to my work-clothes and hustle about facing a less important winter. And less important details.  Such as the fact that, if the coming storm doesn’t blow like crazy while dropping only a modest amount of snow, I will have to prop a ladder by sheds and barns and start shoveling roofs. However I am hoping the wind blows the powder snow off those roofs.

The evening maps still showed no storm. Just a little clipper. It is amazing that forecasters can talk of winds gusting to 75 mph in Boston, and 40 mph away from the coast in these hills, when there is basically nothing to see.

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Temperatures had crashed below zero to -1.6° (-18.7° Celsius), by 9:00 PM.

UPDATE #2  —GRAY MORNING—

I was up briefly a little after midnight to stick some wood in the fire, and noticed temperatures had risen to +1.1°, as a thin overcast slid over. A quick glance at the wee hour maps showed nothing very impressive.

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I doubt I would be particularly concerned, beyond my usual suspicions about any storms, were in not for the media. Though people like to laugh at the forecasters, in this case they have people who would otherwise be caught off guard very much on guard.

Temperatures  took another nosedive as the patch of clouds slid away and stars shone and I did the sensible thing, which was to go back to bed. They had dropped to -6.9° (-21.6° Celsius) in the dusk before dawn, when a new deck of clouds slid over and turned the day gray.

The radar shows the area of snow to our west expanding, and the map shows the clipper to our northwest a little stronger, but to the layman the maps continue to look fairly innocent. Who would guess a blizzard would be exploding just off the coast in 12 hours? You can see how the fishing fleet, back in the days of sail, might sniff a south wind and decide to dare head out, and be caught. There was one storm that wiped out something like a third of the fleet back in the 1800’s. . And those old-timers knew their weather lore. So perhaps we ought give meteorologists more credit than we do.

Now I’ve got to get cracking. starting by loading up the porch with firewood.

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UPDATE #3 —The first wave—

Very light snow started early, at 9:00 AM, as I hustled to get wood onto the porch. It didn’t show on the radar, but caused consternation. Temperatures had risen fairly swiftly into the teens, and we had a slight south wind, and I suppose were in a vague warm sector of the clipper, though the map showed the warm front to the west. As the snow expanded in the radar it formed two distinct areas, the first passing over us and associated with the warm front, and the decond diving down through northern Virginia and associated with the potential blizzard.

It was the first we had to deal with, as the snow gradually increased. We hit our high temperature of 16.3° as the snow began to thicken, and then the snow seemed to cool things, and temperatures were fairly level, but inching down.

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It being valentine’s day, my wife and I attempted to squeeze a little romance into the hectic storm preparations, and planned to eat out, after some shopping and a grandson’s basketball game one town away. However as the snow kept getting heavier the game was delayed and the crowd nervous about getting home, it was hard to feel relaxed. In the end we got spooked and skipped eating out and drove home through heavy snow at around 25 mph, getting home shortly before the heavy snow began tapering off, as the first area of snow moved east.

The map shows the storm has dipped down to west southwest  of us, and the second pocket of snow is surprising folk down in Maryland.

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Now the stars have come out, and if I was a farmer back in the days before a weather bureau I might think the storm had passed, as the winds have shifted around to the northwest. However I might scratch my jaw a little, because it is fifteen degrees warmer than last night, as if a warm front has passed and the cold front hasn’t hit us yet. Also I’d notice my bones ache with the falling pressure.

The temperature has only dropped to 12.2° (-11° Celsius) despite clearing skies and around four inches of fresh powder. So far there has been little wind. The pressure is 29.52 and falling. An old farmer would note that “falling glass” and rumple his brow.

Actually, with the stars out, I think I’ll call this “snow-event” officially over, and call tomorrow’s snow a different event, worthy of a different post.

Back in the 1600’s and in the early 1700’s there were terrible winters where Boston had 26 storms.  I’ve lost count this winter, but by stretching the definition of “snow event” a little we might be able to challenge the record.