Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snowstorm Aftermath

There seems to be no end to the ice and cold. Last night, a predicted low "near zero" turned out to be -8 degrees here. The air was so cold and calm and with enough humidity left in the atmosphere that ice crystals began forming on trees, weeds and fences.

This shot (above) is of ice crystals clinging to a barbed wire fence along Hawvermale Road a few miles north of our house. When we were warming the car up, I pulled over, put the emergency flashers on and got out and took a few pictures. The sun was shining and the ice crystals shimmered in the early morning light. It was still -4 when this shot was taken. Brrr!

There beside the road the weeds which have survived the winter winds were coated with a hoarfrost, too. They are bending the more with the added weight, light as it may be.

Yet more weeds took on this splendid winter coat and shined with a new brilliance. When the wind comes - if it comes soon enough - the air will be full of sparkles.

Yesterday Mom asked if I had a chance to look out her bedroom window. I had already marveled at the scene but her comment reminded me to get my camera and record the novel view. This window is actually a small basement window used to fill in a small opening where the previous owners had an air conditioner. It is above the kitchen roof. The rain gutters had melted their ice dams during the day and the dripping water refroze. Then, with the orange glow of sunset, the cold view took an oddly warm vista. You can see part of the garage roof on the lower right and our barn in the distant left.

During the snowstorm of several days ago, a similar icing was seen on the garage's north side. The rain gutters were draped with ice as the pines in the distance took on their heavy winter coat of snow.
It is the prettiest when the snow is new and when it is deepest. Now that the yard has a few tracks - my own boots, animals, the electrical meter reader and the neighbor's tractor (he dug our driveway out) - the snow isn't quite so breathtaking as at first.
But that has been replaced by feathers of ice and I'm equally thankful for both.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Snow Storm!

Finally ... snow! And lots of it!
How much? I have no idea. When I thrust a yardstick into it at 8 a.m., it measured 5" but there was already some snow in the yard (maybe an inch). Below the freshest snow is a crust of ice. Throughout the day yesterday we had light snow and it changed to sleet and freezing rain after dark. That compressed and melted some of the snow. The meltdown at 8 a.m. was 0.91".

This photo (above), taken at about 10:30 a.m. shows Pinehaven with the flakes falling fast. We've probably added 3" so I'd say there's about 8" on the ground. It's hard taking pictures when the snow is falling so furiously; I had to keep the lens dry and protect the camera as much as possible.

Our back porch (looking southwest) is deep in snow. On path is dug to the rain gauge (see it between the bell and the garage at the right side of this picture?). Another path leads to Clayton Road so that I can go out and get the mail ... if we get any.

Looking back towards the rear of the house, we've piled bales of straw against the bathroom to help keep the pipes from freezing (with 100% success). This far, extremely cold temperatures have been far more of a problem this winter than snow.

One of my wireless weather instruments (a wind vane and rain gauge) is pretty well buried in snow. The wind boom is still reporting but the electronic rain gauge is frozen and has been silent for a week. It'll work again when it warms (about April at this pace). This is a telephoto shot as I didn't want to walk in the deep snow to get this picture; it enhances the falling snow.

At 8 a.m., here's the yardstick I thrust into the snow. It read 5" then. Now, I'd say we're up to 8" or so. It's never let up.

A concrete bench on our back porch is almost buried. The woodpile in the distance isn't one I have to reach any time soon. I have plenty of wood dried in the barn and more carried into the garage. In addition we've got the fireplace set up for a nice warm fire this evening. With all the pines that have died, I have plenty of ready wood, much of it nicely seasoned.

How about a look up (north) S. Clayton Road? There's little traffic. I heard one plow go by overnight and that's been it for clearing. A few cars have passed. There's no school and few businesses are open. We're under a Level One Snow Emergency so no one is supposed to be on the roads without reason anyway.
At 3 a.m. I was sitting up in bed having a look at the radar with my iPod Touch. Mom happened to get up and wondered what I was doing (she saw the glow of the display). Weather study is a 24 hour a day hobby, of course.

A look out our driveway (facing east) shows the lone path I dug so that I could get mail if it's delivered. Probably not. In any case, it's a good way in and out - on foot - in an emergency.
Today - like yesterday - we'll enjoy staying inside. We have nowhere to go, nothing to do. A good book, a warm sofa and a blanket ... what more is there?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

... all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
Barack Obama - Inaugural Address - 01/20/09

Though I couldn't be there, we've managed to have our own little party, or at least a special lunch prepared for Inaugural Day. How about molasses cake with whipped cream and topped with a tiny paper American flag?

Here's Dad pouring dressing on his salad. We also had a dish with a variety of colorful peppers, baked potatoes, peas and some leftover hash from yesterday (poured over white bread, it's even better the second time around). Oh, and a soybean 'hotdog'!

OK, so I didn't make it to Washington as I had hoped. Dad's two recent falls have made that unwise, I think. But as you can see (below), I probably got a better view than those who stood on the cold streets of the nation's capital. ABC broadcast the entire event in high-definition so my "seat" coulnd't be beat. Still, there's something special when you can say "I was there". Well, I can't. But I enjoyed a nice meal with family and we didn't miss a beat.
There's hope again for the years ahead.!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bitterly Cold!

These bitterly cold temperatures don't come often, thank goodness. We hovered around +4 all day yesterday and then last night fell to -12. We reach zero every now and then but it's not so often when we go negative.
This first picture (below) is looking through my south bedroom window. It's got a storm window but the outside pane is covered in feathers of ice. The sun's shining at least.

Another shot of the sun slanting through the glass, illuminating the ice. The "Pipe Brigade" was activated last night - I took the 2:30 a.m. shift - and all was well. We have the furnaces set to 64 degrees (about all they'll handle with the icy cold wind) and two kerosense space heaters running in the kitchen. All was well. It was actually pretty cozy-warm to walk into the orange glow of the kitchen mid-way through the night.

At the north second floor window at the top of the steps, thin threads of ice cross the glass (below). It's quite a different affect from the south side. Here on the north, the sun is hidden and the wind blows harder. It looks like there's more snow than there is: probably no more than an inch. But with a clear moonlit sky, the temperature fell off a cliff as soon as the sun set.

Want proof? Here's a graph of how the outside temperture fell overnight. You can see our 4 degree high to the left side of the graph and the -12 low to the right. It's climbing rapidly now that the sun's up.
One more night of this and then we should recover into the 20's by tomoroow afternoon. How sick I am of winter. That's rare for me to say, one who loves snow. But as an adult, as one who knows the cost of the cold, it's an entirely different matter.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A Rude Awakening

It is 7:05 a.m. precisely when I hear a voice in my sleep. "You'd better get up. The power's out," it said. I pulled myself awake, a little groggy at first, and felt the cool night air slip beneath the blanket I am casting aside. I take a glance at the clock radio on the nightstand beside my bed. The clock is dark.
The voice was Dad calling from the bottom of the steps. I grabbed my bathrobe and went downstairs to grab the cell phone because when the power is out our electronic phones do not work. I brought it back to my warm bed, propped a flashlight on my pillow and proceeded to dial the power company.
It's the usual sequence: "The number you are dialing from is not in our database. Please enter your home phone number, area code first."
I tapped it in. After five minutes the system finally hangs up on me, the outage still not reported. I dial again and this time I manage to get through.
We've had an ice storm overnight and the first light of day shows the road reflective and slick. In the distance I hear sirens - then lots of them coming from all directions. A bevy of firetrucks, ambulances and police vehicles pass the house. Another contingent presses east along Hemple Road, flickering through the trees in the distance.
Normal traffic that is passing the house is going at their usual speed.
Oh, my, we'll be without power for a while today.

Outside the back door, our "dinner bell" has a halo of ice dripping around the edge. It would be a prettier sight if the concrete porch wasn't equally icy.

And the satellite dish, right at the edge of the porch, is rimmed with ice. It's usually smooth reflective surface is rippled with ice, surely throwing some of the signal away. How do these things work when it is brutally cold anyway?

If the power failure was a rare event, we wouldn't care so much but last year we lost power 18 times. That's too much. On average we lose our power once every 20 days.
In the past months - particularly since the remnants of Hurricane Ike on 09/14/08, the power company has cleared limbs, replaced poles and made valiant efforts to improve the infrastructure here in the county. Just last Saturday they replaced a pole out front of the house.
So it is an "act of God" they will say. It is the weather. It is a car striking a pole.
It is ... ridiculous.
The power was restored at 9:10 a.m. We waited a while before turning the furnace back on and we're holding our breath still. So far, so good.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Cool New Year's Night

Last evening (01/02) was already getting colder as soon as the sun set, but still I loaded up my tripod and camera and set out to the backyard to marvel at the starry night. Van Gogh would have been proud of that marvelous sky.
Before you think I've posted blank pictures, have a look in a darkened room and you'll be able to see the same view I enjoyed. This first (below) is shot from our backyard back towards the house. The garage is in the way but I am lined up with a window on the garage's west side and a door on its east. The glow from the house can be seen by looking through each.
The eastern sky still has some glow to it even though this was taken close to 8 p.m. If you look closely you can see Orion at the right. Trees partially block the view but add an interesting silhouette.

Then a view to the southeast shows Orion almost risen from behind the trees. It's massive, spread out across a substantial patch of celestial real estate. What wonderful ringside seats we have to the marvels above!

And what an interesting sky, afire in all directions thanks to a recently-passed cold front that scoured the air clear. But it also further chilled the atmosphere and I am bundled only lightly. PJ's, hoodie, coat ... and the fingers of the night air reaches in between those layers with ease.
Soon enough, though, I am peeling them off on the kitchen floor and enjoying the warmth of Pinehaven once again. By 10:15 p.m. I am in bed - just like New Year's Eve - and enjoying the electric blanket warming these cold old bones.
I drift to sleep thinking of the winter sky still revolving overhead, enjoy the slant of the last patch of moonlight spread across the carpeted floor and the twinkling of some star beyond the pane.