The biography of a winter storm

No two Maine winter storms are identical. They each have their unique personality: gradual or abrupt onset, temperature, kind of snow, duration, wind, with or without ‘frozen mix’ or other forms of precipitation. Here is the story of one storm from earlier this winter.

  • At 7:00 am a motivated and careful observer can find some flakes in the air. It is 14 degrees, very pleasant after the last 10 days of polar vortex. I put our cars in the barn.
  • At 8:00 am it is now inescapably snowing. A very light dusting has appeared on horizontal surfaces, including less traveled and unsalted roads.
  • At 9:00 am the world has become a grey and white universe of unknowable dimensions. It is snowing quite seriously and there is 1/2 inch on the ground. All the local roads are now snow covered and have become pretty slick. The plows aren’t yet working but the salt crews are. Traffic is light and slow: most Mainers know to stay home if possible and take their time if they must travel.
  • At 10:00 am it is snowing furiously. I take my Corolla out for a quick errand. I don’t really HAVE to, but I love the challenge. The front and back windshields become snow-covered during the short time one stops at a light. After 10 minutes in the store, I have to brush off my car to drive home. (I keep a soft broom in the Thule case with the skis for this purpose.) The wind has picked up and the snow is being blown around so visibility is a challenge. When I get home from the store, there is a three inch layer of white softness on the back deck. The fire is already laid in the wood stove, a stack of logs sits ready in the living room, a reserve stack sits on the back deck, and an extra barrow of wood is in the alley. (I planned ahead.) Our cat, Luci, opts to watch the storm from our screened in back deck, but does so from the shelter of a chair. Her paw prints in the very fine snow dust that filters in through the screening vanish in less than five minutes. 
  • At 11:00 am it is still snowing hard. I have just shoveled a bit over 4 inches off the outer part of the back deck and restocked a platform feeder for the birds - who didn’t wait for me to leave before they arrived and started eating. 
  • At 12 noon there is a fresh 2.5 inch ivory-flake layer of very light snow on the back deck (an hour after I last shoveled) and the street out front is at least 6 inches deep judging by the tire-tracks. No plows have been by yet. When a car goes by, it stirs up an impressive ‘wake’ of snow in the air behind it. The falling snow is a mix of very fine crystals that are dense and fall fairly straight down and some larger flakes that swirl. The cat has decided to sleep on the radiator.
  • At 1:00 pm there was another 2.5 inches to shovel off the back deck. I ventured out for a 90 minute trek on snowshoes into the fields and woods behind our house. Armed with nuts and seeds, I fed the hungry birds, including chickadees who come eagerly to hand. How they know I am there in the 30 foot visibility is a mystery. 
  • At 3:00 pm I am vaguely aware that the wind is picking up (as predicted) while I take a short recovery nap on the couch.
  • At 4:00 pm it is still snowing with no let-up.  It is getting dark and blowing like stink, so it is hard to know how much is new snow and how much is Nature rearranging the already fallen white blanket. It surely makes shoveling a challenge, and some might say not worth attempting, but I enjoy being out in the snow even if I am not sure I am making a difference. 
  • After shoveling, I lit the fire in the wood stove, as the wind has caused the temperature in the upstairs bedrooms to drop considerably. Not enough to see ones breath, but enough to make one think twice about changing clothes upstairs.
  • At 5:00 pm it is fully dark and still blowing. Unless I use a flashlight or turn on an outside light, I cannot tell if it is still snowing. (It is. Hard.) The wood stove is cranking out heat nicely. We are making progress on a jigsaw puzzle and other indoor projects.
  • At 6:00 pm we have soup and grilled cheese for supper. The news says that the storm should let up after midnight. They predict totals of 12-14 inches. I’m pretty sure we already have that.
  • At 7:00 pm the storm is 12 hours old. We shovel the deck and front walk again. (Frequent small shovelings are easier and safer…and more fun.) I decide that is my last spell with a shovel for the night, so I have a glass of wine.
  • At 8:00 pm we are cozy and warm, periodically feeding the wood stove, reading, and hoping we don't lose power.
  • At 9:00 pm we head off to bed. The upstairs is nice and warm, thanks to the stove and the fact that heat rises. I fill up the stove and bank it down. By morning there will be a nice bed of coals and the stove will still be warm.
  • (Night passes.)
  • At 5:00 am we hear John plowing our driveway and smile at our old and familiar joke: “It’s time to make the donuts.”
  • At 6:00 am it starts to get light. Looking out the upstairs bedroom windows we see deep and drifted snow. The street has been plowed. Our driveway is clear. There is work to do on the walk and deck.
  • At 7:00 am we are having breakfast and wondering how long it will be before they have rolled, packed, and set track and the Nordic trails. We decide it will be a while and opt for shoveling and snowshoeing this morning. The birds are happy to see us. The chickadees are very hungry and come readily to hand for peanuts.
  • By 8:00 am, my Facebook feed is full of friends complaining about the snow, the weather, the wind, the cold. I try to restrain myself but fail. I wax eloquent (in my own opinion) about the joys of deep snow, high wind, and plummeting temperature. There’s no such thing as bad weather, I crow. Just the wrong clothes. Fortunately, they can’t actually hurt me from this distance.

 


 

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