Winter Observations

Since so much of the eastern half of the nation is suffering the effects of global warming, being hit with temperatures well below normal, I figured I'd at least chime in on what we've seen here in New Hampshire over the past couple of months.

While winter weather and cold temperatures are the norm here, the large amounts of snow over a relatively short period of time and the well below zero temps that just go on and on for weeks on end aren't what we usually see here. (Not that it hasn't happened before, but it is unusual.)

We've had snow totals here at the The Manse as high as 150 inches, but that was accumulated between the beginning of December until April. There were numerous small snowfalls on the order of 3 to 6 inches, and a couple of larger storms that dropped between a foot to a foot-and-a-half, all adding up to that 150 inches. Each snowfall was manageable and some of it melted away before the next one came along.

This year, however, we'd see one storm after another dropping a foot or more of snow, with temperatures during these storms in the lower teens or single digits, and then temperatures would plummet and there would be no melt off. Icy roads remained icy because the salt the local and state highway departments normally used to de-ice the roads wouldn't work if the temperatures were below 17ºF. In a little bit less than three weeks we easily saw almost 60 inches of snowfall and we'd still be digging out as another storm approached. Some towns exhausted their snow removal budgets as well as their road salt supplies. Some cities were running out of places to put the snow. (Boston has received over 80 inches of snow in this same short period of time and they've had to resort to dumping snow into Boston Harbor, something to which the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering had to give its blessing because the city's normal snow 'storage' locations were full.)

One thing I noticed that was peculiar for this winter compared to all of the others I've experienced: I've had to use four-wheel drive far more often and for much longer periods than any other winter I remember. There have been some stretches where the trusty F150 was never out of four-wheel drive for days on end. Even the state-maintained roads were always snow covered, between the fresh snowfall and the drifting snow caused by the high winds that usually accompanied the well below normal temperatures.

Both here and elsewhere in New England roof collapses and failures have been all too common. Quite a few schools here in New Hampshire had to close due to the heavy snow loads on their roofs. In some cases teachers or other school staff would notice cracking walls or sagging ceilings, prompting the evacuation of the school and an all-hands effort to remove the snow before any further damage could occur. More than a few businesses and homes suffered roof collapses, something that happens rarely here. (Most homes and many of the smaller businesses have steep pitched roofs that, in theory, should prevent large snow loads from building up. But with the relentless snowfalls many of these roofs couldn't shed all of the snow on them before the snow loads exceeded the design limits, and they failed.) I spent part of this morning over at the WP Mom's, pulling snow off her roof with a roof rake as a means of reducing the load on her roof and preventing ice dams, something that can cause water damage inside a home as the snow on the roof melts.

All in all, I have to say this is probably one of the more brutal winters I have experienced in all my years, between the weeks and weeks of endless below normal temperatures and the well above normal snowfalls. Yet despite all of that, we are far better prepared to handle it than many of the others in the south who have been hit with record low temperatures and record snowfalls and/or ice storms. Watching the endless reports of highways with multiple accidents clogging them or ice coatings that bring traffic to a standstill has become all too common this winter, particularly over the past four weeks or so.

I still have snow to remove and will hopefully get it done today before the next round of snow arrives. There are decks to clear on the backside of The Manse and the main front door that needs to be shoveled out. (We can't open the door because of the snow piled up in front of it, a dangerous situation if we need to get out because of an emergency.)

And so it goes in winter-time New Hampshire.