What a Difference a Day Can Make
I awoke this morning to the hush that comes with a few inches of new snow. I slept well. I can’t say the same for the night before. What a difference a day can make.
Last weekend’s mild temperatures encouraged me to hang the sap buckets for an early start on the season. Bare ground showed through on south-facing sections of the meadows. No snowshoes necessary this year. We had a good run and were boiling by Monday, putting up the first batch of 2010’s maple crop.
Tuesday’s forecast called for snow. When low pressure sits in the Gulf of Maine we never know how much to expect. The flakes fell steadily through Tuesday evening. More than a foot covered the ground by first light the next day. There was no sign of things letting up. I decided to fire up the tractor to begin clearing snow off the road before the temperature rose, bringing with it the potential for impossible plowing. Heavy, wet snow does not move easily.
I spent the better part of the day grading the snow aside. With each pass along the half-mile stretch that connects us with the plowed town road, an inch or more of new snow covered my previous tracks. By mid afternoon the snows were very wet and I’d run out of room to put it. Any more plowing would have simply constrained the roadway to a width through which the truck would not fit. All I could do was hope that the storm was winding down. As a precaution, I moved the truck down to the flats below. At day’s end on Wednesday more than two feet of new snow stood on the meadows and atop the sap buckets. It wouldn’t last for long.
Thursday dawned with light snow falling but it soon turned to rain – lots of it, but the worst part of the storm was yet to come.
The forecast for Thursday night came with a wind advisory. As with the snow from a Nor’easter, it is not always easy to predict how much. I went to bed without giving it much thought. Earlier breezes had shaken the heavy, wet snow from the trees, erasing my concerns about the weight bringing down limbs. (Gypsy sits on the edge of a meadow alongside a row of very tall, old maples.)
I was awakened by the wind at midnight. Wind, and the sound of tree limbs crashing to the ground. I tried just lying there, thinking, “What can I do about it, anyway?”
That didn’t work. After an hour I went downstairs to get a better look around. Bands of clouds raced at high speed from east to west across the face of a nearly full moon. Treetops were in full motion. The roar of the wind coming over the hilltops to the east gave warning to each coming blast. Hold on. The house shook with the force of the wind hitting its side. My gaze remained fixed on the greenhouse, a seemingly fragile structure in the face of such a powerful force. I fully expected to be watching as a gust tore it from its moorings and kited it across the orchard meadow below.
More trees were crashing to the ground. I couldn’t see where they fell from the vantage inside the house. I made a brief dash out to grab two buckets that were tumbling along the path after being blown from the porch. Back inside, I began worrying about Marion, still sleeping in the loft. (I envy her ability to do that.) What if one of those maples came down on the roof. Wouldn’t the first floor offer more protection?
I woke Marion at 1:15. I turned on the computer and began poring over National Weather Service charts. The pressure gradient was deep and we were in the quadrant with the strongest winds. How long can this low sit here?
The storm was tracking slowly to the west. Talking with Marion helped take my mind off the roar of the wind and the crashing of tree limbs outside. The nearest airport, 35 miles away, was recording winds near 40 mph, but they are more sheltered down in the Connecticut River valley than we are on this mountainside. I turned next to Mt. Washington – the other extreme. The White Mountains to our east would be bearing the full force of the storm. Hurricane force winds buffeted their peaks. Winds atop Mt Washington were in excess of 120 mph. While not hurricane force here at the house an occasional strong blast blowing through had enough force to ring the heavy bronze ship’s bell that hangs from the porch. That’s not going to help me sleep.
I kept refreshing the National Weather Service web page as real-time data points collected in the wind speed column. When’s it going to peak?
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to attempt sleep again until I saw a reversal in the trend. Finally, at 3 a.m. the velocities began to dip and at 3:30 we crawled back to bed.
By morning nearly half of the previous day’s snow had been erased by the rain and the wind. I went out to survey the damage. The greenhouse was standing and no limbs had fallen through its roof. Good. Next, I looked to the lean-to shed that we use to shelter various things adjacent to where the new equipment shed will go. Still there. Good. Its tarp roof had not held up to the gusts, but the structure was intact. The outhouse remained standing strong. Really good.
The orchard was littered with small branches that had blown from the tops of the tall maples. Several dead limbs had been shaken loose, too, and lay on the ground. The scene very much told the story of the night preceding, but no major damage had come to the home or outbuildings nearby.
I spent the day on Friday in a bleary-eyed state, picking up limbs off the road, recovering and reaffixing nearly half of the sap bucket lids that had been shaken loose and blown off by the storm. The sun shone. Temperatures warmed. Sap flowed. What a difference a day can make.