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January 2011 Snow

January 2011 Snow

Even as we get older there remains an inner child in each of us that loves to see a little snow once in a while. Having grown up in North Carolina close to the Virginia border, I got to see my fair share of it.

Apparently it was not enough. College in New England only seemed to make me want to move further north and I ended up in Maritime Canada. After a decade and a half, we came back to the side of mountain in Roanoke, Virginia. In our nearly twenty years there, we “enjoyed” a number of memorable storms including the one of December 19, 2009.

A move to North Carolina’s Crystal Coast put an end to annual snow that rarely disappointed us in Roanoke. I have not really kept track of the snow here on the coast because it does not last long enough to be truly memorable. Most of the time it is gone by noon of the day it arrives.

We have seen snow a few times and I searched back and found a few pictures from the winter of 2011. I know that when it snows here, I always hurry out to get some pictures before it melts. That seemed to never be a problem in Canada because sometimes it came in November and never left until May.

There is a chance that we will see some snowflakes tomorrow morning, January 26, 2015. That is how I got the title for the post. When we lived on the mountain in Roanoke, it was often hard to get the Virginia Department of Transportation to come up our steep hill to plow. We used to joke that they were patrolling for snowflakes on Highway 419, the main four lane road on the western side of the Roanoke valley.

Snow can make things beautiful but it can be treacherous if you are not used to it. We never worried very much in Canada because the ditches were filled with huge snowbanks. You could slide into them with almost no damage. That was not the case in Roanoke and certainly here at the coast if you slide off the road, you might end up in the water.

We do have some northern experts here who claim the problem along the coast is that no one knows how to drive on snow. While there might be a degree of truth in that because what little snow we get turns almost immediately to ice. As any good Canadian will tell you, the secret to not getting hurt driving on ice is to not drive on ice unless you have real chains.

The snow that we get here is almost always soft spring Canadian snow. The snow that you get in Canada in January or that will hit Boston during this storm is not soft spring snow. It is very fine snow that blows but actually provides pretty good traction on the roads unless the road folks are trying to melt it. Then it too usually turns to ice.

A cold snow-packed road in January in Canada is a good driving experience. Actually there are many times when the snow-covered roads in January are actually better than the pavement when it starts to break up in April as the frost goes out of the ground.

I hope to never see a storm here on the coast like some that I endured in Roanoke and in Canada. We certainly do not have the equipment to handle it and it could be very dangerous.

Surprisingly I know some Canadians who will welcome this batch of snow. Frost often penetrates to six feet or more in eastern Canada. If there is no snow on the ground, the frost can go down even farther. My Carleton County, New Brunswick, friends alerted me that they had little snow on the fields and were hoping for some to protect the young trees they planted last spring. Snow is a great insulator and deep snow which leaves quickly in the spring is much preferred over deep frost which takes forever to disappear.

Still I will remain on the alert for our snowflakes because I know they will be fleeting.  Once they hit the ground which is probably still a warm 50F, they will melt. I am sure if any flakes show up on the coast, they will be all over the  social media sites. Here it will all be in fun fortunately.

However, farther north where blizzard conditions are expected, there will be people itching to try their new four wheel drive vehicles. Some of them will be convinced that their expensive vehicles render them nearly invincible. Unfortunately few understand that a good four-wheel drive vehicle just lets you get stuck in a more difficult way in a place farther from help.

My favorite response to the people who were really stuck used to be, “I can get your vehicle out of this mess as long as you do not mind it coming out in two pieces.”  That always made them pause.

The worst I was ever stuck was when one our 16,000 pound 100HP tractors slid into a shallow pond when I was blowing snow late one night. I had to leave it there in the minus twenty Fahrenheit weather. The next morning I drove back to it with our D4 bulldozer. I carefully used a chainsaw to cut through the ice that had claimed one huge tire. Then I hooked a 3/4 inch log chain to tractor and pulled it out with a neighbor driving it and me on the heavier bulldozer. We had hooked a portable generator to the tractor’s recirculating block heater to get the diesel engine started.

The moral is that it is better to not get stuck at all if possible unless you have lots and lots of equipment. My advice for those in the path of the blizzard arriving Tuesday and Wednesday is just sit back and wait for things to get cleaned up. No work or appointment is worth the mess that you can get into doing battle with a blizzard in a vehicle.

There is something nice about being trapped, warm, and having nothing you can do about your situation so enjoy it while you can. Work and outside responsibilities will be back soon enough.  Hopefully most of you will continue to enjoy electricity and the ones who lose it have learned to prepare for that possibility. It happened often to us on the farm.

Here on the Southern Outer Banks we will continue to be on alert for any stray snowflakes but do not worry, we will survive if none show up and we certainly do not need any extra northern snow sent our way.

If you want to find out more about this special area, we send out an almost monthly newsletter. Our most recent newsletter was sent out just after New Year’s Day. This is the link to it.  Our Thanksgiving newsletter is available here on the web.

We hope to get our next newsletter out around Valentine’s Day.

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