The Tail of the Blizzard

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Bogue Sound Sunset

Bogue Sound Sunset

The beautiful sunset picture of Bogue Sound was taken the day before the storm which eventually became the blizzard that has swallowed Northern Virginia, New York and other parts of the east coast.

No one here along the Southern Outer Banks asked for this to be a birthplace for big storms but it sometimes happens. Usually we get some wind and rain from them and that is the last we hear of them. This storm, Jonah, seems to have higher aspirations. We are going to be hearing about it for a while.

If you have been in a few blizzards, you learn that they usually have a tail which you can sort of see in this picture. As they get wound up and tighter, the tail usually becomes shorter and the winds become higher. Sometimes the tail will drag through some drastically colder air as it has done with this storm.

Yesterday we were close to 50F and this morning the temperature dropped so quickly that the raindrops froze instantly on my car. That is not normal for the Crystal Coast, but then again our weather can be a riddle that is hard to decode.

What kind of weather you get from a big, developing storm usually depends on how the storm tracks relative to your location. Usually the coast of North Carolina which as I said can be a spawning ground for storms gets a pass but sometimes we also get whacked. Fortunately our snow normally melts by noon. I doubt the two to three feet of snow dumped by Jonah on the east will melt anytime soon. We will feel the chill of the winds blowing across those fields of snow.

When we lived in Nova Scotia, we were in a perfect location to get a taste of all parts of a winter storm. We often went from rain and attendant mud to blizzard conditions and frozen ruts in what was mud. Sometimes we went back to ice pellets or rain only to finish with a coating of snow with howling winds.

Our life in New Brunswick had a few of those storms with multiple personalities but we were much more likely to be on the snow side of the storm. We were just far enough inland and high enough in elevation to catch most of the coastal storms as all snow.

After we moved to the mountain overlooking Roanoke, Virginia, we got more storms with sleet or freezing rain than snow but we did get a few epic storms like the December 19-20, 2009 storm. It was perfect igloo making snow but it was also the devil to move.

As long as you are healthy and the power is on, there is something nice about a storm. At our home in Tay Creek we did not worry very much about snow storms.

Most of our heat came from a wood stove and our woodshed was connected to the house. Our water came from a spring which was gravity-fed to the house. It was so cold in the winter that we unplugged our freezers which were in the woodshed. We had chickens and the trick was to collect their eggs before they froze. I gave the chickens water each morning by bringing them a shovel full of snow. I also milked a Guernsey cow which gave around three gallons of milk a day. It was a long walk to the barn in the winter but the milk was well worth it. My wife, Glenda, would often bake eight to ten loaves of her bread at a time. With milk, eggs, and bread taken care of and a freezer or two full of beef, there was no rush to drive to the supermarket which was over twenty miles away.

The only worry when the power went off was whether or not one of the big diesel tractors would start so I could take one of the one ton round bales out to the cows. They wintered in the woods a mile from the house so I had to keep the road cleaned of snow but I had the right equipment to do it.

In the ten years that we farmed, I only missed one day taking them a big bale of hay and I had managed to take them two the day before the storm.

While we often hunkered down and enjoyed a good winter storm, there were plenty of people who chose to go out and drive in weather so bad that no one should drive in it. I cannot even remember the number of times someone would knock on my door late at night and beg me to pull them out of ditch. I would put my snowsuit on and crank up a big tractor and after a bumpy ride on the ring chain equipped tractor, crawl under their car in the snow to find a place to hook my big logging chain. I would always refuse their pleas to just hook it to the bumper because I knew as soon as the chain tightened from the 16,000 pound tractor, the bumper would fly off. There were a couple of cars so badly stuck that I had to tell the owners to call a wrecker. I could have pulled their axle out but the rest of the car would have stayed there.

As the cold air behind this blizzard of 2016 is drawn across the Crystal Coast, we will complain because the air is a lot colder than we feel in a normal winter. Still we did not have to shovel the 2.25 inches of rain that we got and I for one am happy about that. I am happy to not be waiting for the snow plow on the mountain above Roanoke.

Here on the coast we thankfully only have another three or four weeks to go before the back of winter is broken. That’s fine with me, my tomato seeds came in today’s mail and I am looking forward to getting some seeds started.

With a fairly normal spring it will not be long before we are thinking about being out on the water again. Before we know it will be spring festival season and beach season will be just around the corner. Winter is not hard to survive on the Crystal Coast and that will be especially true if we can slide through another winter without snow.

Our most recent email newsletter, Happy New Year from the Coast, was published on December 31.  The previous one, Changing Coastal Seasons, was sent out on October 29. Our next email newsletter should be out in February.

It will not be long before it is time to make vacation plans for this summer’s trip to the beach.  Do not forget our travel guide. The Kindle version is $3.99 and Amazon has the full color, 180 plus page paperback version for $24.95.

Updates are coming.

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Winter in the Cove

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Raymond's Gut, January 9, 2016

Raymond’s Gut, January 9, 2016

It is a little strange to think about winter when the temperature is hovering around 67F on January 10, 2016. However, I know better than to pretend that winter will not find us. We all know that the good run of warm weather this year has to end sometime.

As hard as it is to believe, we are still getting a few cherry tomatoes from our garden and some sugar snap peas. I managed to cover the last tomato plant and protect it from the one short spell of cold air that found our cozy spot near the White Oak River. The sugar snap peas made it through without any help like some of our petunias and roses that are still blooming.

It is not unusual to have some nice January weather on the North Carolina coast. We generally get pretty spoiled and complain about how miserable we are if we get some cold days. Our cold days get us little sympathy from our New England and Canadian friends. I almost hesitate to say it, but we consider it a cold day if we do not make it to fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

I can appreciate their feelings since I have endured my fair share of winter weather on a mountain near Roanoke, Virginia and in the heart of a snow belt north of Fredericton, New Brunswick in Canada. Winter is a totally different beast in Canada than it is on the Southern Outer Banks.

While the days and weeks before winter in Canada are usually a mad rush to get everything done before a deep snow suspends daily activities, waiting for winter to come is usually an exciting time on the coast. The months before winter are some of the best on the Carolina coast. We fish, boat, and hike the beaches. There are no crowds, the humidity is gone and the water is often still warm. This winter I saw people in the surf in early December and my daughter and I took a holiday ride down the river after Christmas. I wore shorts and a t-shirt.

Even if the winter turns harsh we will likely only have six or seven weeks weeks of cold weather left.  While it is possible that Raymond’s Gut could freeze over like it did in 2014, it is more likely that we will stay on the weather roller coaster to spring.  That will give us brief periods of cold weather broken up by short spells of ever warming weather as the North Carolina winter sunshine gets its strength back.

Wintering here on the coast can give you a little climatic whiplash, but I would rather have it that way than continual cold or no cold at all. A little taste of winter is fine. However, I did not move to the beach for snow so I am always happy to get to that time in February when I can say that winter’s back is broken.

Maybe I had too many long walks to the barn in the winter to have any desire for yet another snowstorm. The first winter we lived in Tay Creek back in the early seventies, we recorded twenty-three feet of snow. That year the snow came before November 1, and stayed on the ground well into May. On top of that we had just moved from Nova Scotia where my wife had gotten more than a taste of a September snow just after we got married the previous year.

Winter is not so bad at the coast and even now I can almost taste spring. Once again our Canadian great egret friend, Frank 29X, seems to have decided to spend some of the winter with us. Actually he has been in our inlet, Raymond’s Gut, since December 29.  He was behind our home on January 8 and came back to gobble up some fish from the marsh behind our house as we had our lunch on January 9.   The truth is that I would rather have a Canadian great egret as company than a Canadian winter.

Our most recent email newsletter, Happy New Year from the Coast, was published on December 31.  The previous one, Changing Coastal Seasons, was sent out on October 29. Our next email newsletter should be out in February.

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