A cold wind is blowing (the fluffy snow)


Snow means different things, depending on where you live.

For some, it doesnít happen. Never seen it. There are actually folks that will make attempts to time a visit to Minnesota or Massachusetts or other exotic northern locations based on hopes to watch snow fall and actually play in a pile of it.

For many, itís a reality of seasonal life. It happens. It gets shoveled. Move on.

The thing is, itís not simply a case of whether or not it snows. Itís when it snows and the temperature when it does and more.

I was thinking about that this morning. Why? Because my wife opened the curtains and exclaimed: ďI thought you said that announcement last night about snow wasnít for us!Ē AndÖ a bit of information and context might be necessary before we venture off.

When you live in the northeast United States, it snows. But, you knew that. What you might not have known is that in upstate regions of some statesóMaine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York as examplesóit basically snows all the time in winter months. As in, All the time.

Snow is a fairly simple equation. Precipitation + cold temperatures = snow. See? Simple. (Yes, yes, please hold back on e-mails of the more complex descriptions and scenarios. Itís raining and below freezing, we get snow. Letís leave it clean and basic. (Kind of.))

In those upstate regions, the winter is almost without exception always cold. There have been months in recent years where the average overnight temperature in several towns and citiesÖ nothing adjusted, no wind chill or feels like or whatever alternative descriptions might be applied by some, just the temperatureÖ averaged negative numbers. Months where the high temperature averaged single digits.

Always cold. Bitterly so. And in such scenarios, any moisture in the air presents the potential for snow and frost on your car in the morning.

Now, there are all sorts of weather alerts that may be offered to us these days. News broadcasts and smartphone apps offer advisories and warnings and more. And there is a method in how those of us living in the northeast have come to interpret themÖ

We listen, but we donít.

It is so easy for a strong wind to come across and create a surge of lake effect snow with only a bit advance notice that you simply canít look five days out on a February forecast and accept it as carved in stone. Things change. They change quickly, and at times severely.

A weather watch means something might be coming so get prepared, a warning means it is almost definitely going to strike. But I donít know that the differences really matter. We do like predictions of how much and when so we can plan our approach to it. But honestlyÖ you wonít catch many people in Buffalo, Stowe, Littleton or Bangor unprepared for snow, whether three inches or three feet arrive. Succinctly put, in Caribou, Maine, people understand snow regardless of advance notice.

Bells and whistles and notices five days in advance are cute, but for every one that arrives five days in advance there will be two or three that arrive merely hours ahead of the first flakes.

In this case, my wife was talking about a television show we had been watching the night before, when a weather alert notice scrolled across the bottom of the screen. The notice itself concerned lake effect snow and wind warnings for locations further north. Not us. No mention of our county at all.

But she awoke to snow. Right there, on the railing of the deck.

How much?

Not much, actually. Maybe a half to three-quarters of an inch. However, it was the type I call cotton candy snow. Ever put some cotton candy in your mouth? Then you know how quickly it virtually melts and dissolves and disappears. The light fluffy stuff on the cars this morning was so ridiculously light and fluffy that I could have cleared the windshield by exhaling a soft puff of air.

Itís kind of a crazy thing. Snow.

Barely took two minutes to wipe off multiple cars and sweep the walkways. (Yes, sweep. A broom worked but a shovel really wouldnít have.) And yet, it was high enough that a ruler could have been used to give it an amount. Toward the record books, it was an accumulation of measurable snowfall.

You donít need a storm for it. Just single digit thermometers and a bit of moisture in the air.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com