Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Day!

     I have lived in New England my entire life.  For 3-4 months out of the year, I have to deal with cold temperatures and snow.  My Fab. Fam. rather enjoys it.  Thanks to the wonders of technology AND my world travels, I have friends who live in places that don't get snow.  So here is a brief explanation of New England winter weather to answer those questions that have been coming at me over the past few days, since Nor'easter Nemo blew into the region.

     For starters, what's a Nor'easter?  A Nor'easter is basically a storm that circulates around a low pressure system off the northern Atlantic coast. It's similar to a tropical storm or hurricane (cyclone to my friends in the southern hemisphere).  It gets its name from the direction the winds come from--the northeast.  They usually occur between October and April corresponding to the Atlantic hurricane season.  They typically happen in a range from the east coast of Canada to about New York.   However, they could happen any time of year, and occasionally occur as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.  As the storm rotates, it picks up moisture from the Atlantic.  Because of the winter temperatures, instead of dropping heavy rains on the land, Nor'easters typically drop lots of snow.  Like its tropical counterparts, there are varying degrees of strength. 

     This particular storm is very large--large enough and strong enough that it became a "named storm,"  like a hurricane would be.  It is moving slowly, so it's been snowing for over 24 hours here.  Right now, we have over 2 1/2 feet (nearly a meter) of heavy, wet snow in our yard.  Not all snow is the same. Sometimes, snow is light and fluffy.  Other times it's dry and powdery.  Sometimes it is icy crystals.

    This storm also has had strong, sustained winds--30-50 mph/48-80 kmph.  When the winds are that high, the snow blows around,  diminishing visibility like a sandstorm does.  When that happens, then the "snow storm" becomes classified as a "blizzard."   Last night, we even had thundersnow. Thundersnow is the Evil Genius' favorite kind of weather.  It's a thunderstorm with snow instead of rain.  It's pretty spectacular. 

Picture Courtesy of the National Weather Service

     Most of our snowstorms are not this severe.  This is a once-in-a-while treat. (I have friends who would disagree with me on the "treat" bit.)  My folks live about an hour from here, right on the coast.  Because of the weight of the snow causing trees and electric poles to fall, they don't have power, and the news reports flooding in parts of their city from the extra high storm tide.  According to the news, there are over 400,000 households in Massachusetts without electricity right now.  There's another 150,000 in Rhode Island without power. The other New England states also have considerable power outages.  It's part of life in the northeast.  Here at the old homestead, though, we haven't lost any trees.  Our power is up.  The fire is roaring in our pellet stove (a fire place insert that burns compressed wood pellets for more efficient heating). 

  When the weather is this severe, we get what is called a "Snow Day." That means school and work are cancelled for folks who don't need to be out on the roads. Driving on a lot of snow is very much like driving on icy mud. Vehicles get stuck, they spin out, they slide and crash into other things. It's dangerous. So, yesterday The Evil Genius had no school. Thing 1 , Thing 2, and I didn't have to go to work.

      Even folks who don't care for the snow enjoy a Snow Day. It's like an unscheduled holiday. I spent my Snow Day cooking, reading magazines, and watching dumb television shows with the Evil Genius. I played cards. I spent WAY too much time on the computer, along with a whole bunch of other folks enjoying their Snow Day.  I checked in with my extended family. Everyone is fine. We're hardy folks in the northeast.

      Because my husband is in charge of food services at a university, where the students live, he didn't get a Snow Day. In fact, he was quite busy, working with the university leadership to make sure that there were places on campus for his staff to sleep over last night. It's very rare, but yesterday the governor called a "driving ban." Nobody but emergency workers have been allowed to drive on the roads. So my Personal Chef needed to make sure his staff was safe AND that the students could get fed today. He arranged for meals for the other emergency work crews--campus police, facilities maintenance staff, infirmary staff--that were staying on campus. He even developed plans for the highly possible event that there was a major power outage. He still made it home before the storm got too severe, though.  
      Right now, my boys and dogs are having a ball.  They have already got us cleared out.  Thing 2 and his best pals (twenty-year-olds, mind you) have plans for an epic snow fort.  No surprise, they have recruited My Personal Chef, the biggest kid of them all, to help.


    Not wanting to be left out, the dogs are loving it, too. Our chocolate lab is leaping into snow banks and rolling around in it. The cocker spaniel tries to keep up. He's way too small though, and just gets buried in the drifts.

     So that is what it is like when it REALLY snows.  Now, excuse me while I put on another pot of coffee and whip up something warm for my boys to eat.


  1. WOW! That's deep, deep snow. Loved this slice of your currently very snowy life. Thanks for sharing.

    1. My car (because of the strong winds) have over 5 feet of snow on it! (I'm thing 1 by the way).

  2. I don't like the cold much. I'm a tropicana girl :)