Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘snow storm

Fly South

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Cyndie made plans to spend a couple of weeks with her parents in Florida long before the details of the latest snowstorm had materialized and didn’t guess that her planned departure would be timed smack dab in the worst of the wind and snow. Luckily, the impending weather allowed for a no-charge rescheduling and she nabbed a seat a day earlier, right as the heavy weather was beginning.

That just meant a little delay while the ground crews worked frantically to plow runways and de-ice planes. Not unsettling at all for wary travelers, I’m sure.

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Cyndie is a seasoned airline passenger and has been through this routine multiple times, so I’m sure she was able to take it in stride. I can’t honestly attest to her level of confidence because I was not there. No, I am not in Florida today, unlike her and our two adult children visiting their grandparents over the MLK holiday weekend.

More power to them.

While they were enjoying the bocce courts under beautiful blue skies, I had a day filled with a fair amount of folly. I had hoped to swiftly plow, shovel, and rake snow off the roof so I could also entertain the pooch who was otherwise woefully neglected in the warm confines of the house. When I left her tethered outside with me where she could watch, Delilah just sat forlornly.

If I have to ignore her while I work, I decided she might as well be inside where I don’t have to witness her sad face every time I pass.

When I started up the ATV for plowing, I discovered one of the front tires had an audible air leak. It was spitting out some of the green sealer that had been an earlier attempt to solve the problem. All that did was delay the inevitable, it seems. Short of a quick fix to remedy the situation properly, I opted for frequent returns to the shop garage for added air from the compressor.

Worked well enough to get the main driveway open for travel. I would come back later to plow around the barn and hay shed.

After walking Delilah and eating lunch, I raked the valley of the roof over the front door and then unburied the steps. By leaving the rest of the roof for today, my hope was to quickly finish plowing before needing to tend to Delilah’s dinner.

Then the cable that lifts the plow broke in the middle of pushing a deep pile of snow at the edge of the driveway turnoff that drops toward the barn.

The hour before the dog’s dinner was spent rigging a way to lift the blade so I could drive back to the garage so I could work on reattaching the hook to the next section of cable. That’s a project that needs three hands, so with my two cold hands (and one bloody finger) I dragged it out long enough that dinner ended up being late.

Yes, I was thinking about my family who all just flew south.

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Quick Melt

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Yesterday was a day of blue sky and above freezing temperatures. The world around us responded emphatically.

It seems only fair. The winter storm that rolled over us last weekend came with its own significant emphasis. When I got to work on Monday, I was greeted by a three-foot drift that filled the sidewalk to our front door.

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I needed to shovel my way into work.

Yesterday’s swift melting was spring’s perfect response to the double-digit blast of snow.

The metal roof of the shop-garage is always a source of creative snow-melt. Before the large icicles had a chance to break off the edge of the roof, the entire mass of snow lost grip with the roof and slid down, curling as it rolled over the lip.

The sideways icicle made for a spectacular visual.

As the sun headed for the horizon, I spotted the withering snow mass covering the deck. I have no idea why the snow melted the way it did, but it became a blanket of patterned bumps that I have never seen before. Turn the image upside down and it could be a mammatus cloud formation.

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It didn’t feel possible last weekend, but I do believe spring is going to finally respond to the earth tilt that is lengthening our hours of sunlight.

Yep, we are finally getting a quick melt to this very long, slow winter. At this point, I’ll gladly take it.

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2018 at 6:00 am

Horses Endure

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Our horses seemed about as pleased with the monumental April weekend of snow as we were. Despite the weeks of being confined to stalls at the beginning of the year, the relentless onslaught of blowing snow had them eager to get back indoors again.

In the picture above, you can see that Cayenne seems to have stepped up to the front position, which hints at her moving into the leadership void that was left by Legacy’s departure. We’ve noticed several instances lately where this new hierarchy appears to be normalizing. Dezirea, the senior mare, looks to be comfortable maintaining her usual position as the assistant manager, overseeing things from the back of the line.

There was a fair amount of urgency in their attitudes when it came time to bring them in each afternoon. Once inside, out of the wind and wet, the horses calmed significantly.

In the mornings, they willingly step out again for some fresh air, but after a few hours in the storm, they start to look for signs we are preparing to bring them back in.

When we didn’t get to it as quickly as they wished on Sunday when the snow was falling fast and furious, we started to hear a fair amount of vocalizations from them, expressing rather clearly that they felt they had endured enough of the harsh conditions.

It’s going to be a muddy mess out in the paddocks for a while now, but I think the arrival of some sunshine today, and again later in the week, will go a long way toward soothing their recent frustrations.

As it will for us all, I’m sure.

I can’t wait for April weather to actually get here for real.

As for this “Apruary,” we’ve had enough.

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Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

What Else?

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There is nothing else for me to write about today. Our everything this weekend is buried by this April snow storm event. Twenty four hours after the last picture I posted yesterday, the view doesn’t look all that different.

We got pummeled by windblown snow all day long. I think our total accumulation is somewhat reduced by periods of tiny, sleety snowflakes that dropped straight down from the sky between the blustering gusts of blizzard winds. The drifting snow on the ground is very dense.

It looks like a little more accumulation, viewed on the deck where I shoveled a path to the rack of firewood.

The classic comma spiral of the storm, visible on the national radar composite, is providing us a little break from heavy precipitation this morning.

Just like the eye of a hurricane, the calm won’t last.

We could yet have a significant accumulation blanketing us after the back side of the storm makes its way slowly east.

I can’t remember, did the ground-hog see his shadow or not, back in February?

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Written by johnwhays

April 15, 2018 at 10:11 am

Drifted Driveway

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My system of plowing in the middle of big snowstorms to avoid dealing with too many inches at one time doesn’t work so well when you are out-of-town during the snowfall events.

There were two storms while we were in Florida over the weekend.

Mid-morning yesterday, I received a phone call from McKenna. First, she explained that her boyfriend got his truck stuck trying to get out of the driveway. Second, she got her truck stuck trying to pull him out.

It turned out that the assessments she gave us in response to our queries over the weekend from Florida about whether the driveway needed to be plowed, or not, were based on how things looked out on the back deck, not the actual driveway.

The wind blowing across the driveway from the open field at the top of the first hill took the roughly 10-inches that fell in two separate events on Thursday and Saturday and firmly packed it into about a 36-inch deep drift. The deck on the back of the house benefitted from wind clearing a lot of the snow off and sunshine melting what was left.

It didn’t look very intimidating.

The driveway, however, looked pretty darn intimidating, but they didn’t realize that until they had both tried driving into it.

By the time I got home, they had successfully dug through the worst part of the deep snow and were able to get their trucks out. I spotted their tracks and decided to see what my Crosstrek could do.

About two-thirds of the way up the first slope, I could see that the undercarriage of their trucks had pressed on the snow significantly. I knew then I was in trouble. I’m pretty sure my car has less clearance than their trucks.

Luckily, Cyndie was there with a shovel. She had smartly parked her car on the roadside, having arrived when the trucks hadn’t been completely extricated yet. I dug out enough of the snow from beneath the car that I was able to move forward and keep going toward the house.

Being cocky, I forged ahead and tried to back the car into the garage like I usually do. I got stuck again, now spinning on glare ice beneath all the snow.

After a little more shoveling, I got the car into the garage. Then it was time to change clothes and jump on the Grizzly, to see if I would be able to plow all the heavy, wet snow.

It was a trick, and the driveway didn’t give in without a fight. The drift was too much for the ATV. Every time I made a pass, the firmly packed snow would push the Griz out and around. It looked like I was plowing an “S” curve.

I dug out a section to find where the pavement ended, which revealed how much snow was left to move. Much of that volume was moved by hand, with a scoop shovel, instead of with the plow.

While I was plowing down by the road, I paused to pick up the pieces of our mailbox, which pops apart when blasted by snow flying off the county plow. It was easily repairable.

Once the driveway was wide enough to easily fit vehicles, I was able to move on to cleaning snow off the roof near the front door, and then shoveling the heavy, wet snow again, to clear the steps and walkway.

We are definitely not in Florida anymore.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

So Much

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What a difference a day makes. On Monday, the storm was inundating us with so much snow that we struggled to deal with it. The intensity created an impression that it might never end. Yesterday, if it weren’t for the huge amount of snow now covering everything, it was as if the storm had never happened. It’s like the drama of Monday was just a dream.

Yesterday, the interstate was almost dry, the sun was out, and visibility was crystal clear.

When I got home from work, I had to immediately pick up where I had left of with the plowing on Monday. After a few quick passes up and down the driveway to clear the couple of inches that had fallen overnight, I focused my attention on clearing the area around the hay shed and barn.

It was a laborious and tedious process of wrestling the Grizzly through deep snow, on the icy slope dropping from the driveway to the barn. I got stuck several times, but scrambled my way out each time by some crazy maneuvering back and forth, to and fro.

Other than some cleanup needed around the edges with a shovel, I’m declaring the driveways now complete.

You know that clean deck I was showing off a week or so ago?

That will be the next project. The wind didn’t blow it clean this time.

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Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2018 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , , , ,

Big Dump

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Winter decided to dump a big snowfall on us over a very short amount of time yesterday. I knew it was going to be enough that I should get out in the middle of it to plow at least once before it was all over, but I wasn’t sure when that would be.

It took longer than we expected for the snowfall to start, and then the accumulation built rather slowly to about 2 inches. The next time I glanced outside from my perch by the fire, that amount had more than doubled. It was time to get out and plow or else it would be too late for my plan of working with reasonable amounts of snow.

As it was, the Grizzly ATV, as a snow plow, was just barely capable of the task. The first thing I did was get it buried and stuck sideways off the edge of the pavement where all four wheels just spun on the icy layer below. I needed to dig out all the snow packed underneath it, and then spin those tires until I gradually slid sideways enough to become mobile again.

After that, I decided to stay focused on just opening up the main driveway as wide as I could get it. The Grizzly does not command full control when trying to push large amounts of snow. The snow pushes back and tends to dictate what progress can be made.

I tried making more passes, while taking smaller bites with the blade each time, but the outer edges just grew unwieldy and the snow rolled back down behind me, such that I wasn’t really gaining much added width.

In the areas of tight confines, we resorted to hand shoveling, which allowed me to toss the snow up over the massive banks that quickly developed.

The snow was coming down at peak rates of multiple inches per hour while we worked, covering our tracks as fast as we made them, but every shovel width made was that much less snow I would need to move by the end of the storm. Cyndie was working up around the house and I was by the shop garage.

I watched the county plow truck make two passes in front of our property which meant there was going to be a new pile at the end of the driveway to clean up. Cyndie headed to the barn to put the horses in for the night and I finished cleaning edges where she had shoveled.

Cold, wet, and tired, I was ready for a break, but I noticed the falling snow had slowed considerably. It would be dark soon and there were already three fresh inches on the driveway in the hour-and-a-half since I first plowed.

I started up the ATV again and cleaned the driveway a second time. Of course, doing so throws snow in a couple spots that need to then be cleaned up by hand shoveling. My gloves were soaked through and I so wanted to be done, but there was a dog waiting anxiously to be let out for her afternoon walk.

Make that “run.” Delilah dragged me along as fast as I could trot as we headed down the plowed driveway while she searched for any opening to explore. There were none. It was down the driveway and back, except for a couple surprising leaps into the deep snow that she quickly aborted.

I measured 9 inches while shoveling, and I could see we got at least 3 more by the time I plowed the second time. It fell hard and fast all afternoon. I definitely made the right decision to stay home yesterday. That was a really big dump.

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Written by johnwhays

January 23, 2018 at 7:00 am

Different Landscape

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As predicted, by Friday morning our landscape didn’t look at all like it had on Thursday. While the bulk of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area squeaked by with nary a flying flake, our county rode the sharp northwest edge of precipitation and Wintervale Ranch received a respectable 9-10 inches by the end of the day yesterday.

Taken late Wednesday afternoon.

Taken late Wednesday afternoon.

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Taken Friday before noon.

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I took the snowy picture shortly after plowing the driveway in the morning, about mid-way through the duration of snowfall. Tracking the total accumulation involves some guess-work because the ground was so warm that snow was melting from the bottom up. The flakes also settle under their own weight and then the gusts of wind were whipping up some fair drifting.

dscn5854eThe National Weather Service report from just south of us was 11 inches and the next reading to our northwest was 9.5 inches. Since we are located between those, and our anecdotal evidence coincides, I feel justified with the assessment I presented in the opening paragraph.

Plowing was a hassle because the bottom layer of the snow was heavy and wet, and the ground was soft from the recent thaw. It led to the blade tearing up bad spots of pavement, as well as the turf on each side of the driveway.

I like snow removal to look neat and tidy, but I was making a mess of things. Also, since I was plowing in the middle of the storm —to turn it into two small efforts instead of one big one— the new falling flakes were piling up as fast as I cleared what was already on the ground.
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It didn’t look like a job well-done, but it was perfectly fine for a mid-event effort.

Cyndie had put the horses inside the barn Thursday night in anticipation of the snow’s arrival, which had been predicted to start out as rain. We checked the radar several times that evening, for an indication of the timing of the precipitation’s start, but even though it appeared to already be snowing overhead, it was actually still dry outside on our grounds by the time we went to sleep.

When morning dawned, it was all white outside.

As the blowing and snowing became the obvious order of the day, it got easier to make a decision to stay indoors by the fire all afternoon. I played my guitar until I started to get sleepy. We watched a movie.

It feels a little like winter around here again.

It will be strange come Monday when I drive a few miles toward the cities for work and return to the places nearby that didn’t get the snow. We are now under a completely different landscape for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2017 at 7:00 am

Wicked Winter

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Photo taken by Cyndie Hays

This is one for the record books, I tell ya. I’m a big fan of winter, but this one may have exceeded my capacity to cope. We went for a little walk late last night to check out the drama, and I couldn’t really enjoy it. It looked too much like last May when we received 18 inches of snow overnight and suffered a huge amount of damage to our trees.

It is heavy and sticky and will be a real challenge to clear our driveway and pathways.

Before I came in, I decided to try to shovel the front steps and sidewalk. That provides a reference so I can see how much more snow fell overnight, and it will make today’s effort to clear it that much easier.

It was a bear. VERY sticky. We had a few hours of rain yesterday morning, before it turned to snow, so it is soft underneath, but then freezes quickly when it gets exposed. Just an all around treat to shovel and plow.

While I was out there, somewhere beyond the reach of our porch light, in the woods to the north of our property line, a large tree cracked and crashed to the ground. Maybe it was just because I was there to hear it, but it sure made a very loud sound.

Before our little walk, the electricity toggled off and on a couple of times while we were watching a movie, which again reminded me of that storm last spring. One significant difference between that storm last year and this one, though, is that last year’s happened so late in the season, it was logical to expect it would be the absolute last one of the year. This year…? It scares me to imagine what we have ahead of us for what remains of the wicked winter of 2013-2014.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2014 at 7:00 am

Posted in Wintervale Ranch

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Messed Up

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Things are seriously twisted. It should not look like this in the first week of May:

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Yes, it is absolutely beautiful. But, this isn’t the time for it! There are some farmers who won’t be getting their crops in the field in time this year. It is just too wet around here. It was already wet. Now that has been compounded. It is even soggier, and getting later in the year.

I don’t mean to seem ungrateful. It was desperately dry last fall, and all this moisture will be good toward making up for that. It is a bit sad that it comes with a cost, though. The weight of all that snow really did a number on the tree branches. Standing out in the middle of the storm with all other sounds muffled by the snow, the snapping and popping of limbs giving way stood out like the report of rifles at a gun range.

On Wednesday evening, as I drove home from work, the weather reports on the radio indicated there was a chance for large accumulations of snow in a narrow band from the southwest to the northeast across their listening area. That narrow band ended up over our place. When I woke up in the middle of the night, I could see it was already a significant amount. By Thursday morning, it was over-the-top ridiculous.

I had gotten up a bit earlier than usual, trying to contemplate whether or not to attempt the drive to work. The electricity kept kicking out, and then coming back on again. We knew it was a signal that lines were being affected. Finally, around 5:30 a.m., it went dark and stayed dark. Losing electricity means we have no power to pump water from our well, no lights or electricity for our appliances, and no fan for our furnace.

We plotted to use our battery-powered devices sparingly. I just happened to have my phone on when a call came from our geothermal furnace company. He said that he had completed the quote for that backup generator we had inquired about, and wanted to send it to me. I expect he feels quite confident in our willingness to accept the value of his offer, as we read it by flashlight, huddled next to the fireplace.

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Trees falling and branches breaking under the heavy load.

It is funny how, on one hand, we like to exclaim how perilous our situation was, yet at the same time, could adapt to it like it was a pretty posh camping expedition. Overnight, the fireplace helped hold the house temperature in a comfortable range. We collected water that was dripping off the roof, to pour into the toilet tank for flushing. We went to bed when it got dark. It wasn’t that hard to cope.

The difficulty that we struggled with, was not knowing how long we might be in this predicament. By leaving our refrigerator and freezers closed, we could last a moderate duration of an outage. It turned out to be about 28 hours until our power was restored in this incident. Once we get our generator installed, we won’t have that concern.

One other problem I suffered was, getting a sunburn, through the clouds, on my unprotected face. When I am out clearing snow like this in January, the sun is never high enough to be a problem. It just didn’t occur to me at the time, that it was a much higher month-of-May sun up there over the snow clouds.

My whole sense of normal is completely messed up.

Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2013 at 7:00 am