Posts Tagged winter weather
The forecasters predicted my area could receive as much as 6-8 inches of dry snow on January 7, but warm air pushed up from the south, so we ended up with 2.5 inches of sleet and 0.5 inch of snow on top. Normally, this would have disappeared in a day or two, but this time the frozen precipitation was accompanied by record cold. With ice covering the ground at my house, our thermometer registered 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit one morning, and 7 degrees the next morning. Nighttime lows “warmed’ into the teens after that.
Snow plows concentrated on highways; my small road didn’t get plowed until January 10, and again several times on January 11. Wonder Spouse and I stayed home, enjoying the slowed pace of snow days, and entertained by the crazy drivers navigating our hilly road covered by a sheet of ice that had even 4-wheel-drive vehicles sliding precariously.
Wonder Spouse conducted business as usual via conference calls and computer links. I spent most of my time alternating between reading and wandering around the yard taking photographs. Hence, the rest of this post is mostly photos of a snowy landscape that melted in two days when 60-degree temperatures arrived on January 11.
January 8th dawned at 3.5 degrees, and the thermometer never rose above 26 degrees. I stayed indoors; this southerner is not adapted for such temperatures. It “warmed” to the low 30s on January 9, and the mid-30s on January 10, so I ventured out several times for photos.
I had not seen deer during daylight hours in my yard for several months — until the snow fell. A herd of five braved broad daylight to forage beneath the feeders several times each day.
I enjoyed attempting to parse the tales told by myriad tracks left in the snow. I’ve no idea how one discerns between tiny bird feet. Deer prints were numerous, complete with skid marks on the hills when they punched into the solid layer of sleet lurking just below the veneer of snow on top.
The growing beaver pond and wetland on the other side of our creek was bedazzled by ice during the arctic blast.
We were treated to a spectacular sunrise the next day.
I walked out to survey the road at the end of our driveway.
Sunset on January 10 was so vivid that even my southeast-facing view of our floodplain was highlighted by a pink evening sky, which appeared just as a nearly full moon climbed through the trees.
Finally on January 11, warm southern air surged in, and the great melting began, as you can see by the slumping ice on the solar panels on our roof.
My final shot is blurry, but I could not resist the power of that almost-full moon, as it admired its reflection in the melting creek waters.
You’ve probably been hearing about the Big Snow that came to the East Coast of the US over the last few days. My corner of piedmont, North Carolina only caught the merest edge of it. But when you catch the edge of such a storm, you often don’t get all snow, and that’s what happened to my area. My yard got two inches of sleet on January 22, followed by about a half inch of snow on January 23. Areas no more than 25 or 30 miles from me got freezing rain — lots of it. Some of those poor folks still don’t have their power back on yet. I know how miserable they are. It’s happened to us during previous ice events.
Wonder Spouse and I were well prepared. The generator was hauled out and tested, extra food and water was acquired, cell phones were charged. And I put out extra suet and seed for the birds.
The sleet started early on the morning of January 22. I took occasional shots of wildlife activity through the windows of my warm living room while Wonder Spouse conducted business as usual from his home office.
About mid afternoon, a doe and her yearling stopped by the feeders to see what the birds might have knocked to the ground. They didn’t find much; hordes of white-throated sparrows had been cleaning up seed spills all day.
On the morning of the 23rd, we woke to a warm house — a great relief, because the weather forecasters had promised we would get a coating of freezing rain before dawn. But they were wrong. When the sky brightened, we saw wind-whipped snow falling — sometimes heavily, often merely flurries. After breakfast, Wonder Spouse refilled the bird feeders after we discovered that my boots were unable to grip the slick sleet-covered ground well enough to prevent falling.
I took all the photos during the two-day ice-fest from inside my living room, so they’re a bit less sharp than normal, but I think they convey a sense of what we were seeing.
Today we woke to cloudless blue skies, abundant sunshine, and light breezes. Sun reflecting on snow-covered sleet was blinding, but its potent warmth was most welcome. Soon the gutters began to gurgle as melting snow trickled off the roof. Wonder Spouse and I spent most of the day shoveling heavy sleet off of decks and walkways. We were nearly done when we heard a loud thud. The solar panels on the roof heated up faster than the shingles, causing the sleet covering them to slide onto the deck below — the deck we had just finished cleaning.
The good news is the panels were able to start generating power again today.
When we were reasonably sure the panels were done shedding ice, Wonder Spouse cleared the deck — again — while I tried to walk around the yard to take pictures. I managed to get a few, but the melting snow on top of the solid two inches of sleet was too slippery for me to negotiate any inclines, so my shots were limited.
From the top of the hill on the north side of our yard, I managed to capture the dawn redwood highlighted by a sun already sinking toward the western horizon.
All the plants that bloomed prematurely during our absurdly warm December have paid for their misplaced enthusiasm, as evidenced by the earliest flowers on my Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star.’
I couldn’t get down to the floodplain without sliding down the hill, and I wasn’t sure I could get back up the hill if I did slide down. So I settled for this more distant shot.
The moon rose this evening still nearly full and very bright as temperatures plummeted on an ice-covered landscape. When it first topped the ridge to our east, it was edged by almost autumnal colors. I was too lazy to grab the tripod, so the shot is fuzzy. Thus, I end this icy tale with a bright blur, which somehow feels right after a day filled with shoveling, and a promise of sore muscles on the morrow.
Are we there yet? To Spring, I mean. I don’t think I’m the only one hoping the arrival of March means sunshine and flowers are imminent. I’ve much greenhouse news to convey, but today, in acknowledgement of the snowstorm that brought most life to a screeching halt around here for the last few days, I offer you these wonderful photos, courtesy of the gifted eye of Wonder Spouse.
It wasn’t the snow that turned most of her flowers brown. That was the 1.6 degree night last week. The snow won’t harm the few still-pink buds trying to open.
Remember when I told you about our new solar panels here? It took four days for the snow to melt off the panels.
But that doesn’t mean the snow didn’t make the bare trees spectacular:
And, finally, a couple of snowy landscape scenes:
I’ll post soon on greenhouse seedling progress. My tiny green babies all survived and are growing larger by the minute.
I hope all my southeastern gardening friends survived and even enjoyed this latest round of Winter weather. Here’s hoping we can all be talking about our Spring gardens soon!
Here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina, winter is refusing to relinquish its grip. We’re not buried under feet of snow like our more northern neighbors, but the cold air refuses to head back to the Arctic, and frequent precipitation events teeter between rain and ice, often producing both forms in one episode.
Last Saturday, it snowed all day and into the night, but almost none of it lingered, because the previous day we had soared into the upper 60-degree range. It was fun to watch enormous wet snowflakes fall steadily while the Spring Peepers droned enthusiastically in the adjacent swamp. They didn’t quiet until the sky cleared and the temperatures plunged, turning melted snow into treacherous black ice.
Late winter temperature variations don’t seem to bother salamanders any more than they do Spring Peepers, as demonstrated by the top photo. That’s a salamander egg mass. We’ve observed several species of these amphibians on our property, so I’m guessing when I identify these eggs as those from a Spotted Salamander. I’m going by the description of egg-laying behavior at the link provided. Those black dots are the growing embryos encased by the gelatinous material that protects them until the new-born amphibians are ready to emerge.
Sunday morning after the sun melted icy walks, Wonder Spouse and I wandered up to the vegetable garden to discuss our immediate to-do list preparations for the spring garden. I’ve sowed quite a few (seven, I think) varieties of spring greens in the greenhouse. I’m hoping they’ll be ready for transplanting in mid-March, weather permitting. We have much to do to ready planting beds before that time — if winter will stop covering my garden in ice!
While we were there, we realized our abundant chive plants have begun putting out fresh shoots, despite winter’s persistence.
It’s a good thing that members of the onion family are relatively cold-resistant, don’t you think?
On Sunday night, temperatures plunged into the teens. The National Weather Service’s official recording station at our airport recorded a low of 18 degrees Fahrenheit. The thermometer on our hill got down to 13 degrees. Microclimate differences and the absence of nearby concrete and asphalt heat islands account for our consistently lower temperatures.
Fortunately, native plants are well adapted to our up-and-down temperatures, as evidenced by the native rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) that grows beside our back deck. This species is common in our mountains, but it does occur naturally in a few places in the Piedmont region, where so-called relict plant communities from the last glacial period survive to present day. I would never have planted this species where it grows in my yard, but it was here when we moved in 23 years ago, easily tripling in size since then, so I don’t argue with it.
Here is what the rhododendron looked like at 7:20 a.m. Monday morning, when our thermometer read 13 degrees:
See how sad the leaves look? The shrub is fine; this is how evergreens adapt to severe cold. They temporarily shut down their leafy water transport mechanism to protect leaves from damage. But the plant does look pitiful, as evidenced by this closer view:
A mere two hours later, the shrub’s protected southern exposure combined with strong sunlight helped the plant recover its composure.
So adept is this plant at its cold-recovery trick that you’d never know how sad it looked two hours earlier.
Such is the nature of Salamander Season here in the Piedmont. One minute, we’re shivering in frigid air, the next, sunlight and Spring Peepers warm us into spring garden dreams.
Friday’s forecast is calling for morning sleet that should morph into cold rain. Although inconvenient, I am grateful for every drop of precipitation. My county remains in moderate drought, a thirsty peninsula surrounded by well-watered counties to our east, north, and west. I will happily delay spring planting for mud-making rain, knowing we need that water to fight summer’s inevitable drought-worsening heat.
I was beginning to think we were going to have another winter like last winter, which was no winter at all. Finally, last Friday, the Arctic Express, as the weather seers call the Canadian air delivery mechanism, chugged into North Carolina.
What began as cold rain morphed by nightfall into water-laden snowflakes. The ground was so warm from the 70-degree weather preceding this event that we knew the snow wouldn’t survive long, prompting Wonder Spouse to set out with his camera as soon as it was light enough for photo-documentation. We got about an inch, but by the time the above photo was taken, about a half-inch on the ground had already disappeared.
As I had described previously, my flowering apricots began blooming about a month ago. The snow arrived just as they approached peak bloom. It will mar open flowers, but the buds still tightly closed might live to bloom another day — maybe. Here’s a close-up of the snow on Peggy Clarke:
Snow does a fabulous job of highlighting the cascading branches of the January Jasmine I wrote about here.
But like the flowering apricots, snow-on-petal contact does damage open flowers. Unopened buds should likely be fine.
Evergreen plants don’t enjoy heavy, wet snow. The Florida Anise-trees seem especially prone to collapsing under the weight of even such a light snow event:
Snow does a wonderful job of accentuating the shapes of bare tree branches. Weeping and cascading forms look especially lovely. Our Chinese Redbud demonstrates what snow can do for a plant:
This was an ideal snow event — small amounts on warm ground, thereby minimizing road hazards and cabin fever duration. However, it seems that once the gate to the Arctic Express is opened, closing it may prove somewhat difficult. Here in the central Piedmont region of North Carolina, we are in for the first bitter cold week we’ve had in almost two years. And now the weather seers are threatening us with a sleet event for this coming Friday.
Unlike snow, sleet is never good for a garden. Its weight is too much for branches almost immediately, and if the temperature line dances between sleet and freezing rain, ice cocoons everything. Branches break, power outages abound, winter earns its reputation as least-favored season.
But if the ice comes, we gardeners will deal with it, as we do with every challenge thrown at our plant charges. And if I end up huddled with Wonder Spouse in a chilly, dark house, I will try to focus on the benefits of the cold outbreak: fewer spring ticks, mosquitoes, and garden diseases.
Spring’s sure arrival will seem all the sweeter after winter’s cold embrace.