Frosting on the Cake

Like white frosting on a layer cake the deep snow of October 29th and 30th buried shed leaves not yet raked, green lawns not yet faded to brown, boats not yet winterized, and memories of summer last. Somehow it didn’t even seem odd. Two days prior we had 5 inches of heavy, wet snow and with this snow storm it brought our total snow cover to about 30 inches. That we are adorned with this type of snow before Halloween meant a veritable disaster for the low lands where the leaves had not yet fallen. It was a poor visual foliage season by most observer’s accounts, but the early loss of leaves was in the end a saving grace for the areas of higher elevation. Throughout the Connecticut River Valley from Old Lyme Connecticut to Bellows Falls Vermont whole trees and branches laden with bright foliage and covered with heavy snow plummeted to the snowy earth below. Power lines were destroyed, roads and travel ways were blocked, and the Valley once again was over wrought with a weather disaster.

Flash back to June 1. An unusual tornado rolled through Western Massachusetts wreaking havoc in a major way over 40 miles long and a half a mile wide. Thousands were made homeless by this natural disaster, homes were lost in the hundreds, and the landscape was changed from forest to a ragged clear cut. The areas impacted by this less than once in a lifetime storm is not even close to being remedied. That will take years. To make matters worse a powerful microburst ripped branches off of trees and toppled already unsteady trees only a month and a half later on July 28 in many of the same areas that were wrecked by the tornado. On August 23rd the entire area was shaken violently by an earthquake whose epicenter was in Virginia, and on August 28th the remains of hurricane Irene forged its way up the Connecticut River Valley dumping as much as a foot of rain in some areas. The hardest and most rain fell on the east slopes of the Berkshires. Major floods resulted. The order of which is not supposed to happen but once in two hundred and fifty years. Roads were washed away, houses and businesses swept into heavy currents, farm land not only buried but some washed away forever. Bridges were pushed aside like they were made out of a child’s erector set, and people’s lives forever changed by this monumental disaster.

Following this devastating flood were weeks of rain. In fact in the area where I lived we received another 35 inches of rain in the next six weeks. The total between Irene and all of the rogue storms was a little over 46 inches of rain in a month and a half. Unprecedented rainfall by anyone’s account in this region. Just as the waters were receding in both our rivers and soils we received an unusual amount of snow on October 27th. Five inches of heavy wet snow was laid to rest on central New England. Truly an unusual, but not unprecedented event in this region. Two days later a nor’easter rolled up the coast. In the mountains of western Massachusetts and southern Vermont the temperature never got out of the mid twenties. Snow fell as hard as three inches per hour at some locations and in the hills snow amounts peaked out at between 24 and 32 inches on top of unfrozen earth that did not respond well to snowplows cleaning the road surfaces.

On this day, nearly a week after the nor’easter that rolled up the Atlantic coast many in the Valley still do not have power. Although this is not a tragedy, it is mighty inconvenient. In the lowlands schools and businesses are still closed and people have jumped ship fleeing to God only knows where to resume a life with showers, hot food, and electronics.

And I have to wonder. Folks in the west and southwest are in a drought of biblical proportions and where fires rage out of control. The good residents of the northeast are facing climatic change like never measured before (tornadoes, floods, torrential rain, heavy snow with foliage still present). Is this going to be the new normal as the result of climate change? Yes, I have to wonder. And I don’t particularly like where my thoughts are leading me.

What comes next, locusts?

Written for in November 2011.

  • craftygreenpoet

    That’s a lot of early snow! Here in Edinburgh we’re having warm sunny weather, it feels like summer or at least early September…. If this is climate change, it feels quiet pleasant even though it makes me worry, just for being so entirely out of step with the real seasons.

    Thanks for your comment on my blog, I certainly know that Canada Geese were introduced over here into parks and wildlife collections and they have naturalised themselves.

  • Wild_Bill

    Some predict that climate change will melt the polar ice caps, fresh water will inundate the North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream will get pushed south by the heavier fresh water, and Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the British Isles will become very cold.  Considering your latitude it is only the Gulf Stream that keeps you warm.  Perish the thought of it heading south!

  • Wild_Bill

    Some predict that climate change will melt the polar ice caps, fresh water will inundate the North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream will get pushed south by the heavier fresh water, and Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the British Isles will become very cold.  Considering your latitude it is only the Gulf Stream that keeps you warm.  Perish the thought of it heading south!

  • Wild_Bill

    Some predict that climate change will melt the polar ice caps, fresh water will inundate the North Atlantic, the Gulf Stream will get pushed south by the heavier fresh water, and Iceland, Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the British Isles will become very cold.  Considering your latitude it is only the Gulf Stream that keeps you warm.  Perish the thought of it heading south!

  • Emily

    I’ve been wondering about how you fared during this storm. What a crazy weather season. Your comment about locusts made me laugh, but at the same time — exactly, right? No snow yet for us in MN. I’ll be curious to see whether this winter is as cold and snowy as the last. Beautiful (if not eerie) photos. Hope the white is bringing you visual enjoyment, at least.

  • Wild_Bill

    The snow is melting quickly and as it disappears I realize that I will miss it.  Nice to see coyote and deer tracks, but far fewer than I expected.  I wonder if they started their journey downhill early this year.  Probably not.  No matter what surprise mother nature brings us I will be happy to receive it.  Life is precious.

  • Teresaevangeline

    There’s an ad on television showing the planet Earth with a voice-over, as though it is Mother Earth herself talking, accompanied by videos of all the various destructive weather over the past year. She says she’s sorry for the radical responses, but she’s “been under a lot of stress lately.”  It really brought home to me just how much we are stressing this planet and it’s bound to create some reactions that seem out of the ordinary. It’s a living breathing organism and we are not treating her with the love and respect she undoubtedly deserves. With 7 billion people all pushed together on the few land masses that exist, along with developing a paradigm of, pardon my language, shitting in our own nest, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

    Beautiful post. I think I’m actually looking forward to the snow. Yeah, I say that now…. :)

  • sandy

    Geez, I am not going to complain at all about our weather. At least you don’t have to worry about dust storms this year, anyway. What is your take on this unusual year?

    BTW, I was surprised that our little bit of snow (5.2 inches) took until today to melt. I guess the ground was cooler than I thought.

  • Wild_Bill

    Yes, the real story is yet to be told.  Humans have treated the very life form that supports them with great disrespect.  Only a fool soils its own nest. 

    Perhaps the crazy weather will start waking everyone up.  Maybe it will be our call to action.  It is difficult to understand how people drive around with dazed looks on their faces and don’t see the proverbial handwriting on the wall.

    No, we won’t have locusts next, but perhaps something far worse.  There is still time if we understand both the gravity of the situation, and urgency with which we have to respond. 

    Where there is life there is hope.

  • Wild_Bill

    I believe that we are just beginning to see the impacts of climate change.  It is not being called global warming anymore because as weather and climatic patterns change it may be warmer for some and colder for others.  Yes, the planet is heating up but it is unlikely that this will occur evenly.  I believe there is still time to react, but not a lot.  First the human race must wake up.  Next it must respond uniformly and in unity to correct the problem, and third we must learn from our errors and not repeat our past mistakes.

    Yep, the ground is cooler.  Winter is on the way.  And snow that will last is on the not so distant horizon.

  • Montucky

    Great photos! No matter what else, it’s gorgeous! 

    Personally, I wish that all of the talk about global warming would go away because it channels thinking into just the one problem when there are a myriad of human-caused problems that will confront us very soon. Everything we should be doing to mitigate climate change we should be doing anyway and for more than the climate change reason. We have to start treating our natural host a lot differently or the question will be, which natural breakdown will threaten our species first. My bet is the lack of clean water.

  • Wild_Bill

    Potable water is already a world wide problem and getting worse every day.  And you are correct about the myriad of problems that face our planet, nearly all human caused.  But climate change will likely make the others more potent; water for example will become even a more precious resource in areas where large populations are dependent upon glacial melt water which will soon disappear. 

    At 7 billion people there are likely too many for out current infrastructure that provides food, water, and energy.  And while the developed world has decreased its birth rate much of the undeveloped world is increasing its birth rate.  A real problem, indeed.

  • Out on the prairie

    Nice to stay away from this white stuff for a bit. thanks for the thoughts, I am a wimp having to go to docs.

  • Wild_Bill

    With luck the next snow storm will wait until just after Thanksgiving!  The crazy weather could even bring ice instead of snow, 50 degree temps in the winter, or deep, deep cold.  Who knows?  Hoping you are feeling better.

  • Barbara

    Oh my! Fabulous photographs – but the cost? and the future cost? I’m with you about climate change Bill, it is perhaps the most recognizable symptom of humankind’s ridiculous approach to this planet – our home – and its many resources. There was so much here that we truly had the Garden of Eden – but we’ve wasted, destroyed, neglected and I could go on, but you’ve said it all much better than I could.

    Truly I hope that more and more people wake up and wonder and begin to take serious action. Perhaps the sit-ins  - the Occupy Wall Street ect that are taking place in various cities around the globe will help to have an impact. It’s all so tightly tied together, every drop of water we waste, every bit of pollution we create. I’m crossing my fingers and saying prayers that something can be saved from what I personally see as looming disaster. 

    But the photographs – the astounding beauty! I understand the damage, the repeating natural disasters, but for today, I’m going to drink in the beauty of your images Bill. I’ll be like Scarlett O’Hara and think about what more I can do about climate change tomorrow.

    You have captured images few get to experience. So well done, as is your plea to humankind to WAKE-UP!

  • WildBill

    Thanks Barbara you and I certainly do think alike.  The only thing we can do is keep spreading the message.  The first message is the natural world is a true and fragile wonder.  The second message is we have not done a good job of living within its capabilities.  The third message is time is getting short to make corrections and we must get going now.

  • Ratty

    Seeing things like this makes me a little bit afraid right now. Living around Detroit for most of my life, our winters have been lighter than everywhere all around us. I always wondered if the lakes caused this. But now that I’m in Iowa for the winter, I know that I’ll be seeing a lot more snow. I keep wondering if I’m ready for this change.

  • Wild_Bill

    You are a pretty adaptable guy Ratty, and you really enjoy the great outdoors more than most, I would say.  Yes, Iowa will bring colder and snowier winters but this will be an adventure for you.  Your adventurous spirit will carry you through and when spring comes you’ll realize there were never any worries to be had.  Can’t wait to hear about your new adventures in Iowa.

  • Al

    You’ve had quite the year where you live, some very unusual natural occurrences. By late October we’ve almost always had snow, and back in ’97, the area I now live in had a 54-inch fall the last Friday of October. But this year you’ve got us beaten, we’ve only had 19 inches of snow at my house so far.

  • Wild_Bill

    I have two nieces that live in the Rocky Mountains, as did I forty years ago.  You folks get a lot more snow than we do because of the great altitude that grace’s most of your landscape.  It’s usually dry powder, to boot.  We here in New England get mostly coastal storms between late Nov. and mid April.  The snow varies from wet and heavy to dry powder, but in no where near the volume that you people get at 8,000 feet plus. 

  • Out Walking the Dog

    Scary post to go with the scary weather and environmental events. But I agree with Barbara – how beautiful!  You know, I remember the discussion about climate change back in the 70s and how it seemed like the events would be so far in the future. Well, the future, frighteningly, is now. It’s such a difficult time what with the economic disaster affecting so many of us, and a sense of apprehension about what’s happening on the political front. I am an optimist by nature, but this is one hell of a time. Seeing beauty and connecting to nature certainly helps.

  • Wild_Bill

    In changing times life is, by definition, scary.  We should all be prepared, individually, to deal with the hand we are given.  That being said, our first order of business should be to change what we can to ameliorate the impacts of climate change, principally by reducing our carbon dependent culture.  And educating all as to the sensitivities and beauty of our natural world is essential too.

  • Sunisaxeman

    Hi Bill I have been following your blog for the last year and I have taken the liberty of adding you to my favorite blogs I think we enjoy some of the same things and share some of the same concerns. I really enjoy reading of your adventures.

    All the best.

  • Wild_Bill

    Thank you very much Guy!  I’ll be sure to check out your blog today.

    Try reading some of the older entries by clicking on articles.  There are about 200 to choose from!

  • Jack Matthews

    First, Bill, what fantastic photographs.  I particularly like your last photo, but I see that foliage has not dropped and though the color and snow is delightful, I read your post and know that branches and stems will snap.  Second, what next?  Who can say, but there will be a lot more muddling around before action is taken to restrict man’s affect upon the climate, air, soil, etc.  Your listing of the problems up in the East is just astonishing!  The evidence seems clear, but we have those that are anti-science and are incompetent to help us out of this mess.  Locusts?  Sure thing, that is next.  I have tumbleweeds like you can’t believe building up in the corrals — never seen so many before.  Bill, I hope your recovery is going well. 

  • WildBill

    Very few branches were broken because the snow was very light and most of the trees that had leaves were oak.  As you know oak is very strong.  I have no idea what is next either, but I do know this.  We have a huge problem forming that everyone in our country seems to want to ignore.  Time is short.  If people think the economic crisis is tough, they have a big surprise coming.  This climate change situation has the potential to make a mere recession look like a proverbial walk in the park. 

    Turned the corner only a week or two ago on the recovery.  I am finally progressing well.  It will still take some time but all should go well.

  • craftygreenpoet

    There are all sorts of things that could happen to the Gulf Stream and yes we could get a much colder climate here, in fact the last two winters have been much colder and more wintry than we’ve been used to in my lifetime

  • Wild_Bill

    Have you enjoyed the more wintery weather?  Certainly Scotland has had severe winters, perhaps in the distant past.  There is so much to enjoy in the winter, so many wonderful outdoor activities!

  • Hudson Howl

    Hi Bill. Thinking of you from time to time. I suspect the transition into recovery mode is a constant struggle with the mind wanting to move forward faster than the body is willing to allow. As much as you wanted to get out there shovel that white shtufffs.

    Great images! ……….Probably the best I have seen depicting the storm. You must have gotten the full brunt of it in your neck of the woods. A big inconvenience to say the least. Yet an incredible experience to witness. Our equivelent here to a nor’easter, is lake effect snow sqauwls coming off  Lake Huron and Georgian Bay (occasionally off Lake Erie and Lake Ontario if the wind is right ). Though the snowfall tends to be more localized.

    There is no disputing that Global Warming and Climate Change is occurring and much of it if not all of it due to human influences. Apprieciating the natural world is really about all I can muster. Part of me hopes, the natural world will be better at taking care of itself then we humans can or ever will. Part of me frets that it is truly out of hands now. That things may over a long period of time be corrected, we just won’t like the way the natural world goes about it. That said am going to remain hopeful, more out of a belief that being fatalistic is not productive and often hinders change.

    Another great post Bill and I thank you!

  • Wild_Bill

    I could not agree more.  Fatalism will only hinder any possibility that we will return to sanity and lessen our impacts to this most beautiful of all planets.  I meditate, pray, contemplate every day that we will learn quickly the error of our ways.  And that we have the courage to change our life styles so that the look around the next bend is just as beautiful as places already seen and visited.  There are a lot of choices to be made as a civilized society, and I hope we choose the correct path that allows us to journey into a healthy future. 

  • Hudsonhowl

    ‘that the look around the next bend is just as beautiful as places already seen and visited’, well said Bill.  This may not be your style of music, but here’s a link to a song that is similar to your line thinking.

  • WildBill

    I’m listening to this song as I write this reply.  Beautiful, absolutely my test in music.  Thanks!

  • Find an Outlet

    Being ‘one’ is never going to happen. Nobody wants to do what really needs to be done, to stop the breeding of humans. One of my favorite movies is Starship Troopers—my favorite line is: “I wanna be a mom. It’s easier to get a license if you’ve served.” (Answering why she joined the military fighting an interplanetary war.) I know I sound crazy being moved by disaster movies, but I honestly believe that is the only way to get our pathetic species to work together. Storms and tsunamis and droughts, etc., are devastating but races and religions still hate each other and try to outbreed each other and no mere flood is going to change that. Doesn’t even matter to them that they can’t feed their children. Let’s face it—humans hate each other. At no time in history have people lived in peace.

    All we can do personally is prepare, physically and emotionally. Stay strong, toughen up, and brace yourselves.


  • Wild_Bill

    An interesting perspective.  You may be correct.  But given I believe in the power of intent, I choose to believe that we will learn to not be so self serving.  But you are right, there is no evidence that supports my hope.  Humans have been amazingly consistent throughout history, and not in a good way!

  • Hudsonhowl

    Dogs do it. Bears will do it for hours on end it. Most living organisms do it in some form or another.  Scratch an itch till they get that pesty little flea bitten varmint off their body. I wonder along the lines of Debra’s thinking. Giant storms, tsunamis, droughts and other phenomenons might the earth be itching it’s back. To get rid of us? To shake our tree and change our thinking? And get some much needed relief. Maybe the Earth is well ahead of us fixing the problem and is implementing a pest control program on its own.  Maybe Debra is right.

  • Wild_Bill

    The earth, I believe, is one living organism, of which, we are a small part.  Like any other living organism it has the ability, built into its own mechanisms, to heal.  This planet will do whatever necessary to survive.  If we are a cancer it will attempt to eradicate us.  If we were a savior or protector it would tend to support us.  The choice has always be ours.

  • Hudsonhowl

    A very wise assessment.

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