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 www.wildramblings.com in November 2011.