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It’s Snowing, and it’s almost May

Categories: Weather

April 27th, and there is a couple of inches of snow on the ground. Enough so I’m wondering if the Montery School needs any landscaping help. It’s not the snow that’s disconcerting, it’s the 3-7 ” additional forecast for tonight. The temperatures yesterday were in the 60’s, and now it’s about 36.

Here’s a slideshow of some pictures of the snow. Click on them for a larger, colder, and slightly more depressing view.

Wind Damage

Categories: Trees, Weather

I’m happy to say that Middlebury didn’t suffer much for tree damage from the storm I wrote about last week. Peak wind gust was only 34 MPH, but power was still out on campus for the better part of the morning. From what I understand a tree fell on a line near a substation. I’ll bet it was nice to have a half of a snow day-bet you thought you out-grew those once you graduated high school. It was nice to see the students making a productive use of their time. And yes, the guys in our landscape department feel bad when we have to plow some of them over. Like real estate, people, it’s all about location, location, location. Think before you sculpt, please.

We lost some branches here and there, notably in some White Pines near Hadley House and Perkins. Some large dead wood also fell out of Sugar Maples near Warner and Starr. Our vigorous pruning of trees on campus prevented a lot more damage, though, as most wood that falls out of trees is dead wood, and we remove much of that before it falls. Two trees did break some live wood, and I feel badly for them.

One is a rare (for this zone) Lacebark Elm in the front quad. You can see the broken tree as you drive south on Route 30.

Lacebark Elm

Lacebark Elm

This is a special little tree, and fortunately the break, while large, probably won’t permanently disfigure the tree. The damage was primarily one large scaffold branch breaking away from the main trunk, and was not surprising. This union between branch and trunk was a weak one, characterized by included bark growing between the two. As the bark on both stem and trunk expand through the years, it pushes against each other, causing the separation to widen. As you can see in the trunk close-up, the dark colored wood was always exposed to outside air-it is the light colored wood that was the sole attachment, and that is where it broke.

Closeup of damage

Closeup of damage

Proper pruning when this tree was young would have prevented this from occurring. Unions like this are easy to spot, and when removed young cause no permanent damage to the tree.

The other significant damage that occurred was more surprising, and also more sad. The wonderful Russian Olive tree just north of the new McCullough plaza lost a couple large branches on the right side, and will be much more noticeable when removed, disfiguring an admittedly funny tree-possibly the state’s largest.

Russian Olive

Russian Olive

This small tree is more often a large shrub-making this specimen quite old. The damage on the left side was from excessive end weight. As the snow collected on the tips of the branches the main stem could no longer hold it, and it broke. The species is not known for very strong wood; being a shrub at heart that is not very surprising.

Damage on the Russian Olive

Damage on the Russian Olive

We’ll prune away the damaged branches as best we can, and attempt some pruning on the other side to balance the rest of the tree out. I’ve been asked about replanting more of this species, but the plant is considered an invasive species, and is currently on the watch list by the Vermont Invasive Exotic Plant Committee.  It’s wonderfully fragrant creamy yellow blossoms in June and July are followed by fruit widely spread by birds, replacing native plants. While birds do love this plant, better bird species richness is found in native plant stands. There are plenty of other fragrant trees and shrubs to pick from in June and July, but I do like the silvery leaves of this one.

Snow Day

Categories: Weather

First off-apologies to all who were looking for the Middlebury weather station today. As many of you know, we lost power on campus for a couple of hours this morning, and that wrecks havoc with the weather station. We don’t lose any data, as the weather station has battery backups to keep logging. The network connection it is on the station gets all wonky, though, and needs to be reset, which I just got a chance to do right now.

I’ll fill you in on what you missed. It snowed today, in case you hadn’t noticed. Snow reportsaround us are saying 11-17″ of snow. I’m calling it 14″ on campus, give or take. Truthfully, I’m not really sure. I’ve been shoveling snow all day, and have no idea how much fell. It just kept falling. And falling. The station recorded 1.08″ of precipitation, so it’s an 14:1 snow ratio. That means wet and heavy, a three advil night for many of us in the facilities.

What I am finding more interesting is the storm coming thursday night into friday. The Burlington Office of the National Weather Service is getting all excited in their normally stoic forecaster discussions. We could be in for an unusual storm.  Apparently, a cold front is coming up from Cape Hatteras, and occulding, or combining, with another front  right off the southern New England coast. The pressure with this storm is impressive, and is forecasted to bring strong easterly winds, with gusts of 50-60 MPH, particularly on the western slopes of the Green Mountains. (Breadloaf!) They are comparing this event to a storm on April 16, 2007 where there was damaging winds all along the slopes of the Green Mountains. Some of you may remember this as the Rutland “norricane”, which wiped out approximately2100 trees in the Rutland area. Fortunately, I don’t think we’re looking at much precipitation from this down here in the valleys, or maybe even just rain, as the warm easterly winds mix down. Also, as the weather service points out, rarely do we get significant winds and precipitation at the same time, it is usually one or the other.

For you weather geeks, most of this National Weather service forecasts I get from their forecaster discussion-something I’ve probably mentioned before. I think it’s the way various offices communicate with each other, and share ideas. I think it predates the internet-their straight text product reads like a time when bandwidth was measured in minutes, so you’d better write concise (there is an idea-blogs never would have made it before broadband connections, as idiots like me couldn’t afford to ramble on incoherently). Unabbreviated reads like this, but the weather service has a translation page, or I read it at the Weather Underground.

Main Quad Finished, and some Snow

Categories: Landscape, Weather

Snow, so far, is a very fluffy 12″, and it is still coming down. I’m betting another 3″ or so. The rain guage has only measured about .16″ of preciptation, just to give you an idea how fluffy the snow is, although I wonder how about the accuracy of that. That would make the snow/water ratio astronomical.

The Main Quad work is finsished, and for those of you that haven’t seen it yet I think you’re in for a treat. Here’s a couple of web cam shots, before and after. Enjoy the snow!

View from Old Chapel-Before

View from Old Chapel-Before

View from Old Chapel-After

View from Old Chapel-After

Lake Effect Snow

Categories: Weather

Being part of the snow removal crew at Middlebury, it’s a little disconcerting to awaken on a lazy Sunday morning, look outside the window, and see it snowing like the dickens. So I go downstairs, start the coffee (priorities), boot the computer, and look at the Old Chapel Web Cam. Phew, not snowing on campus. Fooled by lake effect snow again.

Fortunately, we don’t live in Buffalo, but we certainly do get lake effect snow in the Champlain Valley. Lake Champlain is deceiving, as it is only 12 miles wide at the widest point, and much less wide down our way. It is, however, 125 miles long, north to south. (While we’re at it, average depth is 65 feet, with the deepest part a whopping 400 feet. That’s down where I used to live in Charlotte, and I can remember getting the heebies cross country skiing over that area when the lake completely froze one year. The lake is about 700 square miles). Lake Effectsnow requires several meteorological items to align, the major two being fetch and temperature. Fetch is simply the wind blowing across the lake, picking up moisture.  The fetch needs to be at least 100 km, so the wind on Lake Champlain needs to be from the NNW, which it was this morning.

Lake Effect Snow Radar Map
Lake Effect Snow Radar Map

The temperature is the other major factor. The air temperature at altitude (850 mb temp, roughly 1500 feet up) needs to be 15 degrees celsius less than the lake temp. The air temperature this morning was about 15 degrees, and the lake was a balmy 43. So, as you can see on the radar map, no snow at Middlebury, where the white circle is, while at my house, due west of Middlebury, we are seeing snow.

There is a great paper (PDF) studying this phenomenon published by the Burlington Office of the National Weather Service. The updated forecast just called for several tenths of an inch more snow through 2 PM.

More

Yesterday’s Storm

Categories: Weather

Here at Middlebury we seemed to have missed the brunt of the storm all around us. Trees are down all around Lake Dunmore, East Middlebury, and up into Huntington. No major tree damage here, although some Weeping Willows look like the base of the chair you sit in after a haircut-we’ll be picking up sticks for a day or so. Snow Reports from around the area include 6″ in Cornwall, and 9″ in Bridport, while on campus we only seemed to be shoveling 3″. Our peak wind gust was 48 MPH, from the southeast at 2 PM. Some brave souls out making snowmen on Battell Beach went inside pretty quickly after that…

Snow, finally.

Categories: Weather

The National Weather Service is getting all excited about breaking the record of the latest date of first measurable snowfall (measurable meaning more than .1″). Being that they keep the record in Burlington, which didn’t get snow yesterday, they are poised to break it tomorrow. I never get too excited about records, what the hottest day was, the coldest, all that. It’s like baseball statistics-dry, interesting on the periphery, but not riveting reading.
Here in Middlebury we got about 1/10th of an inch, exactly .04″ in liquid form. (The weather station melts the snow and pretends it is rain.) The sidewalks and roads were warm enough to melt the snow as well, so facilities got this one off (yea!). Look for colder weather this week, and a big storm on Wednesday, the jury is still out as to amount of rain/snow/sleet/junk that may fall.

No Snow Yet

Categories: Weather

Still no snow in the Champlain Valley, and it’s almost the end of November. (No complaints) According to the National Weather Service, on average the first measurable snow in Burlington falls around November 6. Here’s the 10 latest snow falls, going back from 1906, along with the amount of snow in that entire season.

Season total
rank -date -snowfall (inches)
1. 12/7/1937 45.1
2. 12/5/1915 54.4
3. 12/1/1948 40.7
4. 11/30/1918 69.6
5. 11/30/1953 83.6
6. 11/30/1960 51.6
7. 11/28/1913 56.5
8. 11/27/1941 57.7
9. 11/26/1982 80.5
10. 11/25/1957 94.9

And no, I’m not making any predictions. There is a link on the right for the Long Term Forecasts from the weather service, if you wish. Have a good Thanksgiving all!

Yesterday’s Rain

Categories: Weather

The college weather station was down yesterday, related to the couple of power failures over the weekend. (One power failure at 3 in the morning, then 2 hours Sunday afternoon for an insulator repair) So, for those of you keeping track, my house in Weybridge (7 miles away, close enough) got 1 3/4″ of wonderful rain. Sorry it came on a weekend, but did we ever need it.

Forecasting Leaves

Categories: Trees, Weather

My prediction? Well, I’m thinking the leaves are going to be turning early this fall, and I think the colors will be brighter and more spectacular than usual. Here’s why… More