December 28, 2010

Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010

It floated in innocently enough. A few flurries here and there, nothing terribly problematic. They faded. A few hours passed, and they began earnest, and eventually with a vengeance. I had run my errands on Christmas Eve and had stocked up so I didn't need to make a run to the grocery store for milk. The kitties would be happy. I would have milk for my coffee. It could do whatever it wanted out there. And, not unexpectedly, it did.

By Sunday evening on this Boxing Day 2010 - a wonderful British holiday tradition you should check out if you don't know about it (and it has nothing whatsoever to do with pugilistics) - the winds were howling like I'd never seen or heard out here in the country. The neat thing was I could literally see the winds since they were whipping the snow into a complete frenzy right outside my windows! There were moments with the way the winds were sweeping through the trees, and all around the house, swirling the snow, that it literally was like I was watching white mini-tornadoes! Seriously...their velocity and twisting motion was staggering. I was glad I was able to watch it, as if it was some kind of weird, white, Weather Channel documentary, from the safety and warmth of the house. Phew!

By morning, the snows continued, but the bulk of the accumulation was already well on the ground and roads. Other parts of the Northeast well might have been more inundated than we, but for this upstate New York region, my county and my town got the brunt of the storm in these parts, according to the local television newscasts. Twenty inches, possibly more, 5-foot drifts. It was more than enough.

The view (above) out my front door yesterday morning, after the storm had passed and the sun emerged.

For all the years (half a century-plus) I've lived here (all of my life, actually), I've seen big snowstorms and blizzards. This was one of the big ones, for sure, but I'm not sure it was the biggest I've seen. It was big enough, though. Ususally our weather here in upstate New York follows the flow of the jet stream, blowing across the land from west to east, or from the chilly North of Canada. This blizzard, was, in fact, a true Nor'Easter - a storm, whether rain or snow, that moves north along the Atlantic coast, picking up moisture from the ocean as it spins counter-clockwise and dumps its rains or snows onto the land mass of the Northeast in its path. How quickly the front moves along, and eventually, off the coast determines how much rain or snow those of us in its path, even 100 miles inland, ultimately receive. A lot in the case of the Boxing Day Blizzard.

The good news is we knew it, or at least something, was coming at least two days in advance. Fortunately, I didn't have to go anywhere or do anything and could just wait and watch and let it play out. Unfortunately, others who were traveling for the holiday weekend didn't have that good fortune. Certainly, the havoc this blizzard wreaked on the transportation system in the Northeast was significant, and will take days to untangle, but, to be honest, with storms like this, it always is. What amazes (and amuses) me is that people are so upset by it - as if they are entitled to the utmost in travel convenience at all times. Hello, folks? It's winter. It's the Northeast. It snows here...a lot sometimes. Ding! Ding! This storm was forecast, so I don't get what part of winter weather and preparation for it they don't understand.

It takes time to clear the roads, although to the credit of the highway crews in my town, in my county and in my state, they were plowing before dawn on Monday morning. In the interest of full disclosure, I spent some time in my life - more than a decade, in fact - working for a highway authority - yes, that would be government - so I do know what goes on with these operations. I appreciate those guys (and some gals) who drive the plows and clear the roads more than I can say. We take completely for granted the safety and convenience they provide and, to be honest, while the taxes we pay here in New York are the highest in the country, it's times like this, when those folks do their jobs so efficiently and effectively, that it takes just a tiny little bit of the sting out of that financial burden. In my corner of the globe, they are worth every penny we pay for them.

If you find yourself traveling in a part of the country where even a dusting of snow or ice completely paralyzes all travel for days on end, you'll know what I mean and appreciate that while it can slow or even stop us cold briefly, things do get going as quickly as Mother Nature and the resources we allocate for plows and plow operators allow - and it's pretty darn fast, all things considered.

Dawn this morning, two days after the Boxing Day Blizzard of 2010.

It's no secret that winter weather can be very tough here in the snowbelt of the Northeastern US, but we do know how to cope with it and cope we do. I just wonder why those who are caught out by it don't get that program every time some overwhelming volume of snow seriously impedes the free flow of air, rail and highway travel. With patience, as soon as Mother Nature allows, we'll get her white mess out of the way. And we'll do a far better job of managing it faster here in the Northeast, and in New York, than many other parts of the country can. You can thank me and the rest of us in New York later for our tax dollars and highway tolls at work to make everyone's trip just a little safer and a little easier.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

At the risk of having this little corner of blogland become a place where I post only on holidays, I thought I'd better upload the early dawn photo I took this Christmas morning pronto!  I am here to assure you, my loyal followers (all 12 of you), that all is well in Country Contemporary-land...just the usual busy.  I also have been wrestling with technical computer challenges too boring to discuss, but suffice it to say there are not enough USB ports on my PC to make uploading my latest digital photos a speedy process. (What I'm really saying is I have to remember to upload photos before I connect to the internet because I don't have enough ports to do both simultaneously...and I keep forgetting to do that...sorry.  I'm hoping Santa might find a shiny new laptop leftover in his bag for me so I can escape these sad operational constraints...I'll inquire about that...maybe I'll get lucky.)

Today, however, I just did the deed, added a few more photos to the files so I could share them with you this morning.  The first is the aforementioned pre-dawn (or breaking dawn) photo of this very Christmas morn here in the country.  I could see it was evolving into a real beauty and deserved capturing for posterity.  (Apologies for the slight fuzziness...tough to get those long, dim exposures to be clear without a tripod to hold the camera rock-steady.)  The others, well, they're just for fun to mark the occasion.  My little Christmas gifts to you all...enjoy the day!

Here are a couple of errant tiny reindeer looking a bit puzzled as to how they ended up outside my home. I think they got away from that incessantly flying sleigh...

And, finally, a bright red cardinal on a painted wall pocket I found last year at Goodwill for a song (I use it for displaying seasonal greens outside the door).  I find it provides a cheerful crimson contrast to all this white stuff on the ground.  And speaking of birdies, I did, in fact, refill the actual feeder just outside my window to the brim with oiled black sunflower seeds and a pair of peanut suet cakes last night.  Now my lovely, fine-feathered cardinal (and chickadee and finch) friends will be pleased to find their favorite tasty Christmas meal awaiting them this morning.  It's the least I can do for them.

And, for those of you in need of a fine chuckle after these endless weeks of holiday shopping, food prep, and just general anticipatory anxiety, I direct your attention to the wonderful blog, The Blushing Hostess Entertains, for Catherine Coughlin's very amusing take on entertaining that transient Santa person...

Merry Christmas to all!