Surly Weather

We are looking to get our most wintry weather of the season after midnight tonight and through tomorrow.  Won’t take much to exceed our heaviest snowfall, as we’ve totaled perhaps 5” cumulative all winter in the form of several dustings from clipper systems.

As usual, the weather pundits are all a-twitter, and they’ve even named the storm “Snowquester,” in honor of Washington’s latest political non-decision, coupled with our so-far-unsuccessful quest for snow this season.  Silly enough that forecasters do it, but worse that the US Weather Bureau has officially named the storm “Saturn.”  Can’t say if that’s an allusion to the planet or to the motor vehicle brand.  It’s enough to make me saturnine.

This winter has seemed eternal partly because of the non-weather.  We’ve not had storms, nor warmth, nor much sunshine.  On many days it’s overcast from sunup to sunset.  Or it will start out clear and cloud up before noon.  Or it will start out cloudy and clear up late in the afternoon.  High temperatures have been consistently below normal for the last few weeks, and wind velocities have seemed higher.  On rare sunny days the combination of air temperature and wind speed has often made cycling a difficult, unpleasant experience.  Technically the roads and trails have been open all winter, but when it’s in the upper 30s and there’s a persistent 15-20 mph breeze from the northwest I for one am not highly motivated to go out riding.  Winter wind has a firm, solid resistance, not enough to crush you but enough to make every crank stroke muscularly and thermally painful.

Hence I have watched the last seven games of the Boston Red Sox’ 2007 postseason play, pitch-by-pitch, while riding my exercise bike.  [The Sox won all seven, including chewing up and spitting out in four straight a Colorado Rockies team that came into the World Series having won 21 out of their last 22.  A 21 of 26 record looks good on paper, but when four of those losses are at the end it’s a different story.]  Anyway, that’s a topic for a separate blog posting.  Suffice it to say here that seven baseball games can fill up a lot of indoor cycling sessions, days I’d rather have been outdoors.

On today’s ride I thought I might hear the spring peepers, whose high-pitched, frantic song is not so much a harbinger of spring as an ode to the end of real winter.  They usually begin about now along Piney Branch (the New England term “brook” is unknown in these parts; they are “branches,” “creeks,” or “runs”) that meanders through marshes along the W&OD for a couple of miles between Vienna and Hunter Mill Road (it is remarkable how many of the old tracks around here that later became roads are named after specific mills, stores, or churches).  Today the air was still and silent; occasionally the perky and energetic calls of Cardinals (aren’t all those guys either in Rome or St. Louis?) lightened the mood, and on the way home the persistent and urgent cawing of crows, a flock of which lives in the woods around the horse farm on Hunter Mill Road.  I surmise that the peepers heard the forecast too, and figured they should just hunker down for a few more days.

The sky I watched on my ride today featured the approach of what is apparently a huge coastal storm in the making, getting its energy from the Midwestern storm that is blanketing my cousin in Chicago and my sister-in-law and nieces in northwestern Ohio.  As I left home it was clear and in the 40˚s, with a warming late-morning March sun and no wind.  As I neared my turn-around point, though, the leading edge of a veil of high, thin cloud made the sun a little less intense, and within 20 minutes after that lower and thicker clouds running in long thin lines from west to east dimmed the light further.  Underneath these floated small clumps of solid, dark-gray puffs.  I returned home in pale sun, beneath a sky cover ominous with the signs of a winter storm.

As always, this region is a weather border zone.  Will the coastal storm intensify as predicted?  Will it get cold enough quickly enough so that the changeover from rain and sleet to snow will occur as predicted?  Will the wind blow hard, as anticipated?  Will we lose power?  The storm is just a few hours away from beginning, and the forecasters have no sure answers to those questions.

Check back tomorrow and find out—assuming I have the electricity to post something.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

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