Sunday, January 16, 2011

Epic Snow Storm of January 11-12, 2011

During the first half of last week, prodigious snow storms hit both the South Eastern and North Eastern United States, dumping record amounts of snow in both regions, and causing general shut-downs of businesses, schools, and transportation. Here in New England, Connecticut was hit particularly hard, with snowfalls in some locations approaching 30". My own Derby/Seymour/Shelton area was officially reported to have received about 17" of snow. I have to say that, during the my entire life here in Connecticut, I don't recall ever having seen quite this much snowfall from a single storm.

Several good friends of mine in the South took some interesting photos, and graciously shared them with me to publish in this article. Let's take a look at a few:

Sean Lintow Sr. of SLS Construction in Cullman, Alabama, took this photo of falling snow the night of the storm, and reported a final coverage of about 4" the following morning:

Here's an image from the next day, with some thankful birds foraging around Sean's bird feeders:

At the same time, Allison A. Bailes III of Energy Vanguard received about 6" of snow in Atlanta, and took this photo displaying the accumulations he encountered the following morning:

As gentlemen with a common interest in the problem of home energy conservation, both Sean and Allison took advantage of this weather to publish some interesting articles on using roof top snow to visually assess the relative air sealing/insulating efficiencies of local homes. You can find Sean's article here and Allison's article here. Give them a read -- and I guarantee you'll find yourself checking out roofs the next snowy day!

Meanwhile, a little farther west in Arkansas, Beth Taggard of Living A Quotable Life also received quite a bit of snow from the same storm, and took this beautiful photo the next day:

Beth said her big misgiving about it all was that she didn't have a Taunton to ride over the snowy surfaces!

Now, let's take a look at the results of my own snow storm here in Derby.

The photo below shows my home the afternoon following the storm, when the street was reasonably clear. The corner of the house closest to the camera points almost due west, and prevailing winds during the storm were more or less also out of the west. So this side of the roof actually received very little snow (much of it was blown over the house and onto the other side). If you zoom-in on the photo, you can see some interesting wind-scored undulations on the roof and this odd, continuous bump of snow running just parallel to the rake line:

Of course, the very same strong winds at lower levels drove snow up against the house. As you can see, the deepest snow literally beat a path right up to my front door:

And somewhere beneath all this heavy snow-plow-induced effluvia is a side walk just waiting to be cleared:

The wind-driven snow that accumulated along side the house came to rest in some interesting patterns and wildly varying depths. In particular, note the huge mound just alongside the house, and the interesting clump on the stone vase. You can see more wind-scoring on these surfaces, if you look closely enough:

The scariest part (for me, anyway) was seeing all the massive accumulation on the rear roof. All that snow which had been blown over the ridge had settled deeply on the rear roof, as well as the roof of the mudroom. I wasn't all that concerned about the snow-loading on the main roof itself -- it certainly experienced far worse in its lifetime (e.g., any one recall stories of the infamous blizzards of 1747-48 and 1888?), and the roof system as a whole is still sound and in good shape. But notice that my vent stack was nearly buried! The mudroom, on the other hand, concerned me greatly, because I'd never seen it loaded so much before, and wasn't sure how much it could really withstand:

Portions of the roof of the old cow barn out behind the house also got considerably loaded up:

Here's a good photo of the snow accumulated on the mudroom roof. Note the sagging rain gutter (scary!):

Naturally, my highest snow removal priority was getting both the mudroom and front entry porch roofs clear of snow. And no, I certainly wasn't going to go out there -- fortunately, there's a sufficient number of windows overlooking either roof to safely lean out of and simply clear the snow with a shop broom. Here's a view of the mud room roof, after I removed the bottom sash from one of the windows:

And here's the first swath of snow I cleared using my broom:

At this point, I suddenly found myself concerned about uneven loading of the roof, so I subsequently removed one 6" layer at a time to clear the rest. But not before measuring the snow at its deepest point, which was just about 18.5" deep:

Interestingly enough, the front porch roof didn't seem to receive any more snow than it normally does after a typical winter storm. I suppose this likewise owes to the carrying of much of the falling snow at higher elevations over the roof and on to the lee side of the house. So this roof cleared off fairly easily:

Of course, when I headed back outside through the back door, this is what greeted me:

Followed by this (somewhere under all this snow was yet another pavement, oh, and most of a park bench, too):

But I certainly wasn't going to bother clearing any of this. What would be the point? So I just consigned it all to Mother Nature and simply trudged through the deep snow, making my way toward the front of the house, where I finally cleared the front pavement, steps, and porch deck (I didn't bother taking many more photos at this point, though):

Then, I cleared the remaining sidewalk free of all snow-plow throw-off, from this point, all the way down to the Hawkins Street bridge, a distance of about 70 paces. The snow was deepest along here, with the surface generally aligning somewhere between my knees and hips:

I cleared the path all the way down to the south-west terminus of the bridge, and cut an egress right at the corner where street and bridge meet:

Needless to say, I was quite tired and cold at this point, but felt I'd accomplished quite a bit.


Cold temperatures allowed all this snow to stick around, and we were subsequently hit by another snowstorm which dropped about 3-5" of white stuff, covering what was already there. Here's the path I had previously shovelled out heading toward the bridge:

And here's how things looked following this subsequent snow fall:

But none of this compares with the record breaker we finally received on January 27th, which will be the central topic of my next post!


AlexandraFunFit said...

The only way I'll forgive you for totally blowing me off (that's a snow roof allusion), is if you do a picture of you making snow devils. Prone and supine so I can get a full impression of your activity, er fitness level, er, okay, those black jeans!
If you don't do as I say I'll come over and unevenly distribute your roof snow. Pffffft.

John Poole said...

Hey, I didn't blow you off, AFF! We've been kinda busy up here. While you've been taking leisurely walks in the warm Southern California sunshine and baking sourdough bread, we've all been digging snow caves, hunting squirrels, and breaking up river ice, just to survive! :-)

As for my snow angel / snow devil penance, you might find a virtual one or two in my next post. And feel free to come over and help remove any roof snow you want. Be my guest!

AlexandraFunFit said...

What a minute? Did you just open the door for me to come to CT? And do something I love? No, not pester you, although that is my beloved avocation. I mean clear snow. YES! Can you strap me to a skylight pole so I can get waaaaay up near the top? And do snow angels? I'll wear my most snow-proof hottie jeans. I have cute snow hats. What else is needed? Oh, I'm know, for shoveling....