Sunday, February 13, 2011

Vermont Buried in Snow

Vermont, and many other parts of the northern hemisphere, are buried in snow.

It's been a very snowy year here.  The coldest of the winter has probably passed, but snows and below-freezing temperatures have continued.  Most areas of Vermont, even in the Champlain Valley, have 2 to 3 feet of slow on the ground.  Along roads and sidewalks, the berms and piles of snow are 4 to 6 feet tall.  I even saw one pile of snow near a parking lot that was over 15 feet tall!  Walking is an adventure even in the cities, and outside of plowed areas, travel is not possible without cross country skiis or snowshoes.

Truly, cold weather is here.


At times, even the roads and sidewalks are covered in snow.  At night, in Burlington, the eerie yellow-orange glow of the streetlights reflect off of every surface.


It hasn't been possible to keep the sidewalks clear.


Most trees seem to be bearing the load well, but some buildings have collapsed due to the heavy snow, and many more are leaking as snow melted by heat inside the buildings dribbles through cracks in roofs.  This Kentucky Coffee Tree has been planted a bit north of its range, but it seems to be holding up just fine.

The snow has become a fact of life, and while there have been a handful of 'snow days' when transportation is nearly impossible, for the most part people here just get used to it and go on with their business.  After all, it is as beautiful as it is obstructive.



All this snow and cold has frozen up much of Lake Champlain, though the central part has remained open.  It has been a colder than average winter, but with all the latent heat from last summers unusually hot days, it doesn't seem like it will quite freeze over before warmer days arrive.

Most of the rivers are quite frozen up as well, except around areas of swift water.  Even the waterfall in downtown Middlebury is about a third iced over.


There is a weather change coming to Vermont.  Instead of long, deep cold, we will experience a more changable weather pattern.  Over the next week, temperatures will range from 0F to possibly as high as 50F. There will be snow, rain, and perhaps freezing rain or sleet.  The result will probably be quite a bit of snowmelt, but the fluxuating temperatures should keep it from causing flooding problems for now.  That could change quickly if we get warm, heavy rain or a more extensive period of high temperatures.

Soon mud season will be here, with all its inconveniences, but also with all the exuberance of rushing rivers and creeks of snowmelt.  Sweet sap will rush into the maple trees, amphibians will wake up and move to the vernal pools, wetlands will fill to the brim, and before we know it there will be spring ephemeral wildflowers popping up.

The seasons move fast in Vermont, and for me they always bring a mix of sadness for the loss of the past season's joy, and excitement for the beauty and change of each season to come.

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