Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Will Vermont's Icy Winter Break Soon?

This has been a cold, long, snowy winter.  I love winter and have been enjoying it very much, but I am also looking forward to spring:  maple syrup, migrating amphibians, vernal pools, rushing streams, spring ephemeral wildflowers.  March is usually a time of cold rains, wet heavy snows, wind, and occasional deceptively warm days.

Today we had a snow squall rage through, and now the temperatures are dropping like a rock.  It doesn't seem like it now, but signs of spring may be on the way.


This weekend, rain is forecast.  Not icy freezing rain and sleet like we had earlier this week, but rain - perhaps quite a bit of it, and possibly heavy.

There will be snow before the rain, and snow after the rain, but nevertheless, it will probably be quite rainy for a time.

When the rain hits all this wet, thick snow, the creeks will immediately rise.  If enough water rushes into the rivers, the raging waters will rip off much of the ice that has been encasing them for the last three months.  This will result in ice jams, potential flooding, and one of the first signs of spring - the sights and sounds of running water everywhere.

This may herald the start of mud season - one of the less popular of Vermont's many seasons.  Mud season is a great time to talk about watersheds, because it includes a lot of rushing water.  It's a bad time for hiking or driving on dirt roads, though.  It is also concurrent with the start of sugaring season and amphibian migration season.

Really, I think of mud season as like ripping off a scab.  It is an example of wrenching change - painful, powerful, exciting, and cathartic all at the same time.  Not that ripping scabs off is necessarily a good idea... but mud season is.  Despite all its inconveniences, it is the time water speeds up and comes back to life.

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