Snowstorm photos & road conditions

In the end, this storm wasn’t too bad for us. We got a few more inches of snow than the 18″ that fell in December 2006, with stronger wind, but it never really achieved blizzard status down in our valley. I’m sure it felt worse out in open terrain, and the fact that I-70 was closed throughout Missouri for a while shows how strong a storm it was, but for us it didn’t do any lasting harm. It certainly wasn’t as bad as these poor folks in Chicago had it.

Here’s a time-lapse panorama taken every hour from our porch throughout the day. The gusting winds kept snow from accumulating too thick on the porch itself, but if you watch the rain/show gage carefully you’ll see it fill up, get dumped, and start to fill again. It’s 12″ tall, we dumped it with 1″ remaining, then again with another 7″ at dusk, then again with another 3″ the next morning. So about 21″ overall. What you don’t see here are the birds which spent most of the day foraging for grain; they took off everytime I opened the door to take another shot.
Snowshoes are wonderful things. Here’s a view of my tracks walking out to the goat barn on over-knee-deep snow (I took one off to check). Note the tracks only sink in a few inches.
And here’s a panorama of the field and barn. It’s deceptive, with few reference points. Keep in mind that most of this field is built into significant permanent raised beds, especially the foreground, which are completely obliterated into the newly flat surface again. The north wind really whips down this valley (view is NW), which kept the snow from getting too thick on the barn. It’s a solid blanket which will take a long time to melt, if the temperatures ever even rise above freezing.
And here’s an interesting view of a small cattle-panel hoop that holds grain, straw, and the water hydrant for the chickens (once upon a time it was a milking structure. Heavy snow will do this to such structures; it’s one reason we aren’t too interested in investing lots of money in over-wintering hoophouses that can be done in by storms like this. As it was, folks in this area are real lucky this wasn’t a heavy, wet snow. We’ve now had two >18″ snowstorms in the last 4 years; I don’t like those odds for delicate structures full of landfill-destined plastic. And that’s not counting the severe weather we can expect much of the rest of the year here.

The real impact on us from this storm relates to our steep entry road. After the December 2006 storm, the road was impassably iced in for nine weeks. Even though Joanna was still working off-farm, it wasn’t a disaster as she had left her car at the top of the hill in preparation. Walking in and out got annoying after a while, but it was also good exercise and fresh air to balance an office job. This time around, I think conditions are even worse because we had a layer of ice already formed from the last snow’s melting and refreezing, along with a fresh coat from the day of freezing drizzle that preceded this storm.
21″ of fresh powder on a solid ice layer is the devil to plow. I spent almost 7 hours today on the tractor, slowly bucketing and blading my way up the hill. I slid off the road once, into a ditch, and had to rig up a contraption to get back out. I slowly used the bucket and what little traction I had in the wheel-packed snow to “grasshopper” the tractor around until it was aimed partially across the road toward some trees. Then I hooked several log chains together, wrapped one end around a thick tree on the other side of the road, then ran them across tightly to the tractor’s bucket. By carefully manipulating the bucket, I could slowly winch the tractor forward, retighten the chain, and repeat. A few rounds of this, plus shovelling the packed snow out from under the chassis, got me back on the road. Sorry for no photos, I had the camera with me but the cold blew the battery by the time this happened.
On another section, I actually slid about 20′ down the hill, gently rotating on the ice like a slow-motion ice dancer. Nasty stuff. I was able to make it almost all the way up, but a last bit near the top defeated me, where ice accumulates especially thickly when earlier melting occurs and I could get no traction on the slope. I’ll go back with a bin of ashes from the stove, which we save for just this kind of situation. Hopefully by the weekend the road will at least be open, though it won’t be driveable for a long time afterward, as partial melting makes such conditions worse as the day’s meltwater refreezes each night. We left the truck at the top, and will just go back to walking in and out as needed. This time of year that’s not very often, as we need virtually no groceries and have few other off-farm commitments. So we’ll just see how things progress.
In the meantime there are taxes and other business paperwork crap to work on, and we’ll need to start trays of onions indoors by this weekend. By the farm’s timeline of work, spring is starting to arrive. Now we just need the temperature to actual go above freezing someday.

One thought on “Snowstorm photos & road conditions

  1. Snowshoes bring up memories of my childhood growing up with my mountain-loving father in the Rockies. He loved to snow shoe. I like your attitude about having all your needs met and just sitting back and watching the snow. Now that's the way to live. Didn't mention it on your other post, but sorry about the rising scale fees. Five to thirty is an awful big jump. I hope your voice and others will be able to make some changes to it. I like your idea of sliding fees based on the number of scales you have. That makes more sense, is more fair and is less of a shock to the budget.