Silence Broken..!!

One of the facets of living in this rural area that I most enjoy is the ‘immense silence’; I can go days and never hear any man-made sounds other than those I make.  I’ve become very much used to this wonderful quiet so imagine my surprise when it was broken last week by huge and extremely loud ‘thumps’ many of which actually shook the entire house!  At first I was clueless but then a quick look outside at the base of the house revealed the source; with the extraordinary warmth all this month the two feet plus of snow on the roof, now decreased to less than 18″ through melting and far too much rain and freezing rain, was finally beginning to break apart and drop to the ground.  Given the composition of these pieces – easily 50% ice – and the random sizing – between just a foot square out to many feet square – it’s not a surprise the larger pieces could produce such dramatic results.  Late last week I had to straighten a number of wall hanging pictures which had been knocked askew by vibrations from the huge thumps created by the falling snow/ice chunks.  Poor Qanuk was driven to distraction by the really large pieces falling; he either cowered in his crate or ran to me for reassurance!

Even though the roofs up here have a very steep pitch and are made of metal to expedite the removal of the snow loading this had not happened until now.  Add to this fact the collected snow was saturated first by freezing rain and later by just plain rain the resultant mixture was extremely heavy.  As the following image show the pieces can be quite large although this image is of a piece getting ready to drop from the front porch roof and as such generated no real noise or vibration because the distance it fell was so short.  However, imagine chunks this size or larger falling from the second story roof and you get some idea of the nature of these situations.  This is yet another key learning involving living up here and one that is most valued.  A buddy and I will be putting up an enclosure this fall to allow me to get my Ford Escape out of the elements.  Aligning it with any portion of the house which produces such snow and ice chunks would be disastrous; thankfully now i know what to look for and we will site said enclosure to be clear of the falling winter borne debris.  Just another interesting piece of rural Alaskan living…

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Maybe I Should Start A Column…

…addressing the absolutely strange weather of late across my new home state.  Heaven knows I wouldn’t run out of topics or observations about which to write.  This morning is no different and I could just as easily entitled this creation ‘It Just Won’t Snow!”.  For just the sixth time in October (that’s 6 out of 22 days of just 27.3%) we dropped below the freezing mark right at 07:00.  Fine, its been fairly warm of late so no big surprise.  However, by the time the precipitation started around 08:25 AKDT the outdoor temp had dropped to 31 F; given this one would expect to see snow yet what alerted me to the precipitation – its still far too dark outside to see anything – was the ‘tap, tap, tapping’ sound the rain makes on the metal roof.  I couldn’t believe I was hearing rain with a 31 F air temp so I opened the office window and, yes indeed, it was raining!

Now I’ve seen many instances in which it will snow when the air temp is in the middle to even upper thirties; usually this is caused by colder air aloft.  But to the best of my knowledge this is the first time I’d seen rain with a temp below freezing.  I had to further prove this to myself by walking onto the front porch with a powerful flashlight and illuminating the rack on my Escape Limited; without question ice-sickles were forming as the rain hit the colder metal, slowed in its advance down the existing ice and then froze.  I would assume this will produce freezing rain which is something most of the locals have said just doesn’t happen around here.  Given what I know of Alaskan weather – very, very little – I would surmise that we experienced a ‘pocket’ of colder air which drifted south.  The overall atmosphere is too warm to produce snow but when the rain falls into this cold pocket it will freeze upon exposed surfaces.  Breaks in the clouds are now letting enough light filter through such that I can see the immediate area and the Escape does indeed have a light sheen to it suggesting ice.  I also see the air temp has risen now to 32.2 F so said ice will quickly return to a liquid state.  My temperature sensor is placed 4 feet above ground level; this is really a bit high – it should be more like 18″ to 24″ – but because a 36″ snow pack isn’t uncommon by January I had little choice but to set it up higher.

Without question the weather up here has been ‘anomalous’ at best and downright strange at worst but then Alaska is certainly not known for a docile, stable climate.  In fact, its this extreme nature which helped interest me in the state way back in the middle 90’s.  Thus far I not been disappointed in terms of unusual weather; just with the way the weather has been unusual.  I suppose if I favored warmer temps I would be happy but then if this were my situation I sure as Hell wouldn’t have retired to ‘The Last Frontier’ in the first place.  Here’s hoping we do see some snow and soon..!