Life Beyond Boating  l  Marblehead, Massachusetts

Winter 2008-09
December 19-25, 2008

Click thumbnails below for a larger picture
December 19-20, 2008

Yesterday we began to batten down for the coming major snowstorm. I figured it was going to be an event when a large flock of misplaced robins arrived in my yard (Dec. 19, 2008)

This flock that filled the nearby trees must be wondering where it went wrong, still up here in December. Time to find a new navigator!

There had to be four or five dozen robins buzzing around all around the yard. I'd like to think this is the usual early sign of spring's arrival -- but even if they don't, I know better!

Can't you just see him thinking, "What the heck are we doing still up here?" I saw many flocks of geese flying high and heading south today. The robins should follow them!

I had everything prepared for the storm by noon, including the Blazer parked in front of the wood racks. The neighbor's snow plow fleet was called out and positioned out on the highways before noon.

A last photo before the snow began to fall.

Just after noon the first flakes started floating down, quickly becoming steady.

I'd loaded up the kitchen firewood rack, so I should be able to weather the storm in comfort before needing to go out to the wood racks.  (Dec. 19, 2008)

Warm and comfy in the kitchen this morning as the snow still comes down. There was a good 8"-10" by dawn. (Dec. 20, 2008)

Along with the significant snowfall strong SW wind gusts were drifting the snow.

Chip Ahoy fared well, with most of the snow being blown off its tarps.

It's too early to think about digging out yet: The snow's still falling at 9:00 am.

The wild birds were out early searching for food that wasn't buried. Fortunately for them, I filled all their feeders around the yard before the snow began falling.

There was plenty of activity out there at all the feeders. They won't get filled again until I can dig out to them.

The snowplows hadn't returned by late morning so the lot was buried. I don't start digging out until the lot's clear, so I took a nap. According to the wind vane, the wind's changed over to from the east.

The lot and driveway were finally plowed just before noon, when the first truck got back. It was time to drag out the snowthrower from under the lean-to out back, see it it'd fire up and work this season.

By noon we had about a foot of light snow, and it was still falling from the sky. I love the remote starter in my Blazer. I leave the heater on high, defroster on, start it remotely, and let the truck warm up and thaw out.

Boy, that's a lot of snow to move out of the way. Good thing it's light and fluffy. The wind vane is still pointing east, keeping that ocean effect snow falling.

Chip Ahoy's plowed in for the duration. Good thing it's not going anywhere for a few months!

The snowthrower started up rather easily after sitting all summer and fall, and actually worked throughout the three hours it took to clear the lot and paths.

My digging out priority is to clear a path from kitchen's sliding glass door to the wood racks out across the lot, so I can keep the kitchen loaded with firewood.

With the snowthrower still working (almost a first!), I dug out paths to the birdfeeders.

Even before cutting the path from the kitchen to the wood racks, I make one out to the shed, where the gas can is stored for refueling the snowthrower.

When I added the new birdfeeders out back of the house this summer, I hadn't thought about getting to them in the winter -- more to dig out.

All dug out, the Blazer is ready to roll, but the snow's still coming down in steady flurries -- ocean-effect snow now that the wind direction's changed. It's still coming down at midnight.

I can now get at the wood racks to bring more firewood in when necessary. At least until the next storm arrives, forecast for tomorrow!

Chip Mate, the dinghy, fends well for itself in the front yard, flipped over and tied down to cinder blocks.  (Dec. 20, 2008)

More photos follow the below news report . . .

The Boston Herald
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Region braces for another wintry blast
By Renee Nadeau and Katy Jordan

Travelers were stranded, shoppers scrambled and the heavy artillery of snow removal was deployed on the highways and byways yesterday as a nasty sandwich of winter storms hit Bay Staters.

“Having three major storms this close together is certainly not something that you see every day,” said William Babcock of the National Weather Service.

And today, he said, “Some places are going to have a lot of snow. North and west of Boston we’re expecting another 6-12 inches.”

The snow will pick up by mid-morning. The South Shore is most likely to see rain and about three inches of snow are expected in the Boston area.

State police Sgt. Timothy Finn said troopers responded to hundreds of spinouts but no major accidents yesterday.

“People seem to heed the warnings and stay off the road,” he said. “If they didn’t, they spun out.”

At South Shore Plaza in Braintree yesterday, last-minute Christmas shoppers were out in force. Traffic was backed up in the mall’s parking lot to Interstate 93, and shoppers circled the parking lot for up to a half-hour to find a spot.

Massachusetts Highway Department Commissioner Luisa Paiewonsky said that upwards of 550 state employees with 4,300 pieces of equipment, plus more than 2,000 contractors, worked to clear the roads at the height of the storm. She said the department was rotating workers to give them a break before today’s storm hit.

“These guys are very gung-ho and sometimes need to be told to stop working,” she said. “They’ve been working straight out for about the last week.”

Boston’s public works department sent out 540 pieces of equipment, commissioner Dennis Royer said.

“I haven’t received one phone call or e-mail complaining about the city’s preparation or response,” West Roxbury City Councilor John Tobin said. “The response has been great from the city.”

“Everybody is very happy,” City Councilor Steve Murphy agreed. “We’re still plowing and sanding and salting.”

Some city residents began “reserving” sought-after parking spots with chairs. DPW workers typically leave the spot holders for up to 48 hours, but today’s storm may not allow that.

“If the things are out there and they’re in our way, we’re not going around them,” Royer said.

Royer said the city did not plan to call a snow emergency and no parking ban will be in effect. Trash pickup will be on the usual schedule.

Around the state yesterday, 10,543 homes and businesses were without power, many in Cape Cod, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

NSTAR spokeswoman Caroline Allen said the company moved all available crews to the area to help restore power. National Grid spokeswoman Elise DelBarone said the utility had restored power to 99 percent of its customers who had lost power during the ice storm and saw very few new outages.

Logan International Airport reported about 60 canceled flights and about 215 delays.

Cots were brought out for stranded travelers, food vendors stayed open and janitorial staffers were being kept late, said Massport spokesman Matthew Brelis.

Among the frustrated travelers was Cathy Allen of Braintree, who waited at the airport for her American Airlines [AMR] flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, only to see it delayed from 11:55 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 3:30, 5:15 and finally 8:30. While she waited at Logan, Allen’s Caribbean cruise left without her. She hopes to catch up with the cruise, and her husband, who departed from Baltimore, in St. Thomas.

“All I wanted for Christmas was a real good tan,” she said. “But it looks like it’s not going to happen.”

December 21-22, 2008

Early this morning the birds arrived early looking for food.  This cardinal was willing to pose outside the kitchen window it his feeder.  (Dec. 21, 2008)

The Duncraft "squirrel-proof" feeder that really is hangs out back, an early birthday present from Barbara this summer.

Two more of the feeders out back.  The "Cling-a-Wing" ball is for small birds; the tube feeder filled with Nijar seed brings the finches.  Both were also added this summer.

When I hung the new feeders during the summer, I hadn't considered how I'd get out to them when they're needed most -- in the winter after a snowfall . . .

Thankfully, the snowthrower worked to complete the job this storm, cutting two new paths all the way out to the feeders.  (Dec. 21, 2008)

At last the snow finally stopped falling by Monday morning.  The plows had returned in the middle of the night and dug us out again, then sanded the ice beneath.  (Dec. 22, 2008)

Our lot at sunrise, taken from the street with my house at the end.

My Blazer running by remote start, thawing out, with the firewood racks protected by it.  Chip Ahoy endures beneath its tarp alongside the house in the background.

Aw geez, I've got to shovel out the path to the sliding side door again to haul in more firewood to the kitchen.

Everything's frozen, the snow crusted in the 15º temperature, so it'll take more than shoveling to break through to the kitchen.

Icicles forming on the front roof.

Chip Ahoy and its tarp held up very well. (Dec. 22, 2008)

More photos follow the below news report . . .

The Salem News
Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter's back, like it or not
Bruno Matarazzo Jr.

The North Shore was shoveling, scraping, and chipping away after two storms and a day of ocean-effect activity left a back-breaking 19 inches of snow.

The snow started early afternoon Friday and didn’t stop until Sunday night, when it slowly turned to rain.

“We would have had more if it hadn’t changed to rain,” said Arthur Francis, veteran Salem State College weather professor, of the weekend storms. “(The rain) sort of squashed everything down.”

The first storm on Friday dropped 10 inches. Saturday brought 3 inches of accumulation, courtesy of ocean-effect snow, and yesterday the North Shore piled up 6 more inches.

Despite all that snow, there were no major crashes caused by the storm, according to area police and fire departments.

Yesterday did bring problems, however, when freezing rain downed trees and power lines, blocking off some roads.

Residents mostly stayed off the roads Friday as many businesses closed down early.

The highway, like Route 128 and Interstate 95, were also free from major problems, according to the state police.

“There were a lot of spin-outs and cars off the road, but nothing terribly serious, no fatalities, no serious crashes in terms of serious injuries,” Trooper Eric Benson said. “Not bad as far as storms go.”

The storm was not a repeat of last year’s first major snowstorm, when the afternoon commute and plows created gridlock across the highway and major roadways.

The weekend was also quiet as residents hunkered down, but police reported some traffic on the roads.

“Some people ventured out because they had to get their Christmas shopping done,” said police Lt. Carole Germano.

Removing the snow did create problems across the region.

Private and city plows were involved in minor accidents with light poles and other vehicles.

The Boston Globe
Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow brings more misery for some
Four communities without power want heat and answers

By Maria Cramer and Milton J. Valencia

Yesterday's storm, the second in three days, walloped the state with powerful winds and freezing temperatures, trying the patience of shoppers, drivers, and holiday travelers already weary of the snow and cold, and canceling school in Boston - and in dozens of other communities - today and tomorrow.

But for the people of Central Massachusetts, the storm was another grueling test of their Yankee grit.

"It's pretty much survival mode," said David Rainville, deputy director of emergency management in Ashby, a town of 3,200 people, where more than half of the houses and businesses were without power yesterday.

More than 200 crew members sent by contractors and utility companies as far away as Tennessee fanned out yesterday across the four sapped communities, where 3,700 homes and businesses remained without power....

Chris Horan, a spokesman for the Boston Public Schools, said school won't reopen until Jan. 5.

"The mayor and the superintendent are concerned about the icy conditions of the roads," Horan said. "Safety is our first concern, so we thought it was best to close over the next two days so everyone has a safe start to the holidays."

The city received more than a foot of snow over the past three days, and the conditions will remain icy for the morning commute as temperatures plunge into the teens, said Rebecca Gould, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

As of 1 p.m. yesterday, 14.5 inches of snow had fallen at Logan International Airport over the past three days. At least 3.2 inches of snow fell yesterday at Logan, National Weather Service meteorologists said....

Gould said the slush from yesterday's wet snow would freeze overnight as temperatures were likely to plunge to a low of 17 degrees. Gould said the morning winds would gust to a high of 46 miles an hour in Boston, and wind chills were expected to drop below zero in the morning.

But things should warm up over the next few days. Gould said the temperatures would reach a high of 29 today, 30 tomorrow, and nearly 50 on Wednesday, Christmas Eve.

December 23, 2008

Donovan's plow guys were back this afternoon. Using their Bobcat they cleared out the lot of the remaining frozen snow and ice mess. (Dec. 23, 2008)

Chip Ahoy under its tarp is still standing up well to it all.

The icicles continue to grow.

The Bobcat tried to clear a path across the front of my house to the sliding glass kitchen door where I bring in the firewood. It did more to dig up the grass than clear the frozen snow.

They did a really good job clearing the other end of the firewood supply line, opening up the firewood racks across the lot nicely.

Wally Riddle stopped by for a visit to see how I was doing. (Dec. 23, 2008)

December 25, 2008
Christmas Day

Yesterday the temperature incredibly hit 50º and much of snow melted away.  (Dec. 25, 2008)

Today, Christmas Day, is supposed to be more of the same, in the high 40s at least.

The path out to the shed and bird feeder are clear down to the grass and widening.

The paths out to the birdfeeders behind the house are also widening, and the thaw has revealed layers of birdseed I'd thrown on the ground over days of snowfall.

A lone goldfinch at the thistle feeder taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather.

He was joined by flocks of sparrows and other ground-feeding birds below delighted at the feast uncovered beneath the melted snow.  I won't need to be feeding them again for at least a few days!  (Dec. 25, 2008)

December 28, 2008
The Big Thaw

What a difference just a little over a week makes! All the snow's disappeared but for what was huge piles created by the plows (Dec. 28, 2008)

There's almost enough room to pull Chip Ahoy out, if I was so inclined.  I haven't needed to bring in more firewood or light the stove since before Christmas, so the outside racks' supply is holding up.

It's hard to believe this was all buried in snow only a week ago.  The temperature has been in the high 40s to mid-50s since the day before Christmas and might even break the record of 63º for today of the sun comes out.

The ground is so soft and spongy that I had to check the stakes that hold down the tarps, restake some.

Barbara and I cooked out again.  We treated our Christmas dinner guests, Heinz & Brigetta Muehlmann and neighbor Lori, to grilled steaks, and it was warmer today today than then. Two days before Christmas I doubted I'd be able to dig the grill out from the foot of ice that cemented its base and wheels.

This is for sure the very last cookout of the year, as 2008 passes into 2009 in three days!  I'm wearing my Marston's Marina, Saco River, Maine long-sleeve t-shirt. It feels like spring's just around the corner -- I wish.  (Dec. 28, 2008)

NEXT  |  Jan. 11, 2009  |  Jan. 18, 2009  |  Jan 29, 2009  |  Feb 4, 2009  |  March 1, 2009

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