Myriad of hazards

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Weather hazard infographic from the National Weather Service in Sterling

The winter of 2013-2014 is apparently reaching its dramatic conclusion with an increasingly rapid alternation between balmy shirtsleeve weather and arctic blasts.


Today (Saturday) has been a beautiful Ides of March. Elizabeth and I spent a couple hours outside with no jackets.  Tomorrow the National Weather Service, in what seems a weekly ritual, has release yet another winter storm watch as today’s comfortable mid 60s drops in less than 24 hours to the mid 20s, bringing 2-8 inches of more snow.

So far, the only thing we seem to have missed is the Ajax storm (a white tornado).

Collecting Snow for Sochi

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Morning view out home office

As we woke up this morning, the last of more than 13 inches of wet snow was still coming down. This is the first significant snowfall in the Cap region since 2010.

     Deeper in the frontFeb2014-1650

Impressively deep on the patio, it seemed even deeper out front.  It seems we’ve had at least 15 inches so far, and perhaps as much as 20.

15 Inches/40cm of snow

I saw lots of neighbors shoveling, but virtually none of them actually tried to drive anywhere today. Most of the cars looked like they had no business going anywhere.  Even the Jeeps decided to stay put.

Across the street

Hovering around freezing all day, the snow subsided a couple inches. The landscape company was out with shovels, blowers, plows, and even a Bobcat, and the neighborhood is pretty clear. I walked the several blocks to our town center, almost totally deserted, but still softly playing jazz music.  Everything was closed but the Harris-Teeter.

Even Jeeps stayed put today

While I stopped in the backyard to chat up Krypto, asking for his help to locate some missing snowballs,  I noticed a family shoveling their Honda out, hopping in and slowly driving across the slippery pavement.  I didn’t think they’d get very far, but it turns out that they were only driving 500 yards to the town center where they own a Vietnamese restaurant. So there are now two places open.

Buster in his cape

A light snow started falling at dusk, the beginning of a second wave of frozen precipitation apparently caused by an ‘energetic upper level disturbance.’  Quite. Another 1-3 inches is expected, although this particular pattern has a history of heaviness, with continued red-bordered warnings from the National Weather Service.

Looking down on the patio

Given the dearth of the white stuff in the sub-tropical location Russian city chosen to host this year’s winter Olympics, more than one wag has suggested that we collect and ship the stuff to the Black Sea. If this storm does deserve a name, it might as well be Snochi. Maybe Krypto can do something about taking this snow to where it is really needed.

Let It Snow

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Cabin and Car During Jan 25 Storm

I don’t ski, and my last two experiences with ice skating went horribly wrong, but for some reason, I really like snow. We’ve had some concentrated winter experience during the last week, more than fulfilling my appetite for the white stuff.

Township Road before the plow

Last Saturday, another visit from the polar regions transformed our little valley into a snow globe.  4.5 inches (11cm) of new snow  just before noon when I took camera, coat, and my aptly named Snowy River out for a blustery walk (see location above during July flooding).

Looking across the swamp

A single pair of tracks outlined the center of our township road, which hadn’t been cleared.  A heavy wind was blowing the snow across our swamp (see creek above during July flooding).

Before the Snow Plow

Our driveway seemed to be Subaruable, but it gave the entrance to the Hollow a much more remote feeling than its had since we started building the cabin.

Pine tree during Jan 25 storm before the wind

We don’t get as much wind in the Hollow, so our trees were frosted with snow for most of the weekend.  The roads were covered, but we didn’t see a lot of plows.  Later Saturday afternoon Elizabeth took a walk out to the township road and met one of the neighbors plowing it with his Polaris.

Neighbor plowing township road

. After another inch or two of snow over Saturday night, we gingerly drove down a lightly plowed driveway Sunday morning, starting what turned out to be a surprisingly long drive to church.  With greasy unplowed roads, we never got out of 3rd gear.

The Mighty Killbuck

Our return home was easier, not because any of the roads had been cleared, but because we weren’t driving through heavy snow fall.  We stopped along the state highway to watch the ice floating in the Killbuck.  In July, the spot above was impassable because of floodwaters (see the couple on the ATV).

Plowing the Driveway

I’d taken a quick swipe down the driveway on Saturday, but on the theory that you can never spend too much quality time with your tractor (and anticipating 20 below zero temperature), I cranked up the reluctant Diesel after work on Monday and thoroughly plowed the driveway from the cabin to the township road.

Well-Plowed Driveway

It takes a gentle touch, driving slowly, with a hand on the hitch height control, and a foot on the brake, to avoid making a big mess out of the limestone.

Base of our Driveway After Plowing

After cleaning up a quarter mile of private driveway, I decided to clean up about 3/4 mile of the township road, which is a lot easier to plow, because there’s no gravel.  That left a bunch of snow in front of our drive, a satisfying opportunity for some front end loader work.

Frozen Falls

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

The tiny brook that makes Heiser Hollow a hollow flows year around, but it is usually underground.  Not only has it been flowing constantly for the last month, but a light Christmas freeze created hundreds of crystal clear icicles and iciglobs.  Splashing water froze over a period of several days into all sorts of interesting patterns and shapes.

Once a fantastic alpine cataract, over a period of millions of years, Heiser Falls has eroded into a 30 foot high jumble of sandstone boulders, decaying back into the sand that they sedimented from.  As the fragile sandstone splits, slides, and decomposes, it constantly alters the shape and form of the falls. Truly, you never really visit the same water fall more than once.


By December 28, the continuously splashing falls were making increasingly thicker layers of ice on top of stones and fallen branches.

Dripping water from day time thaws had created stalactites, solidifying ferns and moss.

The spring-fed brook created beautifully clear ice, covered and infused with subtle but complex textures of cracking. And then everything melted.

And then it froze. It froze hard. Starting from a relatively balmy mid-40s on the night of January 5, the temperature quickly dropped to -10 Fahrenheit (-23C).  The pond quickly froze solid, but I didn’t get to the waterfall for a couple of days.  When I returned after a light snow on the 9th, the brook and falls appeared to have frozen solid, although you could still hear the water flowing under the ice.

It looked like a miniature 300 foot glacier, sliding into the back of our property, sliding slowly downhill towards the frozen pond.

Much of the brook above the falls had turned into stair steps of ice, as successive layers of constantly flowing water solidified on top of already frozen water.

The falls seemed frozen into place, although you were always surrounded by the babbling sound of flowing water.  And then it thawed again, with all but the thickest ice completely melting.

Cold weather returned, and this week, the Hollow is beginning to ice up again, looking like it did before Christmas.  The constantly flowing spring water surrounded by elaborately formed and textured formations of beautifully clear ice.  I went out at lunch with a tripod and macro lens, trying to capture some of the elusive beauty of the ever-changing ice.

Tasmanian Rainbow

Thursday, September 5th, 2013


Sailboat under Rainbow

Elizabeth and I took the high speed shuttle boat from the Hobart wharf up the Derwent to the fascinating new Museum of Old and New Art.   It was a reasonably warm late winter day, so I stood on deck to enjoy the sun and see if there were some interesting pictures, and I soon noticed an impending collision between a small sail boat and a large rainbow.

Marine Construction

I thought I did an OK job of positioning the boat under the rainbow, but then I was surprised that the rainbow kept moving in the same position on shore, parallel to our high speed boat. Next we passed a funny little work barge being pushed by a small Coast Guard boat, and I grabbed a series of shots when the rainbow went over the top.

Eternal Ocean

Next up was the 180m bulk carrier Eternal Ocean, apparently docked at the Zinc Works.

Hobart Zinc Works

My favorite shot was when the rainbow rolled over the top of the the Hobart Zinc Works.  I really liked the juxtaposition of the force of nature against industrial man.

 Military Vehicle in Shipyard

The Incat Shipworks came up next.  The funny looking gray boat is the HSV-2 Swift, a high-speed wave piercing catamaran owned by the US military.  Normally based in Norfolk, VA, it had come back to its maker for a refit.


Ten minutes after taking the first rainbow image, we pulled into the private dock in front of the private art museum, and the colors finally started to fade. 

Extra credit question: Was that the same rainbow for the entire trip, was it a series of rainbows, or was it an infinite sheet of spectrational mist, neatly segmented by our field of view, an infinite number of times?

Flood Waters Are Rising

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013


It seems almost oxymoronic to observe that a swamp has been flooded, but I don’t know how else to describe it.

After days of angry thunderstorms, and heavy rain, the meteorological violence expended itself with a couple of heavy storms. The evening of Monday, July 8, it hit hard, with constant thunder, wind, and driving rain. I went out on the porch to enjoy the sound, and a lightning bolt hit on the far side of the pond, blazing the porch and cabin interior in brilliant blue light, and rocking the cabin with a huge bang. 


Not having slept well, we decided to get an early breakfast at Creekside Cafe.  At 7:30AM, our swamp was full of dirty brown water, our creek was flooded, and we had to drive through water flowing across the township road.  By afternoon, most of the local flooding had subsided.


For the next couple days, we were visited by angry red and orange waves across the online weather maps.  By the evening of Wednesday July 10, the Killbuck had flooded across Route 60 in several places, and was closed.


On Friday, the weather forecasts suggested that there might get weather. Again. Elizabeth headed into town, and thought she’d be back before the worst of the storms. At about 3:30 in the afternoon, just after my last telephone call, another front hit the cabin.  Within minutes, there were whitecaps frothing the pond, the trees were waving back and forth, and thunder and lightning were everywhere.  A lightning strike landed north of the cabin, not quite as close as the one a couple days earlier. The lights flickered, and eventually went out and stayed out.


Meanwhile, Elizabeth had encountered the storm while driving back home. She ended up with a long drive back, dodging falling trees and floods, eventually going miles out of her normal route.  With the power out, and the sky suddenly very pleasant and blue, we took a drive in Dad’s Gator.  Our township road was open, but the Killbuck was higher, and Route 60 was even wetter.  We didn’t seem to have any significant damage, but a nearby neighbor reported that the wind blew the cowl off one of his tractors and carried it 15 feet.  Our power came back on in 3 hours, but some places nearby were out for several days.


With Route 60 still closed on Sunday, some of the neighbors spent the afternoon driving their ATVs through the flood water.  All that precipitation in the Killbuck Valley took a while to drain, and even though the rain had stopped, 60 didn’t open back up until the following Thursday. Although the flood wasn’t high enough to do any real damage, it persisted for over a week.

We thought we’d seen the worst of the weather for the month (to be continued).