Did you ever see the movie “The Ice Storm?” It had less to do with ice storms and more to do with those crazy 1970’s and what our parents were all up to. But I digress.
We had an ice storm here last Friday, April 12. In March, 2012 the temperature was 20°C (70°F) for two weeks. All the trees broke bud, and then many got damaged when the cold weather returned. This year, the winter seems reluctant to go away. Now, I have to admit I don’t mind, because I’m still finishing next year’s firewood and have a whack of jobs around the property that don’t require warm weather, so frankly I find I can accomplish way more when it’s cool. The ground is still frozen in many places so I can’t turn over the gardens, even if I wanted to.
In January 1998, 6 months before we bought this place, there was a huge ice storm that left millions without power for days or weeks. Last week’s ice storm left lots of people around us without electricity again, many for 2 or more days. I’ve been through ice storms before, but this was the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime. Our area was hit extremely hard and there was a lot of damage. We had a lot of trees come down and tons of branches break off.
It was quite windy in the morning but the wind turbine had become iced up over night and so we didn’t get any “juice” from it. Nothing makes me more paranoid than seeing my wind turbine on a tilt-up galvanized steel tower held up with guy wires, rated at a certain weight and load, that is now covered with a quarter inch of ice. Yikes! It’s still standing though, as a testament to my engineering prowess (but more likely sheer luck, I think).
It’s a very bizarre experience to stand outside your house and hear the endless “cracks” as branches break off, then the “shattering glass” sound as the ice on the branch hits everything on the way down, taking more ice with it. It’s just brutal.
As I sat in the office late in the afternoon a huge poplar came crashing down outside the guesthouse. It just missed hitting my garlic drying racks, which would have really annoyed me if it had hit them. The weird thing is that the tree had basically fallen over, and its roots had been pulled out of the ground. That has never happened here. Poplars are a crappy tree and will break off at the hint of ice or big wind. But this time the tree had fallen over from the weight of the ice. I was talking to my neighbor who has been here much longer than I have and he had 3 poplars come down the same way. He said he’d never seen that before.
So in pursuit of my climate change confirmation bias, I found this article from National Geographic which suggests that scientists believe that the additional warmth in the arctic and lack of sea ice, exacerbated with more exposed dark water, is pushing that nice warm jet stream further south, causing us to experience a cool spring in the north and more erratic weather.
I hope ice storms are not the new norm, certainly not in April. I heat with wood, and the trees that came down won’t go to waste, but to see so many with damaged leaders, and lost limbs, well, it’s pretty brutal. Apparently nature can have a real attitude.