Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Getting The Drift

What am I going to tell the relatives when they call and ask, "How much snow did you get?" The question is as predictable as the sun coming up, and frankly, I don't have an answer. I've lived in this county twenty-nine years, and I still can't figure out just how much new snow has fallen in any given storm. Staring out the front window as I listen to the wind howl and watch the snow whirl up off the drifts like dust devils on a hot summer day, I wonder how anyone can measure the snow depth when the clouds are spewing snowflakes that race each other in a horizontal dash for the next county.

I decided to consult the Internet. Every site I searched directed me to use a snowboard or a sixteen inch by sixteen inch board painted white and to place it on level ground. That particular color is important they emphasized, so that the heat from the sun doesn't build up and melt the snow. Then, you were instructed to place a yardstick through the snow to the board and measure the depth. When site after site said the same thing and didn't address our particular weather problems, I began to grow suspicious that no one else had the answer either.

We've had the sun shining coldly and thin veil of fine, crystallized snowflakes falling from an icy cold blue sky but never warm sunshine on a snowy day. Not to mention that, in our county, the snow doesn't fall gently on your head or the ground but pelts you in the face like it was thrown by a big league baseball pitcher and piles up where ever its caught. Nature has a bare essentials style of decorating out here. You know, bare ground, drift, bare ground, drift. The contrast does set off the whiteness of the snow but it makes measuring it downright impossible.

Placing the measuring board twenty to thirty feet away from the house so the structure doesn't influence the snow depth and not on the lawn makes perfect sense. But, the so-called experts forgot the part about anchoring the board to the ground so it doesn't go airborne breaking the neighbors window. During a snow storm last week, a gentlemen clocked the wind gusts at eighty-five miles-an-hour at the coal mine where he and my husband work.

The anchoring bit of information may be missing but I could probably figure out how to keep the boards stationary. What was essential to disclose was how to get the snow to land on them when ninety percent of the time the flakes travel horizontally. Should I place a piece of wood vertically, then see how much snow bank-shots off that board and lands on the horizontal piece on the ground, then measure? But, they did say to place the wood where it doesn't drift in order to get an accurate measurement. Technically, my idea causes a small snow bank. Except, if you don't measure the drifts, then the rest of the ground is covered only in a skiff at most. How do I tell my relatives, "Well, we only got a skiff," when last week up to eight foot high strips of snow swept intermittently across our street baring us from travel.

I stare out the window once more at the swirling snow, having abandoned the computer in frustration. I conclude that nature must indeed be female for she lo...ves to redecorate. Last week, I could almost hear her instructing the wind as she exclaimed, "It would look wonderful over her, no... let's try over there," as she placed a large drift on our front lawn and then five hours later relocated it to the backyard.

You can probably see now why even though I'm a Wyomingite having lived here forty-nine years, I've yet to figure out how to measure the new snow. That's likely why most people in our area reply, "Well, we probably got four or five inches," as they stare at their yard trying to visually level out the drifts. So please... if you have the answer to my question, "How do yo measure the amount of new snow in high wind areas?" let me know.

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