Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Wicked Storm Hits Vermont

It seems like almost every storm that hits Vermont these days turns out worse than forecast.

Yesterday, they predicted high winds in Vermont, maybe gusting as high as 65 mph in a few isolated spots right along the western slopes of the Green Mountains.
Fierce winds in Vermont
yesterday snapped the top
off a spruce tree, which then
got hung up in powerlines.

Instead, winds roared over a much greater area of the state than forecast, slamming broad areas of Vermont, mostly in the western half of the state. They gusted to 73 mph in the town of Jericho in the northwest, and 70 mph in Pawlet, in the southwest.

The gales roared along Route 7, the main highway up the western side of the state. Near Middlebury, the wind knocked over a tractor trailer traveling along the road, precipitating a crash that killed a person.

The television news showed blown down barns, shingles flying from roofs, windows blown out, power lines hanging in a tangle of fallen trees. It's one disaster after another around here. Come to think of it, it's one disaster after another everywhere, isn't it.

I drove around in the storm, in some places worried that  trees whipsawing back and forth would snap and fall on my truck.  . Just as I got to Underhill, Vermont, the storm intensified, and trees and branches started falling.

The roar was loud, the truck was rocking. At one point, I stopped to remove a large branch from the road so I could continue. Finished with that task, I started to drive on. Looking in my rear view mirror, a tree slammed to the road right where my truck had been parked.

The tree wasn't big enough to have killed or seriously hurt me had it hit the truck, but it definitely would have caused some damage. Phew!

Here's one of the videos I took of the storm yesterday in Underhill Vermont:

Next, I parked near one of the most popular sledding hills in Vermont. A little snow was mixed with the rain at this point, but in that kind of wind, there was no tobogganing in this storm, as you can see in the next vid:

The wind was picking up even more, so I decided to get out of dodge. But I stopped down the road for just one more video. The rain made it all seem that much more dramatic:

I know, I know, you can't point at one storm and scream Global Warming. And we've had storms this bad before. But the unsettling thing is the storms, or the odd weather, the strange heat waves, the relative lack of cold waves, the wind that seems to always roar, the floods, the long dry spells, it's definitely not the weather I had when I was growing up in Vermont

If the disasters keep coming, and getting more frequent, not just here in Vermont but everywhere, when will it start to really affect our lives. Obviously it already affects the lives whose property was damaged.

But what about people like me, and the vast majority of us who suffered no real property damage in Fridays storm? Luckily for me, of the dozens of severe storms, winds, or floods that caused damage in Vermont over the past five or six years, only perhaps three caused very minor damage to my property. So minor that in each case I spent less than $50 fixing the problem and was able to make repairs on my own.

A weak tornado hit my house in 2008 eight months after I bought it. That storm blew out a window, tore a few shingles from my roof, removed part of a flimsier roof over my deck,  and I still haven't found one of the deck chairs that went flying.

Two flash floods in the spring of 2011 caused a bit of damage to my driveway and some of my gardens, but didn't touch the house. It seems like I'm always out in the yard, cleaning up more branches from yet another storm.

The wind yesterday wasn't nearly as powerful at my house as elsewhere in the state. The electricity stayed on here, and only a few small branches litter my lawn. I escaped unscathed again.

But even if I keep avoiding direct effects from a parade of disaster, will I pay the price in higher food costs as droughts and floods take their toll elsewhere. Will the nation eventually deal with unrest or refugees somewhere in the world because the weather got too extreme for them to live where they were?

Will we get disaster fatigue? Every time I turn around, the weather somewhere in the nation kills people and destroys houses. I know that's always been the case. But if the disasters get bigger, more people die, more property gets flattened, how will we react?

Yes, as a weather geek, I got my share of excitement watching the wind dramatically rock the trees yesterday. And as is often the case, even the worst weather has beauty. During yesterday's storms, the cloud briefly parted to reveal some gorgeous rainbows.
During yesterday's big storm in Vermont, the skies cleared for a
bit, revealing rainbows, even as trees continued leaning in the wind.

The storm is still around here in Vermont his Saturday. The wind is calmer but still gusty, and as I look out my window, I see that it's gotten colder, it's snowing and a dark cloud that forecasters say contains a very heavy snow squall looms just to my west. It's headed right toward me. More weather excitement. I like that.

A snow squall is just part of winter. Occasional destructive storms are just part of life.  Let's just hope a constant parade of devastating storms and weather extremes don't become part of life. Or death.

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