Just how rare is thundersnow?

copyright the Chronicle February 9, 2011

by Tena Starr

It’s hard to say exactly how rare Saturday’s night’s winter thunderstorm was, says Chris Bouchard, a meteorologist at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury.

“I don’t have any numbers on its frequency,” he said.  “But lightning as frequent as Saturday’s is something I’ve never experienced with snow falling.”

The official term for a thunderstorm with snow is “thundersnow.”

Thunder and lightning might occur once or twice a winter in the state, Mr. Bouchard said.  But generally it’s very localized.

“There might be one flash over one town. This last event was pretty unusual because there were hundreds of lightning strikes on Saturday night, in lots of towns.  I’ve seen snowstorms with a flash here and there, but nothing with frequent lightning like that.”

One reason thunderstorms don’t often occur in winter is because warm air is usually behind their development, and there just isn’t much warm air around in winter.

Thunderstorms are caused by rapidly rising air currents, which form very tall clouds, sometimes billowing up over 40,000 feet in height.

Inside the thunderstorm, charge separations occur.  “No one is exactly sure how that happens,” Mr. Bouchard said.  “A leading theory is that the different types of precipitation particles found within thunderstorms force a charge separation when they collide.”

Every thunderstorm produces both snow and graupel (also known as soft hail), even during the summer months.  Normally, warm air near the surface forces these to melt into rain before they reach the ground.  Updraft speeds vary from the inner core to the outer edges of the storm.  That means that in some parts of the cloud, snow rises at the same time that heavier graupel is falling past it.  That leads to a lot of mini-collisions.

“We know the snowflakes are traveling upward with a positive charge,” Mr. Bouchard said.  “Snowflakes go up because they’re light and fluffy.”

The lower portion takes on a negative charge as graupel falls through it.  Once the charge difference builds to a high enough level, it can overcome the resistance of the air, and you get a big static discharge, Mr. Bouchard said.  “That’s lightning.

“The best way to get updraft speeds sufficient to produce lightning is with warm air, and we don’t often have warm air around in the winter,” he said.

Saturday night there was warm air rising into thunderstorm updrafts however, as air originating over the Atlantic moved in.

“There was a lot of rising motion, and that led to the charge separation that caused the thunder and lightning.

“It’s pretty unusual to see snow with thunderstorms in Vermont.  It usually happens with Nor’easters.  But typically with Nor’easters lightning is very sporadic and unpredictable.”

contact Tena Starr at tenas@bartonchronicle.com

For more free articles from the Chronicle like this one, see our Featuring pages. For all the Chronicle’s stories, pick up a print copy or subscribe, either for print or digital editions.

Share

Westmore woman plays prescriptive music

Featured

Linda Schneck plays her harp at her home in Westmore.  Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

Linda Schneck plays her harp at her home in Westmore. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle February 5, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

WESTMORE — Linda Schneck’s father died, in front of her, when she was nine years old.  The family was on vacation in Florida and he died suddenly and unexpectedly, and she was there.  That changed her life in all sorts of ways.

At first, she became withdrawn and uncommunicative.  She had been extremely close to her father and was devastated at the loss.

Her family did all they could to console her.

“My uncle traded a woman a roof for a piano,” she said.  Her uncle was a roofer, and he put a roof on the woman’s home in trade for a player piano.  Young Linda had been begging for piano lessons for a long time.  Her uncle made it happen.

“I think music is what really helped me,” she said.

Continue reading

Share

What kind of birds fly through Orleans County?

American woodwock.  Photo by Bob Stymeist

American woodwock. Photo by Bob Stymeist

by Martha Steele

Seasons in Orleans County are not just about changing weather, leaves, or recreational pursuits.  They also bring wide swings in bird populations, from the near absence of sound or flight during a mid-winter walk in the woods to the deafening chorus of an early spring morning.

My husband, Bob Stymeist, and I have been regularly visiting my mother in Westmore and chronicling the birds we see and hear all year-round.  In 2013, over 56 days, we tallied a total of 152 bird species in Orleans County for the year, our personal record.  In all, birders recorded 179 species in Orleans County in 2013, according to Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology’s eBird.  Our total number since we started birding the county about a decade ago is 178 species.

Birders love statistics and to keep lists.  A yard list.  A town list.  A county list.  A year list.  A trip list.  A life list.  The term “lifer” becomes a unique word for birders, not only indicating a new species that the birder has never seen, but expanding to anything new to the individual, be it a road, a restaurant, or anything at all.

For us, Orleans County holds special affection.  It is where we welcome back our avian friends every spring.  “Our” wood thrush returns every year to a particular spot on our property.  A northern waterthrush greets us with song every spring morning along the road to Willoughby.  A chestnut-sided warbler sets up territory near our mailbox.  We are truly astonished and moved by the ability of birds to travel thousands of miles to and from their wintering or breeding grounds, only to settle in the same place as the year before.  Welcome back indeed.

These snow buntings were photographed on Schoolhouse Road in Brownington.  Wheeler Mountain is in the background.  Photo by Bob Stymeist

These snow buntings were photographed on Schoolhouse Road in Brownington. Wheeler Mountain is in the background. Photo by Bob Stymeist

Continue reading

Share

Chris Braithwaite will be in NENPA Hall of Fame

chris hall fame web

Chris Braithwaite, hard at work at the Chronicle office working on this week’s newspaper, in Barton Tuesday. Photo by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle 1-15-2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

BARTON — Chronicle founder and publisher Chris Braithwaite will be inducted into the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA) Hall of Fame in February.

Mr. Braithwaite and five other newspaper professionals will be honored at the NENPA winter convention and annual meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, on February 7. Continue reading

Share

Hill Farmstead’s expansion is open to the public

Shaun Hill takes a break to enjoy a beer while looking around at his new space.  The retail part of the business is in this space for now.  Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

Shaun Hill takes a break to enjoy a beer while looking around at his new space. The retail part of the business is in this space for now. Photos by Bethany M. Dunbar

copyright the Chronicle January 8, 2014

by Bethany M. Dunbar

GREENSBORO — Hill Farmstead Brewery’s expanded space is open to the public for retail sales.

The expansion is not completed, but the space allows customers to wait inside for tastes of beer, to buy bottled beer, and to buy or fill up growlers, which are big, reusable beer bottles.  Waiting lines will probably be just as long as before because the new space has the same number of taps as before, six.

An ell off the new space is so far just a foundation, but eventually it will hold a new brewery with a mezzanine area and windows so people can see production.  Once the expansion is finished, which is expected to be in October, retail space will exist in the end of the ell.  It will include a rest room for the public.

“The plan is to serve bread and cheese,” Mr. Hill said.

Meanwhile, a portable toilet is available outside. Continue reading

Share

Ruminations: Start a new tradition with Christmas cookies

Featured

Some of our Christmas cookies from a previous year.  Clockwise from the bottom center, are:  Cuccidati, or Italian fig cookies; pizzelle; almond cookies (recipe not provided here); merenguitos; and more pizzelle.  Photo courtesy of Natalie Hormilla

Some of our Christmas cookies from a previous year. Clockwise from the bottom center, are: Cuccidati, or Italian fig cookies; pizzelle; almond cookies (recipe not provided here); merenguitos; and more pizzelle. Photo courtesy of Natalie Hormilla

copyright the Chronicle December 11, 2013

by Natalie Hormilla

Some years ago, when we got tired of too many Christmas gifts with too little meaning, we started to give away Christmas cookies.

The whole process is beautiful.  We bake together, listen to Christmas tunes, talk about the people we’ll give them to, sip amaretto, and just hang out as a family.

The best part is giving them.  The cookies we make for Christmas make their appearance just once a year.  They have a way of inspiring talk about those past family members who carried the recipes into the present.

Continue reading

Share

Orleans County now has its own forester

Orleans County Forester Jared Nunery on his first day on the job that was reinstated this year as a full-time position.  Photo by Paul Lefebvre

Orleans County Forester Jared Nunery on his first day on the job that was reinstated this year as a full-time position. Photo by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the chronicle December 4, 2013

by Paul Lefebvre

Not many young professionals would welcome a reporter’s questions on the first day of a new job.  But that’s where Jared Nunery found himself Monday, roughly six hours into the role as the new county forester for Orleans County.

“My goal is to be the best resource I can for the county,” said Mr. Nunery, who comes to the job with a degree in forestry from the University of Vermont.

A native of Freeport, Maine, Mr. Nunery has worked in a variety of forestry related fields that have taken him to places like Alaska and Montana — states whose land mass and wilderness dwarf that of Vermont.

In Montana he even had a job that many professionals in the outdoor world would trade their firstborn for — the reintroduction of wolves into a state known for big game such as elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain lions.

Not Mr. Nunery, who found counting wolves “incredibly boring.”

Continue reading

Share

Profile: Garth McKinney talks about life after Vietnam

These photos were taken by Garth McKinney when he was serving in Vietnam, except for the last one, which is a photo of him.

by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle, 11-6-2013

GLOVER — The centennial for the start of World War One — the war to end all wars — is just around the corner.  For much of the world, the war began in the summer of 1914 and ended on November 11, 1918 — the year after the United States entered the conflict that, by some accounts, took roughly 35 million lives.  Given that scale of horrific carnage, small wonder it had to be elevated and commemorated as the war that would end all others. Continue reading

Share

Chronicle jack-o’-lantern contest winners speak

A jack-o’-lantern imprisoned in its own shell won a subscription to the Chronicle for Meredith Holch.  It was one of 48 entries in the 2013 Great Chronicle Jack-o’-lantern Contest held Sunday at the Barton Memorial Building.  Photo by Joseph Gresser

A jack-o’-lantern imprisoned in its own shell won a subscription to the Chronicle for Meredith Holch. It was one of 48 entries in the 2013 Great Chronicle Jack-o’-lantern Contest held Sunday at the Barton Memorial Building. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Natalie Hormilla

“You have to look at the pumpkin, and see what it tells you,” said Lila Winstead of Glover, about one of her rules of pumpkin carving.

Ms. Winstead is usually a winner at the Chronicle’s annual jack-o’-lantern contest, and 2013 was no exception.

She was one of three winners in the adult category this year.  She won with a smaller pumpkin that featured an intricately carved face.

“That’s my fallback,” she said.  “Every year, I think, it should be a face.”

There was also the matter of practicality in coming up with her idea.

“I was tired, and I couldn’t think of a big project, and I do indeed have rules — I’m a classicist.”

The jack-o’-lantern face is meant to sit by the front door of a house to keep away gremlins this time of year, Ms. Winstead said.

“In my heart of hearts, that’s what I really believe, that the pumpkin is a face.  Nice things should not be depicted on the face.  Sweet things — that’s not Halloween.” Continue reading

Share

Dirty Water Brass Band rocks the Honk! Festival

The Dirty Water Brass Band rocks a crowd in Harvard Square with their rendition of the classic soul tune “Knock On Wood.”  Drummer Don Stevenson and sax player Mary Curtin are part-time West Glover residents.  Along with trombonists Todd Page and Tim Opperman, Sousaphone player Jim Overly, tenor players Jamie Pierce and Peter Goransson and trumpeter Gary Smiley, the band participated in this year’s Honk! Festival in Somerville and Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 12 and 13.  The annual brass band festival also included others with connections in Orleans County including the Bread and Puppet Circus Band and the Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society.  Video by Joseph Gresser

Share