Sunday, November 13, 2011

Winter Storm Alfred

Well, it has been an interesting few weeks, to say the least. Connecticut was hit by winter storm Alfred, a nor'easter of most unfortunate timing. Big and heavy snowflakes started floating down a little after noon on Saturday the 29th of October. We lost power later that night, and did not get it back until the following Saturday. This was not an unusual circumstance for this storm; much of Connecticut was a mass of downed limbs and trees, with power lines all tangled up within them. Some places did not have their electricity restored until the 8th or 9th. What was unusual was the timing of the storm, and some of the circumstances this fall.

You see, this was the problem:

October had been fairly mild, and the trees were still hanging on to their leaves. Then Alfred arrived- an unusual late October snowstorm, and loaded down all those leaves with very wet and heavy snowflakes. I think we ended up with 8 to 10 inches of snow. The deciduous trees weren't made to handle such stresses, and the result was a mass of broken limbs and downed trees. The limbs started falling late during the afternoon of the 29th, and the cracks and pops of their falling could be heard overnight. The pines held up a bit better. Sure, they lost some branches here and there, as usual, but it was rare to see a pine totally destroyed by the storm.

This was the world we woke up to on the morning of the 30th of October. Tree branches laden with snow and ice, bowing the survivors down to the ground, while the fallen branches and trees lay covered in the snow that brought them down.

The maple in our backyard had escaped mostly unscathed, despite its slightly shaky health. Unfortunately it was improperly planted and is root bound. It might have been a bit sheltered by the wooded hill behind our house and the house itself. Covered and droopy with heavy snow, it was pretty in the early morning light.

Unfortunately, not all our trees had been so fortunate. A huge oak on the edge of our property did not survive the storm. I suspect it fell out of the woods at about 7 pm the previous night, as that was the time we had heard a horrendous crash from outside. To give you an idea of the scale of the tree, Chandler is visible on the right side of this photo. He's standing between the woods and some of the branches, not near the base of the trunk.

While falling, the oak took out two other trees. This is an upward shot showing the trees hit and stripped of branches by the impact. The oak is visible along the bottom of the photo.
The oak hit so hard, a huge limb that was pointing toward the ground snapped and fractured. In this photo Chandler stands next to the trunk, which is above him.

It turned out that the oak had not snapped off at the base as some trees had. Instead it simply uprooted. This happened to some trees because we've gotten a lot of rain this fall, between the hurricane and other storms. The soil is very soft and saturated. I convinced Chandler to climb over the trunk so I could get some photos. That black wall to Chan's right are the roots and the dirt still attached to them

Thankfully, the fallen oak was an exception in the trees bordering our yard. Most were a bit battered and bowed, but still standing. Here we see the neighbor's pines, pool fence, and white birch. The birch is fairly young and was supple enough not to break. Despite its resemblance to a spider in this photo, it has recovered nicely.

Chandler was overjoyed with the snow, and zoomed around while we started cleaning up the mess. He had a grand time.

I don't think any of his paws are touching the ground in the following photo:

The seasonal confusion of a late October snowstorm resulted in some interesting contrasts too. Maple leaves were plastered to the driveway under the snow. They were revealed as my father ran the snowblower over the driveway.
While I was trying to rescue the bushes in the front yard from breaking under the grasp of the heavy snow weighing them down, I discovered the odd sight of a pink azela flower juxtaposed with chill piles of snow.

This was the view down our street that morning: snowy, sagging trees, and equally sagging power lines. The plow could not make it all the way around the circle for fear of pulling down the lines, and indeed had not been around since some time the previous night. That flattened pyramid shape to the left of the garage in this photo was an ornamental pear tree. Unfortunately the storm totally destroyed it.

It turned out that we had actually been VERY lucky the previous night. A branch had broken next to our lines, but had not snapped off. Instead it had buckled, cracked, and sagged onto the lines leading to our house without tearing them off. Instead the branches were simply resting on the lines, their threat barely withheld.

Here is a closeup of the fractured part of the limb.

Of course, we weren't the only people out shoveling and cleaning up the rest of the mess from the storm that morning. My neighbor was outside shoveling a path to the street, while his kids had a great time playing in the snow. Chandler thinks our neighbor's four kids are a lot of fun, especially when they can't catch him.

Kids are also great at gently throwing snowballs to be caught midair.

Unfortunately for Chandler, the day warmed up and much of the snow melted down into a few inches of very slushy snow. This was at least good for the trees, which were finally relieved of the burden that had broken so many of them. We took a walk around the neighborhood during the mid-to-late afternoon, getting exercise and viewing the damage. I'll post those in a second entry.

1 comment: