THE GREAT WHITE HURRICANE OF MARCH 11, 1888 – Marilyn Armstrong

Today is my birthday. It’s also the 132nd anniversary of the worst blizzard to ever hit the east coast of the United States. Early March is frequently stormy and snowy. Blizzards are not unusual, though typically, snow melts quickly in the spring.

I appear to have been destined for snowy climes. This is not only the story of a storm, but a cautionary tale to never forget winter isn’t over until the daffodils are in bloom. You can never overestimate how dangerous weather in this region can be, especially in the spring when wind patterns become unstable.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York on March 11. There had been a blizzard a few days before, but apparently, it wasn’t a problem because I was safely born in Brooklyn Women’s Hospital. Nonetheless, throughout my childhood, no one in my family ever forgot to mention the blizzard that had hit before I was born. They called me “the blizzard baby” and everyone still talked about it. It was memorable.

Early March is a fine time for big snowstorms in the northeast. March 11, 1888, brought the biggest winter storm to ever hit the region. Known locally as the Brooklyn Blizzard of 1888 and up and down the east coast as the Great White Hurricane, it is my birthday blizzard, a foretaste of Marilyn to come. Or something like that.

Boston’s downtown crossing right after the 1978 blizzard – 28 inches

It was the worst blizzard to ever hit the city of New York. It broke records from Virginia to Maine. It remains one of the worst — and most famous — storms in United States history.

Accumulations of 40 to 50 inches were recorded. It’s hard to picture how much snow that is unless you’ve been through a few really big snowstorms. The deepest snow from a single storm in my life was 34 inches. That’s only a bit more than half the amount of the 1888 blizzard. Despite all the changes and improvements to technology and infrastructure, that amount of snow can paralyze us today.

It’s more snow than any infrastructure can handle. Did I mention snow is heavy? 50 inches on a standard roof might cause it to cave in.

It wasn’t merely a snowstorm. The superstorm included sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds. It was one of those occasions when people get put in their place, forcibly reminded of how strong Mother Nature is.

The storm blanketed areas of  New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. It carried with it sustained winds of more than 45-miles per hour. It produced drifts in excess of 50 feet high. My house, at its peak, is about 40 feet, so so we are talking about drifts as high as a three-story building. All forms of transportation were stopped. Roads and railroads were unusable. People were trapped in their houses for up to a week.

The Great White Hurricane paralyzed the Atlantic coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. The storm extended all the way up into the Atlantic provinces of Canada. The telegraph went down, leaving major cities including Montreal, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Boston without communication for days to weeks. Because of the storm, New York began putting its telegraph and telephone wiring underground to protect it from future disasters.

The seas and coastlines were not spared. In total, from the Virginia coast to New England, more than 200 ships were grounded or wrecked and more than 100 seamen died.

130 years later, no winter storm has yet topped the big one of 1888. My special storm!

THE DAM IN WINTER: A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

THE MUMFORD DAM IN JANUARY:
A PHOTO A WEEK CHALLENGE


A trip to the dentist also means a chance to photograph the dam in the middle of town since the two places are adjacent.

The cold dam at the end of January.

What made this interesting is that I’ve never taken a picture of this area in the winter. All my other shots began in the spring and through the late fall.

Taking advantage of a rare opportunity to take a few pictures in winter.

Gray, foggy afternoon in January

Light snow on our road

STOPPING BY THE WOODS ON A SNOWY NIGHT – ROBERT FROST


Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost. Reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

WINTER SCENES – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Winter Scenes


It certainly is winter here and today, it was actually cold. The earlier parts of the month were springlike, sometimes downright summery. Today, cold. Tomorrow? Snow? Sleet? Rain? Cold? Warm? All of the preceding?

NOW you’re talking. our precipitous winter days have mostly been a bit of everything, usually in about 12-hours. Although we have rapidly changing weather, it doesn’t usually all happen in a single day between dawn and the late news.

Junco in a bird’s winter

Waiting to a place at the feeder

Home in the snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

A bench on the Common with snow – Photo: Garry Armstrong

THE WHITE OF A WINTER SKY #4 – Marilyn Armstrong

WHITE WINTER SKY – Marilyn Armstrong

The sky is as white as the snow. That was winter. Now, it’s just dull gray, day after day. With rain, with sleet, with ice. Warm enough so the fleas don’t die and the dogs need flea and tick collars. I’m not sure what this season is, so here’s to winters in years gone by.

As winter ends, a bit of snow still remains along the road

WINTER YET TO COME – Rich Paschall

Winter In The Air, Rich Paschall

It’s not in the air now. It was, but not now. Back in late October winter arrived before we could even rake up all the leaves. In fact, many of the trees still had their leaves. There was no chance to clean up. And snow appeared in time for Halloween.

The problem with early snow is that the Streets and Sanitation Department takes that as the sign to put away the street sweepers and bring out the snowplows. November remained cold, but little additional snow was ever sighted. The leaves came down throughout the month.

Then December brought warmer temperatures. We actually had several days in the ’60s and expect at least one more warm day. I raked leaves December 22 and 23rd in the pleasant fall weather.

No worries about Winter, however.  He will be here soon. You will feel it in the air.

COUNT THE BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

The windows through which I shoot bird pictures had gotten dusty. Owen went out to clean them for me. All the birds around the deck and on the feeders flew up and into the trees. Owen said it sounded like something from “The Birds.” I wasn’t outside, but I was watching from the window in the kitchen. I watched this flock take off — maybe 100 birds  — many of them doves, took off.

Chipping Sparrow

When they settled down, I realized there were birds on pretty much every branch in the woods. I couldn’t tell you which birds were which — my eyes aren’t that good — but you could see their outlines against the fading sky.

A little downy woodpecker. He’s still a baby!

We have a lot of birds of every kind you might expect in this part of the world. We may be facing serious climactic change, but so far, at least we still have birds. So far, so good.

Birds in our bushes … er, feeders

The weather has been very up and down. Two days of extremely cold weather, followed by a few days in the mid-60s. That’s 17 or 18 C for those who aren’t good converters. I finally gave in and put the tick and flea collars back on all three of them. The bugs aren’t dying like they used to. The moment it warms up, the ticks and fleas appear like magic. It’s going to be a very buggy year.

Sharing

I didn’t take any picture or at least, any new ones. I still have a lot of pictures I’ve taken over the past week or two. And there was a lot of cooking getting done. And baking. There’s at least one more big meal coming out of that lamb — my joyful lamb curry.

Downy Woodpecker

I’m taking the rest of the season, such as it is, off. I’ve been looking for a good time to take a few days off and this seems a better time than most. So I’ll be back after the year turns. Let’s hope this one is better than the last few.

ICE ART – BY ELLIN CURLEY

We recently had an ice storm where I live, which knocked out our satellite dish and made the roads hazardous to drive on for a while. But the next day, the ice-covered trees and bushes around the house created a fantasy winter scape, which I want to share with you.

 

FEATHERED FRIENDS AND FLUFFY TREE CLIMBERS – Marilyn Armstrong

The squirrels knocked down one of the feeders this morning, so we filled it up and put it back. The ground feeders love all that fallen seed and it’s in a nice, safe place where the bird-eating hawks can’t easily go.

The squirrels also like it. All the corn and the big pieces of nuts that they like best are nicely spread out on the ground.

I think they knock the feeders down on purpose.

Welcome, Bluebird!

Just the tail!

Not bad … maybe I’ll have some more.

White on black – It’s a Junco!

Temporarily treed

I hope it’s still good!

Diggin in

MORE WINTER BIRDS – Marilyn Armstrong

I see a lot more birds than I am able to photograph. I see them, but when I lift the camera up, they either hide or fly up into the tree. They obviously can see me through the glass doors. They don’t seem to mind me standing there and watching them, but as soon as I pick up the camera, about half of them disappear in a matter of seconds.

Tufted Titmouse

Junco and a Rose-Breasted Nuthatch

Nuthatch and incoming — but not sure what! Going by color, I think it’s a bluebird.

Downy Woodpecker

A Downy Woodpeckerwithout a red patch is a lady. Why does she always look like she’s got a mad on?

She really looks like she’s spent too many hours trying to talk to customer service

Titmouse

Another Titmouse

A Titmouse and a Flying Chickadee

Cardinal in full regalia

Goldfinch and Chickadee

Two bluebirds

I always wonder why some birds show up in a bunch one day, but I don’t see them again for a week or two. They are probably all there while I’m here, on the computer.

I’m finding it weird that it’s nearly Christmas. I’m not ready for another year. I have not yet recovered from this one. Or the one before this one. Actually, I haven’t been right in the head since 2016.

Meanwhile, Merry Christmas! Or whatever you celebrate or even if you don’t celebrate anything. Enjoy the days off or overtime or whatever. Hey, Garry and I got our raises from Social Security. They said it was to “keep up with inflation.”

Are you ready?

I’m getting an EXTRA $18 every month! And Garry is getting an ADDITIONAL $21 every month. Wowee zowee! I hope you’re impressed. It’s the first raise in a couple of years, so they had to make it huge!

BABY IT’S COLD OUTSIDE! – Marilyn Armstrong

Following the snow came the arctic blast from somewhere in the northwest. The sun was out when I got up, so it was a beautiful gleaming woods. The birds, for a change, had control of the feeders … but sneak squirrels had a takeover in mind.

Frozen woods

Ice everywhere

The birds didn’t feel like giving up the feeders and they flew around him until he went to a nearby tree to hang out for a while. Not for very long, though. A determined squirrel is not easily deterred.

Up a tree, thinking about seeds

Getting ready for another assault on the feeder

It’s really COLD out here! Where are those seeds?

Hunger no more! I’m home at last.

THE “OLD PERSON” WEATHER REPORT – Marilyn Armstrong

These days, watching television and seeing even the finest meteorologist give a forecast that is everything other than summer would be a lot funnier if it didn’t mean that climate change is hitting this area — New England —  harder than it is hitting other places in the world.

Nobody ever said it would hit every place equally at the same time, although somehow that’s how I imagined it.

This idea came to me as I commented to Garry that my sinuses were throbbing, my lower back felt a little better than it had earlier, but both hips were pulsing in pain. also, I have a massive headache and both eyes feel like someone poured sand into them. Translated into meteorologist-ese, it means:

Chipping Sparrow

Humidity is rising, barometric pressure is dropping, probably fast. Temperature is falling quicker than my head can handle and the air, for the moment, is very dry (eyes), probably because I ticked up the heat by a couple of degrees.

I suddenly foresaw a new kind of weather report. Traditional and “old person” weather.

First, the modern, up-to-date scientific meteorologist gives his report. Maps, stats, wind directions, where it’s coming from, going to. When we’ll get sleet, freezing rain, blinding snow, less blinding snow, total amounts from Connecticut through Maine. How much of whatever falls will fall on us?

How long will it last?

Next snow?

By the time he’s done, he has forecast every possible form of winter weather and all anyone knows it that is will be cold, wet, and ugly. I better make a new doctor’s appointment in the morning. No matter how good a driver Garry is, he isn’t the only one on the road. There are an awful lot of people who don’t “get” that simply slowing down would prevent a lot of weather-related accidents. Four-wheel-drive doesn’t help on ice or sleet.

The weather report’s not over yet. Winter weather reports take up at least half our news broadcast, just as — when one of our teams is winning — sports takes up at least half the report. Especially baseball and football.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –Winter at home

Part two of the report has no stats, numbers, or maps. There’s an old person, male or female —  both? — in comfy chairs, rambling on a bit. Local color. “Remember that 24 inches we got on April 1st in the 1990s? That was some storm … and it all melted in three days. Lots of flooding,” she says.

“My right shoulder is bad,” he says. “Suppose that means cold with snow.”

“My spine hurts bottom to top. Rain first. Likely sleet, then snow. The boiler is in overdrive, so temps are dropping. Bad day tomorrow. Coming from the west. so it’s packing a lot of water. Unless we get lucky, we’ll have a nor’easter along the coast. Good thing we don’t live on the coast anymore, eh?”

“We’ll get twice as much snow as they get along the coast, but at least we won’t flood.” says the old guy.

“Not yet,” she points out. “When it melts, it’ll be dicey.”

“Figure six inches at least, depending on how much sleet and freezing rain we get before the snow. With the falling temps? Gonna be black ice under the snow. Time to cancel that appointment with the doctor.”

Everybody over fifty will relate. Anyone who plays sports will get it. What’s more, we will be accurate — at least locally. Can’t do national forecasts, but we can tell you how it’s gonna be right here in the lower Massachusetts section of the Blackstone Valley.

A heating pad really helps.

ABOUT THOSE DOGS AND TREES – Garry Armstrong

Now that it has snowed, the mud that had almost become solid has turned back into gummy mud. With the best will in the world, this house will never be entirely clean. Too many dogs. Too many trees. Too many people. Dog hair, dust, and dead oak leaves — the triple D of home ownership.

Live in the country — both inside and out!

On their way

Always, the trees

Trees

Home again, from the road

There is more snow coming tomorrow unless it’s rain or unless instead of getting cold, it gets warm … or unless the winds change and everything blows northward. But something’s going to happen, whatever it may be!

THE JUNCOS ARE BACK – Marilyn Armstrong

You know it’s winter when the Juncos appear. This year, they showed up in force. Maybe a dozen of them, though it could be more since they do all look alike. I’ve seen a dozen of them on the deck at one time. They will eat from the feeder, but they will also walk around the deck and eat from the ground, too. They are also very amusing flyers. Like the Chickadees, they will just drop off the feeder and not open their wings until they are just an inch from the ground. I think they enjoy flying just because they have wings.

If I were a bird, I’d seriously consider being either a Chickadee or a Junco. They are the fun flyers of the group.

We’ve also seen a lot of the Cardinals — boys and girls — and various configurations of woodpeckers. The Cardinals will hang out on the feeders, but the moment I show up with the camera, they vanish. The blink of an eye and they are gone.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Junco

The woodpeckers are such a tease. They go to the opposite side of the feeder where I can’t get a picture. Sometimes I’ll see a piece of wing or the top of their heads, but usually not the whole bird. I got one really nice shot of one today with a Junco enjoying seed on a different part of the feeder.

Junco on feeder with seed

Another Junco

And this one, framed