Nature Puts on a Show

Our lifestyle requires an awareness of the weather and seasons most Americans, outside the farming profession, have learned to live without. Keeping in tune with and abreast of the sometimes subtle, often dramatic shifts in conditions gives us a sense of contentment and excitement that is difficult to describe. This is why I’m fond of asserting that the view from our cabin windows is generally more interesting, and far better plotted, than most television shows.

For instance, on President’s Day, 9 inches of snow fell on the homestead within 5 hours. During this time, Lynn Canal lay still and calm, the water so satiny smooth that the falling snow accumulated on the water from our beach to the far shore, several miles away.

snow on Lynn Canal

Snow accumulating on the calm water (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

We knew to expect south winds to at least 25 knots ( nearly 29 m.p.h.) sometime in the afternoon. Michelle started a new job in town the next day, so we hiked across the ridge to dig the car out. The forecast told us that the wind would bring rain, but we wanted to hedge our bet. Often, rather than melting the snow, rain simply makes it wetter and heavier. If it freezes overnight, the car would be far more difficult to extract.

We made quick work of it. The snow, though deep, was so light and fluffy that we would have done better with brooms than with shovels. As we hiked home, we dodged large dumps of snow as the first light breezes jostled the tree tops. When we arrived home, the ocean remained calm, and we marveled at the thick slush the snow had formed on the water’s surface.

We went inside to dry out, but kept a watch at the windows. Soon, the snow on the water began to swirl, bunch, and drift north.

Generally, we can predict coming wind by the smooth swells that develop, as waves are formed and pushed from farther away as the wind approaches. This day’s wind must have developed right on top of us, because we saw no warning swells; instead, the snow swirled and bunched till it looked like large swatches of sea foam on the still silky ocean surface. When wavelets finally appeared, they rippled through the rafts of snow, making it look like white smoke just above the surface. Finally, the snow consolidated and disappeared to the north, as the treetops on our property began to shake off their snow loads. The wind generator, its prop heavy with snow, fussed and swung, then roused itself and began to spin as the wind freshened.

Once it started, the wind quickly strengthened, bathing us in warmer air. Soon the sky outside whitened with falling snow loads that pounded our roof, creating avalanches from the snow that had accumulated there through the day. We hardly knew where to look, and didn’t dare go outside until the heaviest loads had had a chance to fall. Out in Lynn Canal, the last of the snow disappeared, replaced by gunmetal gray waves topped with white curlers.

What a show!

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