Chapter Eleven: Weather Forecast? Flip a Coin

NOTE: "Semi-Rough: A North Country Journal," is now available as a complete book, that includes these on-line essays and more. If you'd like a free pdf to download to your computer, send me a note at symbios@condortales.com and I'll email you a copy.


Tuesday 17 September 1996 -"I went down the hill to shop and to get the mail. Saw two fawns between the schoolhouse and Wymans' road. Becky asked me if we had had a big storm Sunday night. I said we'd had a lot of thunder, but didn't get much rain, ourselves. Then she told me that Dummer had got deluged, including hail that they had to shovel away! They didn't get any storm in West Milan."

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Monday 14 July 1997 -"Another 'surprise' rain in the night [we were supposed to be clear and dry for several days] accumulated 0.37" by 0800. Mt. Washington received about 3.5" of rain overnight."

Tuesday 2 October 2007 – There was fog early, then hazy sun. There were more cirro-stratus clouds today compared to yesterday, but it was still calm and dry. Low 39.9, high 64.4F. Not many bugs.While we were having our brief severe thunderstorm last Thursday, Dummer Corner was getting a major storm. Golf ball-sized hail punched holes in screens at Dandeneaus, and trees went over at the Gun Club and on the road between Dummer Corner and West Milan Village.

It isn't a technically correct thing to say, but I'll say it, anyway: we don't have weather on the Pacific Coast; we just get climate. What I mean is that, west of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada, daily climatological conditions blanket vast regions, with only relatively minor differences from place to place. When the first rain of the fall comes in, it comes as a broad gray band that is predictable days in advance and, depending on the location of the jet stream, covering one place and then another in a strongly predictable sequence. When the rains stop in May, they usually just stop.

It isn't that there isn't variation from year to year. Our town in Oregon may have twenty snowy days one winter, and none the next; there may be half a dozen 90 degree days one summer, and none the next. But, other than the "hundred year events" like a major flood, the differences are just nuances. What you got last year is pretty much what you'll get this year; what you had this morning, you'll probably have tomorrow morning [and often the next dozen mornings].

The North Country isn't like that. On the broader scale, air masses from the Midwest, from Canada, from the Gulf Coast, and even occasionally from the Atlantic Ocean are constantly jockeying for position. No one ever knows which system will "win" the current conflict; consequently, I find my journal filled with entries that go something like this: the weatherman said that it would _______, but instead it _______. As far north as we are located, with the greater potential for influence from Canadian air masses, the less certain any local forecast can be. In late summer, there's always the more or less active "hurricane season" to add more spice to the pot.

On the local level, every ridge, valley, river, lake and mountain seems to make its own weather. We can get a half-inch of rain in the same time period that our friends' rain gage in the valley four miles away accumulates four inches. We can be calm and dry while a town twenty miles away is experiencing tree-shattering winds and golfball-sized hail. We can be 40 degrees at the same moment that Berlin, less than fifteen air miles away from us and only a few feet lower in elevation, is registering 65 degrees.

Day to day is the same grab-bag. We and Boston can have the same 90 degrees one day, with air so thick and humid you'd swear you were drinking it, not breathing it. The next day, Boston is the same [and usually the next day and the next and the next], but we've had Canadian air creep in overnight, and we're now experiencing a lovely, dry, blue-sky, 65 degree, autumn day.

I don't like all the weather we get - some is barely tolerable, and some is downright scary - but I enjoy the variety and the relative unpredictability. It adds a zest to living at the end of our road.


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