We just had a storm go up the coast. It brought that very familiar cycle to the Canadian Maritimes today.
I grew up in North Carolina. Snow was a cause for great excitement. An inch or two of snow would close school for a day. Five or six inches could shut the system down for days.
There was one March when we were growing up that it snowed on every Tuesday for a month. We were out of school more during the month than we were in class.
I went off to college in Cambridge, Massachusetts with the great hope that I would see lots more snow. I soon found that city snow was nothing to relish except on rare occasions when there was enough snow and cold to shut down the city.
I can remember one wonderful winter when I cross country skied on the Radcliffe Quad. It was great fun. After graduation, I took six thousand dollars and bought an old farm in Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy. It was the early seventies, and I was sure that snow would be a constant companion in the winter.
It only took one winter to figure out that being on the shore had a huge impact on the climate even in Canada. We would often get some beautiful snows, only to watch them disappear the next day under a few inches of rain. Just to rub salt into the wound, everything would freeze solid the next day.
The worst insult was when our frozen dirt road would turn to muddy ruts only to freeze again but with rock hard muddy ruts for weeks. The memories of bumping over those frozen ruts are still fresh. Sometimes the rain would just turn the snow to a couple of inches of ice which was good if you enjoyed skating with your car.
A Canadian Maritime climate was not exactly the best for farming so we eventually headed away from the coast to the interior of New Brunswick. There in the little village of Tay Creek about twenty miles north of Fredericton, we found our snow belt. The first winter we were there, the snows totaled twenty-three feet. We were on snowshoes and skis all winter which started the first of November and ended in May. It was not quite the ten months of snow and two months of poor sledding that our neighbors had promised, but it was close.
There was so much snow that I ended up getting a tractor mounted snow blower. As we developed our farm and eventually ended up with around 200 head of cattle which we wintered each year, snow blowing became a major chore.
Eventually I was blowing snow off at least a mile of road on the farm. My eight foot wide snowblower was hooked to a huge diesel tractor with a cab. The tractor had ring chains on it. It was a formidable beast blowing new snow over one hundred feet. It went through drifts as deep as three feet deep like a hot knife goes through butter.
Still the ring chains were there for a reason. That reason was the freeze, thaw, freeze cycle that I hate so much. We had not escaped it completely.
Blowing snow on gravel roads demands that you keep some packed snow between you and your snowblower unless you want to hurl gravel that same 100 feet or more.
However, during a freeze, thaw, freeze cycle that packed snow could become saturated with water and turn into two or three inches of ice. Ice could turn any tractor into something as useful as a turtle on its back. Ring chains, which are more often used in the woods, work pretty well on ice unless it gets very hard which it sometimes does in Canada.
You know you are in Canada when your kids put their skates on and skate around the driveway while waiting for the school bus. I can remember our driveway being so slick that a car in park with the parking brake on once slid down the gradual slope and ended up in a snow bank.
Even in our New Brunswick snow belt there were some winters when almost all our snow storms went through the freeze, thaw, freeze cycle. And then there were a few winters like our first when the only snow was unadulterated snow which was a delight to have.
After Canada we ended up in the mountains of southwest Virginia. There the most likely snowstorm is about two to three inches of snow which mixes eventually with sleet only to be soaked with rain. The difference is that if you work hard and get it off while it is wet, you do not have to deal with the ice since the freeze part in Virginia is not nearly as cold or quick as it is in Canada. However, we did have a couple of snowstorms that were worth of Canada and I am still trying to forget them.
The link to the post about my passion for a clean driveway has a picture of big tractor with the ring chains.