Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The ice morning cometh

Actually, to be accurate, the ice morning isn't coming anymore, it's here.

The Amherst/Pelham schools declared a 2-hour delay this morning. It's going to be interesting to see how that works out. Right now it's 31 degrees out, and we've got light precipitation in the form of freezing drizzle/rain. (The forecast says it's snowing lightly, but that is not the case on the east/south side of town anyway - we never did get snow from what I can tell.) Our front porch and walkway looks simply wet, but it's actually a sheet of ice - and our cars are also encased in ice. Temps are expected to slowly rise above freezing - to a high of about 39 degrees - by early afternoon. And, remember, even as the temps rise above freezing, the ground is still cold and frozen, so ice won't melt as quickly as the temp rises. Untreated surfaces are icy, so if you have to go out, take it slow out there.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Snow Sky

This afternoon's snow sky, 12/8/2014
If you were out at all this afternoon or evening, it should come as no surprise that forecasts now have higher and lower elevations of Western Massachusetts (including Amherst) feeling the effects overnight and tomorrow morning of our approaching nor'easter. We can expect 2-4 inches of snow around here overnight, along with sleet and freezing rain - a true mixed bag of messiness. Oh, what fun. Precipitation will start betwen 10 pm-1 am tonight, gathering steam around daybreak. By 10am-noon tomorrow, the temperature should rise well above freezing, so it's still all rain later tomorrow.

So this shouldn't really be a surprise for anyone. It feels like snow. It's cold outside (still in the low to mid-20s), and the sky this afternoon was a snow sky if ever there was one. I'm all for science and computer weather models, but sometimes it makes sense to just go outside and look up. You know, get your head in the clouds.

This Week's Looming Nor'easter

"Winter is begun here, now, I suppose. It blew part of the 
hair off the dog yesterday & got the rest this morning." 
Mark Twain, Letter to Chatto and Windus, October 21, 1892.

Talk about wild weather in the forecast! The next few days - starting late tonight through Thursday - promise to bring some interesting weather to our area. Just how interesting will depend entirely on where you are located.

The forecast here in Amherst is extremely tricky to decipher, as the track of this week's looming Nor'easter has shifted slightly east since yesterday, which means the possibility of significant heavy wet snow accumulation (over 6 inches) plus a trace amount of ice in the higher elevations of northern and western parts of Massachusetts, including Franklin, Northern Worcester, Hampshire and Western Hampden Counties. (This being an Amherst-centric page, I won't go into detail on the rest of the region, but suffice it to say that ski areas in VT are going to hit the snow jackpot, and it's going to be extremely windy with heavy rain on the coast).

So what will happen here in Amherst? The computer models at this time are showing that precipitation will start out late tonight, possibly as snow with some pockets of freezing rain or drizzle. We could get a trace to a few inches of snow overnight through Tuesday morning (though the lower amount is more likely here, in the Valley's lower elevations). Whatever snow does fall will be heavy and wet - where more than 4 inches falls, power outages are likely. Expect heavy rain through Tuesday, before things quiet down by Wednesday. At that point it gets colder again, a new front moves over us, and we are likely to get a few more inches of snow through Thursday.

And all that being said, there is a high level of unpredictability in the computer models, and you should be prepared for anything. Depending on the track of this storm and any shift in the rain/snow line, we could see much worse conditions. Not likely, but possible.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Through the Lens

"Where did Buddha go?"
Photo by Jill Paul
Have you checked out THIS page of our blog yet: Through the Lens ?

It features a changing selection of seasonal photos by a variety of Head in the Clouds correspondents, readers, and friends. If you've taken a photo you'd be happy to see posted here, send it our way (our email can be found on the bottom of the "About Us" page of our blog). Send along the photo's title and how you'd like the photographer (you) to be credited. Looking forward to seeing what you see!

Icy Morning v. Typhoon

Satellite view of Typhoon Hagupit, near Phillipines (photo from BBC report)
Icy start to our morning, with temps (happily) warming up over the day. There is a possibility of a major snowstorm Tuesday/ Wednesday (depends entirely on the storm track), so keep an eye on that. But the major weather story this morning is taking place about 8,000 miles away from Amherst, as Typhoon Hagupit is poised to make landfall in the Philippines, near the Eastern and Northern Samar provinces and the city of Tacloban, where thousands were killed by Typhoon Haiyan a year ago. It has weakened slightly - was downgraded yesterday from its previous "super typhoon status" - but gusts are still peaking at 195km/h (120mph). A massive evacuation is currently underway. 

And that kind of makes our little icy morning a lot less daunting, right?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday - it's "Mid-Week Madness"!

What's left after Black Friday and Cyber Monday are but a distant memory??? MID-WEEK MADNESS, of course! That's where you reflect on the wild weather we're having and then decide to buy a few Head in the Clouds Amherst wall calendars to round out your holiday shopping. Best of all, for the next two days, right through Thursday (that's the mid-week madness part), we've dropped our price by 25% to $10/calendar. All purchases through Thursday will be mailed off (priority mail) by Friday - and you'll have them in hand early next week, well ahead of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and, yes, even Emily Dickinson's birthday. And once you have our calendar, you'll be on top of all those dates, as well as the anniversaries of more than 50 notable New England weather events from 1660 to 2014. I mean can you really go on not knowing when a thunderstorm passed through North Amherst and destroyed "Factory Hollow?" It's all just a click away.

Read on for more about our 2015 calendar . . .
(Click on photo to enlarge)
Actual calendar photos and daily entries are high resolution, much sharper than the images shown here)

After such an enthusiastic reception last year, we are delighted to release our new Head in the Clouds Amherst 2015 Wall Calendar. Once again, the calendar features 12 of your favorite nature photos from our blog, all taken in Amherst and the surrounding area. And new this year, we've added photo titles and location captions so you can easily identify where each photo was taken. Printed on high quality, glossy paper, this calendar notes major holidays, as well as astronomical events visible from Amherst with the naked eye (full moon, new moon, meteor showers, and more). Our calendar also documents nearly 50 major weather events that occurred in Amherst and New England between 1660 and 2014. A perfect gift for friends and family, this calendar will delight and surprise month after month. Full size when open is 17" high and 11" wide. 

Price is $13.50 $10.00 per calendar until midnight on Thursday, December 4 through this website. After December 4th, the price will go back to $13.50/calendar. (Sale is not available at local retail stores.)

Buy here for delivery by mail, or purchase at Amherst Books or Hastings. Amherst Books is located at the center of downtown Amherst at 8 Main Street. Hastings is also downtown, at 45 South Pleasant Street on the Common





January: Snowing at South Beach - Puffer's Pond
February: Ski Trails - Kevin Flood Accessible Trail
March: Twilight Sky - Cushman Brook
April: Sunset - Puffer's Pond
May: Cumulus Mirrored - Atkins Reservoir
June: Summer Solstice at Stonehenge -
UMass Sunwheel (also known as "Stonehenge")
July: Path to Amherst - Looking towards Amherst from
South Maple Street, Hadley
August: Common Fog - Amherst Town Common
September: "Where the place called morning lies" -
The Homestead (birthplace and home of Emily Dickinson)
October: Traveling through Fall - Pulpit Hill Road,
 adjacent to Cherry Hill Golf Course
November: Nightfall over Simple Gifts Farm -
Pine Street, North Amherst
December: Snow in the Valley - Hadley/North Amherst


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Winter announcing itself tonight

Sign of things to come? (Photo by S. Vardatira, 2013)

Winter is going to be announcing itself tonight, with light accumulating snowfall likely across much of Southern New England tonight into Friday Morning. Precipitation will start from west to east as rain changing to snow with a brief burst of heavier snow possible during the overnight. Total snowfall of a coating to 2" is expected area wide. And while the forecast calls for a slight warm up tomorrow (up to 40 during the day), temps stay pretty cold all the way through next weekend, with below freezing temps at night rising to the high 30s during the day. Time to haul out that winter coat!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Three years ago tonight...

Assessing the damage the next morning, 10/30/2014


Can you remember where you were 3 years ago tonight? Right about now, if you were fortunate to be inside and not marooned in a grocery store for the night or crawling down the highway, most locals were listening to the snapping and cracking of trees in the night. The breaking sound was explosive, followed quickly by the sound of branches and trees crashing to the ground. I remember staying up all night in the darkness (the power was gone by early evening) wondering when the next tree would come down on the house. And eventually that's exactly what I heard. We were without power for five days, and trapped in our house on the hill - trees entwined with electric line fell across our driveway, making it impossible to drive out. And the temperature kept dropping each day. Anyone living in the valley vividly remembers exactly what they were doing and where they were that week. What's your story?


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Not to set off "Post-Traumatic Snowtober Disorder," but...

Halloween lawn decoration buried in snow, "Snowtober" - 10/30/2011
Daily Hampshire Gazette front page, Halloween 2011
I have been avoiding posting about this because I didn't want to set off "PTSD" - by which I mean "Post-Traumatic Snowtober Disorder" - in Amherst residents, but I would be remiss not to mention that there's a distant possibility we *might* get some snow around Halloween. 

Now stay calm, keep breathing. 

The fine print may help - and then again, maybe not. Those harrowing memories from Halloween 2011 are hard to beat back.

Read on for details here:
Tricky Halloween Forcast

Layover at Quabbin

Layover at Quabbin Reservoir, 10/14/2014 - Photo by S. Vardatira
Pass by Quabbin these days, and you are sure to see geese - coming in for a landing, bobbing on the water, watching the sunset along with the day's final visitors hurrying back across the dam before nightfall. I took this photo a little over a week ago, at sunset. Perfect, serene setting.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2015 Head in the Clouds Amherst Calendar - Now Available!


(Click on photo to enlarge)
Actual calendar photos and daily entries are high resolution, much sharper than the images shown here)

After such an enthusiastic reception last year, we are delighted to release our new Head in the Clouds Amherst 2015 Wall Calendar. Once again, the calendar features 12 of your favorite nature photos from our blog, all taken in Amherst and the surrounding area. And new this year, we've added photo titles and location captions so you can easily identify where each photo was taken. Printed on high quality, glossy paper, this calendar notes major holidays, as well as astronomical events visible from Amherst with the naked eye (full moon, new moon, meteor showers, and more). Our calendar also documents nearly 50 major weather events that occurred in Amherst and New England between 1660 and 2014. A perfect gift for friends and family, this calendar will delight and surprise month after month. Full size when open is 17" high and 11" wide. 

Price is $13.50 per calendar purchased through this website (slightly higher at local retail stores). 

Buy here for delivery by mail, or purchase at Amherst Books or Hastings. Amherst Books is located at the center of downtown Amherst at 8 Main Street. Hastings is also downtown, at 45 South Pleasant Street on the Common





January: Snowing at South Beach - Puffer's Pond
February: Ski Trails - Kevin Flood Accessible Trail
March: Twilight Sky - Cushman Brook
April: Sunset - Puffer's Pond
May: Cumulus Mirrored - Atkins Reservoir
June: Summer Solstice at Stonehenge -
UMass Sunwheel (also known as "Stonehenge")
July: Path to Amherst - Looking towards Amherst from
South Maple Street, Hadley
August: Common Fog - Amherst Town Common
September: "Where the place called morning lies" -
The Homestead (birthplace and home of Emily Dickinson)
October: Traveling through Fall - Pulpit Hill Road,
 adjacent to Cherry Hill Golf Course
November: Nightfall over Simple Gifts Farm -
Pine Street, North Amherst
December: Snow in the Valley - Hadley/North Amherst


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Freeze Watch is just the beginning

Clouds ahead of cold front, Hadley MA (today, 10/18/14)
For those of you loving the warm up this past week, prepare for a rude awakening (literally, on Monday) – a Freeze Watch is in effect for much of interior Southern New England for late Sunday into Monday morning at 9 am. This isn’t a case of frost, mind you, but FREEZE. Minimum temperatures will be in the upper 20s and low 30s, and a newspaper canopy over your plants may not do the trick this time around. These sub-freezing temperatures tend to kill crops and other sensitive vegetation.
Meanwhile, as you have no doubt noticed, local talk has started to drift into musings on winter. What kind will we have? Mild or bitter cold, snowy or icy, and what will happen to Pine Street when deep freeze sets in? Indeed, the sorry state of Pine Street has practically displaced weather talk these days, and this being New England and all, that’s saying something.  Pine Street aside, forecasters from the Farmer’s Almanac to bona fide meteorologists (oops, did I betray a bias there?!) have been rolling out their predictions (Almanac) and forecasts (meteorologists) for the coming winter. 
The fun of the Farmer’s Almanac is the specificity of their predictions, right down to providing a summary for our own Amherst Center. So if you put any stock in what the Almanac has to say (or even if you don’t and are just curious), here’s their winter forecast for Amherst Center:
Winter will be much colder than normal, with near-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall. The coldest periods will be in mid- and late December, early and mid-January, and mid- to late February. The snowiest periods will be in mid- to late November, mid- and late December, and early to mid-March.  (Farmer’s Almanac, 2014)
To be honest, that’s pretty typical for a lot of winters around here, except for the “near-normal precipitation and below-normal snowfall.” Last I checked, precipitation included snowfall.
It probably won’t surprise you to hear that meteorologists have their own take on matters, and while they are predicting a somewhat colder and snowier winter than normal for the Northeast, they don’t expect the record-breaking misery of last winter.  Cold air will surge into the Northeast in late November, but the brunt of the season should hold off until January and February (much as it did last year, as you may recall). And who can forget last winter’s “polar vortex,” which brought extended bouts of arctic temperatures?  We’ll see a few blasts like that again this year, but temperatures are not expected to stay so persistently sub-zero. So, take heart – winter is coming one way of another, just like you knew it would.
As for Pine Street lasting the winter (or even the next month), that’s another matter altogether.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

First frost, but not yet time to panic!

Ground frost, 2013 (Photo by S. Vardatira)

If you hoped (or feared) this would be the summer without end, time to revise your thinking! The National Weather Service in Taunton has issued a Frost Advisory, which is in effect from late tonight until tomorrow morning for Hampshire and Northern Worcester Counties in Massachusetts. Temperatures will be in the lower 30s. Sensitive vegetation should be protected, and potted plants normally left outdoors should be covered or brought inside away from the cold. Time to harvest the basil and tomatoes, folks. And for some ideas on how to protect your other plants, check out this garden helper website. After tonight, temps climb out of frost range, at least for the next 10 days, with lows in the mid-40s to mid-50s, highs in the mid-60s. Fortunately, there's still growing time to be had before winter arrives in earnest.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Storms Heading Our Way

Severe thunderstorm watch has just been issued for Hampshire County through 9 pm tonight. Although, to be sure, we are in for a whole series of stormy days ahead. What does this mean for July 4th fireworks around here? Well, too close to call - I'm going to guess that Arthur will probably have passed to our southeast by then, and we'll be in the clear around here. But even if we aren't clear on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday look great.

Here's the weather detail for Southern New England today and the next few days, straight from the NOAA Skywarn office in Taunton (complete with all their fun capitalization rules!):

"Weather Pattern expected to be active Wednesday Evening through Friday and possibly into Saturday Morning with several days of severe weather and flood to flash flood potential and the potential for some possible impacts from Tropical Storm Arthur or Arthur's interaction with a cold front that will move through the region.

After a relatively quiet stretch of weather over the past few weeks, the weather will turn active as we get into Wednesday Evening through Friday and possibly into the Saturday Morning timeframe. Hot and humid conditions will prevail over the region over the next few days. A Cold Front will be gradually approaching Southern New England from the west and will begin to affect our region Wednesday Evening. This will likely bring the first round of isolated to scattered strong to severe thunderstorms starting in Western New England Wednesday Evening. Strong to damaging winds, large hail and heavy rainfall with the potential for urban and poor drainage flooding to flash flooding are the main threats. 

As we get into Thursday and Friday, possibly extending into early Saturday Morning, impacts from Tropical Storm Arthur and the interaction of the approaching cold front could potentially lead to what is known as a 'predecessor rainfall event' also known as a PRE which could result in the potential for widespread heavy rainfall in the axis of where this event take place. It is unclear where this axis will setup across the region or if it stays south of our area. It is also unclear when this event will occur. This PRE event may not occur until Thursday Night into Friday.

Even without this event, the approaching cold front has the potential for another round of isolated to scattered strong to severe thunderstorms for Thursday to much of Southern New England with strong to damaging winds, hail and urban and poor drainage flooding to flash flooding as the primary threats. T

In terms of the exact track of Tropical Storm Arthur, the track currently brings Arthur around the 40 North/70 West Benchmark. While this track would keep the strongest winds south and east of Southern New England, the interaction of this system with the cold front and its transition to a post tropical system could change the impacts of this system on the region. In addition, the cone of uncertainty on the track guidance extends as far north as Southeast New England. It is also noted that model agreement on the track is not as strong as yesterday with some reliable models being much further offshore with Arthur while other models bring Arthur closer to Southern New England. In addition, the closest pass of Arthur to Southern New England will likely take place late Friday Night into Saturday Morning which is still approximately 4 days away. As the system organizes and continues its movement northward, model tracks should become more certain as we get into the Thursday Afternoon to Friday Morning timeframe. Interests in Southern New England should monitor the track of Tropical Storm Arthur as well as how this system interacts with the cold front as we get into the timeframe of impact late this week."

Stay safe everyone, and do not take shelter under trees!