The poetry sides of snowflakes sparkle and glow under moonlight and street lights as the snow sifts softly down and covers the ground with a cold blanket. The poetry side of snowflakes drapes white lacy shawls over tree limbs and roofs and snowflakes shift their shapes to outline snow angels.
The prose sides of snowflakes pile up on streets, resist salt and shovels, and tower over parking lots. The prose side of snowflakes is snow blowing and snow shoveling and looking up at the sky at the invading, non-stop army of white parachutes
Snow is native to most sections of the United States, especially in the Northeast and Midwest. A “Snowbelt” stretches across the Great Lakes from Minnesota to Maine and the states in that “Snowbelt” receive the most storms. During some winters, the adjustable buckle of the Snowbelt moves back and forth across the country like floating white crystal parachutes. All snowflakes have six main sides, and most of them have a one of a kind design or pattern.
Snowstorms Up Close and Personal
Every year an average of 105 snowstorms impact the continental United States. A typical snowstorm will endure from two to five days and spread snow over several states. It has snowed in almost every nook and cranny of the United States. A few stray snowflakes have even fallen over southern Florida.
Nationwide, the average snowfall amount per day when it is snowing is about two inches, but seven inches of snow per snow day have been recorded in the mountainous areas of the West. In fact, mountain snowpack contributes about 75 per cent of all year around surface water supplies in the Western United States.
Low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy snow can transform a snowstorm into a blizzard. The strength of the wind determines whether a snowstorm is just a snowstorm or a blizzard. To be a blizzard, a snow storm has to have winds over 35 miles per hour, and reduce visibility to 1,300 feet or less and must last for a prolonged period of time, usually three hours or more. Blizzards can create whiteout conditions and paralyze regions for days and weeks at a time, especially where it snows infrequently.
Snowbelt Snow National Climatic Data Center records reveal that New York State has the snowiest cities in the United States. Syracuse, New York, averages 115 inches of snow a year and Rochester averages 93 inches a year. Buffalo holds the all time record for snowfall in a single season, boasting an astonishing 199 inches, with most of this snow during the 1976-1977 winter.
Currently, cities like Marquette and Muskegon, Michigan and Rochester, New York, receive more snow than Buffalo, despite its reputation. In the Midwest and West, Salt Lake City, Utah; Anchorage, Alaska; and Denver, Colorado have each received more than 100 inches of snow in their record high snow seasons.
Remote mountain areas and small towns have recorded higher snowfall amounts. Paradise Ranger Station in Washington State received over 85 feet of snow in a single season and areas in the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada Mountains receive 33 to 66 feet in a season. Mount Washington, New Hampshire has an average annual snowfall of 260 inches and Valdez, Alaska, averages 326 inches annually.
Other places like Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Florida are strangers or have only a nodding acquaintance with snow.
Snow Storm Safety
Every year snow kills hundreds of people in the United States. The number one cause of snow deaths are traffic accidents, overexertion and exposure. Pete Millier, Director of Campus Facilities- Landscape Services at the University of Missouri offers some common sense safety precautions to take during a snowstorm.
· Be completely aware of road conditions whether they are icy, slushy, snow packed, etc. They should keep any possible hazards in mind and plan in advance for them.
· Leave enough time to account for slowing driving speeds and possible traffic jams.
· Carry sacks of sand or kitty litter to spread on slick spots.
· Keep spare equipment in your car such as shovels, flashlight, matches, blankets, spare clothes, food and water, in case of a breakdown.
If Your Car Breaks Down in a Snow Storm
· Remain in or near your car or truck unless you can see someone who can help.
· Set flares, tie a bright piece of cloth to the antenna, or raise the hood of your car to increase your chances of being rescued.
· Wait for help inside your car. Crack a window for ventilation.
· Turn on the engine for ten or fifteen minutes every hour for heat.
· Try to keep your blood circulating by exercising from time to time, moving arms, legs, fingers and toes.
Staying Home During a Snow Storm
· Stay inside if you are home and unless you have an emergency, don’t leave until the storm is over.
· Stock your house with food that won’t spoil, medicine, bottled water, wood, batteries and other things you might need in case you are housebound. Blizzards often arrive early and stay late, so stock up for either an early or later appearance.
When You are Shoveling Snow or Walking Outside
· Dress warmly. Remember that people can die from hypothermia, caused by overexposure to cold weather.
Select proper clothing and layer clothing to adjust to changing temperatures. Wear mittens because they are warmer than gloves, and a hat. Remember, fingertips and ears are most susceptible to frost bite, and if you don’t wear a hat half of your body heat escapes from your bare head.
Avoid sneakers and shoes with rubber soles. Leather soles give better traction.
· Be sure to take frequent breaks when you are shoveling snow. This will help your sore muscles and may also prevent a chance of a heart attack triggered by rigorous shoveling.
Take along a friend when walking or working outdoors.
Take frequent short breaks in warm, dry shelters when walking or working outdoors.
Walk with shorter steps and slowly during a snow storm. If walking in the street, walk against traffic and as close to the curb as you can get.
Watch for sliding vehicles. Be aware that vehicles might not be able to stop at crosswalks or traffic lights..
Thoughts to Ponder While Waiting Out a Snow Storm
· German settlers in Iowa originated the word blizzard which comes from the wordblitzartig, meaning “lightning-like.” European pioneers and settlers were accustomed to snow in their homelands, but the driving winds and freezing temperatures of the winters in the new world astounded them.
· Enterprising inventors were issued the first patents for snow plows in the 1840s, but several years passed before the plow designs were used. One of the first snow plows was used to plow snow clogged streets in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1862.
· Citizens working in snowy streets to level the drifts for sleigh traffic were early snow ploughers. Many cities passed ordinances requiring homeowners to clear snow off their sidewalks, but snow removal wasn’t practiced citywide. Residents desiring to travel by carriage or merchants desiring to receive goods and customers were responsible for clearing their own streets. They frequently hired snow shovelers to clear the streets. Wintertime travel in the early 1800s was still mostly by foot.
Snowflakes wider than the 15 inch wide flakes recorded in the Guinness World Record are sitting in the driveway waiting to be recorded, reported, and shoveled.
It’s Sno Joke!
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