Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snowbelt! Winter Life in Upstate New York

Lake Ontario shoreline in February at Sandy Island Beach. The wave action continuously pushes the ice up to form these hollow ice hills. In the spring, despite dangers, we would cautiously explore them.

Here is an AP news article from last winter about a blizzard in the Snowbelt Region of Central New York where I lived my first 25 years.
I added the photos and captions.
The town of Redfield referenced in this article is situated a little east of my old homestead at Sandy Pond on Lake Ontario. Redfield usually got a few feet more than we did. Sometimes we would go there to play in it.
I miss snowmobiling, ice-boating, and ice-fishing, but I don’t miss all the work getting it out of the way!

Village May Set N.Y. Mark for Snowfall
Feb 11, 2007 10:45 PM US/Eastern By WILLIAM KATES Associated Press Writer

REDFIELD, N.Y. (AP) - This village in upstate New York's snowbelt gets a lot of snowfall during the winter, but last week's total—more than 11 feet, unofficially—might be an all-time record.
Before it began to wind down Sunday, persistent streams of squalls fueled by moisture from Lake Ontario during the last week consistently dumped lake-effect snow in this western New York region.

Figure 1. Pine trees laden with snow. It makes the tall pine woods very quiet and serene...

All that's left—apart from the massive dig out—is to claim the record for the most snowfall in a week. Redfield's total of 136 inches would break the state record of ten feet, seven inches that fell in nearby Montague over seven days ending Jan. 1, 2002, said Steve McLaughlin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Buffalo. A National Weather Service official will travel Monday to verify the amount.
"In all my life, I mean my entire life combined, I've never seen this much snow at once," said Jim Bevridge, 47, of Timonium, Md., who drove up Thursday for a long weekend of snowmobiling.

Figure 2. Significant snowfall like this can cave in a roof. Rooves are specially constructed to withstand the snow load. First you shovel the roof, then the driveway...

McLaughlin said the proper way to measure snow requires taking readings about every six hours. It's very important with lake-effect snow.
"It can be light and fluffy. If you did hourly measurements, you might come up with 24 inches, when there's really only 16 on the ground. It needs to be able to pack some," he said.

Figure 3 After you dig out your car you have to open the hood and scoop out all the snow packed around the engine and electrical system...hopefully you haven’t left a window cracked open…

The heavy snow is common along the Tug Hill Plateau, a 50-mile wedge that rises 2,100 feet from the lake's eastern shore. It usually gets about 300 inches—roughly 25 feet—of snow a year.

Figure 4. At this point you can't feel your arms anymore. 4 foot snow loads like this weigh more than a ton...
We also weren’t allowed to play on the snow-banks or drifts along the road because once you reached the top you could touch the wires.

The hamlet of Hooker holds the state's one-year record with 466.9 inches, about 39 feet, in winter 1976-77. Redfield receives an annual average of 270 inches—more than 22 feet.
The weeklong snows left behind surreal scenes. One house appeared to be in a cocoon. The only signs of parked SUVs were their radio antennas or roof racks rising above the snow. Dug out sidewalks looked like miniature canyons.

Figure 5. These guys are under at least a ton of snow... They have drank too much wine or are nuts- or both!

Some of the more hardened locals, however, aren't impressed.
"It's snow. We get a lot of it. So what?" said Allan Babcock, a lifelong resident who owns a popular diner in this village of 650 people located about 38 miles northeast of Syracuse. (Al was a star football player at the old Alma Mater a couple years older than me.)

Figure 6. My Mom used to require my brother and I to shovel out the kitchen window after we I finished the roof!

Roads were mostly cleared Sunday as workers turned their attention to removing the snow and trimming down 10- and 12-foot-high snowbanks.

Figure 7. Obviously roads need heavy equipment to clear them. That is a huge, truck-sized, snow-blower clearing drift-bound Highway Rte. 3, about 5 miles south of the old home. There was always rumors about somebody's dog getting chewed up in one of these monsters...

Figure 8. All clear. My brother and I encountered a skunk in one of these canyons after the blizzard of '78 near Barnes Corners NY. That’s when I learned that you can't run very fast with a snowsuit on!!

The intense blast of snow hasn't been blamed for any deaths in Oswego County. Elsewhere, however, more than a week of bitter cold and slippery roads have contributed to at least 25 deaths across the northeastern quarter of the nation—five in Ohio, four in Illinois, four in Indiana, two in Kentucky, seven in Michigan, and one each in Wisconsin, and Maryland and elsewhere in New York, authorities said.

Figure 9. This is a power plant on Lake Ontario about 20 mi. from my Parent’s house.
That's a car buried in the foreground.

Figure 10. Icicles are a hazard. They can weigh up to 100 lbs.If one breaks off on you it can ruin your day.

My alma-mater Sandy Creek Central High School usually had one of the best high-school wrestling teams in the region. It’s because most of the guys have wicked upper body strength from – guess what? – shoveling snow!


  1. Steve...Great site...amazing pictures! I have added this web log to my column (Historians Corner)for others to enjoy.

  2. I thought Buffalo got a lot of snow until I saw this.

  3. I forgot to mention school snow days. I remember more of school NOT closing for snow. Here in Maryland they close school if it snows an inch. Crazy. Sandy Creek Central School would not close unless there was like a foot of snow and still comin down hard...

  4. The picture with the snowblower and the next one with a truck driving with 25ft walls of snow on both sides is NOT FROM NY, It is from another country, nice try...lol

    1. Actually I think your right these pictures are probably from the mountains near Sapporo in Japan
      However I lived in the Tug Hill for a couple of years and traveled up there on many occasions for big storms On occasion especially from the big Blizzard of Jan 77 there have been walls of snow like that on the east west bypasses coming off of the 81 into the Tugs.


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