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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Storm notes

At 10:00 the snow has finally let up enough so I can see a bit of the action. I still can't see across to Sheep Island, of course, but a couple of hundred yards of ocean are now in view.

The first 100 feet out is all white water. It's just past high tide, and the force of the wind and the backwash from breakers is roiling the water like I've never quite seen before. Every once in a while a big wave breaks through and crashes on rocks with a deep roar. If this storm had been a southeaster instead of a northeaster, the waves would be twice the height, given the way the cove opens up to the southeast.

Seagulls are patrolling the shore - how do they do it? These winds must be 30-40 miles an hour. Can they actually pick out food in the maelstrom? Yesterday morning, as the storm was just starting, the flock of Canada geese that I saw a couple of weeks ago, now apparently area tenants, flew south en masse.

The wind is blowing the snow into remarkably precise drifts. In front, where a break in the trees allows free passage, the ground is virtually bare. In the space behind the trees and in front of the house, the wind has created a drift extending 50 feet, with a ridge line as sharp as an axe. The deck is scrubbed clean. In back, where the space between garage and house allows free passage, there's a little amphitheater, with bare ground for the playing field and a nearly perfect, open-ended bowl of snow for the spectators. Forming the northeast section is a drift piled up against the glassed back door, which drift I just measured - not too bad at 20 inches, but dipped down a few inches from the top tier of the drift. The bricks of the sidewalk just beyond are bare.

Opening the door will be interesting.

Further out back, between the driveway and the leaching field, I can now see that a tree has fallen, a very large spruce next to the utility pole. Fortunately, it fell directly away from the wires or I would have been marooned - cold, dark, unenlightened by Internet - for days. (Perhaps only two of those three would have been a problem.) Spruce have shallow roots, and they pull up an almost perfect pancake of dirt when they fall, and this one looks like it measures 10 feet in diameter. In the last storm, another spruce fell on the leaching field - we won't lack for firewood any time soon.

This storm has been a cold one. The temperature's at 15 and the snow is light, unlike the wet and heavy stuff that started the storm in places south.

At noon, the storm is approaching 30 hours straight of wind and snow. I'm very grateful for hot soup and cold yogurt. The backdoor blockade has crept up to 22 inches. The wind seems to be winning the battle for the waves, now that the tide is receding. Only the biggest breakers make it to shore; others are knocked sideways. The white water is split into two bands, perhaps because of the topography of the ocean floor.

3:00 - wind and snow abating only fractionally. I watch a squadron of seagulls hover and occasionally dip into the milky water. No, they're not dunking Oreos but it is food they're after. Every third or fourth try they come up with a bit of something churned up by the waves - fish, crab, mussel? - and settle on the snow- and ice-covered rocks to snack. Looks like a zero-sum game to me, or worse: the amount of protein they capture can't possibly keep up with the calories they burn hovering in the teeth of the wind. But I expect they know what they're doing and will survive on their own wits, something I couldn't do in this mess.

Wood running low - I'm going to have to break out soon and get to the garage for more.

4:00 - the blockage, recorded one last time at 24 inches, has been successfully breached and the snow carefully shoveled to the 50-yard line to preserve the lovely contours of Super Bowl MMXIII. A couple of minutes' work gets me to the bare sidewalk and the garage door, and that's plenty.

I'm signing off at 5:00. The storm is still busting its guts, the driveway has not yet been plowed, but who's going anywhere?

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