News from Vermont # 239 -- WEATHER!
Hello again Maple People,
Yesterday I had a bus full of folks from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area in our sugarhouse. It was great having them for two reasons: this is a slow time at our farm and I knew they'd take quite a bit of syrup home and, well, I just plain like people from that part of the country because the Lancaster area has a lot in common with Vermont; open farm land and farmers with a "slow moving" way of life...life is good around Lancaster.
I showed them slides of our maple sugaring process and when I got to the one that shows sap dripping from a spout one drop at a time, I "milked" it as usual. "Sap never flows...it just drips one drop at a time", I told the group of wide-eyed Pennsylvanians..."I've seen a three gallon bucket fill up before in eight hours...why, don't y'know...things get pretty damned excitin' here in Vermont!" I went on to describe our need for perfect weather, freezing nights and thawing days but not too cold and not too warm; I punctuated that idea by saying we usually get that perfect weather here in Vermont. Less than eight hours later, all hell broke loose.
That was Thursday night, May 26, and Betsy was at work. The black dog Averill and I lounged in our living room, I watching the news on TV, she on the rug nearby. The weather guy talked of pretty violent storms approaching from the west. He mentioned places like Essex County, New York and the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont but suggested no hint of anything that would affect us. "Guess you're spared the agony tonight Avie" I said to Averill but I could see a bit of disagreement in her eyes; Averill hates storms and being a dog, forecasts pretty darned well. The angry sky outside our window seemed to agree with her forecast and then the rain started like a hydrant opens...instantly and violently. Somewhere in the middle of "Jeopardy", our local TV weather guy Tom Messner broke in; this time he was talking about places like Barre, Montpelier, and East Montpelier Center, just one mile from our place. And it wasn't just heavy rain and thunder storms on his mind....he was talking p ossible tornadoes!
Yup, Tom Messner was slightly wrong in his original placement of the storm but what the heck does he know...he's not a dog! In the meantime, Averill had become a "basket case". She leapt up on the couch and snuggled tight against me, shivering like a jackhammer. I pulled a blanket over the two of us, put my arm around her, and used words like "We'll be OK Avie" but she wasn't "buying" it. The TV soon snapped and sputtered to a standstill so I turned it off and flicked on the radio. Our local radio station WDEV had gone into emergency mode and Roger Hill, Central Vermont's maestro of meteorology had taken over. He was reporting floods and evacuations in Barre and Montpelier but no tornadoes yet. I wondered where our sons were and worried about Betsy at work but there was nothing I could do but pray and stay close to Averill's quivering warmth.
I had never seen rain come down like it did. Just outside our living room window is a place where water sheds from a "valley" in the roofs. The torrent from our valley that night would have filled a bathtub in five seconds. Bombarding rain mixed with snapping lightning and thunderous BOOMS. It brought a feeling of Armageddon and I knew that Averill felt the same. After what seemed like an eternity, the rain subsided but not before there was a huge amount of damage to our Vermont. When folks are forced from their homes and roads wash away, it's hard to talk "silver linings" but we were, indeed, much more fortunate than many recent tornado victims around the country. My sons and Betsy were all OK and after a fashion, Averill breathed a sigh of relief. It's hard to be a dog in a storm. I'll no doubt go on joking to folks in our sugarhouse about sap "drip, drip, dripping" and boasting of our perfect Vermont weather but for every "rule" there is an exception like that Thursday night when, announced by a black dog and completed by nature, all hell broke loose right here in our neighborhood.