May 3, 2012

Nor’easter’s Tail Whips Ligonier Valley (PA) 3/23/2012



Six Inches of Wet Snow on Our Car

            Mid-March, 2012. Golfers near the St. Lawrence River in New York had wielded their clubs for at least six weeks.* Seven Springs resort on the Laurel Ridge in Southwestern Pennsylvania opened its golf course in early March.** This winter was the fourth-warmest winter on record for the 48 contiguous states.****

             On Monday, April 23, 2012, my husband Monte and I stated the obvious: Whoops—winter’s not over. He had scraped six inches of heavy, wet, snow off the car early in that morning. I myself was frustrated because I couldn’t locate my winter boots, which I’d only needed twice during this winter season. Meanwhile, Officials at Seven Springs Mountain Resort were scrambling to open at least one trail and one lift today to give skiers one more opportunity to participate in winter sports.* It was the latest date in the season for the ski area to operate since it was founded in 1932, surpassing the former mark of April 14, 1996, resort officials said.**

            We’d had a rogue snowstorm…

A freak spring storm blew through Western Pennsylvania on Monday, dumping more than a foot of snow in the Laurel Highlands, knocking out power to tens of thousands, closing schools and prompting Gov. Tom Corbett to declare a statewide disaster emergency.







By afternoon, much of the snow in the lower elevations had melted with the help of steady rain combined with temperatures that hovered at or just above the freezing mark.*

The heavy precipitation bent our tall birch trees so drastically that their tippity-tops almost brushed the snow on the ground. These birch trees are special—they were brought here from Massachusetts by Ann and Bob, the previous owners of our home. Both Bob, now deceased, and I are New Englanders who appreciate the presence of a bit of the eastern coast on our property.

            I studied the tree’s position over the next couple of days. One other time, after a snowstorm, they bent towards the ground, but almost immediately returned to their straight-up position. This time, however, they seemed to be taking so much time straightening themselves that I wasn’t certain they would completely recover. Hopefully, they will.

          The weather this year has been crazy.  We’d murdered and burned Old Man Winter at the Hungarian Festival in Ligonier (PA) at the end of February. His ghost returned with a vengeance.

            It’s favorable, however, to remember that weather, influenced by many events, is unpredictable.

The winter of 1801 was so mild at New York that before the end of February, 1801, bluebirds, blackbirds, blue heron had arrived on Long Island from their winter retreats: that is, to say, three weeks earlier than usual.*** This held true for our backyard in 2012. I sat on my patio in March and enjoyed the antics of the cardinals, robins, blue jays, squirrels—and yes, even a couple of butterflies. My casual observations were repeated in a report I read: The mild winter is reflected in the most unusual reports in the 15 years of the Great Backyard Bird Count, a four-day citizen’s science project conducted across North America in FebruarySome of the unusual sightings included early migrating sandhill cranes and fish-eating belted kingfishers in northern areas that normally would be frozen over.****

The ice on the Hudson River broke up on February 28 (1801), and on March 3 a boat came from Albany…Ordinarily this takes place on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17.***

            The winter of 1815-1816: January was described as “mild” and February was “not very cold.” However, as the spring progressed, there were some indications that something unusual was beginning to unfold….April was the advance guard of this strange freak in temperature. The early days were warm and bright, but as the month drew to a close the cold increased until it ended in ice and snow and a very low temperature…

            By the beginning of June that year it was readily apparent that the cold spring, had been very unusual… Everybody complains of the present ‘strange weather; this unnatural weather; this unseasonable weather!’… the mountains are covered with snow, the valleys with ice, and the fruits of the earth are stunted and withered….we have no recollection of having witnessed so backward a season as the present for many years past…

            April 1816, in its unusualness, was a prelude to an even worse summer. On July 4th the weather has been unusually cold, and very severe frosts have been experienced in the northern states, threatening the gardens and fruit with destruction. We hope they may have escaped to a considerable degree. In no instance do we recollect to have seen such a fair promise of fruit, as when the trees blossomed this spring. Should it prove to have been destroyed, its loss will be deeply felt through the country.

            A major concern for citizens in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, was the damage fruit trees experienced from the heavy snow and low temperatures. Many of these trees were already in blossom when this weather hit. At our home, apple blossom petals and snow shared our driveway.

On the night of the twenty-first (August), there was a frost, which at Keene and at Chester, NH, killed a large part of the corn, potatoes, beans and vines, and also injured many crops in Maine. It was felt as far south as Boston and Middlesex County in eastern Massachusetts, and in the western portion of the state as far as Stockbridge, where it injured vegetation…The mountains in Vermont were now covered with snow, and the atmosphere on the plains was unusually cold. In Keene, NH, the oldest persons then living said that they never saw such a severe frost in August. It put an end to the hopes of many farmers of ripening their corn, especially in the low lands, and they immediately cut the whole stalks up for fodder, but being in the milk it heated in the shocks and spoiled. By the twentyninth of the month the frost reached as far south as Berkshire County, Mass., where it killed the Indian corn in many of the fields in the low lands. The farmers there saved much of it by cutting it up at the roots and placing it in an upright position, where it ripened upon the juices of the stalks.

            On August 22, a frost was reported at Williamstown. By “Aug. 22d, Cucumbers were killed by the frost.” As August neared an end, frosts were reported as far south as the Carolinas.

            By October 6th Brunswick, Maine saw a two-inch snowfall. The rain and snow was followed by severe frost on the morning of October 7. On that day, “ice on the ponds” in the vicinity of Quebec City “was sufficiently strong” in the morning “to bear a man.”

           An October 18 letter from Haverhill, New Hampshire, stated, “The snow fell here last night about 12 inches deep, and is now (8 o’clock evening) about 6 inches. Sleighs have been going quite brisk today.”… and “on the mountains the snow laid in drifts of two or three feet for several days.”

            On October 17-18, 1816 a heavy winter storm blanketed portions of New York State and northern New England.

            This weather was in direct contrast to that of the same dates in 1791, when Madame de LeVal climbed Mount Schoodic (Maine) to view the land on Frenchman Bay she had tentatively contracted to purchase from land speculators Gen. Henry Knox and William Duer. It was also in direct contrast to the fantastic autumn weather in 2006, the year when Monte and I, along with my niece’s family, climbed Schoodic Mountain.

            In 1816 Weather-wise people are at a loss to account for this ‘strange weather.’ They still struggle to explain weather conditions.

            The record snowfall for a day in April, post-1884, is 12.7 inches, recorded on April 3, 1901. The heaviest snowfalls after April 15 laid between 2 and 3.9 inches of snow on the ground.*

            Let’s just hope that the late April 2012 rogue snowstorm is not a prelude to weather such as hit New England and other states in 1816.



Hungarian Carnival Festival in Ligonier, PA.: 2012

Deep Freeze Endangers Fruit Crop:

Mid-Winter Golfing: 2012 (and men in beards):

Such Balmy January 2012 Weather—Enjoyable and Frustrating:



  1. Would you mind if I quote a small number of
    your articles or blog posts as long as I provide credit and sources returning to your webpage: I am
    going to aslo be sure to give you the proper anchortext hyperlink using your
    webpage title: Nor’easter’s Tail Whips Ligonier Valley (PA) 3/23/2012 | CAROLYN’S COMPOSITIONS.

    Be sure to let me know if this is okay with you. Many thanks

    Comment by Spencer — September 17, 2013 @ 11:38 am | Reply

    • As long as you hyperlink the quotes to Carolyn’s Compositions I have no objection to being quoted. Thank you for asking. It’s always a compliment to be quoted with the appropriate linkage.

      Comment by carolyncholland — September 17, 2013 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

  2. Excellent post. I will be dealing witgh a few of these issues as well..

    Comment by Chandra — September 23, 2013 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

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