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Snow Stuff

By Steve Roark

Tri-State Outside

I have never outgrown my love of a fresh snowfall, which takes a bleak winter scene and transforms it into a wonderland. The quiet a snow brings is both eerie and wonderful, and a walk in the snow on a moonlit night is something you simply must experience.

A lot of folks think that snow begins as rain that freezes on its way down and turns into snow. It’s usually the other way around, with rain beginning as snow, which melts as it falls.

Snowflakes are formed by ice crystals that have a hexagonal pattern, often beautifully intricate. The size and shape of the crystals depends mainly on the temperature and the amount of moisture present when they develop. Large, fluffy snowflakes form under relatively warm and moist conditions, while small, compact flakes form in colder, drier air. One large snowflake can have up to 100 crystals.

It is said that no two snowflakes are alike, but in an average snowstorm an estimated thousand billion snowflakes (that’s a one with 12 zeros) fall. Mathematically, the odds favor duplication. It takes more than one million crystals to cover two square feet of ground with 10 inches of snow. Multiply that by the 23% of the Earth’s land surface that is covered by snow each winter and somewhere in that vast number there must be two look-alikes.

Our local average annual snowfall is around 13 inches, but lately we just aren’t getting much. Blizzards are rare, but memorable. I still remember back in 1994 standing 15 feet from the house and not able see it for the snow, which was falling sideways. What made the scene even more eerie was it was thundering…amazing.

The worst snow we ever had doesn’t touch the record snowfall from a single storm that occurred in 1959, where a 7-day blizzard covered the Mount Shasta area of northern California with 189 inches (15 feet) of snow.

If we do get some snow this winter, you might want to try your hand at making snow cream. Mix in a bowl 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of milk, cream, or evaporated milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Stir in enough clean snow until it has the right consistency. When snow does come, try not to be too humbug about it. Let the kid inside come out for a little while and go start a snowball fight with somebody. And don’t forget that moonlit walk. It’s worth the cold.