by Tyler Molleur
HARDWICK – After the holidays in 2020 wrapped up with a dramatic absence of snow, winter picked up again with the ringing in of the new year, as several moderate-scale snowstorms worked to bring snowfall accumulations back to near normal by the conclusion of the season.
Reports from the National Weather Service’s climatological data reported that between October 2020 to May 2021, most of Vermont ended with snowfall ranging from 75 to 125 percent of normal, rather than in a dramatic deficit that the bare late December ground seemed to suggest. The bulk of that snow was made up in January and February, with two notable snowstorms during that period.
The first storm arrived in the region on January 16 and remained through January 17. A deepening low along the coast of southern New England decided to take a track into Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, forcing large amounts of moisture into northern Vermont, but nosing warmer air closer, as well. Thus, the snow that fell was heavy and wet, slickening the roads and leading to significant power outages. Louis Porter, general manager of the Washington Electric Co-op, said that 4,340 customers lost power during the storm because of 142 separate outage events. WEC’s coverage area includes parts of most towns served by the Hardwick Gazette.
Porter said the geography the system covers created a hindrance in cases like this snowstorm.
“We have perhaps the most rural and challenging territory in the Northeast, with relatively few members for each of our 1,300 miles of power lines,” said Porter.
The yield for that storm ranged from a foot in Woodbury, down to seven inches in East Calais. Greensboro reported 7.1 inches of snow, while Cabot reported 9.7 inches.
A more classical nor’easter arrived for February 2, with lighter snow and a track slightly south of New England. This brought snow with a drier consistency, but the snowfall amounts did not impressively exceed those of the mid-January event, with a widespread three to nine inches of snow reported. Much of the remainder of the season brought intermittent light snow, amounting to two or three inches of snow at a time. Most of the heavier precipitation consistently remained south of north-central Vermont and this pattern continued well into the rest of the year.
While the southern part of the state saw six to eight inches of excess rain during the summer and autumn months, the northern half of Vermont was in a deficit by a similar amount. One of the forces behind this included Tropical Storm Henri, which stalled out over southern New York and New England, bringing upwards of four inches of rain to our southernmost counties in mid-August. Northern Vermont has remained in abnormally dry to mild drought conditions for almost the entire year, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Some towns in north-central Vermont were impacted by two severe weather events. On May 26, the villages of Plainfield and Cabot were struck by a broken line of thunderstorms traveling west-to-east across Vermont ahead of a sharp cold front which later dropped temperatures by 30 degrees. Damage reports from the early evening hours included trees and powerlines down on School Street and Route 2 in Plainfield and branches down on Danville Hill Road in Cabot. Porter reported 2,599 customers out of power during this storm in the WEC coverage area. The longest outage took 25-1/2 hours to remedy.
Subsequently, the severe weather season concluded late with the passage of an occluding front on the late evening of October 16. A tree was reported down on Kate Brook Road in Hardwick. Mike Sullivan, general manager of the Hardwick Electric Department, reported that during this and other storms during 2021, their grid was spared from any major outages impacting many customers.
“HED was very fortunate over the last twelve months,” said Sullivan in an email response. “We honestly haven’t had any major system events in 2021, which would have had a significant number of customers out of service for extended timeframes.”
A remarkable windstorm blew through a wide swath of the northeast on the night of December 11, leaving numerous customers in the dark and destroying trees in the process. Wind gusts of 35 and 36 mph were reported in Greensboro and Cabot, respectively. Mount Mansfield reported a wind gust of 103 mph. WEC’s coverage area reported 678 customers without power.
Snowfall amounts from the first of October through December 21 have been on track for a better early start to the season than last year, with most local observing stations reporting between 15 and 35 inches of snow, depending on elevation. Conditions seem to be on track for Christmas 2021 to be white. As for the rest of the season? Equal chances exist for precipitation to above, below, or near normal, while temperatures are expected to be warmer than normal. Whether this means the snow will be wetter, or mix with rain remains a mystery until 2022 unfolds.
Happy New Year!