Since the 2020 vernal equinox happens at 11:49 p.m., EDT in Harrisonburg, Virginia, I wanted to share with you last year’s first spring sunset. Given the cloud cover, I wasn’t sure just how much color we would get. Those blue Allegheny Mountains served as a lovely contrast to the blazing sky.
My goal was to capture the vernal equinox sunset. Instead, I came away with a shot that resembled a Claude Monet landscape.
I positioned myself on a hill in northwest Harrisonburg, Virginia in hopes of getting photos of the Super Full Worm Moon rising over the Massanutten Mountains that run north to south in the middle of the Shenandoah Valley. Unfortunately, a layer of rain clouds blocked that attempt. With that foiled, I turned my attention to the setting sun on the first day of spring.
Hazy clouds filled the western horizon as well, though the sun did its best to burn through. Residue smoke from controlled burns in the Jefferson National Forest during the day fuzzed up the view all the more. Sunsets around the equinoxes are the shortest of the year. This one merely melted away behind the blue, blue folds of the Allegheny Mountains.
I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for spring. It’s been a severe winter all around, and it’s not over yet.
Just last week on three consecutive days the National Weather Service issued Winter Weather Advisories for Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Winter assaulted us with an assortment of ammunition from her arsenal. Rain, freezing rain, sleet, and accumulating snow pelted down upon the usually lovely Shenandoah Valley. And then yet another arctic blast settled in.
It was even worse in the Deep South. Massive tornadoes marched across a broad landscape reaping incredible destruction and death. That devastation put our whining about the blustery weather into proper perspective. Still, I’m ready for spring.
When people learned my wife and I planned to move from Holmes County, Ohio to Virginia, we heard a common theme, “At least the weather will be better there.” Well, not necessarily.
We’ve lived in the central Shenandoah Valley now for nearly two years. When it comes to weather, it’s a lot like Ohio. That only stands to reason. We live near Harrisonburg, which is no further south than Cincinnati.
Of course, longitude, latitude, and altitude jointly play leading roles in the weather everywhere. Millersburg, Ohio, our former home, sits at 899 feet above sea level while Harrisonburg’s elevation is 1,325 feet despite being in The Valley.
Thanks to the dangerous combination of an El Nino and a wildly fluctuating northern jet stream, most folks in the United States share my winter weather fatigue. The El Nino off of California’s coast has incubated storm after storm that pounded the Pacific coast. With a rerouted jet stream, those storms have dumped heavy snows in places not accustomed to such stuff. Just ask the good citizens of Seattle, Washington, and Tucson, Arizona.
The jet stream speeds the storms along its southeasterly flow. That results in areas already hit by too much snow getting pounded again and again. If warm air did manage to mingle into the mess, flooding ensued. Rivers all across the country have run high most of the winter. Flood warnings have lasted days on end.
The wild weather hasn’t always been wet, either. Windstorms have caused havoc with power outages and buildings being damaged by downed trees. In Shenandoah National Park, 100 trees per mile were reported down along one section of the Skyline Drive.
Friends in the Buckeye state have teased me that Ohio’s wintry weather seemed to follow us to The Commonwealth. Friends in Virginia have kiddingly blamed me for the lousy Virginia winter weather. I just shrug my shoulders.
Despite the miserable weather, signs of spring have made themselves known. Birders are ecstatic that migrating birds are once again on the wing. Our neighbor’s forsythia is pushing its yellow buds in competition with trumpeting daffodils. Despite the ugly weather, photos of crocuses blooming flooded social media. Tree buds are ready to unfurl their hidden life.
We take for granted another sign of spring. Daylight hours are increasing daily, although we will “lose” an hour with the return of Daylight Savings Time.
Spring is officially just days away. March’s vernal equinox can’t come soon enough.
Still, there is no guarantee that winter’s harsh hand will let go of its hoary grasp on us. Our only hope is to hang on as best we can until spring’s warm kisses smother us with fragrant bouquets and songbird serenades.
Why has this winter seemed never-ending? Perhaps it is so we will joyously welcome spring’s gentile weather with a renewed appreciation for its refreshing rebirth.
Spring has arrived, finally. Didn’t we say the same thing last year at this time?
A year ago after a long, cold, snowy winter, we looked forward to spring’s promise. It was long in coming.
Well, here we are a year later, virtually in the same situation. We’ve endured an even more brutal winter with record-breaking extreme temperatures, dangerous wind chills, and snowstorm after snowstorm.
East of the Mississippi River, it was a winter of biblical proportions. Where three or more gathered, complaints, exasperations, and unmentionable utterances about the lousy weather could be heard far and wide, even in church.
Schools closed or delayed opening for a multitude of reasons a multitude of times. Local businesses suffered financially.
Even when it wasn’t snowing, the long string of gray days coupled with the dark, frigid ones weighed heavy on people’s spirits. It got so bad that rumors circulated in the statehouse that the all-knowing and all-seeing state legislature was ready to adopt a new motto for Ohio. “I can’t take it anymore” had its second committee reading when Old Man Winter’s grip finally loosened.
Thanks to the second consecutive polar vortex, snow, ice, cold and stinging winds affected folks not used to such stuff. Winter reached far into the southeastern United States.
Snowbirds got their feathers frosted a time or two. Wind chill advisories reached all the way to the southern tip of Florida. Even Key West wasn’t spared.
With the air temperature in the 40s and the winds blowing off of the ocean at gale force, it was cold. Floridians aren’t asking for or expecting any sympathy cards, however.
It is prudent to focus on the passing of the vernal equinox and hope upon hope that the spring weather of 2014 will not repeat this year. My farmer friends need no reminder.
Spring a year ago lasted as long as the frigid winter had. Fields were unapproachable, and crops couldn’t be planted on schedule, not even by horse drawn machinery.
The first cutting of hay for some farmers didn’t happen until early June. I think that was when the last of the snowplow glacial piles finally melted. That’s how cold and wet April and May were a year ago.
Let’s hope that there is no replication of that weather pattern this year. Everywhere this winter’s weather pounded, good people are ready for a regular, normal springtime. Nobody can blame them.
It’s nice to see sunrises and sunsets straight east and west morning and evening. I’ll enjoy their slow inch north, and hope that clouds, precipitation, and cold fronts don’t weaken the sun’s warming influence.
Spring will arrive. Forsythias and azaleas have already reached their peak where frost and ice briefly ruled in the south. Crocuses have already bloomed in southern Ohio. Our turn will come.
I’ll keep my excitement subdued when the buttery daffodils trumpet their glory. I have too many memories of enjoying their sunny spirit one day, and watching them droop from the weight of heavy, wet snow the next.
I hope that doesn’t happen again this year. I also hope that spring behaves itself and brings us the weather we should get.
I realize that severe thunderstorms, hail, lightning, tornadoes, frost and flooding are all part of that package. I also know that daylight will linger longer, and temperatures will gradually warm to near normal.
To get there, however, we’ll simply have to be patient and hope that fairer weather will prevail.
The winter that seemingly would not end finally has. I hope.
Spring is now within sight. The vernal equinox officially arrives on Saturday, March 20 at exactly 1:32 p.m.
That milestone won’t guarantee that winter won’t quit. But it’s nice to know that if it does show its frosty face again, the odds are in our favor that a late winter sting won’t hurt us like the series of heavy snows we incurred in January and February.
For a while there, it seemed like everything had come to a freezing halt. It would snow. The road crews worked hard to free the highways of their slippery burden, and just when you thought it was safe to travel again, it snowed again.
During a normal winter in the western Appalachian foothills of Holmes County, Ohio, a couple of feet of snow are spread over several months. This winter we recorded more than three feet of snow in February alone.
With the weight of this winter still upon us, it seems spring has been a long time in coming. It was magnificent to get an early peek at what lies ahead with the recent string of sunny, warm weather here in Ohio’s Amish country.
It’s truly amazing what warmer weather does. I only had to step outside to fully appreciate the preview of spring.
The backyard birds filled the air with their choruses. Robins came out of hiding in the thick woods to begin scouting out their nesting territories. The resident Song Sparrow, which became reclusive in winter and played it low to the ground, perched high in a crimson maple, tilted its head back and cut loose.
Over the course of just a couple of days, the blanket of snow vanished altogether. Even the huge piles of plowed snow were greatly humbled by the bright sun and balmy temperatures.
If ever there were a perfect example of cause and effect, the melting snow would be it. The ground was so saturated from the abundant moisture that Mallards swam the temporary pond in my neighbor’s grain field.
Flower petals pushed through the mushy earth, as if reaching for the inviting sun. The daffodil heads swelled, readying for their brilliant birth. In our flower gardens, Johnny Jump Ups were the first to bloom.
Life stirred in my little garden pond, too. The mountain of snow that once surrounded the poor pool did a glacial retreat. The caretaker pair of bullfrogs ventured out in search of any wayward insects, and to bask in the sunshine’s warmth.
The school of goldfish revived. The largest broke water as I cleaned out the gunk from the pump. I don’t know if it was showing off or begging for food. The pump filters were so clogged with slime it was a wonder water still flowed over the little waterfalls.
I couldn’t help but notice doors and windows open in homes, shops and cars alike as I ran errands. Shoot, those with convertibles were driving around like it was July. After this cold, snowy winter, I couldn’t blame them. It felt like it.
People personally expressed their relief that an end to this nonstop winter seemingly had arrived. They appeared more congenial to the point of being jovial.
For those who longed for an old-fashioned winter, you got your wish. Let’s hope those that hunger for a perfect spring get theirs, too.