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It’s been a dry but snowy winter

February 16, 2011
By MIKE LYNCH, News Outdoors Writer
On Saturday, Jan. 8, Adirondack Residents Intent on Saving Their Economy organized a multicultural snow dance at the Big Tupper Ski Area, hoping to encourage Mother Nature to provide the ski mountain with more natural snow.

The event included a prayer by the local Baptist minister, Rick Wilburn, a blessing and dance by a Mohawk Indian, bagpipes played by Cameron Anderson and even an out-of-season visit from Santa Claus.

At the time, there wasn’t enough natural snow to open Big Tupper, which is run by volunteers and doesn’t have snowmaking abilities.

Just days after the snow dance, this winter took a snowy turn. On Wednesday, Jan. 12, the region received a major dumping of about a foot or more of snow.

That snowfall allowed Big Tupper to finally open for the winter and for many — though not all — of the the backcountry ski trails to accumulate a substantial base. Then once February came along, the snows really started falling, leaving us with the deep snowpack we have now.

Despite the deep snow, the precipitation totals for the winter season except for February were below average in local areas outside of Tupper Lake.

This is especially true of the Paul Smiths area, according to data from the Paul Smith’s College weather station. The station, which measures precipitation in terms of total moisture, shows that the months of November, December and January were the driest of the last five years.

Of course, February has more than made up for that dry spell, producing 2.5 inches through the first seven days. Only February of 2008, with 2.95 inches, was wetter in the last five years.

Michael DeAngelo, who runs the Paul Smith’s College weather station, said that, as of Feb. 7, the winter in Paul Smiths is the second lowest in the last five years for total moisture.

The deep snow is a result of a wet and cold February combined with the lack of a January thaw. Those two factors add up to what DeAngelo called an “old-time winter.”

The Paul Smith’s College weather station measured eight days below zero Fahrenheit in January, but on only three days did the temperature go above 32 degrees. Those low temperatures were a result of arctic blasts coming down into the central U.S.

“We’ve been on the fringe of a lot of those arctic blasts,” said National Weather Service Meterologist Andy Nash. “We haven’t been directly impacted, but we’re on the edge of it, just close enough that when you add it up, we’ve been below normal.”

In Saranac Lake, which is well known for its cold weather, the average temperature in January was 11.2 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly below its 13.3 average, according to the National Weather Service in Burlington. That followed a month when the average was 17.1, 2 degrees lower than normal.

By comparison, precipitation that fell in December was 1.27 inches, which is below the 2.48 average. In January, only .78 inches fell compared to the norm of 1.33.

In Lake Placid, where data was only available through the end of January, December was above normal with 3.88 inches of precipitation, about .88 above the norm. January, however, was below normal with 1.31 inches compared to the norm of 2.87 inches.

The only village with above-normal precipitation this winter has been Tupper Lake, the site of the snow dance. Tupper Lake actually had 88 inches of snow through Feb. 7. The average total winter snowfall is 99.5.

In terms of precipitation, Tupper Lake recorded 3.1 inches in December, 2.91 in January and 2.52 through the first seven days in February. The average for December has been 2.88 with 2.71 coming in January.

So, except for Tupper Lake, this really hasn’t been an exceptional year for precipitation. We’ve simply been spared the rains — except for the past few days — that tend to wash away the snow.

“I do not think this winter is that unusual in terms of total moisture,” DeAngelo said. “It just seems that all the moisture this year is snow and that all the snow events have been closer together in a more compacted time frame.”

Article Photos

Jessica Collier/Lake Placid News
Akwesasne Mohawk Shannon David leads a ceremonial dance to ask for snow at Big Tupper Ski Area on Jan. 8.



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