April 16 will be long remembered

The date April 16, 2007 will be long remembered, for two reasons: a record-setting April nor'easter and, unfortunately, a mass murder in Virginia. Both these events, although totally different, have a common thread for many who enjoy the outdoors

The nor'easter that pummeled us and much of the East Coast is the type of weather phenomenon that occurs far more often than we may realize. Ever since weather records have been kept, there have been major snow events recorded during the months of April and May. For example, in 1915 a huge April nor'easter buried the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states under several feet of snow. More recently, major April snowfalls occurred in 1957, '60, '82, '96 and 2003. And just so we don't forget, we also had major snowfalls on May 15, 1976 and again on May 12, 1996.



We don't like to see big snowfall amounts when the calendar says it's spring, but don't confuse the spring equinox with the automatic arrival of spring weather. It usually doesn't happen that way. The year of 1816, for example, came to be known as ''the year without a summer,'' when snow fell in New York State in June and the temperatures plummeted. Farmers lost their crops to sleet and frost throughout New England and as far south as Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson applied for an emergency bank loan after his crop failed. This crazy incident was caused when Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies erupted on April 5, 1815 and clouds of dust and sulfuric acid circled the globe and dimmed the skies of much of the Northern Hemisphere, blocking sunlight and radiational heating.

As bad as this last storm was, it could've been far worse had this April not been unseasonably cold. The below-normal temperatures (mean temperatures for the month are almost 8 degrees below normal) have delayed leaf and other foliage growth so the wet heavy snow had only the bare limbs of non-conifer trees to cling to. Had more leafy areas been present, the damage would've been far worse than it was. If you wonder what could have happened, ask someone who remembers the extensive damage done by the 1976 May snowstorm that decimated our area.


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