Snow flakes as big as pancakes

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 2, 2007

The snow on Thursday morning never had a chance. As soon as it hit the ground it was as good as melted.

Seeing the first few scraggly anemic looking flakes hit the ground it made me long for a real snow storm. The kind of snow that comes down with out mercy or hesitation. Big fat flakes the size of quarters that demands everything comes to a stop until nature says it’s over.

In upstate New York, the town where I’m from is located right on Lake Ontario, one of the Great Lakes which ultimately meant lake effect snow.

Lake effect snow happens when dry, cold air from Canada sweeps down across the warm lake water, picking up vapor and freezing it into snow.

A lake effect snow storm can last minutes or days.

To me lake effect is a lot different than just the typical storm or nor’easter, even though lake effect can pile just as much snow as one of those storms (sometimes by the foot), the snow flakes seem to come down in a more methodical way.

The flakes are usually the biggest that you’ll ever see. When you catch one in your hand and examine it you’ll realize that there are thousands of snowflakes have hooked on to one another to create that one giant snowflake.

Usually with a nor’easter or a snow storm you have winds and wet snow.

But with lake effect you have the snow only seen on Hallmark cards by outsiders.

It was always amazing to me how silent it gets when there is a lake effect snowstorm. Every one is usually at home tucked away in their homes, so no traffic can be found on the roads.

Animals also seem to let the storm have its time. Not even chirping from a sparrow could be heard.

When I was a child my favorite part of this kind of snow storm was the middle, where so much snow would be coming down I wouldn’t be able to see my hand in front of my face. It was always the best time to play in the snow.

My cousins and I would descend upon the snow like Vikings, leaving in our wake, destruction, foot prints and sometimes a body print where one of us would push another down.

We would make snowmen, snow caves and snow angels. And of course we would make snowballs…or at least try our best.

Since lake effect isn’t the greatest packing snow, most of the snowballs would disintegrate to dust before they reached their intended target. That’s when we would break out the snow shovels and resort to dumping snow on our victims.

Our snowmen would never last either, in fact most of the time they would never get above the first tier before cracking and splitting into a million pieces.

Sledding was always pretty good on lake effect snow if there was an older layer of snow underneath. Once you had a path established it was all down hill from there—literally.

Lake effect snow was always easier to land on if you had to suddenly ditch your sled if it was heading for a tree.Ditching a sled was probably one of the best pieces of advice my mom gave me. It saved me from quite a few broken bones.

Snow caves could never really be built in fresh lake effect snow. So once my cousins and I would stop using the shovels to dumping snow on each other we would go to the nearest “snow mountain” to dig a cave.

Our “snow mountains” weren’t really mountains they were more like four feet piles of snow at the end of the drive way made by my Uncle Thorne’s snow plow.

Most of the time our snow caves would never last to have an occupant. They would usually cave in with the fifth swipe of the shovel.

My cousins and I would play until the lake effect stopped and our faces and extremities were a pink-red from frost bite. Or at least until some one received a good wallop of snow in the eye and started to cried.

We would then make our way back into the house to warm up. The wet mittens, hats, boots, snow pants would fly off, sending snow everywhere.

The grown ups would then set us down at the table and made sure we drank all of our hot chocolate.

While we were warming up, our eyes would always be vigilantly on the window. The sight of a single snow flake would send the whole table into pandemonium.

Making sure that we had on dry hats and mittens, the grown ups would return us to our battlefield just as the storm started to wind up again.