15 December 2008

Butte's First Cold Snap: 22 below & counting

Morning temperature was 22 below zero earlier this week, with daytime highs below zero for several days. You can get a pretty good idea of the outside temperature from the behavior of Phoebe The Cat. The colder it is, the more she clings to your lap. Here's PTC at morning coffee:

In the perfectly still, cold air snow was like fine dust, as I found while wiping my boots on the front mat, watching powdery snow drift up in little clouds of smoke. Here's some cold smoke from walking along the path from Walkerville to Montana Tech:

Still, when the sun shone in the afternoon with temps hovering around 5 below RTD & I had a nice walk following fox and rabbit tracks, and checking on the progress of the pronghorn antelope carcass someone dumped out back along Ryan Road. A few coyotes are still visiting the site, but even the ravens now spurn the gleaming skeleton.

Fox tracks on a cold morning, eloquent nature, grace & beauty writ in snow:

When the cold front blew in it felt much colder (at 15 or so below) with winds gusting out of the north-east at 20 to 30 miles per hour. The fine snow built up in lee areas on the street around the parked Rover and pick-up. Normally, snow at this temperature is easy to sweep away with a push broom. But the wind packed it into tough layers, sort of like a low-density, weak form of stone.

For the walk with RTD -- a little one-mile or so jaunt out back -- I wore wool pants, fleece pullover, down vest, and wind shell. And long underwear, of course. Walking up the alley in the shelter of the houses and garages, it did not feel too cold. But when we hit the wide-open area past the Powers house, the old dog wanted to head home. We continued up and over the ridge toward Ryan Road, and I wished I'd worn choppers instead of gloves.

In most years, southwestern Montana gets a blast of this subzero Arctic air in late November, with gradually declining temperatures leading up to it. But fall has been mild, with many days in the mid- to high-30s, and most nights in the teens. Spoiled so, this first taste of real winter is a bit of shock.

We are now in a brief interlude with afternoon temperatures in the teens. Walking out into a zero degree morning feels balmy! But by the weekend we are to be 30 below or so at night, so I'll keep that goosedown vest handy...

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