Storm Approaches


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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of December 28th


Only three miles from camp at the end of a six hour drive, I crawled along a snow covered M-26 and entered the 90 degree right turn at Clark's Point near the end of Great Sand Bay. The van straightened into the short stretch to Cat Harbor, but only for a brief moment. The rear wheels suddenly lost traction on the icy road, producing an adrenaline pumping long, almost double 360 degree, swirling snow slide into the ditch. Abby, the wonderdog, rousted from her slumber of several hours, barked frantically as she bounced about and was plummeted by gear stowed loosly about her travel space. I stared into sky as the rear of the van dropped down in the ditch, pushing the nose up with half the vehicle straddling the road and broadside to approaching traffic. Fortunately, there was no traffic....only fools and the forgetful drive the lake road when snow is blowing off the lake. Certain the predicament was beyond the van's capacity to extract itself from, and unwilling to test my iffy heart with the exertion of shoveling, I reached for the cellular phone to call friend Bruce, only a mile down the road at Cat Harbor, to ask for a tow. Abby's incessant barking distracted me, and in a moment of frustration, I pressed the accelerator (foot feed for you Iowa folks). The van burst across the road, heading for the opposite ditch. I somehow swerved back onto the road, heading back to Sand Bay. Apparently our dry and snowless early winter provided roadside ditches with better traction than the roads themselves. Abby quickly quieted down, apparently smug in her success in getting us out of the ditch. I turned around at the Sand Bay overlook, and in a few minutes we were back at camp. Old Man Winter, or was it Heikki Lunta, had rudely welcomed me back to the reality of a Keweenaw winter, perhaps in retribution for all the "ain't it awful" stuff I've been putting on this site of late!

Well, finally some snow. Not much, just some intermittment "lake effect" showers, but at least that awful looking open ground is covered in white. The County crews, who in a normal year wouldn't roll out of bed for such a dismal showing, are seemingly out in full force...happily scrapping away at pavements so bare that showers of sparks, not snow, mark their passage. So the day started. By early afternoon I'm viewing the scene through the rear window of an all lights flashing ambulance, making yet another trip to Marquette General to fix a failing heart. As the morphine kicks in the scene of swirling snow begins to blur, and finally dissolve.


The docs and techs in the cath temple, now old friends, do their usual wonder in reopening the culprit artery and I'm now back on the 7th floor cardiac care floor watching massive snow showers move quickly in off the grey lake. Pretty quiet in the cardiac unit, just a few of us steady customers around to kibitz with the friendly and highly competent nursing staff. Not enough snow to generate the usual snow shoveling heart attack crowd, and folks with elective surgery are finding something better to do during the holidays. As the day ends the snow falls more heavily and staff members worry about the drive home. I'm still darn uncomfortable, but with the aid of nitro drip and morphine I manage to get some rest. The snow continues throughtout the night.


Seems that there is more that needs to be done to get my cardiac system working properly, but a little rcovery from this latest episode is needed first. I'll go back in two weeks. So on New Year's Eve, my good friends and partners in the "snow stick factory" (what Harborites have labled our Keweenaw Snow Thermometer enterprise), Bruce and Jeane Olson, drive down from the Harbor to give me a ride home. Bless these good folks! After my usual after hospital stop at McDonalds for some real food (just a soft cone this time) we head west along a snow surrounded US 41. A beautiful ride through snow draped pine and spruce, but not as much snow on the ground as I expected. Lake effect snow is very fine and when it comes in intermittment showers, as it has the last few days, not much accumulation occurs. We arrive at the Harbor after dark. Lots of houses with lights in the interior and many cars (and snowmobiles) about. Seems as if the number of holiday visitors is unusually great his year. Attendance at Christmas Eve service at St Peter's was over 160, many more than the church can comfortably accomodate, but when it's Christmas Eve and the warmth and good feelings of friends prevail, it's comfortably cozy. Several New Year's Eve parties are beginning as I arrive home, but better judgement and a worn out body finally get a handle on me and I end an eventful 1997 at an early hour.


New Year's Day! What a year it's been. Our little web site just seems to grow and grow as more and more of you contribute morsels for our joint entertainment and enlightment. I have no idea how many "hits" this site gets and really don't care as long as people who love the Keweenaw, especially Eagle Harbor, continue to "connect" through this fascinating late 20th century communication technology. I'm homebound today but the view out across the still open harbor draws the soul, if not the body, out-of-doors. All is white along the shore and in open areas around the cottages. The water is dark, almost black...a bit sluggish as it struggles to forestall the inevitable transformation to an icy state. Rocky shorelines and off shore entry cribs are ice crusted...not much yet and certainly late, but a good January lake storm will complete the job in short order. The snow covered beach still shows stains of brown sand, especially at water edge where churning slush ice pushes bottom sand onto shore for the wind to spread about. Our sky continues to be filled with grey clouds, with the passage of the sun faintly marked by a fuzzy spot of light, more like a moon on a hazy evening. Lines of little black bugs with single bright eyes move hurriedly along the roads and through the open areas in the woods on the backing hills....the hundreds, perhaps thousands of snowmobilers in their annual migration to our land of snow.


Laker captains chatter on the scanner, marveling at the docile December and reporting their winter layup destinations. For most it's their last trip of the season. The lake IS unusually quiet. Little or no near shore wave action and while some ice has formed in the splash at the base of rock shore and along the stone and sand beaches, there has been little spray ice build-up. My good ship PEREGRINE would be a comfortable sail in the lake conditions of this December. The now almost flat lake surface does, however, have the metallic sheen that usually portends an abrupt change in its mood. Even in summer, when the water surface turns the color of cold steel, the color it is today, one should seek a safe anchorage. It can get real ugly, real fast. For those of us ashore today, however, the signs are that of an impending spring...deceptive for sure, but enticing to the winter faint-of-heart in our midst. It's near forty degrees, and by late afternoon a rare show of the sun casts beautiful shadow patterns across a still white, but rapidly fading white landscape. Green spots appear once again in our yards, and the roads and exposed trails are pocketed with dirty slush. A brief walk along our cross country trail confirms that unless we get a foot or more of heavy snow within the next several days, there will be little or no skiing through the pinery this winter. Hold on there George! Here you are, in early January, casting a wishful eye on the sail beckoning lake, and summarily, and I'm sure prematurarily, dismissing the prospect of hours of pleasure on the snow trails. Get a grip!


I watch the thermometer drop rapidly near mid-morn...from above freezing to near twenty in an hour. A call from a neighbor warns of roads covered with clear ice sheets. The air is suddenly filled with very fine snow; the white drizzle of lake evaporation crystallized and pushed onto the Keweenaw outcrop by a rush of cold air from the Canadian heartland. The dark hills behind the Harbor School fade into their shroud of white mist, becoming indinguisable from the hugging cloud canopy. Lake and sky are now one, each steely grey, without the benefit of horizon to judge their breadth. The waters remain at rest, their surfaces slowly undulating as some unseen force, perhaps a far off storm or the pull of the moon gently nudging their core. The finely textured snow, what we call "broom snow", slowly accumulates on surfaces, not evenly as does heavier snow, but in swirling pockets in the lee of structures and in moving white streaks in wind exposed areas. There is a beauty in all this, not solely for the eye, although the scene does certainly offer stimulation for visual senses gathering familiar images through nature's ever changing filters, but also in the rhythm of a changing weather system at a finely crafted play. Images and events flow across my stage, all distinctive in their form and energy, yet all clearly intertwined in another of nature's great pageants. Are we mortals in the audience, or on the stage?...I wonder!

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