April 17th, 2011 - The Block Sinks!

Many of you have been supporters of the Meltdown since its inception back in 2005.  For that, I am truly grateful.

Each year, this Hilltown contest grows a little bit bigger, stretches a little bit farther and gains a little bit more in popularity.  Case in point, I received a letter from Tommy Thomas this week.  In it was a note attached to a picture that read ‘Thought you might like a photo of Florida folks waiting for the ice to melt.’  What a life it must be to have the time to sit at the curbside with a dozen of your neighbors and their brightly colored Columbia bicycles (the ones with the fenders over the wheels), cameras and binoculars in hand just waiting in anticipation for the block to fall.  I’m not making this up.  Take a look at the attached picture.
Remember a few updates ago when I asked the question ‘Is it ever too cold to eat ice cream?’.  My friend Lisa Johnson provided the most poetic prose possible in her response.  She said ‘There is no degree of coldness past which ice cream is not viable.’  Suffice it to say that I would be challenged to find more truthful words.
I received a call from my wife Sue on Thursday just before 1PM.  She told me that she was passing by the dam and met up with William Fennessey, a Meltdown participant.  William told her that he just happened to be there when the block sank and e-mailed me a picture which shows only the flag above water.  I received it at 12:48PM.  When Sue checked the clock in the gatehouse, it had stopped at 12:43:50PM.   While William was quick to send me a copy of the picture he took from his phone, Todd Thompson sent me another cellphone picture at 1:03PM.  Both photo’s are attached.
Thursday was the first time I heard peepers in Goshen.  Coincidental, it was also the opening day of the Snack Shack in Williamsburg.  Attached is another picture that was taken in the parking lot of the Goshen town offices Thursday night that I found humorous.  You see, when Goshen does anything with snow or ice, we do it big.  Hence, the caution sign.
Back to the reason you’re reading this update – the contest.  The closest person to the actual time the block went through was Bob Talaga with a pick of 12:47PM.  Bob purchased 50 tickets this year that were paid for with a customer referral bonus he received from Bertera Subaru of West Springfield.  The check was sent to Bob for referring Sue and I to that dealership when we first shopped for then bought a car there last June.  Lucky for the contest, it took the dealership almost 10 months to process the payment – just in time for the Meltdown.  As many of you know, while Bob’s time was the closest to the time on the clock, his pick was still 3 minutes over.
Since nothing is ever ‘normal’ for this contest, it should come as no surprise that there were two winning tickets this year.  With a time of 12:14PM, the winners are Bob Thomas of Goshen and Bob Thomas of Goshen.  You see, Bob submitted two tickets to this years contest and both submissions were for the same date and time.  When I called him Thursday night, I told him that I had both good news and bad news.  The good news was that he had won the contest.  The bad news was that he had to share the winnings with himself.
Everyone in Goshen has a story.  Bob’s story goes something like this…
Bob is the brother of Anthony ‘Tommy’ Thomas.  Tommy is another Goshen resident who just happens to be our Town Moderator and a recently retired Captain with the Goshen Fire Department.  Bob’s sister, Evelyn Culver and her husband Roger, have also participated in the Meltdown since day one.  Evelyn and Roger were responsible for selling Bob his two tickets.  Bob, Tommy and Evelyn each had picks for April 14th.  After speaking with them, I was told that April 14th was their father Anthony ‘Tony’ Thomas’ birthday.  Tony was a founding member of the Goshen Fire Department when it was created in 1945.  When I asked Bob the significance of the time he chose, he told me that he knew the block would go down in the early afternoon.  Since it was his Dad’s birthday and he was born in 1914, the choice of 12:14PM seemed obvious to him.
Tommy Thomas, Kathy Bates, Dave Scott, John and Caren Miller, Tara Bocchino and Jacob Chase were all within an hour to either side of the actual time the block went down.
The final count of tickets sold was 3,237.  After accounting for the 5% of the proceeds that go to the Governor and some minimal expenses, Bob will receive a check for $1,525.  The other half of that story is the amount that goes to ‘Naomi’s Ride’.  Thanks to the generosity of 26 individuals who gave a total of $671 in additional direct donations, coupled with another $1,525 from ticket sales, the Harry family will receive a check for $2,196.  As you recall, the funds will go towards the purchase of a wheelchair accessible van for their daughter Naomi who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy.  
Before closing, I wanted to address another perennial question I receive from people.  They often wonder if I’ve ever calculated how many blocks would have to sink before Hammond Pond was filled with them.  I’ll remind you that the block, pallet and flag are retrieved each year and that no fish or other aquatic animals are harmed during their removal from the waterway.
Once again, this ride is about to end.  I’d like to take this opportunity to thanks people from Adams to Worthington; from Aaden Rondeau to Zach O’Neil; from blackpearl052 to dizzylizzy38, harleymama, jeepwoman1995, roadhog48, snowflake8888 and wildduck; from California to Vermont; from Australia to the United States.  We’re building something special here and it couldn’t be done without the support of all of you.  A sincere thank you to all of you.
Until next time…THINK SUMMER!
P.S.  The note from Tommy went on to say that the people in the picture were actually waiting for the last space shuttle launch.

April 13th, 2011 - Buds are Blooming

I seem to be a pretty popular person these days.  Everyone wants to know the condition of the ice and whether or not the block has gone through.  The answers?  The ice is still frozen and no, the block has not gone through yet.  I told you the ice was thick.  It even surpassed my date of April 12th.

At a time when forecasters are warning about flooding in the Connecticut river, Hammond Pond is taking it’s sweet old time doing what it does season after season.  On a day that found Goshen pounded by overnight rain and persistent drizzle throughout the day, the level of the pond has barely changed.
Buds have started to make an appearance on trees in the lower Pioneer Valley.  Weeping willows are starting to turn yellow.  The buds on maple trees are making the branches look red and green grass is beginning to color the landscape.  In spite of all this, I still have snow on my deck.  Truth be told, my snow shovels have now been put away for the season.  That just means it will snow soon.
I told Sue that I had a nightmare last night.  My dream was that I was standing on the dam with a crowd of people waiting for the block to fall through when a northerly breeze blew the ice floe that the pallet and block were perched on towards the dam.  Once near shore, the ice gave way and the block sank about a foot before hitting the ground.  At no point was there sufficient tension on the rope to pull the clock and stop the contest.  When Sue asked what happened, I told her I didn’t know because I woke up.  Let’s hope that dream never comes true.
As you can see from the attached pictures, there’s a lot of open water on the pond.  If you compare the pictures from yesterday to the one I took tonight, you can definitely see the slow progression the open water is making towards the block.  I’ve stopped predicting when I think the block will sink because I’m tired of being wrong.
My apologies to the throngs of you who times have passes.  My best wishes to all of you who are till hanging in there.
I suspect you’ll be getting an update from me sooner than later.
Until then…THINK SPRING.

April 7th, 2011 - Red Sox 9, Yankees 6

Please allow me the time to clear up a few inaccuracies in last week’s update.

First of all, Goshen received only 3 inches of wet snow that all but evaporated in last Saturday’s warm temperatures.  The picture of the block buried in the snow, albeit a good one, wasn’t entirely accurate either.  Let’s just say that it was electronically enhanced to support the annual April Fool’s update.
Lastly, and I’m sorry to say this, the idea of a ‘Meltdown Mania’ lottery is just that.  An idea (notice I didn’t put an ‘r’ at the end of idea).  While Governor Patrick has actually stepped foot in Goshen, both he and State Treasurer Steve Grossman know nothing about the imaginary ‘on-line’ game.  Equally imaginary is the Goshen Gazette Magazine – although the concept and cover photos are good ones.
Comments about the update came in fast and furious.  Here is a sampling of what I received:
You got me so good with that lottery joke. So good.”
The Goshen Gazette!   I love it!”
Excellent! Thanks for the chuckles….”
Loved the April Fooling around, Bob.  Was the 18 inches of snow part of it? “
Good job, Bob. Howie believed your April Fool’s meltdown edition…….there’s one born every day!”  (Howie, how could you?)
I was looking forward to it : ) as always another good one, I am sure you got all the first timers.”
You did have me fooled for a few moments.”
Thanks for our entertainment!!!!!”
My apologies to those who are just realizing now that you were fooled.  Everything else in the update, including the ticket and donation counts (along with where they came from) were accurate.
Some may have noticed that the April Fool’s update was sent out at 11:57PM on the 1st – much later than in previous years.  Normally, the update would have been delivered before going to work that morning.  However, the Goshen Fire Department was called to an early morning head-on collision on Route 9 in Goshen.  The accident, which occurred just down the street from the Whale Inn and was most likely caused by slippery road conditions from the overnight snowfall, closed down the highway for over two hours.  One driver was taken to Cooley Dickinson hospital by Highland Ambulance.  A few minutes after my head hit the pillow that night, the pager went out for a structure fire in Williamsburg.  At 12:06AM on Saturday, April 2nd, we joined forces with Chesterfield, Northampton and Westhampton fire departments to battle a blaze at 6 Depot Road that ultimately destroyed the garage which housed equipment for Clark’s Excavating.  The Cummington Fire Department provided station coverage in Goshen until we arrived back in quarters at 5:30AM.
After getting a few hours of sleep, we headed down to Baltimore to watch our daughter Sarah perform in the All Eastern Honors Chorus at Morgan State University.  Our first real glimpse of spring came when we saw green grass on the New Jersey Turnpike.  The temperatures reached 86 degrees at Camden Yards on Monday during opening day festivities between the Orioles and the Tigers.  A few days later, we travelled to Washington DC to find the city awash in cherry blossoms, daffodils, pansies and the smell of fresh mulch.
On our drive home, the first place we noticed snow was in Goshen.  Welcome back to our reality.  Ice on the Oxbow in Northampton has been replaced with kayaks.  When I took pictures of the block on Thursday, a flock of geese in their classic ‘V’ formation was flying overhead.  As you can see in the attached pictures, the ice on the pond is being replaced by open water near Pond Hill Road.  However, a good portion of the ice on the southern section of the pond is still connected to the shoreline.  Freezing temperatures at night slow down the process a bit but there’s no denying that a change is underway.  I’m going to make an attempt to measure the thickness of the ice before the next update.  If you don’t hear from me soon, assume that the ice is getting thin.
Now for the statistics that I know you’ve all been waiting for.  There were 416 participants who purchased 3,224 tickets – a new Meltdown record.  In addition, close to $700 of straight donations have been made so far that will go directly to the Harry family once the contest ends.  Even though ticket sales have come to a close, donations can still be made up until the block falls through the ice.  Dates ranged from an optimistic February 27th to a pessimistic June 2nd – a span of 95 days.
If you recall, we received a very generous donation from John April with a check for $1,440.  I can finally report that his picks were for every minute of Tuesday, April 19th.  Unfortunately, 49 other people also had picks on that date who will have to share their winnings with John if the ice lasts that long.  Aside from April 19th, the most popular dates were as follows:
4/03 – 80 picks
4/04 – 91 picks
4/05 – 82 picks
4/06 – 77 picks
4/07 – 77 picks
4/08 – 77 picks
4/10 – 84 picks
4/12 – 82 picks
4/13 – 84 picks
802 or 25% of the guesses made have gone by at this point.  
I’ll be attaching the clock this weekend thanks to next weeks forecast for warmer temperatures.  We’re expecting thunderstorms on Monday with a high temperature of 70 degrees followed by a string of sunny days with daytime highs in the 60’s.  Only once in the past 25 years has the ice lasted beyond April 15th so things are starting to heat up.
Thanks again for your continued support of the contest.
Until next time…THINK SPRING!

March 26th, 2011 - Meltdown Mania

Thanks to a late flurry of ticket activity, there are many new participants to the Meltdown that are receiving their first e-mail update on the contest.  Are you in for a treat.  To the rest of you seasoned Meltdown participants, my apologies for getting this update out later than usual.  Believe me when I say that today was a day like no other.

Late March cold brought chills to the region in the form of heavy wet snow.  Did anyone catch the Weather Channel last night when Jim Cantore singled out a small spot in the Berkshires and mentioned that they were in the bulls-eye of this late season Nor’easter?  Well, that bulls-eye was centered over Goshen which received an 18” blanketing of snow today compounded by heavy winds which caused widespread power outages.  Snow laden tree branches snapped bringing down power lines with them.  The attached pictures tell the story.  The first photo,  taken yesterday, clearly shows the block and pallet sitting atop the ice.  Twenty-four hours later, the top of the block is barely visible thanks to today’s snowstorm.

We’ve received almost 3,200 tickets and close to $700 in direct donations as of today.  I still don’t have a final count because tickets are still being delivered through the mail.  Only yesterday, I received an envelope that was mailed from Chesterfield and had a 3/24 postmark.  Over the past week, tickets have come in from Prospect, Tasmania in Australia, Bayamon and Comerio Puerto Rico, Havana Cuba, Uruma City Japan and New Orleans Louisiana.

I have some other great news to announce.  In recognition of the success of this year’s Meltdown, the Massachusetts State Lottery has announced a new ‘on-line’ game that will be called ‘Meltdown Mania’.  The goal of the new keno-like contest is to select the closest date and time to the actual moment the block falls through the ice without going over.  Contest players will be able to watch the ice melt through a series of closed circuit monitors that will be installed around Hammond Pond in Goshen MA in the spring of 2012.

Governor Patrick was quoted as saying “It’s time for the State of Massachusetts to take its lottery operations into the 21st century, embrace e-commerce, and sell its lottery products through the internet.”

“The goal of the contest is to attract a host of new participants,” according to State Treasurer Steve Grossman.  “These would include young adults who are comfortable with social gaming; non-traditional lottery players who earn more than $75,000 annually; and older people who either have no access to traditional lottery outlets, or simply don’t want to wait in line.”

In an unprecedented move, the town Selectboard has authorized me to publish the cover page of the upcoming edition of the Goshen Gazette Magazine (see attached).  The latest edition will hit newsstands this coming week and includes additional details on the contest that have yet to be announced.

As I mentioned, today was a day like no other.

Until next time…THINK SPRING

P.S.  Before any of you rush over to your computers in an effort to be the first one on your block to purchase the new Meltdown Mania tickets, take a close look at your calendar and remind yourself what today’s date is.

March 26th, 2011 - Corn Flakes

The snow in Goshen went from mashed potatoes earlier in the week to crunchy corn flakes this morning as I left my driveway to check on the condition of the ice.  The snow pack in the Hilltowns extends deep into the woods thanks to the cold temperatures that have returned.  Even our annual 5th season (a.k.a. mud season) has taken a back seat to the change in weather.

I drove down to the dam and parked next to the gatehouse.  As I made my way down to the lake, my eyes darted about looking for the best path to take to get out to the block for pictures.  I brought a hammer, chisel and yardstick with me because I also wanted to measure the thickness of the ice.  Can anyone tell me what happens when water freezes?  It expands.  Do you know what happens when ice on a pond expands?  It cracks.  Do you know what happens to your brain when the ice cracks and you’re standing on it?  It goes into flight or fight mode.  In my case, my heart received an early morning jump start and my brain went into a heightened sense of awareness.  The temperature was 18 degrees and the ice on the pond was forming not melting.  I found the hole Todd had made in the ice a few weeks ago.  The ice over the hole was only a couple inches thick.  A few whacks with the chisel and I had enough room to put the measuring stick down.  By following the wall of the previously drilled hole, I was able to lower it and find the bottom of the ice which now measured 26″ thick – a loss of only 6″ in 2 weeks.
I received an e-mail from Jane Brown this week.  Jane is one of the many volunteers on the Joe’s Pond Ice-Out Committee in West Danville VT.  Their Ice-Out contest (www.joespondvermont.com) served as the model for the Meltdown.  She reported that their ice measured 18″ thick which was almost half as thick as it was this time last year.  I wonder if they received more snow than we did which acted as an insulator and resulted in a thinner ice pack than we have?
Ticket sales officially end tomorrow.  If any of you receiving this e-mail still want to participate and know you won’t make it to the post office until next week, send me your picks by e-mail.  I’ll accept them as long as you send them before 11:59:59PM tomorrow and I know your donation is on its way.  Others can drop them off at the Goshen firehouse.
Tickets and donations continue to pour in.
Georgia McCarthy made me smile this week when I received her picks in the mail.  Georgia, who just happens to be the closest resident to the Meltdown flag, included a note on her envelope that simply read ‘MEMORIAL DAY, MAYBE?’.  Georgia, I plan on going swimming on Memorial Day, right after the parade in the center of town.  Care to join me?
I also received my first ever batch of tickets and donations by FedEx.  They were delivered to the firehouse and came from some friends and co-workers in Irvine California.  Their generosity helped push the ticket count past the 2,800 level and straight donations to over $500.
I may be stating the obvious here but since this is a 50/50 raffle, the winner of this years contest will easily take home more than $1,000.  This is a first for our contest.
On my drive to work yesterday, I noticed that the sign in front of the Village Green had changed and now indicated that they would be open for ice cream on Friday.  Looks like we’re not the only ones that have caught Spring fever.  However, I didn’t notice anyone standing outside when I drove by last night at 7:30PM.  Could it be that there’s a limit to how cold it is and at what temperature it’s too cold to eat ice cream?  I’d be willing to sign up for that experiment.
Nighttime temperatures over the next three days are forecasted to be in the low teens.  Temperatures that low will not only will slow down the melting, it will downright reverse the process.  Looking ahead, the weather for the upcoming week calls for moderating daytime temperatures and rain towards the end of the week. 
There are more ducks than people out on the Oxbow in Northampton these days since open water can be seen in many spots.  In spite of that, the grass in the soccer fields adjacent to the marina are still covered in a pale brown grass.
We received more publicity this week in the Gazette when reporter Ellie Cook referenced the Meltdown in an article she wrote titled ‘Glacier’s to Garbage’,  In her piece she asked  “How long will it take the glaciers to melt? I’m talking about the snow the city has dumped all winter off Maines Field on Riverside Drive and in the big lot off King Street. There should be some kind of citywide betting pool, like there is for “Meltdown” on the pond in Goshen.”  While that might be an interesting undertaking, I can’t envision people standing around watching the last bit of dirty ice melt.
As you can see from the attached pictures, the block is still solidly in it’s place on Hammond Pond.  Look for details on everyone’s picks next week.
Until then, THINK SPRING!

March 21st, 2011 - Spring? What Spring?

A blast of wintry weather greeted the first full day of Spring.  Just when you thought it was safe to put away your snow shovels and replace them with garden rakes, Mother Nature throws you a wicked curve ball.  March Madness has begun in more ways than one.  While some of you might think this weeks picture is merely a precursor to an early April Fool’s joke, rest assured, it’s not.  Goshen received 4 inches of heavy, wet snow today.  Enough snow that the Town sent out the plows to clear the roadways.
At Mass on Sunday, our priest Fr. Goni asked the congregation if anyone had anything they were celebrating.  One parishoner shouted out ‘the first day of Spring’.  Without skipping a beat, Fr. Goni stretched out his arms, looked to heaven and said ‘Thank God for Spring.”  I wonder what he’s thinking today? 
On my way to work this morning, I saw a confused pair of Canadian Geese near the beach by a small section of open water.  If it’s the same nesting pair that shows up every year to feast on the grasses by the dam and beach, they’re going to go hungry for several more weeks.
Over the weekend, I found myself crossing the Connecticut River to find places like Aqua Vitae Road in Hadley underwater.  Driving through Pittsfield on Saturday, I noticed that many of their roads had been cleaned up by street sweepers.  I wonder if they still think that was a good idea today?  The only snow one could find down in the valley was from where the snow banks had been.  Holyoke’s Chamber of Commerce had their prayers answered with a spectacular day for the 60th edition of their St. Patrick’s Day parade.  Just to confuse matters even more, there was a 1 acre brush fire in Belchertown on Saturday at the same time numerous hilltown fire departments practiced ice rescue drills in Conway.
We received some nice publicity from the Daily Hampshire Gazette on Saturday.  Except for the headline which read ‘Sixth annual Goshen Meltdown to help local family’, the article was well written.  Let’s do the math, shall we?  2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.  How many years has this contest been run?  My math tells me seven.  Fran, I won’t blame you for that one but you now have fodder to use against your editor.  Feel free to use it.
To give you a sense for how small this world of ours has become, I received an e-mail from a Gazette subscriber from Alaska.  Seems this person used to live in Cummington but still reads the paper online and saw Fran’s article.  She pointed out that there’s a similar contest in her State called the Nenana Ice Classic which has been going on for the past 95 years.  There, the contest organizers mount a very large wooden ‘tripod’ on the Tanana River.  A cable attached to a clock trips when the ice on the river starts to flow.  Tickets for that contest are $2.50 each.  Last year’s three winners split a pot of $279,300.  They sell so many tickets each year that the locals refer to it as Alaska’s largest unofficial lottery.  While we’re not in their league (yet), ticket sales are starting to get serious.  I received a check for $100 dollars today and instructions to apply 5 times over a 20-day period.  I also received more tickets from Australia to go with envelopes from followers in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Connecticut Rhode Island, Minnesota and Peru (MA).
The long range forecast is going to put the brakes on any high speed melting.  There’s snow in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday coupled with high temperatures in the 30’s and overnight lows in the teens through the weekend.  Have I mentioned lately that I don’t recall the ice ever going out before April 1st?
While I’d love to say that my lawn mower was ready to go, with 4 feet of snow on my south facing deck, I’m sorry to say that my snow blower is still still in the garage and is fully gassed.
Just a reminder that tickets sales end on Sunday, March 27th.
Until next time…THING SPRING!

March 14th, 2011 - Luck of the Irish

With a nod towards the luck of the Irish, Spring seems to have sprung with a vengeance today.
Yesterday morning, we were greeted with a thin coating of ice on the trees.  While the March sun is beginning to have an impact on south facing lawns, snow still clings to the north side of my roof and now measures only 4 feet deep on my south facing deck.
I replaced the ski poles that were originally holding up the rope to the block with the white reflectors that have been used in the past.  The black poles acted as heat sinks and started to melt into the ice.
There are significant cracks in the ice that run from east to west across the pond that were formed after the recent rain storms.  In spite of that, the ice is still firmly connected to the shoreline.  The section of open water next to the spillway had a coating of ice that formed the other night when we had temperatures in teens.  Even the Oxbow in Northampton has ice that goes from shore to shore.  However, the ice on the pond were I work in Windsor CT went out yesterday.
Driving home tonight, I smiled when I drove past the Village Green in Williamsburg.  They had their 4 foot high ice cream cone cutout resting up against a telephone pole next to the street.  They had placed another smaller sign on the ground in front of the cone that simply read ‘SOON’.
The sap is flowing and the sugar shacks are boiling.  Heading up the hill out of downtown Williamsburg, I went by Paul’s, the Lawton Family and Dufresne’s sugar houses.  Steam was billowing out of their smokestacks because of all the cooking that was going on.
I was visited by a raccoon tonight as I sat here typing this update.  It’s the first one I’ve seen in years around here.  Thankfully, it looked quite healthy.
After a couple of e-mail exchanges, I’ve been given permission to publicly announce the name of the individual who purchased the 1,440 Meltdown tickets – a Meltdown world record.  His name is John April.  While most of you might not recognize his name, I suspect many of you are familiar with his work.  John, who lives in Goshen, is the bass guitarist for the band STAIND.  Here’s a link to one of their many popular songs that’s only been viewed 1.8 million times on YouTube so far:
John also explained to me that he added the link to the Meltdown page on the GFD website to his Facebook wall to drum up more business for our contest.  Much appreciated John.
I also received an unusual request from a college professor in New Jersey who just happens to be a Meltdown supporter.  He asked if he could get a copy of the data I’ve collected over the past 6 years of the contest.  It seems that he teaches statistics and thought he could make the class a bit more interesting if he could have his students do some regression analysis on past picks.  I sent him a limited edition of the data that included dates, times, city/state and gender and had him reference the website for details on when the ice-out occurred since the contest began in 2005.  He seemed determined to ‘crack the code’ on when it would happen this year and was hoping to drum up some business from his students.  Only time will tell.
Thanks to all that have participtated so far, ticket sales have surpassed the 2,200 level.  With 10 days left in the contest, it’s only a matter of time until we shoot past 3,000.  Keep up the good work!
You can see from the pictures that I took tonight that there is some melting going on.  Temperatures reached into the 60’s today and we’re expecting showers overnight.  I’m going skiing on Saturday but I’m trying to determine if I should bring snow or water skis.
Until next time…THINK SPRING.
2011 Meltdown as of 03/17/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/17/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/17/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/17/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/17/2011

March 14th, 2011 - Naomi's Ride

Who ever thought watching ice melt could be so much fun?

It’s been a good week.

Last weekends rain raised the level of the ice in Hammond Pond by 12” leaving several significant cracks visible from the surface.

I picked up mail on Monday and had Meltdown envelopes from New Zealand, Salem Oregon and Haydenville MA which gives you a sense for how far reaching our contest has become.  Later that night, I served as moderator at a Special Town Meeting in Goshen.  I started the meeting with a moment of silence for our friend Steve Mollison who passed away two weeks ago.  Steve, who was a strong supporter of the Meltdown, would not only have been in attendance at the meeting, he would have been sitting in the front row.  At the end of the meeting, I pitched the Meltdown to those assembled in the hall.  I happened to mention the need to come up with a better name for this year’s benefactor.  In my opinion, the Harry Family Van Fund just didn’t have enough pizzazz.  It was at that point that Laura Barrus, another longtime Goshen resident, mentioned that the Congregational Church was referring to it as ‘Naomi’s Ride’.  So, in the spirit of cooperation and full disclosure, I’m going borrow that term until the contest is over.

On Tuesday, Todd Haskell and I ventured out onto the ice with his auger to determine its thickness.  Those of you who have friended us on Facebook got a sneak peak at the resulting video:

One of the things that surprised me about the pictures of the ice was the volume of air bubbles that could be seen trapped in the ice.  As you can see in the video, the ice closest to the surface had the highest volume of bubbles.  Whereas the older ice at the bottom was clearer.  An uneducated guess tells me that the surface ice was created by melting snow that captured small air pockets as it froze while the water at the base of the iceberg was formed simply by freezing underwater temperatures.  But what do I know?  I just run this contest.  However you look at it, 30” of ice is thick enough for me to drive a fire truck on without falling through (don’t worry Sue, I’m only providing people with a visual).

Later that evening, the fire department met at the Goshen firehouse for our monthly Tri-Town drill with the Williamsburg and Chesterfield fire departments.  This month’s training was on the use of our self-contained breathing apparatus or SCBA’s – sometimes referred to as our oxygen bottles by reporters who don’t know any better.  Every year, each firefighter is required to go through what is referred to as a ‘fit’ test.  Simply put, Hampshire County Fire Defense owns a piece of equipment that tests the fit of your mask to your face which we were putting to good use.  Each test takes approximately 10 minutes and because we couldn’t get through all the firefighters that evening, we asked several of them to come back Wednesday.

In between testing the following night, Sue handed me an envelope that was dropped off at the firehouse earlier in the day.  The outside of the envelope indicated that the contents contained Meltdown tickets.  Inside the envelope, there were 2 pieces of paper.  One was a sheet of tickets that had been filled out.  The other had a note with a check taped to it.  The note, from a Goshen resident, indicated that they wanted their picks to cover every minute of a day in April.  Prior to Wednesday, I can honestly say that I had never given much thought to how many minutes there were in a 24-hour period.  Thanks to an anonymous donor from our little town, I will never forget that there are one thousand four hundred and forty of them.  The note went on to say that they hoped they would win because, if they did, they planned to donate their winnings to the Harry family.

Another 2-3” of rain fell on Western Massachusetts on Thursday.  Berkshire County was under a flood warning while the rest of the state was under a flood watch.  Beaver Brook golf course in Williamsburg could justifiably be renamed Beaver Brook Pond.  Once again, the water level in Hammond Pond rose by a foot.

Sue received a call Thursday from a friend who suggested that she might want to take a look at the headlines that referenced her on the front page of this week’s Country Journal.  It read ‘Fire Chief Saves Selectmen’s Life’.

As I mentioned above, it’s been a good week. 

With two more weeks before ticket sales end, we have 1,982 tickets sold.  A friendly reminder to those of you that are waiting until the last minute to submit your picks that ticket sales end on Sunday, March 27th.

Until next time, THINK SPRING

2011 Meltdown as of 03/13/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/13/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/13/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/13/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/12/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/07/2011

March 6th, 2011 -

A personal note – It’s been several weeks since my last Meltdown update and I’d like to take a moment to explain the hiatus.  The wind was knocked out of my sails recently by the unexpected deaths of two close friends within 5 days of each other.  However, as you’ll read below, we paid a visit to the Harry family this week.  Seeing how they’re coping with the cards that they’ve been dealt and knowing that this fundraiser will contribute towards making their lives a little bit easier was the kick-start I needed to get back on the ice and back on the keyboard.  So, with no further delay, here is this week’s update.

You know that winter has worn out its welcome when you get down to the last cord of wood for the fire, temperatures go from zero degrees two nights ago to the mid 40’s and heavy rain today and there’s a 3-inch layer of ice on the driveway that is just now starting to melt.  I can’t think of a better time to have a Meltdown.

With daylight savings time less than a week away, the ice on the lake hasn’t changed its appearance in weeks.  That’s about to be altered in a big way (see photo below).  Has anyone ever heard of ‘Patchy Freezing Fog’?  That’s what’s in Goshen’s overnight forecast from the National Weather Service.  Just to spice things up, we’re also expecting between 2-3 inches of rain over the next 12 hours.  We will be greeted by a coating of ice in the morning from the freezing rain that will come as a result of overnight low temperatures in the upper 20’s.  The unseasonably mild temperatures we experienced today combined with the heavy rainfall that has yet to stop will promote rapid snowmelt which will drive sharp rises in area rivers and streams through Monday.  Let’s see how much the 7-foot snow banks next to my driveway will shrink by next weekend.

2011 Meltdown as of 03/06/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/06/2011

Earlier this week, the Goshen Fire Department conducted a drill at the home of Nancy and Matt Harry.  The purpose of the drill was for us to become familiar with the use of the elevator that’s been installed in their home.  The elevator provides their daughter Naomi with a way to get into the house without having to leave her wheelchair.  The visit also allowed us to understand the layout of their home in the event we have to respond there in an emergency.  More importantly, allowing the family an opportunity to share their concerns with us will provide them with the peace of mind that comes with knowing there are many people around that are willing to help.

We have some friends who are currently vacationing in Spain.  It’s clear to me that they went there to escape the weather we’re now experiencing.  Their timing couldn’t have been better.  Another Meltdown participant mentioned that it was difficult for them to judge the timing of the contest because the only ice they could find was in their cocktails they were enjoying on a beach in Key West.  I have to be nice so I’ll simply say that I hope they didn’t forget to put on sun block.

Ticket sales are growing quite nicely.  We currently stand at approximately 400 tickets sold to date with close to $200 in direct donations.  As a reminder, individuals who prefer to make donations should know that 100% of that money will go directly to the van fund.

As you can see from this week’s picture of the block, all the snow that covered the pallet is now history.  The ice itself is still quite thick with only a small section of open water visible near the spillway.  The return of seasonable temperatures later this week will slow down any high speed melting that might have occurred today.  There are two things that we can count on when daytime temperatures reach above freezing and overnight lows settle in the mid-20’s – sap from the maple trees and mud from the dirt roads.

Until next time, THINK SPRING!

2011 Meltdown as of 03/06/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/06/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/06/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 03/06/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 02/27/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 02/27/2011

February 14th, 2011 - Things Heating Up?

Has anyone besides me noticed that the temperatures have gotten warmer ever since the Meltdown began?

Last week when my daughter Hannah and I placed the block on the pond, walking out there was a bit of a challenge.  The sequence went something like this…step, squish, step, squish, step, step, squish.  Seeing the pond covered in a layer of snow was more than deceiving.  There was 6 inches of slush sitting on top of the ice.  That slush has now frozen solid and has since been covered with another 4 inches of snow we received last Tuesday. 

Here’s a time-lapse sequence of us setting up the block:

Within an hour of my first update, I started receiving comments from you.  The first one questioned what I would do if the ice didn’t melt this year.  Yet another made it clear to me that he did not consider the first pitch on opening day at Yankee stadium to be a “significant date”.  He went on to say that Yankee fans should be charged a premium to play.  Since I need to remain neutral in my comments, suffice it to say that while tempting, I simply cannot support such a change in the rules…this year.  My favorite Aussie brought to my attention that I referred to the contest as the 2010 rather than the 2011 Meltdown.  I guess I was still working out the cobwebs.

Fast forward to this past weekend, the weather was, well, seasonal.  Saturday I snow shoed up Mt. Greylock for the 76th running of the Thunderbolt Ski Race.  The temps were in the single digits early but warmed up to the mid 20’s by noontime – cold enough to support a constant snow flurry throughout most of the race.  Compared to last year when we had barely any snow and strong winds, this year’s race found the mountain covered in a blanket of white that was several feet deep.

Here’s a time lapse video I took of my climb up the mountain:

Tonight, the winds are howling outside.  The National Weather Service has issued a wind advisory.  We should expect to see sustained winds of between 15 and 30 miles per hour with gusts up to 45 and 50 miles per hour.  This will be a good test of the Meltdown flag.  I’ve attached a picture of the block and flag that was taken yesterday to remind you what our little pond looks like in the middle of winter.

The weather forecasters are teasing us with higher than what will really happen temperatures for Thursday and Friday.  For a reality check, tomorrow night the mercury is expected to drop to 0.  While it was nice to see melting snow today, Mother Nature is still in control and it’s still the middle of winter in Goshen.

Until next time…THINK SPRING

2011 Meltdown as of 02/13/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 02/13/2011

Feb. 9th, 2011 - The 2011 Meltdown has Begun

As many of you know, this is the 7th year of what has turned into an annual event in Goshen.  The rules are simple – come closest to guessing the exact time and day that a 69-pound concrete block falls through the ice (without going over) and you’ll win half of all the proceeds.  The block sits on a wooden pallet that holds a flag.  The flag is simply a marker that shows where the block is when it gets completely covered in snow.  The block is connected by a rope to an electric clock.  The clock is plugged into an outlet in the gatehouse on the dam holding back Hammond Pond.  Once the block falls through the ice or the ice floe moves away from the dam, the tension on the cord will pull the plug out of the wall socket and stop the clock.  It’s that straightforward.

2011 Meltdown as of 02/06/2011
2011 Meltdown as of 02/06/2011

I’d like to introduce you to the beneficiary of this year’s Meltdown.  Her name is Naomi Harry.  Naomi is a 10-year-old young lady who lives in Goshen with her parents Matt and Nancy and her younger sisters Rebekah and Deanna.  Naomi is a 5th grader at New Hingham Regional Elementary School in Chesterfield where she gets around with the help of an electric wheelchair.  The reason?  At the age of 5, Naomi was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy.  Last year, the family established a fund to purchase a wheelchair accessible van.  This year’s proceeds will add to the fund and hopefully put them over the top.  Individuals who would prefer to make donations directly to the fund should know that 100% of your contributions will make it to the family.

Regular updates will be posted to www.goshenmafire.com – the website of the Goshen Fire Department.  Participants that include an e-mail address on their ticket stub will be added to an e-mail distribution list that is used to provide periodic updates and snapshots of the block.  The current list includes several hundred addresses of people who are regularly entertained by these updates.  The sooner your tickets are returned, the sooner you can become part of that exclusive group.

We’re also on Facebook.  Become a fan and you’ll find more frequent updates, pictures and videos of the contest. 

The deadline for ticket submissions is Sunday, March 27th.  Note that this is a departure from previous years because it appears the effects of climate change are having an impact on our contest.  Tickets received after that date (unless they were postmarked on or before 3/27) will be returned.  This date is weather dependant and is subject to change.

Here are some statistics from the past 6 year’s of Meltdown events to consider as you make your selections:

  • The most popular dates were 4/12 (264), 4/10 (262), 4/11 (255), 4/13 and 4/15 (249) and 4/8 (228).
  • The ratio of morning to afternoon picks was 19% and 81% respectively.
  • 80% of all the guesses were for times between April 1st and April 21st (hint, hint)
  • The favorite times were 3 p.m. (283), 2 p.m. (256), 3:30 p.m. (202), 1:00 p.m. (193) and 2:30 p.m. (184).The winner is the person who is the closest to the exact time the clock stops without going over.
  • Daylight savings time starts on Sunday, March 14th.Keep that in mind when making your selection.
  • The official end of the previous contests were as follows:
    • 2010 – April 2nd at 11:52AM
    • 2009 – April 5th at 11:02AM
    • 2008 – April 16th at 3:04PM
    • 2007 – April 21st at 12:00 Noon
    • 2006 – April 1st at 8:18PM
    • 2005 – April 12th at 4:47PM
  • Other significant dates to consider are as follows:
    • 3/31 at 1:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium
    • 4/08 at 2:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Fenway Park in Boston
    • 4/15 at 2:45AM – Day and time the Titanic sank in 1912


2011 Meltdown as of 02/06/2011 - Hannah and Bob setting up the flag.
2011 Meltdown as of 02/06/2011 - Hannah and Bob setting up the flag.