April 24th, 2013 - The Final Update

2013 Meltdown as of 04/16/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/16/2013 at 9:15AM.

The daffodils in front of the barn are in bloom, a pair of geese is swimming around on the pond and there’s not one chunk of ice anywhere in site.  The 2013 Meltdown contest is over.

When my wife Sue left for work last Tuesday morning, she noticed nothing unusual about the condition of the block or the ice.  When I went by 30 minutes later, only the flag could be seen poking up through the water.  I checked the clock in the gatehouse and found that it was still plugged in.  Later that morning, I received several texts, e-mails and calls from my army of flag watchers who noticed the change.

The official end of the 2013 Meltdown happened Tuesday April 16th at 12:19PM.  This was confirmed when I checked the clock in the gatehouse Tuesday night.

The latest the block has gone down occurred back in 2007 when the end came at high noon.  It’s also not the first time the contest ended on April 16th.  The last time that happened was in 2008.  What is surprising is that this years event took almost a full month longer to end when compared to last years March 19th finish.

I see definite trends developing as I compare this years results with those of past contests.  Since 2005, 81% of picks were made between 4/1 and 4/21.  This year, 82% of picks fell within that timeframe with the most popular dates listed below:

04/10 – 86

04/08 – 71

04/15 – 71

04/11 – 68

04/12 – 64

04/13 – 64

04/16 – 60

04/04 – 60

2013 Meltdown as of 04/16/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/16/2013 at 9:15AM.

Historically, the ratio of AM to PM picks has been 25% to 75%.  This year, 21% of picks were for times between midnight and 11:59 AM leaving 79% of the picks for times between noon and 11:59 PM.

Sixty-three percent of all submissions fell between noon and 4PM.  Not surprisingly, the most popular times were as follows:

12:00PM – 50

02:00PM – 43

02:30PM – 30

03:00PM – 27

01:00PM – 21

04:00PM – 20

2013 Meltdown as of 04/16/2013 at 6:35PM
2013 Meltdown as of 04/16/2013 at 6:35PM

There were 19 picks made one hour before or one hour after 12:19PM including two from last year’s winner Lisa Johnson and one from my father-in-law.  Elaine Sewatsky of Saunderson RI actually came closest with her pick of 12:21PM but, as we all know, it’s the closest to the time without going over that wins.  So, I’m happy to announce that Doreen Mollison of Goshen with her pick of 12:06PM is the winner of the 2013 Meltdown. 

Thanks to the sale of 1,374 tickets this year, Doreen will win just over $640 in proceeds.  The real winner, however, is Camp Howe who will receive that same amount plus an additional $229 in donations that were made directly to the cause for a total of almost $900.  The timing of this event coincides nicely with the grand opening of their new recreation hall which is scheduled for Sunday, May 19th.

Many of you have been patiently waiting for this final update for which I am very appreciative.  The reason this update is so late is because our family was out of town for a good portion of last week conducting college visits with our daughter.  I hope you understand (and have pity on us).

Once again, I’d like to thank all of you for your continued support because, without it, we wouldn’t have a contest.

Until next time, THINK SUMMER!

April 15th, 2013 - The Tilt is On

2013 Meltdown as of 04/14/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/13/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013 - a view looking south from Pond Hill Road.
2013 Meltdown as of 04/12/2013 - a view looking south from Pond Hill Road.

As I walked around the dam on Friday morning to check on the condition of the ice, I noticed a thin coat of ice on every exposed surface thanks to overnight freezing rains.  I could hear the branches crackling in the trees along the shoreline whenever a gust of wind blew by.  The combination of a fine mist, a stiff breeze and freezing temperatures resulted in everything being coated with ice.  Small icicles had formed on overhead power lines, fences, and almost anything exposed to this weather.

I met a neighbor walking his dog around the lake who questioned the tilt of the block.  I explained to him that the same thing happened before and was caused by the pallet retaining heat from the sun and melting the ice around it.  Last year, the block and pallet did fall over but it didn’t disengage the clock and end the contest.  That happened several days later when the block actually sank.  Regardless, the old Timex clock is now plugged in at the gatehouse on the dam.

Friday’s freezing rain turned into sleet as ice pellets rained down from the sky even though temperatures hovered in the mid-30’s.  The condition of the ice is showing signs of melting.  Approximately 10% of the northern end of the pond is now open water.  Towards the middle of the pond, the ice has become a darker more translucent color which is a sure sign that it’s very thin in that location.  However, on the south end of the pond where the block is, much of the ice is thicker and still cloudy white.

The shoreline has begun to release its grip on the ice floe.  There are many sections showing about one to three feet of open water between it and the ice.  This allowed the small brown otter that I saw plenty of room to play both in and out of the water.

Friday’s storm deposited over an inch of sleet which has mostly melted by this morning thanks to weekend temperatures in the 50’s.

I spent most of the past two days entering 1,375 tickets into my spreadsheet.  Approximately 65% of the submissions have passed at this point.  But, there are 240 picks over the next 4 days that all have a legitimate shot at winning.

We received tickets submissions from faraway places like Okinawa Japan, Retford England, Hervey Bay Austrailia, Barchem Netherlands, Kaohsiung Tiawan and Gatineau Quebec in Canada.  Not to be outdone, we also received tickets from St. Petersburg Florida, Marietta Georgia, Virginia Beach Virginia, Las Vegas Nevada, Pueblo Colorado, Corona Del Mar California, Eagle River Alaska, Tiffen Ohio and Glennwood Maryland – just to name a few.  In a surprising twist, we also received our first submissions from the state of Vermont.  My friends at Joe’s Pond might not be happy that I’m taking customers away from their Ice Out contest.

Four out of every five tickets came from past participants so I recognized many of the names.  We received guesses from a few politicians, past winners and even some who wrote ‘Highland Ambulance’ in the name slot as a way to donate their winnings to the squad if their pick won.

I received several notes from people, some of whom marked their tickets as ‘winners’, others who told me they relied on the Old Farmers Almanac to make their March picks (that was pretty funny).  I even received picks from Airlie and Morgan – two dogs at Camp Howe.

2013 Meltdown as of 04/08/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/08/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/08/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/08/2013

April 5th, 2013 - It's Been a Good Week

2013 Meltdown as of 04/04/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/04/2013

The Red Sox and my favorite New York team (Mets) both won their respective opening day games : ).

For many of us, March was more winter that it was spring with cooler than normal temperatures for most of the month.  A cold front moved into the area earlier this week bringing lake affect snow flurries from Lake Ontario, 30-40 MPH wind gusts and temperatures in the 30’s.

Using weather terms, a large upper level trough has been a semi-permanent feature hovering over Greenland.  This pushes the jet stream to our south, opening the back door for cold air to come in from the north.  Here’s a link to NOAA’s page that further explains this weather phenomena.

However, the weather pattern is changing.  A big warm up is being forecasted for the coming week.  Local meteorologists are hinting at 70 degree temperatures in their 7-day forecasts.  Before you go putting your snow shovels away, know that on average, our region receives several inches of snow during the month of April.

I heard from Jane Brown up on Joe’s Pond in West Danville Vermont.  She reports that the ice up there is 16″ thick with no water showing anywhere.  Up until this week, their pallet was covered in several feet of snow thanks to nighttime temperatures in the teens.  Their local TV station did a nice report on the status of Joe’s Pond Ice Out Contest.  If their contest looks similar to ours, it’s because they were the genesis behind what we do on Hammond Pond.  I am now intrigued by their web cam and online ticket sales.

In a sure sign that local highway departments think that winter is over, street sweeping operations have begun in the valley.  Road construction signs have begun popping up around the region and the ski season at SkiButternut will come to an end this Sunday. 

While it’s still a bit too early to think about the planting season, the Village Green in Williamsburg has begun selling ice cream from it’s store front on Route 9.  The Snack Shack next door has a help wanted sign on its display.  I’ve attached a satellite picture from the National Weather Service which shows that snow only remains in the higher terrain of New England.  For the record, Goshen = Higher Terrain.  For the most part, snow can only be found where it was piled up after shoveling it in the lower elevations.  Here in the Hilltowns, we are still blanketed in a sea of white.  That blanket, however, is starting to develop some warn spots.

As you can see from the recent pictures, there is open water down near the spillway.  I checked the website to look at the pictures from the contest over the past 8 years and confirmed that this has yet to be the cause of the block dropping.

Many of you have expressed your appreciation for the deadline extension as evidenced by the flood of entries and donations that were received this week.  With only a few days left before ticket sales end, there’s still time to make a submission.  Please take a moment to complete your tickets and get them in the mail (P.O. Box 923, Williamsburg MA) by Monday. 

2013 Meltdown as of 04/03/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/03/2013 - a view from the beach.
2013 Meltdown as of 04/03/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/03/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/02/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 04/02/2013

March 31, 2013 - No April Fool's Joke

2013 Meltdown as of 03/30/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/30/2013

While some of you might not trust the legitimatacy of this email, believe me when I say that this IS NOT an early April Fool’s joke.
Procrastinators take notice.  Based upon the current condition of the ice on Hammond Pond in Goshen, the 2013 Meltdown contest has been extended for one week.  I will now accept ticket submissions until Monday, April 7th.  If you’ve been thinking about taking a chance on the contest but thought it was too late, here’s your chance to get in on the fun and show your support for the good work being done at Camp Howe.
The forecast for the coming week calls for overnight temperatures in the teens and low 20’s.  Welcome back to winter.  As you can see from the attached photo that was taken yesterday, there is still a layer of snow covering the ice in spite of the mild temperatures we experienced over the past several days.  Yesterday’s full sun had a definite impact on the depth of the snow that’s left.  Slowly but surely, the ground under the snow is starting to become more and more visible.

2013 Meltdown as of 03/23/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/17/2013

March 16, 2013 - March Madness

Can you say March Madness?

Earlier this week, I followed a truck filled with sap that had just been collected from a nearby sugarbush.  Local sugar houses in Williamsburg like the Lawton Hill Farm, Zononi’s and Dufresne’s were all boiling this week.  However, change is in the air.  Potholes made a comeback after Tuesday’s rain event.  What little exposed ground there was had become softened by warm temperatures that soared into the 50’s.  Thanks to overnight readings in the low teens for the past several days, the ruts in those muddy dirt roads have now frozen solid and have become tracks that tires now follow without the aid of a steering wheel.  Those of you who travel on dirt roads know what I mean.

In another sure sign that spring is right around the corner, the Williamsburg Snack Shack announced that they would be ready to ‘roll’ by the second week in April.

We received some positive publicity this week thanks to an article in Thursday’s Daily Hampshire Gazette.  It was mentioned that this years Meltdown would be a benefit for a calm down room at Camp Howe.  Friends suggested that the calm down room should be named the Meltdown room.  My concern (which is shared by Camp Howe’s Executive Director Terrie Campbell) is the negative connotations some might associate with the name of our little contest.  Terrie did suggest that a photo of the block and flag would be prominently displayed in the room once it was finished.

The article generated at least one new fan from Northampton who called the house and asked how she could get tickets.  I chose to drop some off with her last night when I was driving through town.  She introduced herself as Rose and explained that she came away with nothing but fond memories of Camp Howe when she attended camp there many many years ago.  Not only was she a former camper, she also was a former camp counselor there.  At the end of the day, I have the best job in the world because I get to meet the most amazing people as a result of this contest. 

Speaking of work, my daily commute brings me from Goshen to Hartford and back each day.  I don’t have to venture too far down the hill into Williamsburg to notice a significant decrease in the amount of snow on the ground.  As I get closer to the Connecticut River, what little snow there is exists only in the shadows of evergreen trees.  At home, snow still covers the ground even on south facing hills and measures over a foot thick in my background.  While the snow banks are truly lower thanks to the rain we received earlier this week, many still measure over 3 feet deep.

While some might find this hard to believe, I can honestly say that the change to Daylight Savings Time last weekend has had no detrimental impact on the condition of the ice covering Hammond Pond.  What it did do is allow me to actually see the block when I come home at night.

In response to my last update, a Meltdown supporter suggested that since my shadow was clearly evident in the picture that was sent out, it was a sure sign that winter would last another 6 weeks.  Since my wife believes in jinxes, I’m blaming my friend Gerry for the winter storm that will likely hit our region Monday night.  The current forecast indicates that the storm will affect us with significant snow accumulations that will extend into Tuesday evening.  Don’t put those snow shovels away just yet.

With a nod to the National Weather Service out of Boston, high pressure has established itself over Greenland this winter which blocks air flow to the west of it.  This pushes the polar jet stream further south and brings colder temperatures to New England that includes a stormier track and more costal storms.  For those who want to know more about this weather phenomenon, it’s called a negative North Atlantic Oscillation / Arctic Oscillation (NAO/AO) pattern.  Laymen’s translation?  The ice beneath the block is as thick as ever and will stay that way over the foreseeable future given the forecast of colder than normal temperatures.

If anyone’s interested in moving, Alaska is having an unusually wet and mild winter this year.

As you can see from the attached pictures taken of the block this afternoon, there’s still plenty of snow and ice on Hammond Pond in Goshen.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.

2013 Meltdown as of 03/16/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/16/2013 looking from the spillway.
2013 Meltdown as of 03/15/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/15/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/13/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/13/2013

March 11, 2013 - Snow...Lot's of Snow

What a difference a year makes…
If you recall, last year at this time we were experiencing a mostly snowless winter and temperatures on the 60’s.  This year, the Hilltowns are covered in a thick blanket of snow that ranges from 18-24″ thick.  In spite of the 7″ of heavy snow that fell in Goshen on Friday, the top of the block is still visible from shore.
The maple sugar producers are experiencing a great stretch of weather that sees daytime temperatures rise above freezing which encourages the sap to run.  I noticed a lone pair of Canadian Geese flying overhead yesterday searching for a spot of open water to land in.  When they saw Hammond Pond, they just kept flying.
The attached picture was taken yesterday morning and shows the block against a brilliant blue sky.  Strong sunshine helped bring weekend temperatures that soared into the upper 40’s.
The forecast calls for showers tomorrow with locally heavy rainfall amounts of up to one inch.  Combine that with an unusually deep snow pack for this time in March and a warm air mass and we might see some minor flooding in the region.  This rain event is being triggered by a cold front that will bring strong winds and temperatures that will struggle to get out of the 30’s towards the end of the week.
Several weeks ago, the ice on the lake measured just over a foot thick.  However, since that time we’ve received over two feet of snow that might be acting as insulation.  I know when I went out there yesterday, I found water under a crusty snowpack that sat on top of the ice.
I was greeted with over 20 envelopes of tickets when I stopped at the post office last week so I think it’s safe to say that the Meltdown contest is in full swing.
With only 10 days before a change of season’s, I think it’s appropriate that I end this note by saying
2013 Meltdown as of 03/09/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/09/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/08/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/08/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 03/07/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 02/10/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 02/10/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 02/09/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 02/09/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 02/08/2013
2013 Meltdown as of 02/08/2013
Lake Drive and the Hammond Pond gatehouse 2013 Meltdown as of 02/08/2013

March 2, 2013 - The 2013 Meltdown has Begun

2013 Meltdown as of 02/02/2013

In a tradition that had its humble beginnings almost a decade ago, the 9th annual Meltdown has begun again. 

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 to an electric clock by a rope.  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.

This year’s fundraiser will benefit Camp Howe, a 4-H summer camp that’s called Goshen it’s home since 1935.  Specifically, the camp is looking to furnish a Cool Down Space in their new Multi-purpose building.  This space is planned to be a room in which any child that needs a personal break from camp can go to decompress and relax.  It will have an abundance of beanbags, pillows, sensory items (tactile fun stuff), and games / toys for interactive play.  Most importantly, this space will be especially useful for campers with special needs.

Regular updates will be posted on the Goshen Fire Department’s website.

Participants that include an e-mail address on their ticket stub will be added to a private 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.

I’m taking a chance at keeping the deadline for ticket submissions as April 1st.  If you recall from last year, the block fell through the ice on March 19th – almost two weeks before the deadline.  While I can only do so much to regulate the impact climate change is having on our contest, something tells me that the cold will be around longer this year.  Tickets received after April 1st (unless they were postmarked on or before that date) will be returned.  This date is weather dependant and will be irrelevant if the block falls through the ice before then.

Here are some statistics from the past 8 year’s of Meltdown events to consider as you make your selections:

– The most popular dates were 4/1 (467), 4/2 (450), 4/4 (435), 4/10 (422) and 4/12 (409).

– The ratio of morning to afternoon picks was 25% and 75% respectively.

– 81% of all guesses were for dates between April 1st and April 21st (hint, hint). 

– Daylight savings time starts on Sunday, March 10th.  Keep that in mind when making your selection.

The official ends of the previous contests were as follows:

 2012 – 03/19 –   2:14 PM

 2011 – 04/14 – 12:44 PM

 2010 – 04/02 – 11:52 AM

 2009 – 04/05 – 11:02 AM

 2008 – 04/16 –   3:04 PM

 2007 – 04/21 – 12:00 Noon

 2006 – 04/01 –   8:18 PM

 2005 – 04/12 –   4:47 PM

Other significant dates to consider are as follows:

 4/01 at 1:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium AND at Citi Field (Mets) in New York.

 4/08 at 2:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Fenway Park in Boston against the Orioles.

 4/15 at 2:45AM – Day and time the Titanic sank in 1912.

Mail ticket stubs to P.O. Box 923, Williamsburg, MA  01096-0923 and please make checks payable to “HAMMOND ACRES CLUB”


2013 Meltdown as of 02/02/2013