April 15, 2014 - And the Winner is...

The winner of the 2014 Meltdown is Lilly Daiber of Goshen.  Lilly’s pick of 11:45AM on April 14th was the closest to the actual time the block went down without going over.  I spoke to Lilly last night and said that the $643.70 proceeds she won would pay for the gas she planned to use while driving out west this summer.

The 1937 Dodge Restoration Fund, thanks to an additional $185 in donations received above and beyond ticket sales, will benefit from a total of $828.70 from this years event.

April 14, 2014 - The Contest is Over

This is just a quick note to say that when I came home tonight, the block was at the bottom of Hammond Pond.  One look at the picture taken this morning on my way to work, it wasn’t a big surprise.

According to the unplugged electric clock, the official end of the contest came at 11:51AM this morning.

I’ll provide more details on the winner as soon as she returns my call.
2014 Meltdown as of 04/14/2014 at 6 AM

April 12, 2014 - The Tilt is On

With temperatures in Goshen surging to 70 degrees today, signs of Spring abound.  From the peepers in the woods, flooding at the Oxbow in Northampton, and a full parking lot at the Snack Shack in Williamsburg over the weekend, there’s been a clear shift in attitudes about the weather and it’s showing in our behaviors.  Rakes have come out of the shed, bikes are back on the roads and burning permits are flying off printers as fast as Canadian geese are heading north.  It won’t be long before we start complaining about mayflies, mosquitos and high humidity. 

However, we have to get through this week before those discussions can begin.  That’s because a Spring cold front will bring over an inch of rain to the region starting tomorrow night and into Tuesday.  The best news is that it is expected to end as snow in Goshen because Tuesday’s overnight low will drop to 25 degrees with a blustery west wind.  Better yet, Wednesday’s high temperature will reach all the way up to 41 degrees.  Great.
Today’s sunshine and warm temperatures have turned the condition of the ice to translucent.  Tomorrow will bring a carbon copy of today’s sun, breeze and warm temperatures.  It will be interesting to see if the ice can hold on a few more days just to match last year’s date of April 16th.
Attached are several pictures I took of the block yesterday.  While I was at the dam snapping away, I noticed a large bird off in the distance.  At first, I thought it was a turkey vulture.  That was until I thought I saw a speck of white on it’s head and tail.  As it drew closer, I realized that it was a bald eagle.  We’ve seen them before at Hammond Pond so this was the first time I had seen it this year. The bird was soaring from thermal to thermal and at one point even came down on the ice at the northern end of the pond.  After a few minutes, it took to the air again and disappeared from sight.
Back to the block, the tilt is obvious.  It’s caused by the ice around the pallet melting faster than the ice under it.  The result is the tilt the became even more pronounced today.
As a bonus, I stopped on the dam last night and took a time exposure shot of the block that was lit by an almost full moon.
I checked the clock tonight just to make sure everything was in working order.  All conditions are a go.
2014 Meltdown as of 04/12/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/12/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/12/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/12/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/12/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/12/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/12/2014 at 9 PM

April 12, 2014 - The Countdown has Begun

With appreciation to all of you, I am happy to report that a total of 1,373 tickets have been sold for this years contest.  The dates ranged from March 14th, to July 4th with the most popular days being April 18th with 76 picks followed by April 12th with 69.

Last weeks milder weather and temperatures routinely in the 50’s has definitely thinned the ice.  However, there’s still an ice flow that goes from shore to shore.
The forecast over the next three days calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s.  However, we’re also looking forward to rain, snow and sleet Tuesday in to Tuesday night.
Combine all these factors and it should come as no surprise that the clock is now connected.
Just a reminder that the contest ends when the tension on the rope pulls the plug for the clock out of the outlet.  That could come when the ice floe floats away from the dam or when the block sinks.
2014 Meltdown as of 04/11/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/11/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/11/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/11/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 04/11/2014

April 7, 2014 - It's Snowing Outside

I was going to start this update by telling you that we had certainly turned the corner on Spring.  However, as I type this note, it’s snowing outside my window even though the thermometer reads 45 degrees (this isn’t an April Fool’s joke).

You know that the rest of the world is thinking about the change of seasons when newscasters are talking about mosquito outbreaks, West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).
Canada geese are making their annual migration northward but they aren’t using Hammond Pond as a stopover because the waterway is still covered shore to shore in ice.
Last weeks rains melted what little snow that remained on top of the ice.  That same rain event also lifted the ice floe and made the cracks along the shoreline that much more pronounced.
As expected, there was a flurry of ticket activity last week.  I’m still logging them into my database and will have a more detailed update later this week.
I’ve heard from friends living in Virginia who told me that the daffodils are in full bloom and their grass is green.  Believe me when I say that this is not the case in Goshen where I still have a foot of snow in my back yard.  At 1,200 feet above sea level, winters linger and summers end early.
As you can see from this picture which I took tonight, the ice around the block has melted away leaving the top of the pallet exposed.  There’s a hole in the ice just a few feet from shore.  This has happened in the past but proved not to have any impact on the outcome of the event.
2014 Meltdown as of 04/07/2014

There are still two weeks to go before we can think of breaking the April 21st record set back in 2007.  Even though tonight’s storm started out as snow, we’re still expecting to receive almost an inch of rain overnight.  With the long range forecast showing temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s over the next week, the condition of the ice will start to change quickly.

2014 Meltdown as of 04/04/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 03/31/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 03/30/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 03/30/2014

Mar 29, 2014 - Ticket Sales End April 1st

I think it’s fair to say that we’ve turned the corner on this winter.

As we all know, ice floats.  Whether the ice is in your drink or out in nature, it’s going to float on top of whatever is holding it.  Heavy rains combined with snow melt introduced enough water to Hammond Pond this week that the layer of ice covering the water actually separated from the shoreline.  Visible cracks have also materialized everywhere you look thanks to the seasonal changes we are now experiencing.

The sap is starting to flow as evidenced by the steam pouring from the local sugar houses.  At long last, Major League Baseball parks will open their gates Monday as the season kicks off in earnest.  And, in another true sign that Spring is near, I saw a flatbed tractor trailer carrying a load of golf carts heading north on I91 this week followed closely by another one loaded with commercial lawn mowing equipment.

While most of us weren’t paying attention, we gained 87 minutes of daylight in the month of March.  Assuming no significant changes in the spin of the earth, we can expect an addition of another 79 minutes of sunshine in the month of April.

2014 Meltdown as of 03/28/2014

The National Weather Service is forecasting a significant rain event over the next 36 hours.  Goshen is expecting to receive around 2-3” of liquid precipitation between tonight and Monday morning.  As an added bonus, overnight temperatures on Sunday will drop below 32 degrees which will result in a bout of freezing rain.  With the ground still frozen, the water has nowhere to go but downhill and through our pond.

In case you needed additional proof that the Meltdown contest has become a global event, ticket submissions were received this week from Florida, Cuba and Vietnam.

Procrastinators beware.  Ticket sales are quickly coming to a close.  Consider this a reminder that sales end on Tuesday, April 1st.  Ticket submissions that are postmarked on that date will be accepted if received later in the week.  Your window of opportunity to participate in this year’s contest will soon be gone.

2014 Meltdown as of 03/22/2014

Mar 17, 2014 - The '37 Dodge

With the vernal equinox less than a week away, the woodpile is getting low, the fire is still warm and the temperature outside is heading down to zero.  The forecast calls for continued cold temperatures and even more snow on the way for Wednesday into Thursday.  The National Weather Service is also predicting that ‘another shot of very cold air will work into the region by early next week’.  They go on to say that we could be dealing with near record cold.

Anyone besides me feel that it’s way past time for a meltdown?

I spent some time on the ice on Sunday with fellow Goshen firefighters Jake Lulek and Dan Daley.  We drilled a few holes in the ice with an auger so I could measure its depth.  I hope you enjoy the video we created.  The answer to this week’s question is at the end of the short snippet.  The piece was first posted yesterday on the Meltdown’s Facebook page.  If nothing else, it has a summer theme I’m sure you’ll recognize and enjoy.

2014 Meltdown as of 03/16/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 03/11/2014

As many of you know, the proceeds from this years contest will benefit the 1937 Dodge Restoration Fund.  This truck was purchased as a used vehicle in 1947 and served our region as an active engine for more than a decade.  Here’s a story about the truck that will help you understand its importance to the history of our town.

Sometime in the late fifties after a fire, the Goshen Volunteer Fire Department desperately needed to replace some suction hose that had been damaged beyond repair.  Problem was, the department was also very short on funds.  So, Chief Francis Dresser made a trade with Ed Ryan Sr. – a fire equipment dealer and member of the Northampton Fire Department.  Mr. Ryan wanted the bell off the 1937 Dodge for the hose.  The reasoning behind the trade was simple.  The bell didn’t help put out fires but the hose did.  How can you beat logic like that?  The deal was done.

Many years went by and Ed passed away.  However, the bell remained in the possession of Ed’s son Ed Jr. who had also a member of the Northampton Fire Department.  Several years ago, he stopped in to see the Dressers and said he had noticed the old Dodge parked behind the station.  He wanted to know if we were going to restore it.  If we were, he would donate the bell back to us.  Deputy Chief Kim Dresser was aware of that conversation so when the department started the restoration fund he reached out to the family.  The result was a phone call and subsequent meeting at the Dressers’ home.

Ed Ryan Jr. returned the bell to Francis so it could be used in the restoration of the 1937 Dodge in memory of his father.  It turns out the bell had been on the porch of their camp in Savoy MA.  For a number of years, it was used to call them back from fishing or to signal when dinner was ready.  When the camp was sold about ten years ago, the bell found its’ way back to Ed’s house in Florence where it sat on a shelf in his garage.

After a sixty something year hiatus, the bell is back home.  When you think about it, Francis worked out a pretty good deal really.  The Ryan’s had the use of the bell; the department had use of the suction hose and now we have the bell back.

2014 Meltdown as of 03/09/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 03/09/2014

We received some much-needed publicity last week in the form of a story about the Meltdown contest that was published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. 

With less than two weeks before ticket sales come to a close, the push is now on.  For those of you who that have submitted your tickets already.  Thank you.  For those of you who are trying to figure out which day in July might be a winner, please get your tickets in soon.

Mar 5, 2014 - Has it Started Yet?

2014 Meltdown as of 03/01/2014

In the month of February, Goshen received over 2 feet of snow and experienced temperatures as low as 10 below zero along with one storm that brought us heavy rain.  However, with overnight temperatures that continue to drop below zero, it’s difficult to imagine that any type of Meltdown has actually started yet.  At this point in the season, I think it’s safe to say that the ice is actually getting thicker.

Goshen, Chesterfield and Williamsburg firefighters postponed their annual ice water rescue drill a few weeks ago due to the cold temperatures.  One of our major concerns was having fire apparatus that are filled with water be exposed to these brutal temperatures for an extended period of time.  None of us wanted to risk freezing our pumps.
I know people have started talking about the Meltdown.  Last week, I went to the Florence Barbershop for a haircut.  Mike asked me if July 4th had been taken yet.  I told him no.  Ticket sales have started to come in from all over the country including places like Connecticut, New Jersey, Florida and even Westfield (thanks Kathy and Ace).
The Great Lakes have been in the news recently because almost 90% of their surface is covered in ice.  With very cold temperatures over the entire region (including New England) forecasted for the next several days, it won’t take much more for the 94.8% record from 1994 to fall.  This is good news for places like Rochester, Syracuse and Buffalo because the lack of open water provides a reprieve from the relentless bands of lake effect snow.  However,  I can honestly say that Hammond Pond is 100% covered in a thick layer of ice.  I’ll add Georgia McCarthy’s house in Goshen to that list of places that no longer has to worry about lake effect snow.
While I know that winter has a firm grip on us right now, I am happy to say that Daylight Savings Time goes into effect this coming Saturday and the official start of Spring is a mere few weeks away.
Despite of the fact that daily average temperatures are 15 to 20 degrees below the norm, we typically see 70 degree days towards the end of March.
If you look at the unpaved roads in Goshen, you’ll notice that most of them look like regular dirt roads.  Don’t be fooled.  In reality, they are actually roads covered in a 2″ thick layer of ice that has been embedded with sand and rock salt spread by the Highway crew.  This is the same ice that will turn into mud in a months time.
The average bloom date for the hearty cherry blossoms in Washington D.C. is April 4th.  Representatives of the National Park Service announced this week that in spite of this not being the snowiest or coldest winter on record, they expect the peak blooms to occur later than normal but not so late that it will beat the record of April 18th.  While Goshen and the rest of the Hilltown region will be months away forms seeing the first tree bloom, this cold weather does help in the eradication or control of invasive species like the wooly adelgid and the emerald ash borer.  Those of us who live in the woods understand and should be smiling over this news.
I snowshoed up Mt. Greylock over the weekend to participate in the annual Thunderbolt ski race in Adams, MA.  Temperatures at the base hovered in the single digits below zero.  The early morning sun provided some relief from the cold, however, clouds overtook the region by midday.  The entire mountain was covered in a 2 foot blanket of white.  The annual Ski Patrol Competition, which was hosted by SkiButternut in Great Barrington this year, took place under cloudy skies and a constant breeze coming out of the north that left me cold until I got home to Goshen Sunday night and stood in front of the fireplace.
The forecast of the next several days calls for more cold weather with daytime temperatures barely getting over the freezing mark with overnight lows in the teens and single digits. When you compare that temperature to what we experienced in much of February, it might tempt some people to break out the shorts.
The picture of the block and flag below was taken this past Saturday.  If nothing else, it shows that we still have a long way to go.
2014 Meltdown as of 03/01/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 02/23/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 02/15/2014
2014 Meltdown as of 02/08/2014

Feb 3, 2014 - The 2014 Meltdown Has Begun

I find it fitting that the first 2014 Meltdown update is sent out two days after Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and foretold another 6 weeks of winter.

With the ice currently measured at 14″ thick, the tradition continues.

As many of you know, the block sits on a wooden pallet that holds a flag.  The flag is simply a marker that shows where the block is if 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 the Goshen Fire Departments 1937 Dodge Restoration Fund.  The 1937 Dodge was Goshen’s first fire engine.  The truck was purchased used in 1947 and put into service when the department was established almost 50 years ago.  To date, the Goshen Firefighter’s Association has collected almost $7,000 towards a goal of $25,000 to restore the engine.

Regular contest updates will be posted on the Meltdown page.  Additional tickets can also be downloaded from this site using this link.  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 this exclusive group.

The deadline for ticket submissions is Tuesday, April 1st.  Back in 2012, 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 the deadline.

Here are some statistics from the past 9 year’s of Meltdown events to consider as you make your selections:

– The most popular dates were 4/1 (511), 4/10 (508), 4/4 (495), 4/2 (485) and 4/12 (473).

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

– 74% of all guesses were for dates between April 1st and April 21st (hint, hint).

– Daylight savings time starts on Sunday, March 9th.  Keep that in mind when making your selection.

The official ends of the previous contests were as follows:

 2013 – 04/16 –  12:19 PM

 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:

3/15 – The day winter ends according to Punxsutawney Phil

3/31 at 1:10PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Citi Field (Mets) in New York.

4/07 at 1:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium against the Baltimore Orioles

4/04 at 2:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Fenway Park in Boston against the Milwaukee Brewers.

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

2014 Meltdown as of 01/18/2014