March 17th - Where Does One Start?

2020 Meltdown as of 02/29/2020
2020 Meltdown as of 02/29/2020

There’s no way to sugar coat it so here goes.  Things are unusual across the board right now.  
 
A week ago, we experienced the warmest day of 2020 with temperatures around most of the region soaring between 25 and 30 degrees above normal.  This morning as I write this, snow is falling outside.

2020 Meltdown as of 03/17/2020
Meltdown as of 03/17/2020

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), we can thank an unusually strong polar vortex for our mild winter because it kept artic air locked in the polar regions instead of plunging it southward into the U.S.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that December and January were the warmest on record across the U.S. with all of the big cities of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, from Boston to Washington, D.C., experiencing less snow than usual.
 
Don’t put away your winter coats just yet.  The latest long range forecast from the NWS Climate Prediction Center shows a 70% chance of above normal temperatures across MA, RI and CT from March 21st through April 3rd.
 
The short range forecast still shows nighttime lows dipping below the freezing mark but a high temperature on Friday of 66 degrees.

Meltdown as of 03/06/2020
Meltdown as of 03/06/2020

A week ago, the ice still measured over a foot thick.  On Sunday, the ice floe finally loosened its grip on the shoreline and started to recede.  Said another way, I couldn’t safely make my way out onto it to take a measurement.  The ice is melting.
 
The rope now links the block to the electronic Timex clock in the gatehouse.

I received a call over the weekend from Fr. Richard Bondi, pastor of Our Lady of the Hills parish in Haydenville.  He told me that all religious services including masses, weddings and funerals were cancelled until further notice.  He went on to say that the only activity still going on was the Take and Eat program.  Amidst all of the chaos and confusion surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, the health and safety of the most vulnerable of our population was too important to set aside.

Hammond Pond Looking South
Now this is something you don't see every day - an aerial view of Hammond Pond looking south towards where the 2020 Meltdown block is located. The picture on the left was taken on Sunday March 8th. The picture on the right was taken a week later on Sunday, March 15th. Ice on Hammond Pond always melts from north to south. As you can clearly see, the meltdown has begun.
Hammond Pond Looking North
Here's an aerial view of Hammond Pond looking north towards Vermont. The picture on the left was taken on Sunday, March 8th. The picture on the right was taken on Sunday, March 15th. Notice how the ice along the beach in the bottom right of each picture has started to melt. The block is the tiny black dot in the bottom left corner of the pond.

While this won’t be a record setting year for our contest (the block went down on 3/11 in 2016 and 3/19 in 2012), I feel the need to remind you that ticket sales will come to an end on April 1st at midnight.  However, in the event the block goes down before then, any tickets received or postmarked 24 hours before that happens will be returned to be fair to all of you that have already submitted your guesses.

2020 Meltdown as of March 8th, 2020
Ice rings? Take a close look at this picture of the northern end of Hammond Pond near Pond Hill Road. Notice the pattern in the ice. This is something that I've never seen before. Photo taken on Sunday, March 8th, 2020.
2020 Meltdown as of 02/29/2020.
2020 Meltdown as of 02/29/2020. This weeks rains raised the ice flow on Hammond Pond enough to make it dangerous for ice skating thanks to uneven cracks like this one.
2020 Meltdown as of 02/26/2020
2020 Meltdown as of 02/26/2020 After several inches of rain, the ice is covered in puddles that eventually froze solid.

February 25th - Whacky Weather

As I sit in the Goshen fire station reminiscing about what happened here in town three years ago tonight, I’m grateful that it’s 37 degrees outside and raining.  Recall that a tornado dipped it’s toe in the center of town on February 25th, 2017 before coming down hard in the Town of Conway – just over the hill.

Here’s a link to a story that was posted on the GFD website regarding the event.

Route 9 and Route 112
Three years ago tonight, a tornado touched down in Goshen - the first such event to happen in February since record keeping in Massachusetts began in 1950.

While temperatures did make it up into the lower 50’s over the weekend, the winds of change are in the air as more seasonable weather makes its way back into our region.  The forecast is calling for daytime temperatures to not exceed the freezing mark from Friday to Monday.

While most of the Hilltown’s are still covered in snow that has been on the ground since December, most residents of the lower Pioneer Valley can see grass in their back yards.

Snow cover on 2/23/2020
It certainly has been a mild winter across the region. This map indicates that the only places currently with snow cover in southern New England were just mainly the higher terrain of the Worcester Hills and Berkshires. (Courtesy US National Weather Service Boston MA)

Volunteer firefighters are ‘paid’ when the people we help say thank you.

Volunteers who run wacky fundraisers like the Meltdown are ‘paid’ when they hear from supporters like you.  By that measure, I’ve become a millionaire.

I never know what kind of reaction I’ll receive when announcing the beneficiary for the contest.  This year, several of you took the time to share your thoughts about the Take and Eat program.

“It filled my heart with gratitude when I delivered a meal and was met at the door by someone who thanked me for the food because that person was hungry.  This program is so needed.”

“I like that the charity you picked makes sure seniors have hot meals on days meals with wheels doesn’t deliver.  My Mom used meals on wheels and aside from the meals the daily contact was appreciated. So I think this was a great pick.”

I also received help folding, stapling, cutting and stuffing tickets, brochures and envelopes (thank you Evelyn and Roger).  As a result, 2020 Meltdown envelopes are now available at the Williamsburg Congregational church and at Our Lady of the Hills church in ‘Burgy and at the Spruce Corner restaurant in Goshen.  Ticket information was also available at the Goshen Town Hall this week when residents stopped by to cast their early primary votes.

Can you understand why I feel so ‘rich’?

Over the weekend, 4 people fell through the ice on a pond at Burr Mountain State Park in Torrington CT.  Two of the individuals rescued were transported to Hartford Hospital with severe hypothermia by two LifeStar helicopters.  The Torrington Fire Chief said the ice was around five to six inches thick near the edges of the lake, but the ice where the people were fishing was only an inch or so thick.

The state park is approximately 50 miles south southwest of Goshen.

The ice on Hammond Pond has gotten 4″ thicker over the past two weeks and now measures 16″ in depth.

Click on the video above to get a firsthand look at what it was like underneath the ice shelf on Hammond Pond this past Saturday, February 22nd.

2020 Meltdown as of 02/09/2020
Hammond Pond, home of the Meltdown contest as seen from the air on 02/09/2020. The block and flag can be seen at the bottom left corner of the frame.
2020 Meltdown as of 02/09/2020 as seen from a drone.
2020 Meltdown as of 02/09/2020
2020 Meltdown as of 02/09/2020

February 1st - The 2020 Meltdown has Begun

2020 Meltdown as of 02/01/2020
2020 Meltdown as of 02/01/2020

With over two feet of snow that fell in December and only a few inches more in January, the 16th annual Meltdown contest is back for another year.

The concrete blocks sit on a wooden pallet that holds a flag.  The flag is simply a marker that shows where the blocks are in the event they get completely covered in snow.  The blocks are 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 blocks fall 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.  Simple, right?

This year, our fundraising efforts will be directed towards the ‘Take and Eat’ program. The program provides meals to seniors on weekends and holidays when Meals on Wheels is not available.  Our Lady of the Hills Parish in Haydenville and the Williamsburg Congregational Church have teamed up and are starting to deliver hot meals to people in our area.

Regular updates are posted here and on the Meltdown Facebook page.  Additional tickets can also be downloaded from this site using the link above.  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.

The deadline for ticket submissions is Wednesday, April 1st at 11:59:59 P.M.  Back in 2016, the block fell through the ice on March 11th – almost three weeks before the deadline.  Tickets received after April 1st (unless they were postmarked on or before that date) will be returned.  This date is weather dependent and will be irrelevant if the block falls through the ice before the deadline.

Here are some statistics from the past 15 years of Meltdown events to consider as you make your selections:

      • The most popular dates continue to be 4/15 (783), 4/10 (760), 4/12 (745), 4/1 (721) and 4/13 (702).
      • 84% of all guesses have been for dates between March 27th and April 26th.

As you can see from the table below, the block has gone as early as March 11th (2016) and as late as April 21st (2007). The official endings of the previous contests were as follows:

2019 – 04/13 at 11:00 AM
2018 – 04/18 at  8:30 PM
2017 – 04/11 at   5:07 PM
2016 – 03/11 at 12:58 AM
2015 – 04/17 at   4:17 AM
2014 – 04/14 at 11:51 AM
2013 – 04/16 at 12:19 PM
2012 – 03/19 at  2:14 PM

     2011 – 04/14 at 12:44 PM
     2010 – 04/02 at 11:52 AM
     2009 – 04/05 at 11:02 AM
     2008 – 04/16 at  3:04 PM
     2007 – 04/21 at 12:00 PM
     2006 – 04/01 at  8:18 PM
     2005 – 04/12 at  4:47 PM

Other significant dates to consider are as follows:

      • 03/21 at   1:00PM – Start time for the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day parade
      • 03/19 at 11:50PM – First day of Spring
      • 04/02 at   1:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays
      • 04/02 at   2:05PM – First pitch on Opening Day at Fenway Park in Boston against the Chicago White Sox
      • 04/15 at   2:45AM – Day and time the Titanic sank in 1912

As always…THINK SPRING!