April 12 - Another Year in the Books

If you recall from my last update, the block went through the ice on March 29th at 12:16 p.m. Since that time, I’ve been opening envelopes, pulling out staples, then numbering and cataloguing the 967 tickets that were received for this year’s event. As a point of interest, this year’s time and date was less than 24 hours later than when the 2020 Meltdown ended last year (March 28th at 1:38 a.m.)

The winner of this year’s contest almost didn’t happen. More on that below.

Here are the details on the 2021 Meltdown:

    • 967 tickets were sold
    • 42% of picks fell in the morning while 58% of picks were for times after noon.

The most popular times were:

    • 12 Noon – 35
    • 2:00 PM – 27
    • 2:15 PM – 26
    • 1:00 PM – 26
    • 12 Midnight – 24
    • 11:00 AM – 19

There were 36 picks on 3/29 – the date when the block went through the ice.

Dates for this year’s contest ranged from 03/08 to 05/31.

The next most popular dates were:

    • 04/01 – 68
    • 04/02 – 63
    • 03/31 – 60
    • 04/03 – 49
    • 03/30 – 44
2021 Meltdown
Number of picks by day. The star is on 3/29 - the date the contest ended.

The ratio of picks before and after 03/29 at 12:16 p.m. was 15% / 85%. Clearly, the block went down well before many (including myself) had guessed it would.

With a pick of 03/29 at 12:27 p.m., Chet Gorski was the closest to the actual time the clock stopped. However, as we all know, the Price is Right rules apply to our contest. Since Chet was over the time the event officially ended, he receives our sincere appreciation for his continued support of the Meltdown contest.

With a pick of 03/29 at 12:01 p.m., the winner of the 2021 Meltdown contest is Brianna Gayle. Brianna’s grandparents, Tom and Barb Sheehan have a cottage here at Hammond Pond. The Sheehan’s and their extended family have been longtime supporters of the cause. I’m certain some of them are thinking that it’s about time someone in the family finally won.

I spoke to Brianna and her mom Lisa yesterday. They had a hunch their pick was a good one based on when the block went through. There was also nothing special about her date and time other than knowing that you don’t pick the top of the hour to increase your chances of being the sole winner.

What Brianna and Lisa didn’t know (because I forget to tell them) was that they almost didn’t win. The Gayle family lives in Yardley, PA – just across the Delaware River from Trenton, NJ. Lisa’s envelope containing the tickets was postmarked on March 25th but didn’t arrive in my P.O. Box until last Wednesday (April 7th). It took almost 2 weeks for the tickets to travel less than 200 miles as the crow flies.

After taxes, the permit fee and a few incidental expenses, Brianna will receive a check for $439.73.

As Paul Harvey used to say, now it’s time for the rest of the story…

The Covid pandemic continued to influence the contest in many ways. The most surprising impact was your generosity. Thanks to straight donations of $747, the Goshen Firefighters Association will receive a check for $1,186.73. For a small, volunteer department, this donation will go a long way.

For those of you who missed the ticket deadline and are still interested in making a donation to the Goshen Firefighters Association, here’s a link to their donation page.

As I look forward to next year, the image below graphically illustrates the inconsistency of the actual date the contest ends each year. While the contest has been happening since 2005, seventeen years of data does not a trend make in spite of all the talk of global climate change. However, you can expect the deadline for future Meltdown submissions to be modified so we won’t have to deal with mailing delays and the problems that brings.

2021 Meltdown

Lastly, some of you may have heard that Sue (my wife) and I have announced some big changes in our lives this year. Here’s a link to an article that appeared in the Daily Hampshire Gazette last week that will shed more light on what’s going on with us. Suffice it to say that we’re both looking forward to entering the ranks of the retired.

Based upon the number of comments I received from you, it’s clear that the Meltdown contest provides some respite and maybe even some joy from the world around us. I hope to continue to run the contest as long as I think it’s making a difference.

Until next time, thank you, stay healthy, keep your hopes up, and think summer.

March 29 - The 2021 Meltdown Has Ended

High wind warnings were posted for all of Massachusetts yesterday with the heaviest winds coming before dawn into the morning hours. I went down to the water to check on the condition of the ice and the block. When I arrived, I noticed that the northwesterly winds had blown the ice floe towards the dam. As a result, there was a noticeable slack in the rope between the block and the electric clock at the gatehouse. I took up the slack and re-attached it to the extension cord and captured this time-lapse of the windy conditions at 10 a.m.. Note that a wind gust towards the end of the clip blew my phone over. Lucky for me the phone didn’t fall into the water.

I received a text from my neighbor yesterday afternoon just after 1 p.m. telling me that the flag was down. When I went to investigate, I found the block and pallet below water and only the flag showing above water.

The clock in the gatehouse had stopped at 12:16 p.m.

Since there’s still a chance that people mailed in tickets over the weekend, I will provide a final 2021 Meltdown update with the name of the winner later this week. I’ll be reaching out to anyone that submitted tickets in envelopes with a 3/29 postmark offering to return their funds or taking them as a contribution to the cause.

March 28 - Puddles

2021 Meltdown as of 03/28/2021
2021 Meltdown as of 03/28 at 5:28 p.m. Puddles have formed on top of the ice floe on Hammond Pond thanks to well over an inch of rain that fell overnight Saturday into Sunday.

March 27 - The View from Above

2021 Meltdown as of 03/27/2021
2021 Meltdown as of 03/27 at 7:04 a.m.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/27/2021
A pattern of cracked ice on the surface of Hammond Pond brought to you by Mother Nature and over an inch of rain that fell in the region a few weeks ago.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/27/2021
2021 Meltdown as of 03/27 at 7:11 a.m.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/27/2021
2021 Meltdown as of 03/27 at 7:13 p.m. Looking north from the dam at Hammond Pond from high above Lake Drive. South Chesterfield Road can be seen on the right.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/27/2021
A closer look at the Hammond Pond dam. The spillway and beach can be seen on the right side of this image.

March 26 - The Winds of Change

High winds aloft can be seen in this time-lapse taken at 3 p.m. from the gatehouse at Hammond Pond. We experienced a nice taste of spring as temperatures climbed to the upper 60’s and wind gusts in the 40-50 m.p.h range.

March 25 - Post Update Update

After sending out Thursday’s 2021 Meltdown update, I took a walk down to the water because I was told there was about a foot of fog forming on the surface of Hammond Pond and that it might make for a good picture. Much to my surprise, the ‘foot of fog’ had turned into a blanket of advection fog that covered the entire water body.

Advection fog, as defined by the National Weather Service, is formed as warmer, moist air moves over a cold ground. It is more common on the west coast of the United States because of the cold temperatures of the Pacific Ocean combining with warm desert winds. If you’ve ever been to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and seen the fog roll in, you now know what it’s called. The time-lapse video below is Goshen’s version of it.

March 25 - Things Are Starting to Heat Up

2021 Meltdown as of 03/25/2021
The rope that connects the block to the gatehouse has now been connected.

As I sit here writing this update, the sun outside is shining brightly and the outdoor temperature is a balmy 61 degrees. Patchy fog this morning, especially over Hammond Pond, slowly gave way to brilliant sunshine this afternoon. Unsettled weather returns overnight and into tomorrow with thunderstorms being forecasted in the afternoon. More inclement weather and cooler temperatures are expected this weekend and into the coming week.

A reminder that ticket sales end on April 1st at 11:59 p.m. Any tickets postmarked on April 1st or sooner will be accepted. Just to be fair, any submissions received within 24 hours of the block falling through the ice will be returned.

Also, keep in mind that the contest ends when the pressure of the rope pulls the extension cord which powers the electric clock from the outlet its plugged into. In years past, the block has ‘fallen’ through the ice but the clock remained connected for several hours afterwards.

2021 Meltdown as of 03/25/2021
Low clouds provided blanket coverage to Hammond Pond this morning. Overnight rain and relatively warm temperatures this week are starting to have an impact on the ice floe as it slowly releases its grip on the shoreline.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/25/2021
A closer look at the ice from above shows open water to the bottom right of the image just before the spillway to Hammond Pond.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/25/2021
Looking south from Pond Hill Road, you can see how much ice has melted in the past few days. The ice has always melted from north to south on Hammond Pond. It won’t be long before ice will be replaced with kayaks and sailboats as we transition to mayflies and mosquitos.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/25/2021
Just after 3 a.m. Tuesday morning, Goshen firefighters were called to the town of Plainfield for a structure fire. Later that night, we got together as a group to celebrate the belated birthday of Emily Godden. We also recognized Emily’s ‘promotion’ to firefighter from junior firefighter that happens when one turns 18. Before the night was done, we got together to take a ‘family’ shot in recognition of my recent retirement from my job at UnitedHealthcare.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/25/2021
I share this with you as a reminder of the people who will benefit from your continued generosity by participating in the 2021 Meltdown.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/25/2021

March 21 - Things are, well, melting.

Changeable might be the best way to describe the weather over the past seven days. The week started off with daytime high temperatures in the 20’s and ended up in the 50’s yesterday and today. The only thing that’s keeping the ice on Hammond Pond are the nighttime temperatures that are well below freezing.

Three weeks ago, the ice measured 18” thick. Today, even after all the warm temperatures, the ice below the block now measures 14 1/2” thick.

2021 Meltdown as of 03/21/2021
As a reminder, these are the women and men who will benefit from your participation in this years Meltdown contest.

As is usual around this time of year, there are winds of change in the air. The 4-day forecast calls for daytime highs in Goshen to average around 60 degrees with nighttime lows right around freezing. However, as the March sun slowly creeps higher into the sky, its impact on the ice surface is obvious. This morning when I walked on the ice, it was hard and slick. When I took the picture above late this afternoon, the surface was slushy and wet.

While the calendar shows that there are 10 days until April 1st, I feel the need to remind you that any tickets received within 24 hours of when the block actually goes down are not valid. Said another way, if you’re interested in participating in the 2021 Meltdown and support the Goshen Firefighter’s Association, it would be best if you sent in your tickets sooner than later.

March 21

2021 Meltdown as of 03/21/2021
Notice the iceberg that’s broken off from the main ice floe on Hammond Pond. Even though we’ve had warm daytime temperatures this week, overnight temperatures have been well below freezing keeping the ice solidly secured to the shoreline.

March 19

Notice the cracks in the ice caused by Thursday’s rain. Only time will tell what impact, if any, the cracks have on the final outcome.
Yesterday’s strong winds helped Mother Nature do some tree pruning. This pine bough was in a puddle before it became encased in ice on the surface of Hammond Pond thanks to overnight temperatures in the upper teens.
2021 Meltdown as of 03/19/2021
Hammond Pond looking north from just below the dam on Lake Drive.

March 18

2021 Meltdown as of 03/18/2021
A drenching rain brought over an inch of precipitation and subsequent heavy winds to Hammond Pond and caused the ice floe to lift and crack in many places.

March 17

2021 Meltdown as of 03/17/2021
Looking south from Pond Hill Road. Keep in mind that the ice melts from north to south on the pond. The apostrophe shaped dark area on the bottom right of this image is where Webster Brook feeds Hammond Pond and the ice has melted.

March 14 - An Early Spring?

Snow squalls, wind gusts near 50 m.p.h, and chilly temperatures mark the start of the 2021 Meltdown.

(video taken on Sunday, March 14th)

Thanks to actor Bill Murray, the term Groundhog Day has come to represent a daily grind that repeats itself day after day after day. For many of us, thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic, 2020 has also been one repetitive Groundhog Day. With La Ninà firmly in place over the Pacific, most long-range forecasters are predicting an early spring in spite of Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction of 6 more weeks of winter. Regardless, the 17th annual Meltdown contest has begun.

2021 Meltdown as of 02/07/2021
The block and flag were placed out on Hammond Pond in early February. However, Covid struck the Goshen Town Offices which delayed my applying for and receiving the raffle permit that makes the contest legal.

The concrete block sit on a wooden pallet that holds a flag. The flag is simply a marker that shows where the block is in the event 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 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?

The benefactor of this year’s fundraising efforts will be the Goshen Firefighters Association (GFA). The GFA is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that supports the delivery of fire and emergency services to the Town of Goshen and other communities in our region. As a result of the pandemic, the GFA’s largest fundraiser on Columbus Day weekend was canceled. Your participation in this year’s event will help them bridge the gap until such time that life returns to normal.

The deadline for ticket submissions is Thursday, April 1st at midnight. 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 16 years of Meltdown events to consider as you make your selections:

  • The most popular dates continue to be 4/15 (802), 4/10 (797), 4/01 (774), 4/12 (765) and 4/13 (719).

  • 83% 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:

February 28

2021 Meltdown as of 02/28/2021
The ice measured 18” thick and was made up of three distinct layers - each separated by a thin section of slush. The top layer was 5” thick, the middle layer was 3” thick, and the bottom layer of clear ice was 8” thick.

The 2021 Meltdown has begun!

Follow along as I send a camera into a hole that was cut into the ice on Hammond Pond by the Goshen fire department for their annual ice water rescue drill.  The ice measured 18″ thick on February 28th, 2021.

This is what 18” of ice looks like from beneath the surface.