Tom Ross: Happy Darktober from Connecticut
November 7, 2011
Steamboat Springs — My 8-year-old niece Bess planned to dress up as an electric lamp to celebrate Halloween this past weekend in Connecticut.
I know, Halloween was more than a week ago.
And a lamp? What little girl wants to go to the party as a lampshade?
Well, you might dress as a floor lamp, too, if you'd just spent your second week in the dark in less than a year's time. This time it was a foot of wet snow that fell on the trees while they still were thick with leaves that caused the lights to go out in the Nutmeg State.
Ironically, when the lights came back on, Bess began to weep. She told her mother she was going to miss curling up in front of the fireplace in a darkened house. They agreed that beginning next year, on the Saturday closest to Halloween, they would celebrate Darktober by turning off all the power in the house and building a fire in the fireplace.
We're accustomed to autumn snowstorms that fall while aspen trees still are dressed in gold. But the 12.3 inches of snow that fell on Hartford wiped out the previous record for snow in October that had stood at 1.7 inches for many years.
Of course, all of us in Steamboat thought we had experienced some extreme weather last spring as winter persisted into July in the high country. But Connecticut and New England have had an even rougher go in the past eight months, beginning with a Feb. 1 snowstorm that piled more than 20 inches of snow in some places and toppled trees.
It took more than a week for the snowplows to clear the street in front of Bess' home.
At the end of August it was Hurricane Irene that caused heavy rains and flooding across New England, wiping out bridges that cutoff some ski areas, including Killington, Vt., and Sugarloaf, Maine, from the outside world.
Bess woke up to a giant fallen sugar maple tree blocking her driveway. The tree trunk lay on top of downed power lines, and the family cars were trapped in the garage. At least they weren't flattened in the garage. Bess' family struggled along without electricity for a good long while.
At the Sugarloaf ski area in Maine's Carrabassett Valley, Route 27, which represents the northern and southern access to the resort, was wiped out when 8.5 inches of rain completely washed out the road in key sections.
Sugarloaf and local government officials scrambled to provide a detour to give access to the resort from the north. But from the south, visitors had to park their cars and use a temporary footbridge to access the resort.
Sugarloaf was happily reporting 6 inches of fresh snow Monday, and temperatures permitting, the ski area will make enough snow to open as scheduled Nov. 18.
Killington was hit even harder by Hurricane Irene when it caused the Roaring Brook to flood its banks. The rainstorm caused a portion of a ski lodge to collapse, and 400 people were stranded in hotels and condominiums at the resort.
WCAX TV reported an eyewitness account of what happened when the flood tore through the area, washing away 20-foot sections of roads and snapping tall tree trunks.
As soon as road access was restored, Killington began housing the residents of nearby towns who couldn't use their homes.
When a second unusual snowstorm hammered New England on Oct. 29, trick-or-treating was put on hold because of all the power lines laying in the streets. Little ghouls, witches and floor lamps were left to huddle in their homes in the dark.
But Killington knew what to do with the unseasonably early snow. The ski area opened Oct. 29 and remains open with skiing on five sections of advanced trails and 600 feet of vertical where, thanks to snowmaking and 15 inches of natural snowfall, the average base depth is 20 to 24 inches.
I hesitate to think about what this winter might hold in store for my favorite Nutmeggers.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com