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Spring Siege 16/04/2013

Posted by zoidion in History, Urbanism, Weather.
Tags: , ,

Twin Cities ephemera: The sky is overcast, the cloud bank gradually thinning. The ground and roofs are white, and have been since the 10th, the day of the New Moon. Sun and Moon have been visible only in brief glimpses through the whole period.

Looking through my recorded observations, I have to go back to the 4th and 5th to find consecutive marks of clear conditions. Then: snow shower, rain, windy, cloudy, partly cloudy, light rain, cloudy, rain, snow, sleet, cloudy.

Things got interesting at eight a.m. on the 11th. I was outside doing the first round of shoveling in heavy snowfall when I was enveloped in a bright flash and rumble: thundersnow! A couple minutes later, there was another report. About five inches of the stuff accumulated here, more to the west (although about half as much as overhyped forecasts), less to the south. Periods of light snow continued through the 12th.

That day M and I journeyed south past Rochester, through the oft-flood-challenged Zumbro River valley, into the upper reaches of the Root River valley and the forlorn little town of Spring Valley*. I referred to myself as the roadie for M’s gig at the local library, but there’s wasn’t much stuff to haul; I was along mostly to help drive, and to have a look around. So I had about two hours to spend as I wished, and I was prepared to walk—or so I thought.

Three long-sleeve layers under a windbreaker, gloves and hat were not enough. There was just an inch or so of snow on the streets and sidewalks, the temperature was barely above freezing, a slight wind was blowing, and I was soon chilled to the bone. Still, I had to examine the two blocks of what is left of Main Street, sloping down to Spring Valley Creek.

The view from the recently built library toward the upper corner of main street offered little hope. The solid-looking brick building adorned with sandstone arches over the windows, and commanding the entrance to the old business district, had been defaced—probably in the 1970s—with a hideous beige awning “designed” to serve as an identifier for the chain hardware store that occupied it. Past tense intentional: The building is vacant, and apparently has been for some time. About half the storefronts are vacant, though one local entrepreneur has occupied one of the handsomer ones, billed himself “The Salsa Guy,” and is open for business a couple of days a week. I hope he can make it.

The biggest building on the block looked like a onetime hotel and had a sign designating it the Commercial Building. It was hard to tell if or what kind of commerce had been taking place there of late. The backsides of nearly all the buildings looked tattered, and some had pools of snowmelt accumulating next the foundations—not a good sign.

Down at the end of the street, near the creek and across from a bowling alley, was the City Hall, occupying what was the Carnegie Library. Away from Highway 63, I followed a paved path that wound along the creek, then turned away toward the old residential section. There I chanced upon the 1876 Methodist church—the Methodists were booming back then—attended in its earliest years by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s family; the church didn’t looked currently used, but a small addition at the front had a small notice in the window, announcing museum hours “in season.” Nearby a house on a corner presented The Three Stooges as season-defying golfers:


Needing to warm up and add fuel to my tank, I made my way to one of two local eateries—not counting the two franchises on 63. My meal was quickly served, and overwatched by standard rural-themed mass-produced “art” prints; at least there was still some genuine-looking wood in sight, but the view across the street was no more confidence-inducing than the food.

The fare was distinctly better at the vineyard and wine-tasting emporium five miles west of town: a draw, it would seem, for Rochester folks and long-distance travelers coming off I-90. Our shared food arrived on a . . . what-to-call-it: it consisted of three small bowls joined together. Tasty stuff well presented, a world apart from Main Street. Little bulbous light pods hung suspended from a ceiling, what . . .  twenty-five feet high? We looked out on a spacious east-facing concrete patio shaded (twenty-five feet above) by at least a dozen LONG two-by-twelves stood on end. A relatively small vineyard in its infancy awaited the sun. The owner stopped at our table to chat, mentioning how some of the wines—very tasty and somewhat pricey—come from juice trucked from Washington State. I couldn’t help pondering how much longer all this can be economically viable, indeed if it is even now?

Yesterday, after a week’s weather delay, I got back to the latest stage of my hugelkultur experiment, filling the trench with medium-size branches from the silver maple tree. There’s not much more to be done in the muddy mess, so I caught up with one item on my list: listening to the archived program from good old KFAI community radio, featuring Eric Toensmeier. Somehow I hadn’t heard of him until quite recently, but he’s got a book out, called Paradise Lot: Two Plant Geeks, One-Tenth of an Acre and the Making of an Edible Garden Oasis in the City. A few minutes in, I was online putting in my request from the local library—it looks like I’ll be waiting awhile.

And so now we wait for the weather to shift, and a siege mentality has become the norm, with widespread grumbling, muttering and spat expletives. More rain is forecast for tomorrow, snow up north (where two to three feet of it is on the ground). Woe is us!

How unusual is this cold spring? Quite, according to the record books. Paul Douglas quotes researcher John Kappler:

Since 1890, there have been only six years when we’ve failed to get over 56F by now.  Here are the years and the highest temperature reached by April 14:  1904, 55 degrees; 1950, 52 degrees; 1951, 54 degrees; 1962, 48 degrees; 1965, 54 degrees; 1975, 51 degrees.  So, we have had some years like this before, but not for almost four decades.

The most interesting of those years was 1962 when our year-to-date high was 48 degrees.  The high temperatures that year for the twelve days beginning on April 14, were 34, 44, 48, 64, 62, 59, 60, 72, 63, 63, 84, and 91.

In all of those six years and in all years since 1890, we managed to hit 60 by April 26.  If we don’t hit 60 within the next eleven days, it will be the record for the longest we’ve gone into the year without hitting 60 degrees.

Let’s have a look at the seasonal charts (with main features noted below each).


Cold Capricorn on the lower meridian, lord Saturn in cold Aquarius. Sun  conjunct Jupiter, with Mars also in Aries, four days after a south node solar eclipse. Moon in Taurus. Cool Libra on the Ascendant.


Cool Pisces on the lower meridian, lord Jupiter nearby in cold Aquarius. A tight configuration of Sun opposite lord Mars (retrograde) in cool Libra, both at right angle to Uranus at the solstice point. Two days after a north node solar eclipse. Moon in Aries. Extreme Scorpio on the Ascendant.


Cool Gemini on the lower meridian, lord Mercury in warm Aries and conjunct Mars. Moon in Virgo, close to the previous lunar eclipse point. Cold Aquarius on the Ascendant.


Cold Aquarius on the lower meridian, lord Saturn also in Aquarius and near the previous solar eclipse point. Mars in cool Pisces. Cool Libra on the Ascendant.


Cool Libra on the lower meridian, lord Venus in cool Pisces. Mars (retrograde) in tight conjunction with Uranus and Pluto. Moon in the fourth place in extreme Scorpio. Hot Leo on the Ascendant.


Cool Pisces on the lower meridian, lord Jupiter exactly conjunct the Sun. Mars in cold Aquarius. Moon in Cancer. Warm Sagittarius on the Ascendant.

To review the chart for 2013:


Cool Gemini (containing Jupiter in its sign of exile and conjunct the previous lunar eclipse point) on the lower meridian, lord Mercury in cool Pisces with freak-weather Neptune. Mars in Aries and closely conjunct record-breaking Uranus. Moon in Cancer.  Cold Aquarius on the Ascendant.

In every chart but 1965, the Sun at the start of the season was below the horizon. What else do you notice?

As for the cold spring record, I think we’re due for a new one. Global weirding continues.

* “Settled in 1852, organized May 11, 1858, was named for its several very large springs, one being about a mile east of the village and two nearly as large within the townsite limits, one of these being walled up and used as a pumping supply for the waterworks. The township was the site of low-grade iron ore mining, 1942-67.” – Minnesota Place Names, Warren Upham

– Pete(r) Doughty –



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