Northland Nature: Feeling the effects of the late-October stormA few days after the storm passed, skies cleared and, in the light of a waning quarter moon, we woke to 20-degree weather. Because of this, a new layer of ice covered all of these ponds.
The first three weeks of October were amazing. We all marveled at the mild days that continuously gave us the “bright-blue weather” we read about but don’t often experience. The month was proceeding in a near-record-setting pattern for both temperatures and dryness. Except for some light rain on Oct. 1, we saw no precipitation at all. Indeed, the National Weather Service office in Duluth had listed October of 2010 as the driest in nearly 70 years.
But that all began to change Oct. 24.
On that day, we did receive morning showers — but that was just a taste of what was to come. With record-setting low barometric pressure, a major storm moved in and, for two days, we saw all of early October’s conditions vanish. Strong winds, rains, cooling temperatures and nearly 8 inches of snow caused the month that was so warm and dry to end cool and wet. Rain and snowfall amounts varied greatly in different parts of the Northland, but all of us felt much of what this autumn storm had to offer.
At my house Oct. 26, I stared out in disbelief as my rain gauge filled up. By dusk, the collector held five inches — a reading rarely seen. But the storm continued and nearly two more inches arrived amid the snow the next day.
With almost seven inches of precipitation, the landscape of this arid time took on quite a new look. Driving late in the day, I maneuvered through snow patches and water puddles on the road and even drove through a location where water from a swamp came up over the route. The next day, all the local streams were flowing high and hard as the wet snow-melt added to the rain runoff. Walking through the woods, I was very glad to see all ponds, many of which were previously low and almost dry, holding an ample volume of water.
Some even went up higher than the shoreline and encompassed trees and shrubs. To me, this high water was a great sight and a blessing of the huge storm of October 2010.
Each fall, just as we are experiencing the freeze-up, I take a walk around the area and check the conditions of local ponds, swamps and lake. I like to see each one with a good amount of water as we start the cold times.
This water not only allows aquatic critters to survive the winter but also sets the scene for the return to the warmer temperatures of spring.
Frogs, salamanders and a whole host of small invertebrates thrive in these vernal ponds. A dry or empty pond can be devastating as spring arrives. The recent storm provided plenty of water to these wetlands, but it also set the stage for the coming freeze-up.
A few days after the storm passed, skies cleared and, in the light of a waning quarter moon, we woke to 20-degree weather. Because of this, a new layer of ice covered all of these ponds.
The ice will come and go during the next couple of weeks, but it helps ponds to keep this precious liquid.
Winter snows on the ice and nearby shore will provide more moisture with melting in spring. It looks like the ponds, swamps and lakes are all in a healthy condition as we enter this new month of November (and the icing to come).
And though it is a long way until spring, I think that this amazing storm in late October, with all of its rain and snow, did much to set the stage for conditions that may last until then.
Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books that are available now, including “Butterflies of the North Woods” and “Webwood.” Contact him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.