Thursday, January 4, 2018

Icy Heaps on the Hudson

A snowy road that follows the west bank of the Hudson River north of Warrensburg.
Snowy and cold.  And I mean REALLY cold!  Well below zero most nights this past week, and with temps barely making it out of the single digits during the days. We're finally getting the kind of winter I remember we used to have when we first moved to Saratoga Springs 48 years ago.  I was truly wowed by the record cold and snow of our first winter here, and mostly in a positive way.  It was spectacularly beautiful, with fresh snow nearly every week and bright sunny days in between, and we were living in housing where we didn't have to pay for heat.  I really loved that winter!

Ah, but that was then.  Now we have to pay to heat our big old drafty house, and now old age has brought its complaints that make the cold harder to bear.  Now I have a lung condition and cold air is harder to breathe.  I also suffer from ocular rosacea, and the cold air pains my eyes so bad some days I can hardly keep them open.  I guess my blog posts attest that I DO get out, eye pain and shortness of breath be damned, but some days I just don't want to.  Not for any length of time, anyway.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Yesterday was a good day to stay in the nice warm car and drive up north to see how the frazil ice was forming on the Hudson.  It has certainly been cold enough these past weeks for frazil ice to form.

Frazil is a particular kind of ice that forms in turbulent stretches of the river, when super-cooled water throws droplets into sub-freezing air.  Those droplets instantly freeze and fall into the rushing water, where they cohere and form slushy mats that eventually pile up and fill the river from shore to shore and from the river's surface to its bottom.  There's a stretch of the Hudson River upstream from Warrensburg where these conditions exist, and that's where I headed yesterday, driving north along the west bank of the river.  I had driven only a short distance from the Thurman bridge when I began to see the frothy heaps of frazil piling up between the banks.

I continued along the west bank of the river until I reached The Glen,  where a bridge carries Rte. 28 across the Hudson.  Here I climbed out of my car to view the river downstream.  I could see that the current had kept some channels open through the ice, so the river could continue to flow relatively unimpeded.  If the frazil ice continues to build, eventually damming the river's flow, the water will rise,  flooding over the banks and into the riverside woods, carrying frazil heaps with it.  So far this winter, that frazil build-up appears to be confined within the banks.

That was not the case five years ago, when enormous heaps of frazil were lifted up and over the riverside road.  The photo below shows as far as road crews had got in their efforts to clear the road.  The road was eventually cleared all the way, but it took well over a week to do so.

We still have a long way to go this year, for the frazil to reach such heights!  Let's hope it never does!


The Furry Gnome said...

I can relate to how you're feeling about winter. Those damn age-related infirmities that make life more difficult. I haven't ever knowingly seen frazel ice.

threecollie said...

I find it hard to love winter. It is incredibly beautiful, with many afternoons sporting a pink sky ring all around the entire horizon. However, between everyone getting sick and the very real danger from the cold....well, it just isn't my favorite. Love learning all you have to teach us though!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for stopping by, Furry and threecollie. Especially as I get older, I relate more and more to your reservations about winter. I actually fear that the day may come, and sooner than I imagined, when I will not be able to brave the snowy cold that brings so much beauty to our northern regions. So far, that thought is part of what impels me to keep on getting out there.