Busted Snow Light

2011-11-15 20:58:50.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

Rime on the Snow Light when it’s working.

Outside our northern set of windows, we have a light attached to a post which we refer to as ‘the snow light’. What this simplistic ‘instrument’ does is helps us determine is whether or not we have falling or blowing snow outside. If the snow is parallel with the ground, likely it is blowing, if falling from above or at a high enough angle, likely it is falling. It is not our only method of determining blowing vs. falling snow, but it is at least an initial method we can use at night (that is, if our northern windows are clear) to check. The light is mounted about 5-6 feet off the surrounding ground and can be turned on and off by a switch inside. While it is not advanced by any means and it is only used for a few seconds periodically through the night, it is a very useful tool during the winters up here.

This instrument is pretty hardy as well withstanding several years of hurricane force winds and a constant barrage of chunks of blowing snow and ice. This past Sunday though, huge chunks of ice were falling from the WOKQ tower to our west-southwest and being transported by high winds straight towards this device. It seems a combination of several years of abuse and a one in a million shot hit the cover of this light-box and smashed the tempered glass into several pieces. Since we have been so warm recently with our precipitation falling as rain, it may have gone unnoticed for several days if it hadn’t been for the keen eye of one of the NH State Park employees that just happened to be looking out to the north on Monday afternoon and noticed that something didn’t look right.

So, Monday afternoon, I went out and carefully gathered the thousands of pieces of tempered glass and removed the frame for repairs. This sounds simple enough but when 50 mph winds are blowing directly at the device, those little pieces of glass like to swirl about in every direction. It felt like some horror movie as pieces of glass swirled about me, nicking and cutting me in several places and landing in any pocket that I didn’t have zipped. It was an interesting experience to say the least. And why we used tempered glass in the first place and how it lasted several years without shattering before is beyond me. But after I brought it all in and got the frame cleaned out, we decided to go in a different direction with its repair.

We were going to go with plexiglass at first but it had too much give for the 100+ mph winds it would be encountering. So we went with a clear acrylic instead. Everything was going swimmingly until Roger (our IT observer who was helping me) learned an important lesson: measure twice, cut once. While it didn’t work out 100 percent like we wanted, we found a workable solution and are now waiting for the Marine Goop to set up, winds to decrease a bit, and temperatures to warm a bit more so we can reinstall the door and seal it with silicone. As of now, it looks like tomorrows weather should allow us to do this work and get our snow light working again. So, now we play the waiting game and hope that once we are finished reattaching it, our repairs withstand another decade or so of abuse.


Ryan Knapp,  Weather Observer/Meteorologist

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