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Friday, December 31, 2010

Bare Feet on the Beach on New Year's Eve

Today we even made it into the mid-fifties here on the Southern Outer Banks.  It was a real treat after all the cold weather, and I think most of North Carolina figured out that we are going to have a warm weekend.

At least that the way it seemed at Lowe's Grocery in Cape Carteret this afternoon.  I have not seen the parking lot that full since the height of summer.  We had to look for a parking spot, and the grocery store was a zoo.

The bread row had been ravaged.  We only needed a few things so once we got our checked out, we decided that Emerald Isle needed investigating.  If lots of visitors made their way to the beach, changes to the recent deserted state of the island would be very obvious.

Traffic was noticeable on the bridge. Then based on our Lowe's parking experience, we were not surprised to see the Food Lion parking lot a lot more crowded that one would expect for a normal winter Friday.

As I continued along Emerald Drive, the traffic was much more noticeable than it has been over the holidays.  There was a steady stream of cars headed onto the island instead the deserted highway that we have seen for the last week.

We continued east along Highway 58 until we got to the Western Regional Access.  It was also not empty as it has been in recent days.  There were actually several cars in the parking lot and a few groups of people on the beach.

There was absolutely no wind, and it was warm in the bright sunshine.  The waves were calm, and there were a number of people walking along the beach.  We really enjoyed our time in the sun, and I even ventured down to the water.

What really surprised me was that I saw two groups of young walkers going barefooted on the beach. While the air might have been in the low fifties, the ocean water is still in the low forties with the result that the recently wet sand would not be much warmer.

This has been a cold stretch of weather. It is something that I would like to forget as soon as the warm February sun can find me.  This morning we awoke to an early morning temperature of just over 30F.  On New Year's Eve both in 2008 and even in 2009 which no one would class as a warm winter, our early morning temperatures were in the fifties.  We are making progress, but it still slow digging ourselves out of the freezer not that the area waters are chilled to the upper thirties.

The only consolation that I can offer is that much of the east coast including Florida has been in the same chest freezer that has kept the Crystal Coast frozen.  The number of record low temperatures in the last few days is amazing.  There were also 539 new snow fall records set last week.

At least with our snow gone, we will be able to bask in the sixties for the next couple of days.  It is a start on a better weather pattern.  Any day in the sixties is one less day of winter.

Based on the number of empty boat trailers at Wildlife Ramp in Cedar Point, we are not the only hopeful people around.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow Arrives in Time for Boxing Day

After listening on Christmas Day to snow reports from everyone to the west of us, we finally have a dusting of snow on Sunday morning, the day after Christmas.  Boxing Day is a  traditional holiday observed on the day after Christmas in a number of English speaking countries.  We were first introduced to Boxing Day in Maritime Canada where we lived for a number of years in the seventies and eighties.

The time after Christmas is always a time of reflection for me. Having a little snow on Boxing Day here on the Southern Outer Banks is just a good way to pull in some extra memories. Last year I wrote something of a season recap on December 4.

It is interesting to look back at that post and compare what I reported to this year.  Last winter was very cold, and this December has turned out to be very cold just as I predicted earlier in the month.  We have seen plenty of ice.  Even yesterday when I took our skiff out on the river on one of our rare warm days, our skiff ended up breaking some ice. I also found that the temperature of the White Oak River was down to 39.5F.

Considering our average high temperature in December is usually 58F while our low is normally 35F, this December has been very cold.  I believe we have had more days that did not reach 40F this December than we have had in the previous four winters combined.

Now here we are with a dusting of snow on the ground while our old stomping ground in a snow belt north of Frederiction, New Brunswick has bare ground for Christmas.

I do not really mind our coastal snow, we did not get enough to stick on the roads, and all of it will me.  All of the snow will melt quickly. Certainly it will gone by later in the week when our temperatures should be in the fifties.  I have even seen one forecast that has us in the sixties by the day after New Year's Day.

Of course that might be tempered by air flowing across all the new fallen snow to the north and west of us.  There is nothing like arctic chilled air to make you wish for that roaring fire in the fireplace.

I wish everyone to the north of us in path of the day after Christmas 2010 blizzard luck at coping with all the snow and cold.

I feel somewhat sorry for all the people about to be snowed in, but what can I say?  Some of us plan not to be snowed in and move to areas where snow is infrequent.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A heron congregation, it must be ugly on the river

This Saturday,  December 18, has been a wet one here on the Crystal Coast.

We have hardly stirred from the warmth of our house.  I did make two trips to the mail box which is a nice walk at our house.  I just wish the grass was as green now as it is in the linked summer picture.

During our recent cold snap, our roses froze, and the only thing left green in the yard are the wild onions that I have been unable to kill.  I think most of us humans have recovered from the unseasonably cold weather.  I remain uncertain about both our birds and our fish.

There have been enough reports of dead fish from the really cold days that I assume we did have some scattered fish kills.

We have also had reports of someone killing pelicans recently. I hope they catch the low-life responsible, and put him away for life. Pelicans harm no one and add tremendously to the beauty of the area.

Beyond that the herons and gulls have been especially active in the gut behind our home near the White Oak River.

This morning a small corner of the water behind us seemed to be especially popular.  I counted anywhere up to five white herons  and two great blue herons in a fairly confined space at one time.  A couple of sea gulls also kept circling but I never saw them land.  Not far from the herons, there were some returning merganser ducks which I managed to capture in pictures on Friday.

The herons were there when I got up for breakfast, and they stayed all day.  I did observe them successfully fishing so they were feeding.  There were a few squabbles over territory, but we see that all the time.  However, it is rare for our feathered friends to spend all day behind our house.

They usually will make a visit or two, and then sometime later in the day come back and spend the night in some of the sheltered trees around our marshes.

I don't know if the unusually cold water temperatures in the river have made the water behind our house a better feeding ground, or if it this is just a coincidence.

It was nice to have some feathered company on such a dreary day.  We did enjoy our visitors.

The day was made even a little worse by the news that Emerald Isle is considering charging for beach parking.  The plan is that parking at the Eastern or Western Regional lots will cost $5 or $10 per day, May through September and 8 AM to 5 PM.

That will certainly make beach walks a little less spontaneous. 

Hopefully the economy will turn around soon and before the fees are implemented. We can always hope for some increased tax revenues flowing in from island businesses if the recently reported trend for people to travel more continues.

I suspect the island businesses will be the big losers if the city does start charging for parking.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Icing Penalty for the Crystal Coast

When I wrote the post about a cold December,  I knew it was going to get cold this month.  I just had no idea that it was going to get this cold so quickly.

Yesterday we managed to make it up to 36F from our low of 23F.  Our normal low is 39F, and our average high temperature in December is normally 58F.  With those temperatures, the ice on the Gut leading to the White River has more than a skim of ice on it.

Tonight's predicted low of 23F will not help with the problem.  The good news is that we are going to make it up to the forties tomorrow and even the fifties on Friday.  We should manage to see the sixties on Sunday before we get hit by another wall of cold Canadian air.

When I ventured out to the grocery store tonight, there were only four cars there.  It is hard to believe only ten days ago, I was sorry that I had left home for my beach walk with changing into shorts.

I had been looking forward to a reasonable December which would make our two cold months, January and February, not so bad.  I know it is pretty silly to be complaining about the 34F temperature that I saw this evening on my drive to the grocery store.

However, you do adapt to your area's climate, and our area normally has a nice December.  So this cold weather is not what we are accustomed to feeling.  I guess this icing penalty is to make up for all those great days that we had during the fall.

We will survive because the sun warms this area up sometime in late February no matter what.  That is only a couple of months away.  I will spend some time deciding which tomato plants that I am going to grow this year, and writing about our scenic area.  We eventually hope to write a travel guide about the Crystal Coast.

I manage to never be bored.  As the air begins to warm, we will take some walks on the Croatan TrailsSome of these pictures were taken there last February.

I am sure we will manage some winter beach walks just like last year, and by March we will regularly be on the beach.

Every winter, we also make trips to the Maritime Museum, the Aquarium, and the Core Sound Museum.

We have also been know to do a little winter fishing.  There is plenty to do here on the Crystal Coast in the winter, and this winter my wife has announced plans to revamp her clam chowder recipe.  I expect to be the official taster.

With all this on tap, I am not going to lose any sleep over a minor icing event.  I expect to see some open water by tomorrow afternoon.  If it happens, my spirits will go up even more.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Cruel December on tap for the Crystal Coast?

It must be time to hibernate.  After Tuesday's high temperature of 76F and a Wednesday morning wake-up temperature of 68F, fresh chilled Canadian air seems to have found its way to the Southern Outer Banks.  Still it has been a fall to remember.  The weather until now has been great.

I still find it hard to believe that we were able to be on the water so late in the fall without any heavy coats.   From my reading of the December forecasts, it looks like we might pay dearly for all that nice weather.

Of course with December arriving, the number of people visiting has dwindled, and even some of our permanent residents are off traveling for the holidays.  When we visited Trattoria in Swansboro for lunch yesterday, we were the only people there eating at just after 1 PM.  Today we had lunch at Andy's in the Emerald Plantation Shopping Center just before 2 PM.  Once again we were the only folks enjoying the food.

Tuesday afternoon when we pulled into the Western Regional Beach Access to show some clients one of our beach accesses, there were no other cars parked there.  Yesterday afternoon when the winds were starting to blow and the temperatures were starting to drop, there were only three other cars besides us.

Normally December is not a bad month for us.  The folks at have the average daily high temperature for the western part of Carteret County pegged at 58F.  Looking at the fifteen day forecast from Accuweather, there is only one day in the next fifteen when we will be at or above the average high temperature.  Nine of the days have us at a high temperature below 50F.  There are also nine evenings when our low temperatures will be in the upper twenties.  That is serious winter weather for the Crystal Coast.  Even in January our average low temperature is 35F.

Of course things could be infinitely worse, much of Virginia and parts of North Carolina are going to see some snow this weekend.  There is also a chance that almost all of Virginia and areas north of there plus half of North Carolina, and the northern parts of Georgia and South Carolina will have a white Christmas.  That is not normal, and as someone born in the south, I feel qualified to say that.

The only silver lining to this cold weather is that long term winter forecast from Accuweather is "not much winter."  Considering how much snow that I shoveled in the Virginia mountains last winter, I could use a break.  Pictures from my first efforts to clear the big December storm to when I finally got a driveway open provide a good idea of how much snow I moved last year.  It was an impressive storm, and I hope that I don't see another one like it for a while.

That snowy winter of 2009 is one of the reasons that my love for living on the Crystal Coast has gotten stronger.  Snow rarely visits the Southern Outer Banks, and even when it comes, it almost never needs shoveling.  For those in Buffalo and other areas suffering under a blanket of snow that requires snow blowers, my sympathies go out to you. My seventeen years in a Canadian snow belt and twenty years in the Virginia mountains have given me an understanding of your frozen pain.  However, I have seen the warmth of the Carolina sun, and I can tell you that there are better ways to spend your winter than shoveling snow.

Once we get through this extraordinary cold of the next couple of weeks, I plan to come out of hibernation.  Until then I will plan my activities accordingly and wear lots more clothing than we are accustomed to using here on the coast.

Stay warm, spring is not that far away.