Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Saturday, February 10, 2007 - 12:10AM

'Real' winter is here

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It is good to see a 'normal' winter for a change, with bitter cold and a snowpack on the ground. Charleston finally got the 'big' (relatively speaking) snow we've been waiting for this season. From the looks of model forecasts, we will be struggling to even get above freezing in the next week or two, let alone have a nice warmup. This type of weather helps raise the psychological 'enjoyment factor' when spring and summer finally arrives.

The cold air (teens, single digits and dropping below zero in many spots around the region) is allowing for some different photo and video subjects to explore. For example, during our last four-incher snowfall event, I did an eight-hour time-lapse video of the event from start to finish. This week, my next project was to capture time-lapse video of icicles growing on my back porch roof. This turned out to be harder than I first thought. My strategy was to frame and focus the camera close-up on one of the larger icicles, break the icicle off, then leave the camera recording the same spot on time-lapse mode all day. What I found out is that icicles don't form unless there is a tiny bit of ice to 'start' them off at the roof edge attachment point. If there is no ice at the point where the water is dripping, the icicle won't form. So, what was happening was the sun was coming out in the morning and heating the roof, which would begin melting the snow and causing water to drip. Normally there was already ice and icicles hanging from the roof edge, which allowed some of the dripping water to freeze in the cold air, away from the warm roof, and make the icicle grow. But when I broke off the icicle, the water just dripped all day and never refroze until after dark! The next day, I carefully broke the icicles off so that a small bit of ice remained at the drip point. That did the trick! Here is the result - a four-hour timelapse of icicles growing.

The Kanawha River is finally freezing over during the night, but the ice melts quickly once the sun comes up. The Elk has been frozen for over a week now. The Kanawha freezing is a rare event - so at daybreak I'm heading down to the Kanawha to catch some shots of tugboats and barges breaking up the ice.

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