The Amazing Checkerboard Snowfall

Sandwiched in between two unseasonably warm 60F days and two unseasonably frigid 20F days (with a windchill of between 0 and 10), we had a snowstorm. Not a big one, as these things go – the initial forecast was 1 to 3 inches, the updated one was 3 to 6 inches, and Mother Nature ended up  depositing four —  but ended up being a bit unusual.

The four inches were deposited in roughly six hours between 8 am and 2 pm, but left all hard surfaces such as roads and driveways absolutely free of snow. They were wet, as if from rain, but that’s it. Let’s be clear: I was not in any way, shape, manner or form complaining about this; the very last thing I wanted to do on Friday was to break out my boots, gloves and shovel again, especially after the previous two glorious springlike days. And since the snow had stopped entirely by 3pm, I decided to make my daily run to the post office and pick up a few things at the grocery store.

Now, the driveway here at the Money Pit happens to be of concrete; I also happen to hate it, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, the large slabs are separated by gaps of about 1″, so as to allow for expansion and contraction. The gaps were originally filled by strips of wood, and still are in most (but not all) areas although there’s been deterioration and/or disappearance in several areas. The snowstorm had created the appearance of a section of a giant checker(or chess)board on my driveway:
The “lines” formed by the snow were about 2″ high, perfectly formed and precisely followed the wood-filled gaps between the cement slabs. When I first exited the house there was not a single flake of snow anywhere else on the driveway except for those strips. My car, on the other hand, was blanketed with the full four inches on its roof, hood, trunk, and front and rear windshield (the small piles of snow in the picture are the result of removing same.)  Stupidly I didn’t think to take a picture of the checkerboard before I started uncovering the car (also should have removed the trash can, sorry.)

There’s a simple scientific explanation for the checkerboard effect, of course: The thick concrete slabs must retain more heat than do the woodcovered gaps, which caused the snow to melt instantly upon touching the former but not the latter. But still, the precision was impressive.

As I snapped the photo with my (decade-old) flip-phone the afternoon sun suddenly broke out and lit up some of the icy-snow-covered trees, so I just kept snapping.
Think this could pass for the rare Winter-Blooming White Fluffy-Flowered Dogwood? (actually Cornus kousa) Right, I thought not.



This is the only spot from which I could get the two deciduous trees at the center right to “light up” from the western sun. The smaller is a magnolia and the larger is a coralbark maple.


The only possible caption for this is “heads and tails”, the head belonging to a rabbit ornament and the tail to one of a crouching cat.



Central view of the backyard in the fast-fading light, with neat little snow “faux finials” topping the posts of the mini-bridge.

The weatherpeople are predicting another snowstorm on Monday night through Tuesday night, claiming between 1 and 3 inches (yeah, we’ve heard that before) for Monday overnight. What’s scary is that they are not estimating anything for the following 24 hours but only saying “the snow could be heavy at times” for Tuesday and Tuesday night. So I can’t reasonably hope for a repeat of Friday’s amazing checkerboard snowfall.

Looks like I’ll be needing the boots, gloves and shovel at least one more time….

Update/March 12th: The omniscient weatherpeople have now issued a forecast and it’s ain’t pretty: tomorrow night, still 1-3 inches; Tuesday, 10-16 inches with wind gusts of up to almost 50mph (sounds like a blizzard to me); and Tuesday night, another 1-3 inches. I’m no math major but that sounds like possibly 2 feet, given the several inches already dumped by the Checkerboard. Yecccch!

  6 comments for “The Amazing Checkerboard Snowfall

  1. March 11, 2017 at 3:47 pm

    Love the photos, but you can keep the snow to yourself! I’m ready to be done with winter.

    • March 12, 2017 at 10:22 am

      Me too! 🙂 Especially as we got not just one but two “tastes of spring” (60+ degree temps for 2-3 days straight) within the last 30 days.

  2. March 12, 2017 at 4:19 am

    Awful to think of snow just as spring should be getting under way. Still, it makes you garden look quite magical.

  3. March 12, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Quite lovely. 🙂

  4. March 12, 2017 at 10:19 am

    The sunlight really puts magic into the scene. Good luck next week!

  5. March 16, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Such lovely photos, checkerboard and all! Thanks for explaining why the snow melted — I was wondering. And why didn’t you bring out your giant chess pieces? (smile) Thanks for an interesting post and wishing you a good day, whatever the weather brings.

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