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Essex 2-12-11

Before we get to the weather of late, please remember this weekend, Feb. 12, the Whallonsburg Grange is having a Valentine's Dance. If you are an avid dancer but perhaps maybe old school or unschooled, plan to attend a hip hop class at 7 that evening. The regular dance gets under way at 7:30.

Andy Buchanan continues his Tuesday evening American history classes at the Grange, covering the aftermath of the Civil War to Viet Nam, 1865 to 1975. The talks start at 7:30 and run through March. Andy is a lecturer in American and global history at UVM and lives in downtown Whallonsburg.

For those of you with the good sense to spend the winter far away in places with names like Celebration or Carefree, you may be on to something. We have a lot of snow. We had friends over Saturday evening before the movie at the school, which we all planned to attend. Snow fell so fast during dinner their cars were nearly buried in the driveway, and instead of the movie they beat paths homeward. We stayed home and watched their tracks disappear, and then had a thunderstorm. Lightning flashed, snow fell straight down and thunder rolled for a good half hour. Strange doesn't begin to describe it.

Winter thunderstorms are very rare, but occur where there's a rapid upward movement of warm air, especially along a boundary separating warm and cool air masses. I did some reading on thunder and lightning, and neither one is precisely understood, but they can involve rain, hail, snow or even no precipitation at all. It seems ice pellets in clouds may help separate electrical charges, which leads to a discharge in the form of lightning. Thunder is probably the shock wave caused by the lightning's heat, but during snow thunderstorms the sound is muffled by snow in the air.

This week two readers sent in suggestions for this column - thank you very much. And a big thanks to our road crews for doing such a good job plowing and sanding during this unusual winter.

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