Most Read: Local

Posted at 12:12 PM ET, 02/01/2013

The sculptor and the magic snow machine

Washington, D.C. has officially had five snowfalls this year, totaling 1.3 inches. These dusting amounts have fallen way short of what’s required for Capital Weather Watcher Walter Crain to create the snow sculptures he’s become known for over the years. But fellow Capital Weather Watcher Eric Peterson knew just the way to overcome this problem. Walter tells us the story of their joining forces. - Jason Samenow, editor


Desperate measures. Artificial snow produced in the front yard of a home in Falls Church, Va. (Walter Crain)

Last Thursday, while most of the Washington, D.C. area awoke to a miserly half inch of snow, I awoke to find 24 inches in my front yard. This Thursday, despite record-setting warmth and torrential rain in previous days, I still had enough to make a snow sculpture.

How did that happen? The idea has been germinating for about a year now - ever since I read about Eric Peterson’s magic snow machine.

Two weeks ago, with the coldest weather in years approaching, Eric contacted me to ask if I would be interested borrowing his snow machine.

One concern I had was that people would realize that I am a little obsessed with snow. I quickly got over that.

My other concern was whether the noise would bother my neighbors. Eric warned me the contraption was loud. I would have to play that by ear.

Frustrated by the lack of useful, i.e., “sculpt-able”, natural snow around here for the past two years, I just couldn’t resist.

On Wednesday morning of last week, Eric came over to set up the equipment. I let it run all day. The machine is not quite as loud as a gas generator, but it’s pretty loud.

As the snow piled up, I imagine most neighborhood regulars who saw the spectacle knew what was happening. By evening, I had an oval pile about 50 feet by 20 feet that was about 10 inches deep in the middle and tapered to zero at the edges.

With the blessing of (and some giggling from) my neighbors, I ran the machine overnight.

By Thursday morning, the pile was 24 inches deep in the middle. I spent about 2 hours harvesting the “snow” into piles. I had collected as much as I’d get from a 15 inch snowstorm.

Then the waiting began. Ever since I finished making the snow one week ago, it’s been too cold or too warm to do anything with it.

Over the weekend, people drove or walked by expecting to see a sculpture. I could see them looking at the piles wondering what I had made. A mountain range? Abstract art? They’d kind of stare, cock their heads, and shrug their shoulders. I even got a call from a friend wondering what the heck I’d made….

Tuesday and Wednesday (temperatures near 70) were tough days to be a snow pile, but yesterday’s cooler weather was just right.

My five giant piles were diminished and consolidated into one modest pile about the size I’d collect from a two or three inch storm. Nonetheless, it was enough to sculpt a likeness of a certain weatherman.


Groundhog snow sculpture crafted from artificial snow in Falls Church, Va. (Walter Crain)

Related links:

Walter Crain’s snow sculpture photostream on Flickr

Honey, I shrunk the snow sculpture

Weather geeks want more snow

By Walter Crain  |  12:12 PM ET, 02/01/2013

Categories:  Latest, Winter Storms, Humor

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company