Great Falls and the polar vortex — the sequel (PHOTOS)

January 30

Multiple Arctic outbreaks have partially frozen a section of Great Falls on the Potomac River, January 29, 2014. (Kevin Ambrose)

Sometimes the sequel is better than the original.  During this week’s arctic intrusion , Great Falls was in a much more frozen and snow-covered state than in the first polar vortex event two weeks earlier.

I made the trip to Great Falls early Wednesday morning to photograph the falls after our mini-snowstorm Tuesday night.  I thought the snow and ice combination would make for a nice winter scene.

I discovered  significantly more ice covered and even buried the river rocks than during my  polar vortex ice shoot January 9.  Small areas of the river and falls appeared to be frozen solid.  In addition, a fresh coat of snow painted the landscape.


A close-up view of Great Falls, January 29, 2014. (Kevin Ambrose)

The temperature on my car thermometer read 9 degrees while driving to Great Falls for both photo shoots, January 9 and January 29.   That was a bit of a coincidence.  By Washington standards, 9 degrees is very cold for a photo shoot.

There was wind, too.  On Wednesday morning, a strong northwest wind blew down the river.  Back on January 9 it was calm.  Thus, it was much more uncomfortable to shoot Great Falls this past Wednesday, with the brisk, Arctic wind blowing across the outlook platforms that line the edge of the Potomac River below the Great Falls.  Brrrr…


A wider view of Great Falls, January 29, 2014. (Kevin Ambrose)

I noticed the river “steamed” a lot during the first photo shoot on January 9 but there was no river mist or “steam” Wednesday morning.  I think the river water has cooled since January 9 and the air Wednesday morning was extremely dry.  Also, add in Wednesday’s windy conditions to the overall weather equation and I think all of those factors led to a non-steaming river falls.

Below are more photos of Great Falls taken early Wednesday morning.  The ice build-up on Great Falls to this extent occurs only a few times a decade.

The ice probably won’t last long, however.  After our next thaw or rainstorm, Great Falls will revert back to its more normal, ice-free winter state.

Check out Great Falls this weekend.  It should still be fairly ice-coated.  It’s a unique scene.


Another icy view of Great Falls, January 29, 2014. (Kevin Ambrose)

The view of the south side of Great Falls, January 29, 2014. (Kevin Ambrose)

The view of the north side of Great Falls, January 29, 2014. (Kevin Ambrose)

Great Falls panoramas from January 29, 2014. Each panorama was composed by stitching two photographs together. The top panorama is from the first outlook and the bottom panorama is from the second outlook — Virginia side of the Potomac River. (Kevin Ambrose)
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