Ohio’s other Snowbelt

If you don’t have anything else to talk about, you can always talk about the weather, right? Maybe that’s why I’m going to talk about weather in this post. I’ll admit, I’ve always been a bit of a weather geek. After all, I almost studied meteorology in college, and would have had the job prospects been more promising in the early 90s. That was in the era before Internet weather, cable weather channels, etc.

In the almost ten years of being in the cabin business, driving to our properties several times a week, I never tire of observing the relationship between weather and the geography of the Hocking Hills, especially in winter. (I just get tired of shoveling the consequences of this relationship.) Even here in mountain-free southeast Ohio, elevation has one of the biggest influences on the weather locally.

All of our properties sit high on ridges. Our Laurel Ridge and Rocky Ridge properties sit at roughly 1200′ above sea level, more than 400′ in elevation above the valley of Clear Creek to the north. Our main property sits at 1100′, or 400′ above the valley of nearby Salt Creek. It’s also important to note that approximately 20 miles to the west and northwest lies the broad Scioto River Valley and land west of the Hocking Hills slopes gradually downhill toward the valley, which averages 650′ above sea level. What does all this mean? It means in certain weather patterns higher elevations in the Hocking Hills cause just enough additional lift in the air moving upslope from the west to squeeze a little more moisture (snow) out of the clouds than at places to west at lower elevations. This is called an orographic effect.

If you are from Ohio, you’ve most certainly heard of lake effect snow or the snowbelt in northeastern Ohio. This is a classic example of the orographic effect at work. Low level moisture off Lake Erie is carried by northwest winds where it is uplifted by higher elevations in Geauga and Ashtabula counties, condenses and results in significant snow accumulations. This is essentially what happens at our properties and other areas in Hocking Hills, except our moisture originates largely from Lake Michigan. In certain instances, our properties have received 3″ more snow than other areas just a few miles away. Mostly, though, the difference is on the average of an inch to maybe two.

Direction of slope, another element of the landscape, doesn’t influence how much snow falls but rather has a part in how long it, along with ice, hangs around to aggravate me. For instance, the first hill on the driveway at our main property faces north, while the last hill, just before Birdsong Cabin, faces south. All south facing hills and slopes benefit from more direct rays from the sun, which means snow and ice melts much quicker than from north facing slopes. Even in sub-freezing weather, the hill before Birdsong Cabin will melt in a few hours with a little direct sunlight. The north facing hill on our driveway will stay ice and snow covered for weeks in sub-freezing weather if I don’t salt it, which of course I do. As you drive around the Hocking Hills you will notice the north facing slope vs. south facing slope effect at work, especially on sunny days.

Despite the challenges winter brings, the Hocking Hills sure are beautiful wrapped in a blanket of the white stuff. Stay warm!

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I <3 Maps

hhtamapBefore pulling a career 180 about 10 or 11 years ago I worked in the geographic information systems field, which, in layman’s terms, is the marriage of maps and technology, specifically databases. As a map geek, this was a perfect career for me. Along about the middle of the George W. Bush era, when the economy started to tank, I found myself out of a job. Hallelujah! Free from the cubicle farm at last. It actually turned out to be the best career choice I didn’t make. Now I could do something I really enjoyed. That’s how I eventually ended up in the cabin business.

All of these years out of the mapping profession hasn’t diminished my interest in maps or for creating them. In fact, I still do some custom mapping on the side, sell digital maps on presentationmaps.com and create trail maps for backpackohio.com. One of my more recent big projects was creating a new detailed road map for the 2014 Hocking Hills Visitors Guide, which is published by the fine folks at the Hocking Hills Tourism Association.

We are members of HHTA, and every year I vow to become more involved in the organization and the various events and activities held throughout the Hocking Hills annually. It never seems to work out. Nada. No time. Since I’m able to work from home and have a skill to offer (which obviously isn’t volunteering), I decided last year to donate my time designing the new map. I felt the old map, from a cartographic viewpoint, just wasn’t cutting it. So, over the course of a few months in 2013, I worked in my off-time designing the new map. It turned out pretty well, if I say so myself. I feel my effort spent creating the new map provides a little redemption for the times I intended to volunteer, but just couldn’t. I hope you enjoy the new map, just don’t call me if you get lost.