June 15, 2009

Don't Fence Me In

I'd wager you've seen all sorts of fences...lodgepole fences, board fences, barbed wire fences, smooth wire fences, hog wire fences, split rail fences and on and on. I'd also wager many of you have never seen, nor heard of, snow fences. So here's a little lesson for you on snow fences.

Snow fences....here's a few.

If we were sitting down together over a cup of coffee I'd draw you a diagram on a napkin and you'd understand it better. Its hard to explain the concept in just words without actually seeing the things, and in truth I may not get the whole concept myself, but I think I got the basics down.

Snow fences are all over the place out here, but I've seen them the most in Wyoming. One might ask, "Why Wyoming more than others" when Wyoming isn't necessarily known for its deep deep snows (except in the mountains of course). The answer is wind. Snow fences don't do anything for straight falling snow, but when it comes to wind driven snow....they can be the difference between making progress down the road, or sitting in a 10 foot snow drift. And Wyoming definatly has the wind thing going on.

Here's the idea...

...wind blows snow. The snow fences act as a wind break of sorts. The wind current is interrupted by the snow fence. On the other side of the fence, the wind is weaker and so the snow falls out of it, piling up and drifting below the fence.

They are strategically placed so that snow is prevented from drifting on roads, or at least creates smaller drifts more easily handled by snow plows.

I've learned since moving to Montana that lots of snow doesn't necessarily mean "winter wonderland," and the reason is the wind, which seems to always blow. Last winter during one snow storm that we were home for....a brief one....we got 3-4 inches of snow. It was one of the snows during which the wind didn't blow, so that when I woke in the morning I did actually wake to a beautiful world blanketed in sparkling white. But around mid-morning the wind picked up. By noon, it had drifted the snow around the house, and dug bare spots of ground between drifts. It didn't stop there. Within a short period I had brown snow, snow that was crusted in dirt that was being blown from the bare spots. Even when its not coated in dirt, its rarely a ground covering snow. It always drifts in spots with ground showing between, unless you get 4 feet of it like my in-laws did this spring. Then your pretty much looking at solid white...for weeks. But that's kind of rare in eastern Montana.

Well, I don't know if I did a sufficient job explaining how it works, but that's a snow fence. It was a point of great curiosity for me when I first saw them a few years ago, and so I figured it would be to others as well, especially my southern friends and relatives to whom snow is as foreign as Tibetan religious practices.

OK, so that's enough about snow. I'm afraid to speak the "s" word too much, seeing as how a nice early June snow, though somewhat rare, isn't unheard of. I don't want to jinx myself.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

You're right, never heard of snow fences. Interesting, and makes perfect sense to me.