Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 23, 2010

Prolonged winter: Will mini glaciers in Bluefield hang around until spring?


How do you melt a good six inches of sleet and snow that has morphed into frozen ice? Well — apparently you don’t. At least not anytime soon.

With more snow unfortunately in the forecast, the beautiful weather we had this past weekend is now starting to feel like a distant memory. But for those who were keeping track, the mercury climbed to about 56 degrees Sunday. In fact, it was only a few degrees short of 60.

Did the near 60 degree temperatures melt that six inches of ice in the driveway and front yard. Nope. It didn’t even put a dent in it. How about the not one — but two bags of salt — I bought in the foolish hope of melting the driveway at the family’s home. Nothing. The ice is still there. The bag claimed this salt would melt snow and ice all the way down to minus 15 degrees. That may be the case, but apparently it doesn’t work when the temperature is a balmy 56 degrees. The ice pack is still there — or at least most of it. The situation is a little bit better where I live, but I’m still walking on a lot of ice when I leave the safe confines of the front porch. It seems this ice isn’t going anywhere fast. I call it demon ice. There is no other logical explanation as to why it simply won’t melt.

I tried this past weekend to break it up. I used a shovel, a hoe and a pick in a hopeless attempt to break the ice. I did make a little progress at the top of the hill where everyone’s vehicle gets hung up, but that was about it. The harder I used the pick, the deeper the ice got. It’s like living in Antarctica. The ice just doesn’t melt.

The sun was bright Sunday, and it was warm outside. No coat was necessary. It actually felt like spring. But all of the sun and warm weather did nothing to melt this demon ice. If 60 degrees won’t do it, what will it take? A 70 degree reading? At this rate, we may not melt all of this ice (and let’s face it, it’s no longer snow — it’s just all ice) until April. It may take an 80 degree day to melt all of this mess. That’s a really scary thought.

It’s important to point out that some nearby communities haven’t seen as much snow as us lucky folks living in the greater Bluefield area. Princeton — for example — is a bit behind Bluefield in terms of snowfall totals for the season. The same can be said for Tazewell and Richlands.

I made the drive to Richlands Monday morning, along with photographer Eric DiNovo, to cover a town hall meeting called by U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., to discuss energy and coal. To my amazement you could see green grass all the way from Tazewell to Richlands. It appears as if a lot of the snow has melted in Tazewell and Richlands. It was certainly nice to see the green grass again.

Frustratingly, a primary topic of conversation during the town hall meeting held on the campus of Southwest Virginia Community College was climate change and global warming, and of course the federal cap and trade legislation that Congress is trying to pass.

Why in the world are we talking about global warming in the middle of one of the worse winters our region has seen in more than a decade? It just doesn’t make sense. While the glaciers may be melting elsewhere, the giant piles of snow and ice in the greater Bluefield region aren’t melting — or at least they aren’t melting fast enough.

With more snow in the forecast our window of opportunity to break the ice is over at least for now. Old Man Winter has decided to add further insult to injury. More snow showers. More cold temperatures. You’ve got to be kidding me.

We are looking at a chance of rain and snow today with cooler temperatures. You then have a chance of snow showers on Thursday and Friday. That means we could actually see some fresh snow on the ground before all of this ice melts. That’s not exactly the kind of news folks are wanting to hear.

Something’s got to give already. March is now just a week away. At this point, I’m willing to bet we are going to see one of two extremes. It is either going to keep on snowing throughout the month of March, or spring may actually arrive early and stick around for a while.

Unfortunately, I’ve got a sneaky feeling that the nasty weather may be hanging around a little longer. Call it a gut instinct if you will, but I’m afraid we are going to see at least one more big storm before all is done and said. I suspect the next big one will come in March.

So the question remains — will our giant chunks of ice still be around come April? Or will we see a prolonged warming trend in March finally capable of melting all of this ice? Or will we see another big storm — snow, sleet or ice — that will make things worse than they already are?

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s city editor. Contact him at