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Lightning flashes, heavy snow falls

ADDISON COUNTY — Lightning and thunder in the middle of February?
Yes, it’s possible, said meteorologist Paul Sisson from the National Weather Service in Burlington. Though thunder snowstorms are very rare, the Northeast saw one on Saturday night. That came in the midst of a weekend of heavy snow that resulted in a few collapsed roofs at local barns
According to published reports, one lightning strike from Saturday’s thunderstorm caused a fire at a camp in Addison on Saturday night. Addison Volunteer Fire Department responded to the fire, and though the camp was a total loss, no one was injured.
Sisson said that summer thunderstorms are most often caused by sun heating the ground so that water evaporates, sending warm air rising into the colder air in the clouds. The border between the two air masses is unstable, and differently charged precipitation particles on that border create static electricity.
Of course, there was no sun warming the earth Saturday evening. Instead, Sisson said, air traveling up from the Gulf of Mexico encountered the cooler northern air, creating that same unstable border between two air masses. He pointed out that as the thunderstorm was happening, the precipitation turned to wet snow and, in some places, icy rain.
Sisson said the rare phenomenon happens every few years, so it wouldn’t be accurate to connect it with global warming. But he added that thunder snow is more common as the winter begins to wane and spring approaches, bringing warmer air.
“You could think of it sort of as a sign of spring,” he said.
The thunder snowstorm punctuated a number of large snowfalls Vermont has experienced this year, piling snow anywhere between 20 and 53 inches high in different areas of the state, according to data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The heavy snow claimed the roofs of at least two barns in the county on Monday. Sam Trudel reported that an 80-year-old barn on Shacksboro Road in Shoreham collapsed that day.
“It was an historic barn … that had not been in active animal use, but was being slowly preserved and restored by Jeremiah Parker,” Trudel wrote in an email. A little piece of history, the barn was in the early 1970s sold as part of one of the first post-Act 250 land deals in Addison County, Trudel said.
“It was a landmark in this valley and a very sad event,” he added.
Meanwhile, Paul and Frances Stone in Orwell awoke Monday morning to the beauty and destructiveness of a winter snow. The center section of one of their Stonewood Farm turkey barns had caved in.
“We didn’t lose any livestock,” Frances wrote. “However we have lost a great deal of the equipment that was in the barn for starting our turkey poults in the spring. This is the barn where we set up the brooders for keeping the little ones very warm.”
The center section of the long barn, affectionately known as the “Meow Barn,” was not the oldest, and the Stones didn’t know why it was the one that fell. On Monday and Tuesday they got six guys out shoveling snow off the roofs of their remaining barns.
“We are a little anxious,” Frances said.
Reporter Andrea Suozzo is at andreas@addisonindependent.com.

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