Frost Quake

Ohio has had a rough winter by today’s standards.  It seems that we just don’t have the kind of winters I remember as a child in the  1970s.   These days the snow comes and goes.  Three or four inches of the fluffy white stuff  falls, stays a few days, then melts away as quickly as it arrived.

But this winter has been a little more like the winters of my childhood.  We had a white Christmas, a brief thaw, a snowy January, and then a wild early February.  We haven’t seen barnyard gravel for weeks.  Somewhere there is a new sidewalk that runs from the house to the new garage, but we haven’t seen that for quite awhile, either.

It’s not just snow Ohio has seen this winter.  We’ve been blessed with what the weather forecasters call “A Wintry Mix,” which I think is really code for  “we don’t really know what’s coming.”  You name it, we’ve had it in February:  snow, sleet, freezing rain, hoarfrost, ice, wind, and a frost quake.

Yes, I said a frost quake.  It happened last week in the early morning hours.  Actually, it was almost time to get up if you’re an early riser.  Say, a dairy farmer, an insomniac, or a certain kindergarten teacher I know who likes to walk before the birds even think about waking.  But for me, it was still nighttime.  Deep, dark, dreamy nighttime.  I don’t remember feeling anything as much as I remember hearing it.  It was one loud thunk.

Immediately, my husband (TFOMD… The Farmer of My Dreams) rolled over and said very clearly, “What was that?”   Keep in mind that this is the same man who, when sleeping,  never hears the garage door when the teenagers come home, never hears the sick kid wretching in the bathroom, and will agree to most anything he’s asked between the hours of 9 PM and 5 AM.  But this noise was so loud, so unusual, that TFOMD snapped into instant awareness.  (Granted it was much closer to his time to rise than mine!)

Now, anyone who’s ever been a mother knows that when things happen in the middle of the night (and don’t they always), clarity of thought is essential.  So, with the utmost authority, I replied, “It’s the house settling.”

Now, I have no idea where that came from. It sounds like something my grandma might have said to me when I was a little girl staying over in her old farmhouse, listeing to every little click and creak an old house can make.  But what I heard that night was definitely not a creak.  For some reason, though, my explanation sounded good to me.  It must been acceptable to TFOMD, too, because we both rolled over and went back to sleep.  (TFOMD for another 3o minutes and me for another couple of hours, but that doesn’t really matter, does it?)

It wasn’t until I was watching the news later in the day that I realized we had experienced a rare phenomenon. (Okay, so we experiecnced it somewhat sleepily, but hey, it counts).  It turns out we weren’t the only ones who heard things go bump in the night.  Emergency management agencies and sherrifs’ departments all over West Central Ohio and East Central Indiana were flooded with calls reporting booms and cracks.

The technical term is a “cryoseism”  but the more popular term is “frost quake.”  I’m not sure how something this unusual gains a “popular” name.  It’s not really an earthquake, but something that happens when the ground freezes rapidly.  The low that night was 7 degrees below zero, the first subzero temps we’d had this winter.  While frost quakes are common in arctic regions, we Midwesterns were taken a bit off guard.

Since a frost quake is an unphotographable event, I’ll just attach a few winter farm scenes. You’ll have to imagine the rest.

Snowy day at the farm house

Here’s my 1-year-old puppy – aptly named Hercules.  He loves the snow!

Proof positive:  I do sometimes get out of bed before sunrise. At least in the winter months.

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