Tags Posts tagged with "Winter"

Winter

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The Port Jefferson Ice Festival Included a multitude of ice based activities, such as watching carvings by Richard Daly and ice skating. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Ice was looking very nice in Port Jefferson last weekend as the village hosted its first ever Ice Festival Feb. 8 and 9, bringing in a professional ice sculptor who made a marvel for nearly every business downtown.

Richard Daly, New York’s only certified master ice carver, came down for both days showing off his skill and artistry. Despite warm weather on Saturday, crowds streamed into the village to witness Daly in his craft, running a chainsaw over huge blocks of ice. Each business had its own individual sculpture, such as a giant burger in front of Gourmet Burgers Bistro and Baby Yoda in front of Prohibition Kitchen. Also, businesses were booked out in tickets for the Mac and Cheese Crawl, where people could sample the cheesy pasta samples from 18 separate businesses.

The event was sponsored by the Port Jefferson Business Improvement District.

All photos by Julianne Mosher

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The recent frigid weather was good training to harden us for our trip north this past weekend. We went high up in the Green Mountains of Vermont to ski. Now before you wonder at my sanity, I hasten to repeat what my clever neighbor told me when he heard we were going. “Skiing? Just hang out at the bar for a couple of days, then come back and tell us you went skiing. We’ll never know.”

So with proper full disclosure, I confess that I did not ski. I stretched out before a roaring fire in the lodge with a good book that was interrupted only occasionally for some good food and a good nap here and there. But my children and grandchildren skied and dutifully reported back at the end of each day in such vivid detail that I felt like I had swooshed down from the summit but without the cold and the half-hour wait on the lift lines to get there. Now don’t get me wrong. I always loved to ski. Why else would I have put up with the long drives, the absurd boots, the itchy hats and the running nose except for those few exhilarating moments when the view of the valley below from above the snow line is spectacular, the air is sharp and clear, the snow sparkles with sunlight in an unbroken trail before me and the deep silence assures me that the splendor is mine alone.

That said, age has its advantages, and I stayed warm and dry, letting subsequent generations enjoy the marvel of skiing.

We were there to celebrate my middle son’s 50th birthday. It became a tradition in our family, when my oldest son turned 50, that we would gather at the location of his choosing to properly mark the occasion together. This trip was not without its dangers but not from skiing. It was the drive up to the slopes on Friday that kept us on the edge of our seats in the car, peering into the darkness. If you remember, the day began uncharacteristically warm, but as the hours went by, a deep freeze descended from the north and pushed into the warmer air, creating dense fog.

We crossed the Sound on the ferry, unable to see the shores, and actually missed the turnoff to the Merritt Parkway and thence Interstate 91 from Route 8 on the Connecticut side because the fog shrouded the signs above our heads on the roadway. That wasn’t of any great consequence as we continued on Route 8 to Interstate 84 East, a slightly longer stretch, but it did serve to warn us of what lay ahead.

We drove for the next couple of hours and the fog only seemed to intensify, but we were in good spirits anticipating the coming weekend’s festivities. We even stopped for a nice German dinner in Springfield, Massachusetts. What difference would a couple of extra hours make, we rationalized, since it was going to be dark anyway by the time we left the highway?

Initially driving wasn’t so difficult on Route 103, the first of the back-country roads, because there were other cars snaking along, marking the contours of the road with the glow of red taillights. At one point a bus joined the parade in front of us, and that was dandy. The real problems started when we turned onto Route 100 and left the bus behind. So dense was the fog that we missed the turn and had to circle back for a second try. 

We were all alone from that point on, sometimes inching our way forward, straining to follow the yellow midline. Snowbanks lined the road, with only an occasional reflective marker to indicate a precipice off to the side. In that fashion, our hazard lights blinking noisily in the car to avoid anyone colliding with us, we traveled the next 24 miles. We knew we were climbing because our ears popped periodically, but we could see nothing of the mountains. We finally arrived at our lodging, a couple of hours later, in a glazed-eye stupor.

After that, simply skiing was a piece of cake. Birthday cake, that is.      

In the dark of night, it silently slithered toward the back of the car, spray painting the windows with a sheen of opaque white.

It made its way around the car, finding the seam in the doors and filling it with surprisingly strong epoxy. It glided down to the ground and sucked some of the warm air out of the tires. The car was trapped on the driveway with no way to fight off this unwelcome intruder. If its alarm could have gone off, it would have warned us. But, no, that alarm only goes off early in the morning on the weekends, when someone opens the door with the key instead of deactivating the alarm system with a button, annoying the neighbors and embarrassing our kids and us in equal measure.

It slid under the hood. It paused over the heart of the machine, looking for places to extend its icy fingers into the exposed engine, snickering with delight at the opportunity to turn 3,000 pounds of metal into a frozen couch.

It reached into the battery and deactivated the power.

On my way to the car, it issued a warning, or was it a challenge, when it wrapped its icy fingers around my neck. I tried to ignore it and stick with my routine. When I turned the key, however, the car coughed weakly.

“Come on,” I pleaded, as the cold scraped its icicle hands against my exposed calf. I tried again. The third time was not the charm, either.

After getting a jump start, I decided to outsmart the wretched cold. I cleared space in the garage, hauling all the heavy items parked there into the basement. The garage door and the walls of the house would offer greater protection. No, I wasn’t giving the car a blanket and pillow and setting it up with reruns of “Knight Rider,” but I was protecting the family car.

The next day, I went through the basement into the garage, put the key in the ignition and beamed broadly as the internal combustion engine roared to life. Ha! I foiled the frigid air. I told the kids to climb in the car, which warmed up rapidly as a reward for keeping it in the garage, and drove triumphantly to school. The cold wouldn’t undermine my day, I thought, as I maneuvered through the responsibilities of the day.

When I returned home, I found that the cold had recruited my garage door to its unworthy cause. I didn’t look carefully enough when I had pulled away from the house. The garage door, fooled by a small piece of snow in the corner of the floor, thought it had hit something and reopened, where it stayed all day.

I pulled the car in, closed the garage and waited for the door to close. When the metal door reached the ground, it reopened. I played a short game with the door, pushing the button just after it started to open again so that the cold air had only a small opening.

“I win,” I announced as I entered the warm house.

When I turned on the water in my bathroom the next morning, I realized I had lost. The combination of the cold from the open garage from the day before and the small crack at the bottom of the door was enough to enable the cold to lay its frozen hands on my pipes.

Several hours later, the plumber, who was busier than a foraging ant during a Fourth of July picnic, shivered in the garage and proclaimed the small opening under the door as the culprit.

This cold snap, which finally left the area earlier this week, won this battle.

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As we forge ahead into 2018, there are a few charitable lessons from the holidays that we should carry with us through the year, especially this winter.

December is the single largest month of the year for giving, according to the 2016 Charitable Giving Report published by Blackbaud Institute for Philanthropic Impact. Based on information from thousands of nonprofits, the report found December is when more than 20 percent of all donations are made. It’s called the Season of Giving or The Most Wonderful Time of the Year in no small part because it’s when people are most likely to open their pockets or donate time to help others.

There are good Samaritans who have taken caring for others to heart. North Shore residents stopped to check in on an elderly or disabled neighbor during winter storm Grayson or even offered to help shovel out walkways and driveways.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) worked with one such individual, identified only as Ken from Ronkonkoma, who helped first responders dig out two motorists stranded on the side of the Long Island Expressway.

Last week, PSEG reported more than 16,500 of its customers lost power during the snowstorm. While more than 76 percent had it restored by 4:30 p.m. Jan. 4, according to PSEG, those individuals with electric heat were temporarily left in the cold.

Keeping the giving alive year-round can help make the cold, dreary winter brighter for less fortunate and needy families. It doesn’t cost anything but a few minutes to check in on neighbors to a make sure he or she is warm and OK. Better yet, lend a hand to help shovel a walkway or snow blow a path so he or she can safely get in and out of a home in case of an emergency.

Families struggling to make ends meet can get assistance in paying for electricity or home heating fuel. Suffolk County’s Home Energy Assistance Program started accepting applications Jan. 2 at 631-853-8820 for families in need of one-time assistance. The nonprofit United Way has opened applications for its Project Warmth, a program that offers a one-time grant for families struggling to pay heating bills. Project Warmth can be contacted by its 211 hotline or by calling 888-774-7633 seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Search through closets for gently used or new winter jackets, scarves, hats or gloves that can be donated to one of the many collection drives currently underway for residents in need of warm clothing. The Town of Brookhaven’s Youth Bureau is collecting donations starting Jan. 12 at town hall, the highway department and senior and recreation centers. Long Island Cares in Hauppauge also accepts donated coats. Many Salvation Army locations even accept appliance donations, like space heaters.

Just because the giving season is over does not mean that some of our neighbors are any less in need of assistance. Taking a few minutes to check in on others or point them to a service that offers assistance can help everyone get 2018 off to a positive start.

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A coat drive at Comsewogue High School resulted in about 50 coats being distributed to needy people in the Port Jefferson Station area. Photo by Alex Petroski

Residents in the Port Jefferson Station area and beyond need not be left out in the cold this winter.

A somewhat spontaneous winter coat drive sprung up in Port Jefferson Station last week thanks to the efforts of a pair of old friends: a business owner in Nassau County and an employee in the Comsewogue School District. David Jacobson, founding executive director of Collector Car Showcase in Oyster Bay started Layers of Love NY with his longtime friend John Worobey, who provides technology support at Comsewogue, working in the district for 17 years. The organization, which is referred to on its website as a movement, was the byproduct of a brief conversation between the friends earlier this year.

“I went into a classroom last year and there was a child hanging a coat out the window in the middle of the winter,” Worobey recalled during the Oct. 28 coat drive in the Comsewogue High School cafeteria. “I asked the teacher ‘what’s going on? Why is he hanging a coat out the window?’ She said that a lot of the kids in the class didn’t have coats and people donated coats, and his happened to smell like cigarettes. So he was hanging it out the window to air out.”

Worobey said when he told Jacobson about what he had observed his friend was equally taken aback.

“During a casual conversation he said to me some kids come to school with no coats on in the middle of the winter,” Jacobson said. “I was like ‘that’s not okay.’”

Jacobson said they decided they would host a coat drive later in the year and began collecting coats through a variety of avenues. He said they placed Layers of Love NY collection boxes at car dealerships around Long Island; and at The Hoffman Center in Muttontown, a museum named after Maximilian Hoffman, an Austrian-born racecar driver and importer of luxury automobiles in the 1950s; among other locations. On Oct. 1 the museum hosted an event called Driven to America, at which the organization collected even more coats. Jacobson said he heard stories from people showing up to the event who had purchased as many as 10 brand new coats to contribute for the drive.

By the time the event began at Comsewogue, about 250 coats were laid out across the cafeteria tables available for anyone who walked in to look through and pick the perfect fit.

“Whatever we give away today we’re happy,” Jacobson said. The event resulted in the distribution of about 50 coats, with families with multiple children arriving throughout the morning to bundle up ahead of winter. The co-founders of the event each indicated they planned to learn from the 2017 incarnation of their vision and use the information to improve it in years to come.

“It’s a stepping stone, something we’re going to build upon,” Jacobson said.

Worobey said he thought Comsewogue was the perfect location for a coat drive like this because of the community’s inherent nature of giving.

“That makes you feel good,” Worobey said, waving to a group that had just collected several coats and were heading on their way.

Jacobson said the organization will begin collecting coats for a 2018 drive next July. Anyone interested in learning more about Layers of Love NY should visit www.layersofloveny.com.

Acorns are littering the lawns and decks of many homes on Long Island this year.

By Ellen Barcel

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” Chicken Little shouted. Well, this year, the sky isn’t exactly falling, but leaves sure are and so are lots and lots of acorns. Why? Well, a bit of plant biology first and then some theories.

Over the many millions of years that plants have existed on Earth, they have evolved to survive in their unique environments. Long Island formed after the last glacier, around 10,000 years ago. Plants that evolved to survive well in acidic soil, like oak trees and pines, established themselves here — Long Island has very acidic soil. Since Long Island has occasional droughts, plants that do well in droughts also do well here.

This past year Long Island has gone through drought conditions. Seven of the past nine months (January through September) the rainfall has been below average. August, for example, received just over two inches while the average is slightly over four. June was also particularly bad with just over one inch of rain while the average is nearly four. So, the ability to withstand occasional drought conditions is very useful for plants that establish themselves on Long Island. And, yes, oak trees have a taproot that goes way down into the soil, where there is more likely to be water.

So, oak trees have two ways of growing well on Long Island: their ability to do well in acidic soil and their taproots. This year, it seems that the local oak trees have produced lots of those acorns, that is, the seeds for future generations of trees were abundant, very abundant. This abundance is referred to as masting or mast years.

Said a gardening friend of mine from Farmingville, “You can’t walk out of the house without slipping and sliding … I almost broke my neck … The deck is covered. All night you hear them falling … the gutters are full of them … when you drive down the driveway you crush them.”

So, the question is, why the abundance of acorns some years and not others? There must be some sort of survival mechanism in producing lots of acorns, but why some years and not others? There are many theories.

1. One is that an extensive crop of acorns predicts a harsh winter. This theory assumes that oak trees have some way of predicting the future. My feeling is that when a big acorn crop and a harsh winter coincide it’s more likely a coincidence than oak trees’ ability to predict the future.

2. A theory I read about many years ago is that an extensive acorn crop is a way that oak trees have of dealing with harsh conditions. By putting all their energy in a nasty year into producing acorns, they’re guaranteeing the survival of the species. This is more likely. We did have drought conditions this past year, but remember that oak trees, with their taproots, do well in drought conditions.

3. The most likely explanation, however, is that we had mild, favorable conditions in spring for the production of oak flowers and therefore acorns. As a result we have been inundated with a large crop, a crop that has been falling and falling all over the place. Of course, there may be other factors involved. Oak trees have both male and female flowers on the same tree. Suppose there is a late frost in the previous spring, damaging the flowers that will become future acorns. Or suppose it’s been a particularly windy spring, again damaging the flowers, or excessive rain-storms. White oak trees take one year to produce acorns, while red oak (which includes pin oaks) take two. So, if the trees that are masting are red oak, we need to go back two springs to examine the weather at that time, not just this past spring. Confusing, isn’t it?

Whatever your theory, the abundance of acorns sort of guarantees fat squirrels, deer, raccoons, possums, rabbits, chipmunks and even blue jays and wild turkeys this winter, even if it is a harsh one. In the meantime, get out your broom and at least clean the acorns from your walkways so you don’t slip.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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My brothers are getting ready to celebrate their birthdays, which are two days apart. OK, so, several years and two days apart, so, no, they aren’t twins who kept my mother in labor for more than 48 hours.

At times I thought perhaps I, the middle child, should have been born on the day in between them. That way, my parents would have gotten all the birthday parties for the year done in one week.

Then again, it would have been hard for any of us to own more than 24 hours if we were all making plans for something special in the same narrow window of time.

As a longtime baseball devotee and recreational player, I always imagined the best thing I could do on my birthday would be to attend a Yankees game.

Over time, the focus on my birthday has changed. Yes, I enjoy my wife’s chocolate chip cookies, which she bakes as often as I like and, yes, I enjoy the calls and the cards. However, I don’t anticipate the day the same way I did when I was my children’s age, as they count down the days, hours and minutes until their annual celebration.

My son, who also loves baseball — hmm, I wonder how that happened? — has often talked about going to a game on his birthday, which is, conveniently, during the summer. The biggest challenge to making that happen is that he plays baseball so often that his games often conflict with Yankee games. In fact, during some weeks in the summer, he plays more games than Alex Rodriguez. OK, well, maybe that’s a bad example because poor A-Rod, who is a shell of his former self, hasn’t gotten much playing time these days.

Back to birthdays, though, if I could choose between a summer and winter birthday, I’m not sure which way I’d go. Let’s lay out the advantages of a winter birthday: For starters, I might get one of those natural gifts, when a snow day would eliminate all the hustle and bustle as the world stops and is covered with a white blanket. Nice as that sounds, that never happened.

My school friends were around on my birthday. During the summer, some of my son’s friends go to camp, where they might send him a snapchat or a text message around his birthday, but they can’t hang out, eat cake and swim in a pool.

I could also go skiing on my birthday. I love racing fast enough down a mountain that my eyes water from speeding down a trail. And, after an incredible day at Killington or Mount Snow, both in Vermont, I could relax in a lodge, in front of a fireplace, with my tired feet and exhausted knees propped up on the hearth.

I also enjoyed going to the beaches during the winter, when the crowds were gone and I felt as if I owned the windswept landscape, from one end of West Meadow Beach to the other.

OK, how about the disadvantages? Tests were at the top of that list. When I was in school, a test on my birthday wasn’t as much of a wet blanket as a test the day after my birthday, when studying superseded any birthday celebration.

The movies around the middle of the winter never seemed as much fun to attend as the ones during the summer, perhaps because of the pressure to prepare for school.

Still, while the grass may be greener, literally, for summer birthdays and the baseball season may be in full swing, the winter birthdays give those of us looking for festivities during the colder, darker months something to celebrate.

Ideally, we can enjoy these festivities all-year round, as we celebrate with our friends and family, particularly during frenetic birthday weeks. 

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File photo

Winter weather has affected blood donations, and Port Jefferson’s John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, located at 75 N. Country Road, will hold a blood drive on Monday, March 7, to help.

According to the hospital, snow caused many blood drives to be canceled; so the community needs donors to help keep cancer and surgery patients, accident and burn victims, anemic patients, newborns and their mothers and AIDS patients alive.

The Mather event — which will run from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Conference Rooms 3, 4 and 5 — is open to everyone and no appointment is necessary.

Free valet parking is available at the main entrance.

Donors will receive candy, McDonald’s certificates and a gift card to Panera or Target.

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Huntington’s 4x400 relay state championship team of Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake, Infinite Tucker and Exzayvian Crowell continue to reach new heights. Photo by Darin Reed

Huntington boys’ track and field head coach Ron Wilson had an idea that he could have a strong team for the 2015-16 winter season, but the success they’ve enjoyed was beyond even his expectations.

“We knew that we had quite a few kids returning this season, which would put us at the forefront in Suffolk County,” Wilson said. “We didn’t know that we would be one of the top teams in the state of New York.”

That’s exactly what the Blue Devils were this winter: one of the most electrifying track and field squads in the state. The team is led by their “Fantastic Four,” the nickname given to Huntington’s state champion 4×400-meter relay team from last winter. All four members returned this year. Infinite Tucker, Kyree Johnson, Lawrence Leake and Exzayvian Crowell captured numerous state, county, league and Long Island accolades as a team and individually last year, and this year hasn’t been much different.

The team took the gold in the 4×400 relay at the Suffolk County Championships on Jan. 31 at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. They also qualified for Nationals, which will take place on March 11 in New York City. Huntington’s 4×200 relay team also qualified, as did Tucker and Johnson in numerous individual events.

Wilson said it hit him how special this team was at a meet on Jan. 16 at the Molloy Stanner Games at the New Balance Track and Field Center at the Armory in Manhattan.

“We were grooving,” Wilson said with a hearty laugh. On that Saturday in Manhattan, Tucker ran the best time in the country for the winter season in the 600 dash, and Johnson set the mark nationally for the 300 dash, while Leake posted the fourth-best time of the year in the 300. The times were announced to a standing ovation, according to Wilson.

Wilson said one of the biggest surprises of the season was Leake’s performance.

“My time in the 300, I was very proud of,” Leake said.

Johnson indicated that he could tell fairly early on how special the Blue Devils might be.

“Around the first couple of meets, everybody started to show how good they are and the ability they had,” Johnson said.

Johnson credited advice from his older brother Tyreke, who also ran track at Huntington, as being helpful in keeping his competitive edge, despite enormous success.

“The number one thing is to remain humble and don’t look at anybody like they’re not as good as you,” Johnson said. “I have to work my hardest.”

Wilson has been a part of some special teams at Huntington in his nine years leading the high school squad. He coached in the district on the junior high level from 1998 to 2007, when he became an assistant for the high school team under Dennis Walker. Wilson was also a member of the team in 1993 and 1994, when he attended Huntington.

“I didn’t run; I was a thrower,” Wilson said. “I was too big to run.”

The head coach didn’t hesitate for a second when trying to compare this Blue Devils’ team to the numerous versions that he’d had a hand in previously.

“This is by far the best team that I’ve coached,” he said.

Assistant coach Eli Acosta, who said this is his 49th year in the Long Island track and field world, reiterated Wilson’s assessment of the team.

“I can say that this is the best track and field that I’ve ever coached in terms of talent,” Acosta said. “We have very talented athletes, that goes without saying. They also work quite hard.”

Wilson said his team is focused and driven, without being too uptight.

“It’s a well-rounded team,” he said. “They’re nice boys. They can be silly at times, but once they get on the track, it’s always business.”

Tucker and Johnson are undoubtedly the team’s most talented members, though the role of leadership is a shared duty among the entire roster, according to Wilson.

“It’s kind of fun,” Tucker said of his relationship with Johnson. “It’s like running with your brother.”

Acosta admitted that he and Wilson pit Johnson and Tucker against each other in certain events and in practice as a tactic to motivate the star athletes.

“They pick each other up,” Wilson said. “It’s more of the team that leads us, that drives our success, especially amongst our relay team.”

Despite their success, Wilson said he hasn’t seen any lull in the team’s drive or motivation.

“When these kids are able to stay humble and stay low, they’re always able to seek improvement,” Wilson said. “If the competition is not there, you have to compete against yourself.”

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Kids are dismissed early from Port Jefferson’s middle and high schools on a previous snow day. File photo by Michael Ruiz

Slippery conditions and cold temperatures are a couple of reasons to hate snow, and now Port Jefferson kids and parents have another one: cutting into the school break.

Despite a handful of snowfalls, with the help of the heaviest of them falling on a weekend, the school district has kept closings to just two days — last Friday and Monday. But those instruction days still have to be made up at some point, so that the district stays in compliance with state education regulations regarding the minimum number of school days.

Superintendent Ken Bossert said at the Port Jefferson Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night that, as a result, the snow will dig into April. The first lost day will be made up on Friday, April 22, which was originally scheduled as a staff conference day, and the other will be made up on Monday, April 25, which was supposed to be the first day of spring break.

Delayed openings and early dismissals, which the school district also uses to ensure student safety during snow events, do not affect the count of instruction days and thus do not have to be made up elsewhere.

If there are any more storms that precipitate school closings, each instruction day missed will be redeemed during the spring break, according to Bossert, cutting deeper into that vacation time.

The superintendent explained that due to the way the school calendar was designed in the 2015-16 school year, with a late Labor Day and the way the Jewish holidays Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur fell, the calendar was “much less flexible with building in snow days.”

Next year is shaping up to be different. The school board approved a 2016-17 calendar on Tuesday night that starts a couple of days earlier than the current year and has five snow days built in from the get-go.

“And we can actually do more than that without encroaching on religious observances and things like that,” Bossert said.