“To appreciate the beauty of each snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” Aristotle
It is no shock that northeastern Ohio, or The Snowbelt, was covered with an early snowfall last week. People in Ashtabula shoveled out from under 17 inches of snow while leaves still hung on the trees. Mentor saw just an inch or two, while Chardon, known widely as the Snow Capital of Ohio found about a foot of snow. York and most of Pennsylvania got little or even none.
The annual search for early winter snow– any snow– began. Benezette, the elk capital of Pennsylvania was a mandatory stop, thinking elk might enjoy romping in the snow more than two-legged creatures. But, Benezette saw only a light coating– if that– and the elk seemed unimpressed with Mother Nature’s attempt to beautify an already beautiful autumn woodland.
A herd of about 100 elk was not far from the Elk Country Visitor Center, calmly snacking on the field grass, while some color was still hanging on to the trees. But not much snow.
However, snow is common in northeastern Ohio; the search would continue there, a few hours away.
Residents here understand and search for winter wind predictions. Wind bands from the northwest pick up all the moisture Lake Erie can give and dumps it as snow in Ohio, Erie, Pa., or western New York.
Breezes straight from the west? That’s a big Buffalo, NY, problem, and towns a few miles to the south or north of that band might be sprinkled by just an inch or two of snow. Once Lake Erie freezes over, most big storms here are minimal— the ice keeps a stranglehold on its moisture. Being the shallowest great lake, Lake Erie freezes quickly.
About 12 miles south of the lakeshore is Chardon, a quaint town with a population just a little smaller than York County’s Red Lion. The Geauga County courthouse stands proudly on the city’s square and keeping with its history looks quite New England-ish. There is plenty of history here, but residents often brag– tongue in cheek, probably– that Chardon is the snow capital of Ohio.
Indeed, the annual snowfall here averages almost double Cleveland’s, and Buffalo, N.Y., also falls behind Chardon’s 107 inches. Erie, Pa., also on Lake Erie, averages ‘only’ 101 inches. York, Pa., averages 23 inches.
Chardon sits on a hill with an elevation of 1,299 feet. Lakeshore towns like Mentor and Painesville are just over 600 feet. So, Lake Erie’s moisture is picked up by the wind, drifts over the shoreline but can’t hurdle Chardon’s hill, and is dumped there as a snowstorm.
Just about six miles southeast of Chardon is the Headwaters Park, a 926-acre park leased from the city of Akron. Covered by a layer of fresh snow, Headwaters is even more beautiful than it normally is.
Winter visitors may be alone in the park to walk the five miles of hiking trails or bike or saddle up the horses for a tour of the Buckeye Trail. Waterfowl and bald eagles are scattered over the water, part of the East Branch Reservoir and the Cuyahoga River.
The snow wasn’t as deep here but still offered a few beautiful winter scenes.