My daughter, Megan, who was born right here in sunny Florida, has only seen snow one time in her short life. So hearing the possibility it just might snow, ate her up with anticipation.
Over the course of the last few nights, while watching the nightly newscast with the family, you couldn’t help but hear about the continuing freezing temperatures and the possibility of snow in Florida. Personally, every time I heard the possibility of snow mentioned I would think to myself, “wishful thinking”. My daughter, Megan, who was born right here in sunny Florida, has only seen snow one time in her short life. So hearing the possibility it just might snow, ate her up with anticipation. Finally I just had to tell her, “Honey, we live in Florida. It doesn’t snow in Florida”. She looked at me with those big blue eyes drooped and simply stated, “Daddyyyyy”. Feeling like I just stole her dream, I had to do something…
Not wanting to let my daughter down, I decided to perform a quick search on the internet. Being born and raised in snow country (N.H.) and as an avid skier, I was very familiar with the process the ski slopes used to make snow. Considering our latest weather conditions, I had a brainstorm, I could just make her some snow. So after getting some ideas online, off to one of our local hardware stores I went. $20.00 later, I had all the components needed to build a mini-snow gun. Assembly was quick and easy. All I needed now was a few key elements to come together.
Making snow isn’t as simple as just spaying a fine mist of water into the air. In Florida, we have three key obstacles to making manmade snow, consistent freezing temperatures, high humidity, and warm water. First, temperatures must remain at or below 32 degrees fahrenheit during the duration of the process. Secondly, relative humidity must remain low, preferably 30% or less. And lastly, a cold-water source, which is the biggest obstacle one would face trying to make snow in Florida. When I say cold-water source, I’m talking about a consistent water temperature below 40 degrees fahrenheit. In Florida, the ground itself rarely freezes and thus the water temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees.
One would think making snow is as simple as spraying a fine mist of water into the freezing cold air. I mean, after all, water freezes below 32 fahrenheit, right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. In order for water droplets to freeze in the air the droplets need something for ice crystals to cling to known as a “nuclei”. When a fine mist of water is sprayed into the freezing air, typically you will find the water will not freeze until it makes contact with the ground. When a nuclei is added to the water droplet this creates the “trigger” or “seed” for the water to freeze before it hits the ground. It’s the ice crystals that cling to the nuclei that gives snow the white color and powdery consistency. Snowmakers are designed to produce the nucleation process. Mixing cold water with compressed air forced out small nozzles, similar to those found on pressure washers, produces nucleation and thus snow is created.
Saturday afternoon, all the key elements came together. I placed my mini-snow making gun in my backyard, hooked up the air hose, fired up the air compressor, and connected the water source. After only making minimal air pressure and water flow adjustments, I was making snow. Wow, I was in amazement. I was actually making manmade snow in Florida. I let my little snow maker run late into the evening and was surprised at how quickly the snow was accumulating. Meanwhile, my daughter and wife were out of town and had planned to return home later that evening. Upon their return home, they retired for the night. The next morning, my daughter awoke, looked out her window and couldn’t believe what she was seeing, snow. She couldn’t wait to get her jacket, gloves, and boots on. After doing so, out the door she went. She quickly dropped into the snow and made a snow angel. Shortly thereafter, she threw a snowball at me, striking me right on the back of the neck. I’ll give you one guess where the splattering snow ended up, right down my back just inside my shirt. Wow, I almost forgot how cold snow actually is. She played for hours in it, even making a little snowman. Watching her made it all worthwhile. Its crazy to think what we will do for our kids…
By: Al Smith