With Tehachapi's recent blast of cold snowy weather creating the first white Thanksgiving in years, there were many icicles hanging from the eaves of local houses. But there's another, less traditional source of icicles: automatic sprinklers.
The advent of automatic sprinklers has occasionally produced a new and transformative effect in Tehachapi yards — when sprinklers inadvertently get left on their normal settings and run on a freezing cold night, the result is a winter wonderland in the morning.
Traditionally, most icicles form like this: snow falls and coats rooftops, then partially melts, often from warmth escaping up through the roofs of heated homes. This melt water trickles down the roof and drips off the eave, but cold air temperatures freeze it back into ice, creating growing ice carrots or stalactites of this melted and re-frozen snow.
These traditional icicles have been associated with human habitation for hundreds if not thousands of years. Add snow to the roof of a structure, provide enough heat to melt a little of it, and then let the icy air re-freeze it as it slowly drips toward the ground.
Sprinkler icicles don't require a snowstorm, however — all you have to do is forget to re-set or turn off your automatic sprinkler system on a freezing cold night, and your timer will do the rest. You'll wake up in the morning to a winter dreamscape, where everything that the sprinkler has touched is coated in layers of ice.
The adult homeowner's first reaction is usually regret at not remembering to turn off the system, or frowning at the thought of paying for water that the yard didn't need, but the young and young-at-heart are simply delighted at the beauty of a scene that nature alone wouldn't normally produce.
The fine mist produced by sprinklers, and their intermittent nature, is ideal for ice formation. The sprinkler emitters very lightly coat the lawn, trees or shrubs, move to a different spot while the water freezes, and then the sprinklers return to spray again, over and over as a thickening layer of ice forms.
Since I try to keep a camera with me at all times, I have photographed these wintry spectacles, and I'm including some of these photos that I've taken while driving around town early on winter mornings.
The new movie "Frozen 2" was just released in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, giving school kids ample opportunity to see it during their weeklong break. The "Frozen" movies, as practically every American knows by now, celebrate the magical powers of Elsa and her ability to transform any location (indoors or outside) into a wintry spectacle.
Tehachapi residents have seen that you can get a similar effect by simply forgetting to turn off the automatic sprinklers on a freezing cold night. It may not be magic, but the results are still lovely. . .
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.