BRISTOL, Va. — A winter wonderland of up to 9 inches of snow blankets Blair Bullock's Meadow Drive yard recently — even though official records reflect no measurable precipitation in the region.
The snow, which began "falling" Monday night and continued into Tuesday morning, is the manmade variety thanks to a snow gun — a combination of pipe, valves and an oscillating electric motor — engineered and built by Bullock.
His snowmaking formula combines water flowing at four gallons per minute from a pressure washer with highly pressurized air from an air compressor. Mix in sub-freezing ambient temperatures and you have the recipe for a localized blizzard.
"We got tired of waiting on Mother Nature," Bullock said Tuesday while surveying his handiwork. "To make snow, ideally is 21-degree weather and when I started last night it was 23 degrees and it quickly went down."
He completed the 13-hour process around 9 a.m. Tuesday.
"I didn't go to bed. I had to refuel every two hours and move the gun every two hours. I had somebody helping me. You can't shut it down or it will freeze up so you have to leave it running," Bullock said. "This is the third time I've used it, but this is by far the best results."
He originally intended to create snow for Christmas.
"I built that this year to hopefully give my daughter a white Christmas when she came home from college, but the temperatures were too warm so that didn't happen. My brother's kids were in from Charlotte so they don't see snow and I wanted to let them sleigh ride a little," he said.
Bullock, who says he likes "tinkering with stuff," admitted this was his second attempt at manufacturing snow.
"I built a smaller gun in the mid-90s to make snow for my daughter. I've got a couple of high psi pressure washers and thought I could make snow. But, it turns out, you've got to have compressed air with that," Bullock said. "I studied about it and figured out how to build a gun and built it. You have to swap the nozzles out to make it fit the equipment; I did that. I built all of it except for the oscillator."
With warming temperatures and some rain in the forecast, Bullock is uncertain what his forecast will be.
"We'll see how long it lasts," he said with a wry smile. "We've got good temperatures to make snow tonight."
Information from: Bristol Herald Courier, http://www.bristolnews.com