By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Weird weather
Random Thoughts – July 14, 2022
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - Probably most older folks can look at weather in progress and then come up with a “I remember back in year ????, such and such happened. Mid-Monday of last week, as thick rain clouds rolled in from the west and began dumping their load on our front yard, the daylight seemed to falter. Then it dimmed enough that decorative solar lights began to shine and remained that way for several minutes.

“A-ha,” thinks I. Now I can claim a weather event to remember – “at noon on the Fourth of July, 2022, the sky got so dark that solar lights came on.”

That is almost as good as the story old folks from the past told when remembering the day during a summer storm that it got so dark on the farm that when normal light came back at noon the roosters started crowing.

Weather stories are plentiful. The first summer Vi and I lived in Muscoda it was hot and dry and sandburs flourished and stuck to pant-leg hems. But our three neighbor ladies said that was unusual and to prove it they brought out a photo album filled with pictures of a flooding Blue River – when a bull, missing from a Castle Rock farm, was found miles downstream standing on the County Highway C bridge at Blue River.

About our second winter here we woke up in a cold house. Our fuel oil dealer said it was cold inside because the bitter cold outside kept the heating oil so stiff if wouldn’t flow from the tank to the house.

Curley Vorndran, who operated a variety store on Wisconsin Avenue, said it might get worse. He remembered a 50+ degree below zero morning when his car, which was in a garage, was one of the few in the village that started but it was so stiff it wouldn’t move.

A ‘can you top this?’ weather story from my growing up days in Nebraska came during the winter of 1948-49 when my brother and I walked from our little village to the farm he had rented. We traveled on U.S. Highway 20, walking on snowdrifts that put our heads level with the utility lines.

That same winter the Burlington Railroad track serving the area was blocked by a super hard snow and ice drift that formed in a cut near our town. A big rotary plow on the front of a pair of train locomotives, belching clouds of black smoke, could not clear the track. It took dynamite to loosen the snow so it could be blown. My dad, a rural mail carrier, walked across the drifts to photograph the operation – he didn’t have to go to work because all roads were also blocked with snow.

Perhaps there are fewer weather events to remember now because science has produced ways that have made forecasting more accurate. There is no Whitey Larson broadcasting from Station WNAX, Yankton, South Dakota, telling us, “It looks like there could be a strong thunderstorm along about milking time tomorrow morning.”

Now, forecasters are able to say when a storm may arrive, pinpointing the time to the minute and send the information to cell phones people are carrying. Folks have time to look for cover if needed.

One of my grandmothers, as a small child, spent the night of the famous Plains Blizzard of 1888 safe in a schoolhouse. But, in many cases across Nebraska and the Dakotas numerous children and their potential rescuers perished as they struggled to get home after school.

Likewise, in this area the Armistice Day blizzard probably would not have claimed as many duck hunter and sailor lives if there had been a warning system like there is today.

However, with the seeming increase in deadly weather events during this time of a warming climate, the message may be: “Pay attention – and live to have a weird whether event to describe to your grandchildren.”