Watching the weather

They are getting pretty good at predicting the weather around here. Most of the time we experience something that is close to the predictions. The hills are tricky, however, there are a couple of factors that make accurate prediction difficult. One is temperature. The temperature can vary a lot in a short distance in the hills. As the altitude rises, the temperature does not always descend. The hills are great places for inversions with armer air resting on top of cooler air. We’ve been in the clouds here at home since yesterday and the cover provides a bit of insulation. The temperature has remained just above freezing, with a variation of just a couple of degrees in the last 24 hours. A couple of degrees colder, however, and the precipitation would be snow, which is what they have predicted.

The other challenge for forecasters is timing. They can be right about approaching storms, but the pace at which they arrive is harder to predict. The forecast today looks about the same as the forecast looked yesterday. We’re probably going to get the snow, but it is likely to be a bit later than originally expected.

I get a kick out of talking with people about the weather. Last week at a meeting of Pennington County Search and Rescue Team, people were almost gleeful as they predicted six to ten inches of snow for today. They had heard the warnings about the possibility of the first winter storm of the season and were getting prepared by moving equipment around in the garages so that they would be able to get at the snow cats if needed. Of course, they live for times of adversity and emergency. Like others I know, they are adrenaline junkies and have to have their fixes of excitement in order to be really happy. they train and prepare for disaster all of the time and when they get to use their skills in real life situations they feel justified for their investments of time, energy and money.

Its been five years since Rapid City got hit hard by a heavy winter storm in early October. Winter Storm Atlas started dumping snow in the hills on Thursday and it was still snowing on Saturday. There was a lot of wind with that storm, with peak gusts reaching 70 mph. There were four feet of snow in Deadwood and nearly 30 inches of snow in Rapid City. I think we got about 28 inches here at our home. There were extensive power outages and lots of trees fell. We lost two trees into our backyard. Cutting them up and hauling the branches to the huge piles that were building up in the parking lot of the baseball fields took a couple of days. We still enjoy telling stories about the storm. Actually, we didn’t have it very rough. We do have an all electric home and we were without electricity for about 3 days, but our inconvenience was minimal. We ate through the leftovers in the refrigerator and moved a few foods to the freezer as the temperature in both appliances rose.

The ranchers were the ones who took the brunt of that storm. The cattle losses were extensive as animals became trapped in the deep snow and ranchers were unable to get feed to them. The snowfall was preceded by rain and ice coated everything beneath the snow, including the cattle.

It doesn’t look like we’re in for that kind of storm this time. We’ll probably have rain that turns into freezing rain and then into snow. There will probably be some cancellations of meetings and other events on Tuesday. Right now, I’m no expecting much disruption.

Although there are a few chores that remain undone, part of me is ready for winter. I like the change in seasons and I enjoy the challenges of getting out in the snow. I’m not quite as excited as the crew at Search and Rescue, but I’m not threatened by the weather, either. I’m probably affected more by the short days and overcast skies than the snow and cold. It really doesn’t get all that cold in the hills anyway. I’ve lived places where the temperature remains below zero for days at at time, but the super cold doesn’t seem to last long in the hills.

The weather is an additional attraction to the place where we live. Of course none of us can control the weather. It is a reminder that there are faces in the universe which are beyond the reach of human manipulation. Not that we have no effect on the weather, but most of the impacts of humans on weather patterns are unintended consequences of our behaviors, not a demonstration of an ability to control. I am grateful for the reminders that we get that we can’t control everything. I don’t even mind the fact that we can’t completely predict the weather. I’m open to surprises.

So the first surprise was no snow this morning. There will probably be snow tomorrow morning, but a couple of inches probably won’t disrupt my day very much. So far the forecast doesn’t call for high winds, so the snow will pretty much stay where it falls and with daytime highs above freezing, it won’t stay around very long. We’ll likely get a bit of good fall weather and have an opportunity to catch up on outdoor chores before winter settles in for good. The hills are a good place for breaks between storms and we usually have periods during the winter when all of the snow is gone.

We’re probably not going to get really good stories to tell about this particular storm. It is just part of the usual around here and once it is past it will fade into memory pretty quickly. The specialty equipment at the Search and Rescue garages will stay in place, awaiting a bigger even and another opportunity to put the skills of the rescuers to their test.

We might get lucky and have a meeting get cancelled, but that is probably wishful thinking.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!