A snow storm is coming

Blizzards, of course, have no sense of human timing. They don’t take a look at our calendars and time their arrival for convenience. But so far, the forecast for this weekend looks like the timing will work out just right. The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for northeast Wyoming and northwestern and southwestern South Dakota. Snowfall accumulations of 6 to 10 inches are possible. Forecasts change, but at the moment, it looks like the timing will be just about right, with snowfall beginning Sunday afternoon and blizzard conditions increasing throughout the evening on Sunday and into Monday morning. That means we can meet for worship and carry through with all of the activities planned for the first Sunday of Lent at our church then go home and watch it snow from the comfort of our home knowing that Monday is a holiday and we don’t have to dig ourselves out first thing in the morning, but can follow a more leisurely pace.

It doesn’t often work out like that. Most of the time, the snow comes when we are trying to do other things. I remember plenty of days when I’ve shoveled early in the morning to head out for a meeting and then shoveled a couple of additional times as they day progressed. I remember trying to finish up work at the office and heading home in a blizzard only to find the road impassable a short walk from home. My car spent that blizzard in the neighbor’s driveway. The good news for the neighbor was that I shoveled his driveway as well as my own following that storm. The good news for me is that that particular house is empty at the moment, awaiting a new family, so if the need arises, the driveway will be available once again.

We need the moisture. Even if the blizzard pans out as predicted, it won’t be enough moisture to reach normal levels for this time of year. 10 inches of snow translates to only about a half inch of actual moisture. I’m not complaining. Last year our blizzards wimped out, with the largest dump of snow being just over four inches around the end of February. That’s not enough to justify the amount of money I have spent on a snowblower or to make my neighbors who have spent a whole lot more on four-wheelers and plows happy. If things work out, we can all go out Monday in the late morning or early afternoon and clear snow to our hearts’ desire. And since it is President’s Day, we won’t even be missing work.

I guess that is the one possible downside. A snow day should give you an extra day off from work. But if you are as far behind in your work as I am, another day off really isn’t a blessing. Monday is my usual day off from work and aside from emergency visits, I usually lay pretty low on that day.

This is the time of the year when we count on the weather to hand out the moisture that we need for a healthy forest. We don’t live in a very wet place. Most years we’re under 19 inches of total moisture. The ponderosa pine trees are resilient plants and can take the dry conditions, but they can fall prey to bugs when they are drought stressed.

Still, it is too early in the year to know exactly how the moisture will work out. January is typically our driest month of the year and February doesn’t do much better, averaging less than a half inch. So if we really get 10 inches of snow that could put February over the average. Typically May and June are our wettest months and we’ve seen a few May blizzards that really dumped the snow over the years. Whether it comes as snow or rain, we depend on those wet months to get through the year.

Mind you, by wet month, we’re talking maybe 3 inches of rain in a month. That’s a significant bit dryer than Western Washington, where our son and his family live. They got nearly 4 inches of rain in the first week of February. On the first weekend of the month, they got .97 inches on Saturday and 1.75 inches on Sunday. It all fell as rain where they live, but if it had come as snow, that would have been a real pile - about 4 feet. When our kids were young and we lived in Boise, Idaho, another typically dry place. We’d go to a meeting or family gathering in Western Oregon and I’d point out that their trees were typically three times as tall as the ones we had and comment, “that’s what happens to a tree when you water it.” There is a fir tree in our son’s yard that is twice as tall as any tree in our yard. And not far from their home you can wander in spruce, fir and hemlock forests with 150’ tall trees. The temperate rainforests of the pacific northwest are amazing.

We, however, have no problem with slugs in our garden. And we don’t miss them a bit. There are some advantages to living in a dryer climate.

The bottom line is that we don’t control the weather. And I’m glad that we don’t. I’m pretty sure that I could run into some unforeseen consequences if I were put in charge. I know that plowing snow from the church parking lot is pretty expensive, and we’ve already had that lot plowed quite a few times this year. That’s nothing compared to the cost the city encounters when it gets to snowing. Darrell Shoemaker, who works for the city recently told the newspaper, “We don’t pay attention to how much it costs.”

I actually do pay attention, not that I can do anything about it.

What is more, the weather gives us something to talk about. It is the one subject that you can always rely on when making conversation anywhere in the Dakotas. And we’re pretty practiced at complaining about the weather - not that it does us any good at all.

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!