My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Could be worse...

For one thing, it could be devastating tornados and floods. So I'm really not complaining, but just acknowledging the undeniable fact that a ground blizzard on the eve of Cinco de Mayo has a pretty strong suck factor. (Or maybe it's more of a blow factor... never mind). ;-)

It's been blowing hard constantly and snowing off and on for several days. We had a brief donut hole yesterday morning that the dogs and I took advantage of by going on an hour and 15-minute hike, which I'm sure glad we did. Last night the wind really got down to business, blowing 40-50 mph with gusts well in excess of 65 mph. It scared poor Tess so badly she took refuge in the basement! The wind eventually subsided, but it also snowed several inches in the night... fluffy, powdery snow, which is odd for this time of year when it's normally heavy and wet. So when the wind picked up again this morning (with the same velocities as last night), and with a temperature of 20º, we had windchills well below -22º (ha! merry, merry month of May my Mehitable butt!) along with a pretty respectable ground blizzard. The skies above were bright blue and sunny, but on the ground and to a height of 8-10 feet, it was a whiteout.

My grandparents, who lived on the Hi-Line on the northern Montana prairie, lost a friend to a ground blizzard many decades ago. He was a local rancher whose mailbox was at the end of his driveway, several miles from his house, and he was in the habit of riding his horse to check his mail. One cold but beautiful winter day with deep blue skies and bright sunshine sparkling on the snow that blanketed the ground, he saddled up and rode to his mailbox. But on his way home the wind came up suddenly, the temperature dropped precipitously, and he was in the middle of a ground blizzard. Completely disoriented in the whiteout, at some point he dismounted and hung onto his horse's tail. And that's how he was found later... frozen to death and still clinging to the tail of his horse, who had found his way back to the ranch and survived. Ground blizzards are frightening in their suddenness and ferocity and are nothing to mess with, especially on the open prairie with few landmarks and nothing to slow down the wind!

It can be scary here just trying to make the short distance from our house down to Mocha's barn in one of these. I took a few photos during some of the worst of it this morning, but how do you photograph a whiteout? I mean, there's nothing to photograph but a blurry veil of white! So I'm posting a couple that at least let you see ghostly images within the whiteness...

Looking out the front window

The "view" from the back deck

...and a few that I took whenever the winds dropped a bit and allowed you to get your bearings.

I took this one earlier in the morning, before the winds had really picked up steam again. But as you can see, they were howling higher up... I thought it was pretty, those plumes of powdery snow blowing off the ridges...

Imagine the wind screaming like a jet aircraft, the snow and ice crystals being hurled against your house and windows, trying to peer through thick veils of bright white and seeing nothing... and then looking again at the calendar that says today is May 4th, and you will have some idea of my little corner of the world (and my frame of mind) today! ;-)

Actually, I'm in the middle of spring cleaning (ironic, I know), and if I'm going to be stuck inside doing that, I'd rather not be missing a lovely day outside! I just hope it calms down a bit before I have to head down to the barn this evening! I remember how BW looked when he got back to the house this morning... like he'd spent the night sleeping on Mt. Everest's summit. Without a tent! I know, I should have taken a photo. But as soon as he walked in the door the ice and snow on his face and hair all melted and then he just looked like he'd been standing under a waterfall, and that look just wouldn't have gone with my blizzardy post theme, sorry. ;-)


  1. I have never heard of a ground blizzard. But suffice it to say I am very happy I have not seen one. Sorry you are having such horrendous weather. I wish I could send some of our warm weather there.

    talk to you later,

  2. We definitely need to peel off some of our weather to send to each other, Ali. You could send me 10-20º of your heat, and I could send you a nice cool breeze from the overabundance of chilly wind we've got! :-)

  3. Sounds good to me!

    I hope if warms up there soon. I can't believe how cold and snowy it is there now. That is just crazy to me.


  4. Wow, hang in there Laloofah...and I hope all your critters and yourself stay safe. I guess it's a good excuse to read and snuggle. Hope you stay cozy until the freeze is over.

  5. Ali - it's not just crazy to you, it's just crazy. :-)

    Rose - thanks, it should warm up again soon. It was actually supposed to rain today, but the sun shone, at least! And finally the wind has died down, though it's supposed to be windy again tomorrow. Mocha was in fine, frisky spirits when I fed him tonight, and the pups and mice were hunkered down in the house with me all day.

    And in keeping with the "it could have been worse" theme, I read this news blurb this afternoon! We don't get hurricanes and almost never get tornados here, but we get those kinds of wind speeds sometimes! I wish I had an anemometer so I'd know what our highest wind gust was in the past 24 hours. A former neighbor measured a 128 mph gust on hers one Halloween night several years ago... we lost some roof shingles in that one!

  6. Oh my, Laurie, that's some nasty stuff! The wind always bothers me a lot, especially when it screams. We've had some really nasty, windy days here lately, but no snow, thankfully. The other night a really bad storm came through, though, and there was a tornado watch (we were in the red on the radar). I hope that this is it for you now and that warm, sunny days are on their way. May is not time for snow!

  7. Molly - I hope no tornado ever materialized during that tornado watch! I spent most of a summer in Wichita, KS and lived for 3 years in west Texas, and remember well how frightening and violent the storms that often spawn tornados can be, and how truly frightening tornados themselves are! How did your new trees fare in the storm?

    I agree that May is no month for snow, but Mom Nature has other ideas! We now have a Winter Storm Watch for tonight and tomorrow, with 6-8" of snow possible! Oh, noooooooo!!!

  8. No tornados, thankfully! Our trees held up quite well and made it through the storm. They seem to be strong!

  9. That's great, Molly, and a testament not only to the resilience of the trees but also to the skills of the Vegan Dog's Life tree-planting crew! :-)

  10. Call me sick, but I'd take it. I think it looks beautiful! Lucky you that you can still drink hot chocolate. I hope your animal friends are staying safe and warm!

  11. Mary, you would have really enjoyed being here on Thursday then, when we got a foot of new snow and experience blizzard conditions during much of the day! (I didn't drink hot chocolate, but I did make Hearty Chocolate Cocoa Muffins as my reward for having to shovel the &$#% deck for the nine hundredth time this year, so great minds were thinking along similar lines!) :-)

  12. It's just damp and rainy here and kind of ironic that his email to me this morning was "You would not believe the heat today!" telling me about his 113 degree weather, sandwiched between my lunch time reading your post about a ground blizzard in May. Clearly, it's meant to make me appreciate 55 degrees and rain and shut up about it! :-)
    I had never heard of a ground blizzard either. How awful to die on the way back from the mailbox! I also had never heard of Hi-Line. Looks pretty flat!
    Wish I had one of your chocolate cocoa muffins to finish off my lunch!
    Hope things are clearer weather-wise at your end. And thanks for an interesting post.

  13. Hi, Jo!

    I figure that "his email to me this morning" refers to an email from Jim, since I can't think of too many places where it would be 113º right now but Qatar fits! (Besides, I've gotten pretty good at your "we now join this program already in progress" conversational style over the years, lol)

    Yes, the Hi-Line is pretty flat, though Mom has a lovely view of the Bear Paw Mountains from her house. But it's definitely mostly prairie up there, and they can get some wicked blizzards, both ground and whole-bean. :-) Someday I'll post a very funny story about a blizzard my mother experienced as a kid.

    We're in Day #3 of rain (and sometimes rain mixed with snow, and sometimes just slushy snow) here, and after being in the 20s most of the time, it's warmed up to 30º! But I'm enjoying it.... I'm in an introverted/introspective mood, and the weather suits it. (Or perhaps the weather caused it!) :-)

    Thanks for stopping by and for your comment! Wish I could give you one of my cocoa muffins in exchange, but A) you're too far away and B) BW ate the last one this morning!

  14. Wow, that's intense, Laloo! I live in Chicago so severe weather doesn't surprise me much, but I never even heard of a ground blizzard before! Is there any meteorologic way of predicting them? Sheesh! My husband grew up in a small Minnesota town and he knew someone who froze to death when his car got stuck in a blizzard. How awful. Sending warm, cozy and safe energy to you and your family...

  15. Marla, I'm not surprised that a child of Chicago and a blizzard baby to boot is pretty unfazed by severe weather! :-) I wasn't entirely certain, but was pretty sure that ground blizzards are a phenom chiefly of the western plains, where the winter snows are generally dry and easily blown into vast, white clouds, and where the prairie winds can get up to such speed they do just that. This was actually the first true ground blizzard I recall experiencing up here, though I was familiar with them on the Montana prairie. I think their danger lies in their unpredictability, though I suppose if high winds are predicted, and lots of dry, fluffy snow is laying on the ground, you might want to rethink you're outdoor and travel plans. But the morning of our ground blizzard, no wind was predicted!

    That is awful about your husband's acquaintance being stuck in the blizzard and freezing to death. It doesn't seem like something that could happen these days, but it does... seems like just a couple years ago they had horrible blizzards in the Dakotas and that happened to some people.

    My scariest blizzard experience was when I worked an evening shift at the local hospital, but lived 40 miles away and drove a little white Honda CX. (They weigh about as much as a hamster and have a little sewing machine engine, but their mpg was fantastic. Mine had studded snow tires, and usually I had no problems...) I left work at 9pm one night and it was snowing, but nothing out of the ordinary. The Interstate was open, so I headed home. I'd gone maybe 12 miles on I-90 when I found myself in full-blown blizzard conditions - snowing so hard it was like a solid sheet of snow, blowing so hard it was falling horizontally and whipping up the snow that had managed to reach the ground. Visibility was absolute zero... I couldn't see 5 inches in front of me, couldn't see the lines on the highway, couldn't see headlights or taillights. I had to just stop where I was. Two thoughts kept going through my mind... that I'd like to get my hands on the idiots who didn't close the Interstate, and that I was doomed... sitting in the middle of an Interstate in a white-out in a tiny white car. I'd seen how the 18-wheelers drive in conditions like that... they sit up so high, and are so heavy, to them it might as well be a summer day. If one of them had come along as I sat there alternately seething and trying not to pee my pants, there would never have been a Mehitable Days blog. Instead there would have been a pee-stained bloody smear in the road! Ack. I was glad to move and not have that commute anymore!

    Thanks for your warm, cozy, safe energy.. it's no doubt what keeps making the sun peek out from behind the dark gray clouds today! (Supposed to be in the 70s by Saturday... schizo weather!)


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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