Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Northern plains blizzard

I've been following the weather up north as the SD, MN, IA area got slammed. The blizzard in the Black Hills dumped over 43 inches of snow on Lead SD, there were wind gusts reported at over 70 mph in the Rapid City area and thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of cattle died in the storm. Meanwhile tornadoes were ravaging Nebraska and Iowa.

The weather in the northern plains is fickle. The weather can change in an instant at any time of year, and the summers are brief. Some years, such as this one, there are snowfalls in May, and I remember more than once starting a fire in the wood stove in June to take the chill off in the house. Most years there will be a killing frost followed by several weeks of glorious Indian summer, but despite gardeners frantically covering their gardens to try and protect them and extend the harvest the plants seldom survive the first onslaughts of winter. Some years the snow comes early and never leaves until April.  Occasionally this doesn't happen until very late in the fall, but the average first frost date where I was living is Sept 15, the average last frost in spring is May 15.

 The wind is always blowing and the snow flakes are small and dry, they are always moving, like sand in the desert.

White-out conditions make it extremely difficult to drive anywhere even if the roads are open.

There are virtually no trees other than those in farm windbreaks. Once the wind picks up the snow there is very little to stop it, although fantastic drifts will form around any obstacle, a tree, a fence post, even a single stalk of dry grass.. This is the nearest neighbor's place, just under a mile away. 

This is my amazing snow blower that I sold last summer, having no intention of spending another winter up north. The almost 1/4 mile long driveway is visible in the background. The low area in the middle where it crossed the creek usually stayed fairly free of snow since it drops off fifteen feet on each side, but  the hill up into the yard and the slope out near the road drift terribly, and this thing somehow powered through an incredible amount of snow. Once the wind stopped it was a two or three day job to clear the driveway, assuming the wind didn't kick up and blow it all back in again.

This is what happens if you don't have a garage to put the vehicles in during a blizzard. 

Once the snow got more than 3 or 4 feet deep on the driveway I had to call a neighbor to come with the tractor and blower to clear the driveway, no matter how amazing it was my walk-behind snow blower would ever get through this!  The wind driven snow packs so hard that the drifts are sometimes solid enough to drive over.

The county road a mile south of the farm... the roads will clear off in a few days and a good January thaw will warm it up above freezing so you can get out on the bike, but it's not always much fun.

Somehow being stuck in Tennessee for the winter doesn't seem so terrible.


  1. I always think I miss the snows of winter until I see pictures like this. One or two snows would be ok, but not a blizzard! Great photos!

  2. Wow, what a polar opposite weather wise it is this year compared to when I was traveling through the great plains and the north last fall!