Snow day

For the information of folks living near me in Rapid City and the surrounding area, I thought you’d like to know that today’s forecast for Fairbanks Alaska is for a high in the mid fifties under partly cloudy skies. High temperatures are supposed to remain in the upper forties through the next week with the possibility of a little rain on Saturday. It is currently 38 degrees in Anchorage under cloudy skies. They’ll see some rain on Friday and by Monday it should be sunny skies and highs in the 50s. Those conditions should last for much of next week. Temperatures in Alaska were 20 degrees warmer than usual. Researchers say that temperatures are warming roughly twice as fast in the Arctic as they are in other parts of the world. Temperatures have been so high that NOAA computers flashed warnings of faulty sensors because the temperatures were so far out of range. The seniors were working properly. The computers had been programmed for cooler times. The permafrost isn’t truly perma. It’s melting.

Part of the problem has been unusual jet stream patterns. One climatologist referred to the jet stream as “wobbly.”

I guess the wobbly jet stream can also be blamed for the foot or so of snow outside my study this morning. We took a snow day yesterday and have decided to spend the morning today digging out. The church office will remain closed until at least noon, later depending on conditions. My phone app just says, “Snow will continue.” We could get two or three more inches. I’ve stopped trying to be precise in my measurements. I just look at the snow on the deck and say, “It looks like about a foot.”

Blizzard days are different than once was the case. I updated the church web page three times yesterday. I updated the outgoing message on the church voice mail each time as well. I responded to dozens of text messages and communicated with others by email. I even spoke on the phone with a few church leaders.

With the advent of modern forecasts, we tend to make decisions about snow closures and conditions earlier in the day. I didn’t have to get up at 3 am to make a decision about whether or not activities would resume at the church today. I looked at the forecast and made the decision early in the evening yesterday.

The county pulled snowplows off of the roads at around 5 pm. The Interstate is closed all the way to Mitchell. The city bus system is not operating. Most flights at the airport have been cancelled or postponed. the schools are closed. The YMCA is closed. The courts are closed. Things are shaping up for another snow day in Rapid City.

We didn’t get the forecast winds. I guess there are some really strong winds off to the east of us, but here in the hills we are sheltered and the storm has mostly been gently falling snow which looks beautiful when you can stay inside and look out at it.

That was too much for some of my more restless neighbors. One, who really loves operating his four-wheeled UTV, was running up and down the street, learning a lane in the middle. I doubt if he made things any easier for the snowplows which will arrive sometime today, but he was enjoying it and probably not causing much damage other than leaving huge chunks of snow in the regular driving lane because his rig clears only a narrow lane as wide as his plow.

But it was strange yesterday. It wasn’t all that cold. The visibility was reasonable. Folks were at home. But we didn’t see any of the neighborhood children out. It seemed like a nearly perfect day for snowmen and sledding, but I guess the kids spent the day inside with their computers and tablets and televisions. I kept thinking we’d see the neighbor’s kids out playing in the snow, but the only ones we saw out and about were the one neighbor with his snowplow UTV and another neighbor with a jeep who simply loves to prove that he is able to get out. I doubt that he really had anywhere to go, but his jeep has a lift kit and oversize tires and wasn’t having any trouble making a beer run or whatever he decided to do. His garage door opener works well and his garage faces out house, so I watched out the window without anxiety because it really wasn’t that bad.

We weren’t really snowed in. I could have gone out with our pickup and probably would not have needed to put the chains on it. However, I take the “no travel advised” from the Sheriff seriously. Looking at the South Dakota Department of Transportation map on the computer, it seems like conditions are far worse off to the east. There are a lot of road closures once you get out of the shelter of the hills.

We are, however, South Dakotans. We’re a hardy lot. We’ll be out shoveling and digging ourselves out before long and I expect activities to return to normal by Friday. Palm Sunday may sport a pile of snow here or there. We’ll have another bill for plowing the church parking lot, and we’ll head into Holy Week with our plans in place and our activities as usual. In fact attendance may be up just a little bit because folks have been cooped up indoors. Also we’ve all been talking by text or phone. There wasn’t a whole lot more to do. I spent more time working on my sermon yesterday than is typical. Of course there is a danger of being over prepared, but with all of the services of Holy Week, I’m not very worried. It was, however, fun to have long blocks of time to work uninterrupted except for the occasional buzzing of my phone.

I doubt if this storm will go down in the annals of our town as a significant event. We’ve had lots of spring blizzards. We’ve had blizzards during Holy Week. We’ve had Palm Sunday blizzards. Spring storms are part of life in the hills.

Stay home. Stay safe. Stay warm. We’ll all be out and about soon.

Copyright (c) 2019 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!