Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snow Storms on the Prairie

Sculpture in Kiowa, Kansas
Last week we arrived at the farm in Kansas between record breaking snow storms.  The sculpture of a prairie couple made me think of Isaac Werner and his neighbors dealing with blizzards in the late 1800s.  Unlike today's prairie residents, they did not have NOWA to warn them of approaching storms nor satellite images shown on television and the internet.  The day before the second snow storm arrived, the sky gave no indication that Mother Nature was not finished dumping snow on Kansas, and I wondered if Isaac would have known of signs we no longer recognize as weather predictions.
Drifts fill the road near our farm house
Regardless of our sophisticated methods of predicting approaching weather, we are sometimes left helpless to deal with the conditions.  The picture at the right shows one of the roads drifted full of snow near our farm.
Today, many farmers have snow plows they attach to their tractors.  Farmers with cattle raced to protect their herds from the dangers forecast for the second snow storm, risks not from the cold itself but rather from the combination of snow and extreme winds that can cause cattle to breathe in the moisture and literally drown from the moisture in their lungs.  In the blizzard of 1886, thousands of cattle and sheep died on the prairie, but the recent snows caused no such disasters.
View of our front yard after the 1st snow storm
Drifts filled the roads, and plows cleared streets and roads from the first snowfall just in time for the second storm to arrive and create new tasks for road crews.  The warmer weather since the storms has melted some of the snow, but the new problem is mud and standing water, and drifts still block many country roads.  Neighbors with tractors have helped us reach the farm, and this morning I learned that our township grader is broken, idle until a new part arrives.  Now I know why no roads to the farm were plowed for us by the township grader!
In Isaac's time, homesteaders lacked our sophisticated technology and our powerful equipment, but even with these things, Mother Nature is still capable of showing us that she hasn't been conquered.
(The windmill in the picture to the left has the blades that capture the wind removed from the tower.  These wind-powered pumps used to lift water from underground acquifers are a gradually disappearing sight on the prairie.)


The Blog Fodder said...

The winter of '86 is defined to the cattle industry by Charlie Russel's "Waiting for a Chinook". Canada had its own version in '06. I hope these snow storms are the end of the drought for the Great Plains

Kim said...

While we farmers/ranchers and country dwellers have our challenges in a snowstorm/blizzard, I hadn't thought about the fact that pioneers wouldn't have had much warning for approaching storms. Today as cattlemen, we are able to roll out straw and get extra feed in the bunks, etc., to help improve conditions for the cattle during a storm.

A comment to The Blog Fodder: As farmers/ranchers, we are very thankful for the 20 inches of snow we received in South Central Kansas. However, the drought is not over. Our snowfall is said to have provided 2 inches or so of moisture. After 2 years of drought, we will need much more rain to counteract the deficit. Don't get me wrong: We feel very blessed by the snow. It just doesn't end the drought.

The Blog Fodder said...

Understood, Kim. I meant that it is a start and maybe things are turning around and the rains will return.