Thursday, March 15, 2007

Winter's Return

Sigh. I woke up this morning to snow. Not just any snow. This is the kind that blows around, driven horizontal by nasty wind. Not surprising, really. It's State High School Basketball Tournament Time. That's the traditional time of year for nasty weather. In fact, one of the worst and deadliest blizzards happened in March back in the 1930s. I forget how many people died, but it was a bunch. All the proud parents left for town to see their kids and neighbors' kids play in the state tournaments being held in Fargo. This was (and still is) a major attraction in North Dakota, a reason to put on good clothes and go to town. The weather that morning was typical spring: blue sky and a light breeze and melting snow everywhere. Spirits were high. They piled into the school gymnasiums to watch the games and didn't see what the weather was doing. By late afternoon, it was blowing and snowing and when the farm folk, dressed in their town best clothes, left to go home it was getting bad. And in spite of the fact that most of them had grown up here and been dealing with the weather all their lives they still started out for home in their cars. The weather only got worse. Even in daylight it would have been hard to navigate through the snow, but in the dark it was near impossible. Cars couldn't get through the drifts on the county roads. The snow blowing in a solid curtain of white hid the sheltering farmhouses from motorists. Familiar roads turned into white mazes that disappeared. Cars couldn't see each other only yards apart. A day later people were dead, frozen in their cars in the middle of fields that the lost drivers had thought were roads. Cars marooned only yards from each other held frozen bodies. A woman's corpse was found frozen to a fence post only a quarter mile from a house. Those who survived were lucky. Dozens of women wearing dresses had frozen shins. Literally. Frostbite is nothing to fool around with.

How could hundreds of people who knew what the weather was capable of go blythely off to die? Didn't they know better?!! Well, I walked to work as usual this morning, but in my mind it was still spring, (how bad could it be?) so I didn't have my hat or scarf. Yikes! By the time I walked a few measely blocks I was frozen! Maybe that's what happened 60 years ago. People were thinking spring. But this weather today, nasty and unwelcome as it is, is not a blizzard.

And spring is still right around the corner. Only a month or so away. I know that because it's MARCH!! True, in other places around the country, March means it is really spring. Here on the border between Minnesota and North Dakota this is just Old Man Winter telling us he's still King of the Plains and he ain't going to leave until he's good and ready. Maybe April. After at least one more good ice storm...

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