Saturday, November 8, 2008

Big Snow on the High Plains

We awoke to snow yesterday. It was just enough to cover the ground and it's been flurrying a little since. I received the following from a friend in Rapid City. It's always worse somewhere else. (published with permission of the victim):

Wednesday evening and Thursday have been quite memorable. The normal November inconvenience-snowfall did not materialize; instead, as predicted, an old-timey High Plains blizzard showed up and it was open for business. Thursday was a wash-out. I arose early to assess the situation and from the horizontal snow, lack of visibility, and hundreds of cancellations already being aired, decided to cancel our 7th Annual Wilderness Symposium. I caught one of our speakers at his Denver hotel before he went to the airport and got him headed off, then borrowed Jana's 4X4 and drove downtown in low gear to get to the office. Finally got all the other speakers contacted before they did something foolish and arranged with the hotel to cancel the event. Thankfully, because it was weather induced, they will not assess the cancellation penalty. So my budget is going only be out the $1K I've already put into the event.

The Northern Hills were hit harder than RCity. Four feet of heavy wet snow deposited with the help of 70 mph winds (gusts of 90 mph at Belle Fourche). Middle son in Spearfish advises that his truck is plowed in out front of his house and his girl friend's car is stuck in the garage behind the house, that situation compounded by an unplowed alley.

Today the snow has stopped and the wind isn't blowing so hard. It's eastern SD's turn in the barrel. Schools here are closed for a second day and most businesses are closed to allow streets to get cleared and folks dug out. The Gov has turned loose the National Guard to help clear roads. Reportedly Meade County is fairly screwed because nobody thought to send snowplows home with drivers on Wednesday. Now they can't get the crews out to the county shops.

We got my pickup out this morning and went down for coffee and bagels. Ran into a friend whose father-in-law has a sheep ranch north of Newell -- out on the High Flat No-Where. His wife and daughter had gone shopping in Gillette, WY, on Wednesday and couldn't get home. Thursday he was alone on the place and decided during the height of the storm that he should go out to the barn to see 1) whether the sheep had found the door he'd left open for them, and 2) to count the dead. He left the house and shortly discovered that he was lost in his farmyard. He couldn't see the house, the barn, or any of the other out-buildings. Nothing but blowing snow. Spooked, but thankfully not panicked, he had the presence of mind to follow his tracks in the snow back to the house before they were drifted over. My friend says that this morning his father-in-law was finally able to check the sheep and found most of them had made the barn and that only a few of them had died outside in the storm.

I was impressed. I hadn't heard a story like that since I was new to the territory and listened to some old-timers talk about the '30s. Stuff like that isn't supposed to be happening now days. Maybe flickering lights and an extended period with a shovel to get your truck out, but dying wandering around your barnyard? I was convinced that kind of stuff was too archaic. I was bitching because the internet server at the office has been down for two days.

-- J.M.

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