Tag Archives: Snow

Sunday Snapshots: Two Weeks of Kansas Weather

Here is a synopsis of Kansas weather these past two weeks.

The pond at the Traylor Zoo in Emporia is thawing and happy ducks are waddling through the snow and ice to swim and bathe in the water.

February 14: The pond at the Traylor Zoo in Emporia is thawing and happy ducks are waddling through the snow and ice to swim and bathe in the water.

February 19: Ottawa is hit by a thunderstorm, which drops pea-sized to nickel-sized hail. Thanks to the piles of not-yet-melted snow, much of the hail sticks around for hours.

February 19: Ottawa is hit by a thunderstorm, which drops pea-sized to nickel-sized hail. Thanks to the piles of not-yet-melted snow, much of the hail sticks around for hours.

February 20: Large rain clouds drift over the snow-free hills along I-70 near Topeka.

February 20: Large rain clouds drift over the snow-free hills along I-70 near Topeka.

February 25: Jim and I attend the National Weather Service's annual Storm Safety and Spotter Training event in Franklin County. Aubra Henneke did an amazing job talking about the events of the past year. Most interesting takeaway: helmets should be part of your emergency preparedness kit. After talking about tornadoes for 90 minutes, we left Celebration Hall to find snow.

February 25: Jim and I attend the National Weather Service’s annual Storm Safety and Spotter Training event in Franklin County. Audra Hennecke did an amazing job talking about the events of the past year. Most interesting takeaway: helmets should be part of your emergency preparedness kit. After talking about tornadoes for 90 minutes, we left Celebration Hall to find snow.

March 2: After hours and hours of sleet, Ottawa is getting more snow.

March 2: After hours and hours of sleet, Ottawa is getting more snow.

 

 

 

Sunday Snapshot: A few pretty shots of ice and snow in Ottawa

Most of Ottawa, Kansas, shut down for two days this week when heavy snow blanketed the area. We weren’t hit as hard as other parts of Kansas–there are stories of 12 to 16 inches of snow–but nine inches of snow is more than enough to shut down the roads, and the -30° F wind chills kept kids out of school a third day after the roads were (sorta) passable.

After my third round of shoveling, I could only feel my fingers long enough to take a few pictures.

In the front yard, my plants were covered with beautiful, clear icicles.

Front Yard Ice III In the backyard, the ice was inexplicably opaque.

Backyard Ice II Backyard Ice I

And the rest of the yard looked like this: fluffy snow too powdery to use for snowpeople construction.

Pure Snow

My Favorite Books About the Weather

Right at this very moment, it’s pretty darned cold here in Kansas, and the temperatures are just beginning to drop. We have about 3 inches of snow on the ground in Ottawa (though the drifting makes it hard to guess just how much we really got last night) and I was shoveling snow in a -10 degree wind, giving up when the fog on my fogged-up glasses froze. I love my old 1901 house, but I’m really thankful for the double-pane glass replacement windows right now. They’re not as pretty as the original double-hung wood-frame windows probably were, but I suspect even the original owners of our home would prefer the replacement windows to a cold and drafty house.

Cold weather makes me want to curl up on the couch and read, and right now, I’m binging on books about weather. Some of them are about Kansas weather, some of them are about weather on the plains, some of them are about weather on the coasts. All of them are about what happens when humans don’t understand that the earth’s weather patterns are so much bigger than we are and try to defy it. And thanks to the miracle of eReaders, online shopping, and online library services, I don’t even have to go out into the weather to read about it.

Here are some of my favorite weather books. I’d love to hear your recommendations, too!

COLD

The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

The Children's Blizzard by David LaskinIn 1888, a powerful cold front blew across the Dakota-Nebraska Prairie, turning a comfortable winter day into a raging blizzard as children began their walks home from their rural one-room school houses. By the next morning, more than 100 children were found dead on the prairie. Laskin does an incredible job of weaving together the stories of nature, the fledgling U.S. weather service, and the lives of immigrants who didn’t understand their the weather patterns of their chosen homeland. You’ll become very attached to these children as he tells their story, and you won’t know who survived and who didn’t until the end of the book.

Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America by Jim Murphy

Blizzard! by Jim MurphyA few months after the Children’s Blizzard, a catastrophic blizzard hit New York. What makes this book fascinating is that it’s an account not only of the devastating storm, but also the resulting overhaul in municipal policy, such as the development of city-wide snow removal and the burying of power lines. This book was written for a YA audience, but it is a great read for adults, too.

WET

The Great Hurricane: 1938 by Cherie Burns

Great Hurricane: 1938Burns gives an hour-by-hour account of a powerful hurricane that took New England completely by surprise. She also paints a picture of the people on the coast that day–the wealthy in their mansions and the poor who worked in and alongside the ocean. It’s an interesting account of a bygone era as well as a cautionary tale of how vulnerable any of us–regardless of wealth or power–are when it comes to the weather.

Johnstown Flood by David McCullough

Johnstown Flood by David McCulloughWe’ve all heard about the 1889 flood that wiped out Johnstown, Pennsylvania. What most of us don’t realize is how a handful of industrialists–Andrew Carnegie, Henry Flick, and Andrew Mellon–were part of the reason why it was so devastating. More than 2,000 lives were lost when heavy rains caused the dam at their improperly maintained private lake to burst, sending a wall of water into Johnstown. This book is also an account of the newly formed American Red Cross, which was called into action to help the survivors.

WINDY

And Hell Followed With It: Life and Death in a Kansas Tornado by Bonar Menninger

And Hell Followed With It by Bonar MenningerI’ve recommended this one before, and I’ll recommend it again. This is an well-written account of the 1966 tornado that destroyed much of Topeka, Kansas, as well as the efforts of various citizens who worked to keep the public informed of its path. It’s chilling to think about how many lives would have been lost had the radio and weather people not worked on a homegrown warning system.

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy EganMuch like Laskin’s Children’s Blizzard, Egan’s book really demonstrates the peril of not understanding your environment. The Worst Hard Time is a powerful account of the people who moved to areas like Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado, and Western Oklahoma, and how their farming and ranching practices, combined with natural weather patterns, created the Dust Bowl. It’s an important read for anyone who wants to understand just how quickly we can alter the landscape. Also, I found my lungs seizing up just reading about all of that dust in the air.

METEOROLOGISTS

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith

Warnings by Mike SmithAnd here’s the book I’m reading now: a history of storm prediction and the development of a storm warning system, as told by meteorologist Mike Smith, who himself witnessed the Ruskin Heights Tornado. This book does not make me feel fond of the earlier leadership at the National Weather Service, who actively discouraged tornado research and the issuing of tornado warnings, but it does make me want to cheer for the meteorologists who pursued it both for science and the common good. Also, I never realized how scary flying in a plane would have been before meteorologists discovered downdrafts. Eeek.

Happy reading!

Snow at 2:29 a.m.

Winter solstice brought Ottawa, Kansas, its first meaningful ice and snow of the season. The glass-shard sound of sleet pelting our windows throughout the afternoon was slowly replaced by the sandy sound of snow in the late evening, but by one o’clock in the morning, our neighborhood was still.

Snow at 2 29 am

Sunday Snapshot: Rainy Day

After two substantial snowstorms, we enjoyed a wonderfully dreary, rainy day here in Ottawa. I’ve always loved dark days with rain and thunder; some of my favorite memories of being in old WPA school buildings include those moments when the sky was dark as night outside and the windows rattled with the storm.

A few stubborn piles of snow cling to the grass as heavy rain pounds on Ottawa, Kansas.

A few stubborn piles of snow cling to the grass as heavy rain pounds on Ottawa, Kansas. Tree branches that came down during the February 26 snowstorm still litter many yards in our neighborhood.

Today’s thunderstorm is also a reminder that we’re about to move into the traditional season for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. If you’re in Kansas and want to learn more about how these storms develop and what you can do to maintain your safety, check the National Weather Service list of Spotter Talks. Their meteorologists do a fantastic job covering the basics of what conditions create severe storms and the precautions you can take at home or on the road.

Sunday Snapshots: Snowstorm II in Ottawa, Kansas