Winter will be cold, be prepared

By Jeff Smith

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As Wallace Stevens warns, “one must have a mind of winter.”

Cold weather is coming. I’m sure many snowbirds have already left the area and we have seen fewer tourists each week.

Winter brings holidays and fun. Halloween is coming up then it is Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But there is also darkness and treacherous travel and times where we will be huddled under blankets in our house and complaining about the cold outside.

The Climate Prediction Center has indicated that a La Niña weather pattern will form this year. This is when water in the equatorial Pacific is cooler than normal.

This means that the winter will be cooler than normal in South Dakota. On the bright side, La Niña conditions are predicted to be potentially weak and short lived.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2017-18 winter precipitation outlook from December through February predicts wetter-than-average conditions across most of the northern United States.

There were already cooler than normal days so far this fall.

Brad Rippey, meteorologist at the USDA, says in addition to the potential for a cold winter across the Plains and Corn Belt, there could be stormy, snowy weather.

It’s hard to say if this is just malarkey or if it is fact. If it is true I think we can handle it. People in the Black Hills are hardy and have seen some pretty storms.

Winter Storm Atlas delivered several feet of snow five years ago. The official total of 23.1 inches in Rapid City made it the second heaviest snowstorm in the city.

I remember when I was a sophomore in college bunking up in a friend’s house as Black Hills State University was closed. Power was lost for a few hours and for some, longer than that. Clean-up was worse as  branches had fallen and some of people’s buildings had to be restored. That wasn’t even the worst as people lost their livelihood. Cattle were dead and miles of fence was down for farmers and ranchers.

I saw the impact driving up to Faith, S.D., about two weeks after the storm. Calves were seen dead on the side of the road. There is not a lot people can do in that type of conditions unless they have a barn cattle can go in.

As someone who has grown up in Colorado I am accustomed to the snow and cold in winter. I have seen the best and worst winter has to offer. Just because it might seem like it is going to be calm outside when it is snowing, it could turn nasty in a matter of minutes if wind picks up.

I enjoy seeing the sunlight glisten on the snow after a snowstorm. Depending on where I am, even seeing large snowflakes come down can be a welcome sight.

But it has also disrupted my travel plans and made me wish I would’ve stayed home on days I showed up to work.

It’s not worth risking your life for a day’s worth of pay. When I was in Nebraska I rear-ended someone coming home one day because I was stubborn and wanted to get paid in full. I should have left early or stayed at work.

If you’re elderly, it might not be the best idea to go driving when it is snowing.

I think we all might grow weary of winter at some point but the important thing is not to grow lazy. Make sure there is the necessary rations in your house and keep on top of the gas and electric bills. Also, it might be a good idea to get a portable radio. FEMA recommends having enough water and food for at least three days. Avoid traveling alone and let someone know where you’re going and when during a storm. If you are caught in a storm in your vehicle, stay in it. Wear winter gear at all times during a storm. So many times I have seen people not bring a jacket to school or work when it is supposed to snow.

To my surprise, the majority of people injured in ice and snow are men who are 40 and over. It’s ok to not be the hero. Even if someone has a big truck it doesn’t mean that you can drive out of any snowstorm.

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