The unusual weather pattern of this winter has been largely blamed on El Nino, a weather pattern based in the Central Pacific. This pattern of shifting water currents in the Pacific has probably been occurring for eons but because of the recording of weather patterns during the past few centuries coupled with weather satellites has become a major media event this year.
The President and his cohorts hosted in the fall, a White House conference on the environment in support of the Kyoto Treaty on the environment where weather "readers" on radio and television were urged to inform their audiences every day about El Nino and its effects. Of course, El Nino has always been with us but we did not know it!! Sometimes, I have to wonder about our ability to understand all the knowledge which is thrust upon us.
During the middle of the first week in March, I drove from Texas to Iowa on dry roads despite some dire warnings about late afternoon thunderstorms which failed to materialize on my route until after I had passed.
After taking care of business in Iowa on Wednesday and Thursday, I was looking forward to driving to the Pacific Northwest. The Weather Channel on Friday morning was predicting that the Midwest would be experiencing a major winter storm from a developing low that was centered as of 4 a.m. in the Four corners area and was projected to move out into the north central plains states during the next 24-48 hours.
Following lunch in Pocahontas, Iowa where the sun was shining brightly, I decided to go north to I-90 rather than taking US20 out through the rather unpopulated sections of northern Nebraska.
About 3 p.m., I joined I-90 and headed west under skies which had become overcast and were looking ominous. Checking with truckers on the CB and listening to NOAA weather radio, it appeared that the storm track would leave I-90 to the west open to Rapid City where I could spend the night. Getting to Sioux Falls, SD, I pulled off to look at the map and see whether it might be more prudent to head to Fargo, ND on I-29 and then take I-94 west to Billings, MT as the weather appeared to be deteriorating.
Unfortunately, the roads were still dry and the ceiling looked high so I decided to continue on I-90 towards Rapid City at 5:30 p.m. Well, history is made by prudent decisions made using logic.
By Mitchell, S.D., the snow started about 6:30 p.m. just as dark was gathering. Within 15 miles, we were gliding along the interstate with the road beginning to become snow covered. Our speed had declined from 75 mph to about 55 mph. Shortly, only the driving lane was being used by those cars still out.
Passing Chamberlain, SD, I decided to stay behind a couple of semi-trucks that were running in tandem and were breaking a trail in the new fallen snow cover for me. We chatted about the weather on the CB for several miles. Approaching Murdo, first one and then the second semi drifted off the road into the barrow pit because of the snow and ice covered roadway. I managed to stay on the road by getting into the passing lane and stopped to help the truckers who had managed to keep their trucks upright. After assisting them in setting out flares, I offered to take one of the drivers into Murdo for a wrecker. While we spent about 15 minutes getting the flares out and checking damage, no cars or trucks had passed in either direction.
Getting back into the Ford Ranger, I noticed about 3 inches of snow covered the hood of my pickup which had not been there when I stopped. We managed to creep into Murdo in about 10 minutes. The truck stop informed us that the wreckers were busy and that it would probably be several hours before they could get back to my new-found trucker friends.
As the Super 8 was located across the road, I went in and took their last room even if it was a smoking room. It was now about 10 p.m.
The next morning, the Weather Channel was again urging travelers to be careful in Nebraska and Kansas. They did indicate that southern SD had been brushed by the storm. Brushed? We had 9 inches of snow on my car on top and on the south side, 14 inches stood straight out.
I struggled across the road to the truck stop for breakfast about 5:30 a.m. and found the place packed with truckers. Most of them had gotten in before midnight and were grateful to be there.
The parking lot was full with big rigs parked everywhere. A sheriff's deputy came in and said that the snow-plows had quit about midnight and were to start again at 6 a.m. to the west but that travel in both directions was not advised.
At 6:30 a.m., a snowplow headed west on I-90 followed by a line of trucks, several pickups pulling snowmobiles, and myself. The wind was blowing and visibility was less than ½ mile and snow continued to fall. My reasoning was that there was safety in numbers.
Its about 40 miles from Murdo to Belvidere, SD, and it only took the snowplow led convoy about 1:25 to make the trek. To our dismay, the snowplow turned off and our average speed dropped in half. We took about 1:45 to go the 60 miles to Wall, SD (the home of Wall Drug) on our own. Shortly after Wall, the snow stopped, the wind dropped and our speeds increased. By the time, we reached Rapid City, the driving lane was clear and the convoy began to break up as some more adventuresome types decided to increase their speed. Within 15 miles, three cars had spun out as they tried to pass but by the time we reached Sturgis, SD, the road surface was dry and we were now running 70-75 mph, the legal limit.
Stopping for gas in Gillette, WY, I made use of the free car wash to partially clean my trusty vehicle. It cost $6 to run it through the wash the second time to get it almost clean. The road surface was dry from Gillette to Buffalo, WY but the snow cover was beautiful. From the time, I left Iowa, the ground was covered. In all the trips Ive made this was the first one where the entire ground was covered.
Leaving Gillette, the sun broke through and it was a good thing as the heater in the pickup decided to quit working.
Arrived in Billings, MT where the temperature was 20 degrees F. After dinner, I headed to Bozeman, Mt to see some relatives the next morning. Amazing, the heater decided to work and I arrived in Bozeman about 8:30 p.m. where the temperature was 15 degrees.
The next morning, the temperature was -4 degrees F but as luck would have it, the heater was putting out heat. I headed to Dillon, MT for breakfast and then off to Idaho. A few snow showers going up towards Monida, MT and the Continental divide. After crossing the divide, the snow started in earnest for about 20 miles. Looking at the gas gauge, I decided to pull into Dubois, ID to get fuel. Leaving Dubois, the heater decided to quit working and it still was cold but at least the sun was shining so the cab was not totally uncomfortable until the sun went down.
Going down the hill from the west end of the Camas valley, I finally ran out of the snow cover about the 4,000 foot level about 12 miles east of Mountain Home.
The next morning, I took the Ranger into Bob Rice Ford where they flushed the radiator and changed the radiator thermostat. It was great to see an operation that really wanted to help and took extra pains to get the problem resolved quickly and to keep me informed of the status of repairs.
After taking care of business in Boise for a day & a half, I headed to Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Going over the summit into Utah on I-84, we ran into some more snow showers but nothing to be worried about. I-25 through Salt Lake was torn up due to construction and in many places, stop and go at 9:00 in the evening. Trying to get to the hotel at which we had reservations was quite an experience as the off ramp was closed and the detour was very poorly marked.
The next afternoon, we arrived in Las Vegas and pulled into a truck servicing center where a friend works. Their road condition map indicated major construction toward Los Angeles and the fact that a couple of earthquakes had occurred in the LA basin. The weather channel was showing clear weather towards Dallas and the forecast showed rain and high winds for the end of the week if I headed to LA and then to Dallas.
Decisions, decisions, .... I decided to head toward Kingman, AZ and Flagstaff and not to go to LA. That might have been a big mistake as I forgot about spring break. The trip to Kingman normally takes about 1:15 but because of all the tour bus traffic over Hoover Dam, it took 3 hours. We pulled into Williams, AZ about 10 p.m. and got a motel.
The next morning about 3:30 a.m. we were on the road headed home. We had breakfast in Gallup, NM and passed through Albuquerque about 9:30 a.m. We stopped for an early lunch at Meriney, NM at the top of the hill and to fuel up.
About milepost 302, we were cruising along about 75 mph and occasionally passing vehicles and listening to music on the radio. Suddenly, a car which we had passed a few miles back came around us and forced us to the side of the road. I immediately picked up my cell-phone to dial 911 as I could not understand why the car had forced me off the road. The driver got out of his vehicle with Illinois plates "Earth" and came to my car where he said,
"You blew past me at 85 mph and put a rock through my windshield. I want you to pay me the deductible right now or I will sue you."
I told him that I had no intention of paying for his deductible and asked him why he thought I should. He that he had two witnesses and that he was a lawyer and court costs, etc., would be more expensive that just paying him now. I got out of my vehicle and found a very small chip in his window, smaller by the way than the chip in my windshield. I told him that it was obvious he did not know the law and I did not like his attempt to blackmail me.
I thereupon left and reported the incident to the Tucumcari sub station of the New Mexico State Police. They said the lawyer did not have a case but took the report.
Based upon this trip and an almost total failure of the weather forecasters to accurately predict the weather, it might be possible to conclude that the concern of certain environmentalists rants about global warming be taken with a grain of salt. For if memory serves me right, it was only about 20 years ago that many of these same individuals were vocalizing that the world was cooling and the next Great Ice Age was under way!
Junk Science is still junk science!
But then . . . 'Tis Only My Opinion!
This issue of 'Tis Only My Opinion was copyrighted by Adrich Corporation in March 1998.
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