Actually, I’m two days late. Monday was the 102 year anniversary of the Great Blue Norther Of 1911. Blue northers are an interesting weather phenomenon of the southern plains brought about by a perfect combination of geography, cold high pressure Arctic air, warm moist Gulf air and the jet stream. In 1911 the temperatures in Oklahoma City and several other cities set both record highs and record lows in the same day. More than once I’ve found myself barefoot in the garden on a gorgeous warm November day furiously picking the last peppers while keeping an eye over my shoulder at the deepening steel blue of the northern sky and knowing that in just an hour or two I’ll be firing up the wood stove. In the movie version of Larry McMurtry’s Dead Man’s Walk Texas ranger Bigfoot Wallace advises Matilda, the company’s tag-along prostitute, about the impending weather:
Storm’s comin’. You’ll have icicles hangin’ off your milkers you don’t get dressed, honey.
Interestingly we had our first real norther of this year blow in on the evening of the 11th and that’s what this post started to be about. I don’t know if it was blue, and it wasn’t the most impressive one I’ve experienced, but temperatures went from 70’s Monday afternoon to wind chills of 19 on Tuesday morning. I’ve seen some northers do that in the space of an hour during the day.
Modern technology told us several days in advance that a strong cold front was coming so I went outside Monday afternoon to make a few preparations, bring in some plants, stuff like that. Technology is handy that way, but what if we didn’t have it? A lot of preppers keep a weather radio and extra batteries on hand, but what if there’s nobody transmitting? I’m pretty good at predicting rain a day or two ahead by the clouds, but what about cold?
Ah, the ladybugs.
Ladybugs along with wasps and flies know what’s coming and will do their darndest to join you in the house before it gets here. Monday afternoon they were everywhere. Cows, too, are savvy and will bunch in the south corner of the pasture before a storm blows in. And then there’s my joints. . .
Learning to predict the weather is an important and potentially life-saving skill for agrarians and preppers alike and like most skills is best perfected by practice and observation. During the Children’s Blizzard of 1888 235 lives were lost in large part due to school teachers inexperienced in the ways of weather on the plains who allowed their pupils to leave the safety of the school house.
Homesteaders spend quite a bit more time outdoors than most of their non-agrarian counterparts and preppers need to make a concerted effort to do the same. Purchase a good multi-function indoor-outdoor weather station that displays temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. Look at it every day. Watch the sky and clouds during both the day and the night. Learn their names and what weather conditions their presence indicates. Feel the air. Smell it. Watch the animals. Keep records of your observations.
Here on Big Turtle Creek we experience a neat air inversion on warm evenings. As the sun sets and the air begins to cool on the hills the cooler air falls and makes it’s way down the canyon. When we first moved here we noticed simply that it cooled off nicely in the evenings. Now, we can sense the event almost before it happens. One of us will invariably comment, “Cool air’s coming down.”
So, how do you all predict cold weather?