Sunday, September 29, 2013

Autumn Prairie Winds

According to the weather forecast for this coming week we are to experience 3 or 4 days of rain and cooler temperatures.  I believe there must be some truth to that forecast because of the extreme winds we have had here today.

Driving the 60 km back home this morning after our other church service it was difficult to keep the car on the road.  The wind was literally howling the way it only does on prairie landscapes.  The tall candlestick weeds, between 2 and 3 feet in height, were laying almost flat on the ground as the wind pushed and pushed at them until they couldn't stand at all.  The prairie grasses and crops not yet harvested were rippling the same way water does in horror movies just before the water monster appears to gobble up an unsuspecting character.  A meadowlark flying into the wind was flapping its tiny wings as hard and fast as it could and not really getting anywhere at all.  It appeared to be suspended in mid air.  The harvest dust was thick in the air and as the clouds grew darker and grew thicker, trapping the grain dust closer to the ground, visibility became an issue as we got closer to home. In our town itself we drove into a bad dust and dirt storm.  

We hoped that by the time the local church service was over the wind would have died down, but no such luck.  We came out of church to the sight of many small branches and piles of leaves down out of the trees and scattered all across the streets and boulevards, wind still howling.  

My husband opted to walk 7 blocks to the hospital to visit a parishioner.  Once he arrived home again he admitted he should have worn some kind of protection over his eyes as the dirt was blowing so hard right into his face.  

I drove a mile or so to the edge of town to the discount grocery and managed to fight the wind and dirt as I walked across the parking lot into the store, but coming out again with my grocery bags I was hit in the face and the legs with large clumps of sand and dirt.  My face stung and so much dirt blew into my hair I had to come home and wash it right away.  My clothes dumped dust all over the seat in the car on the way home.  My glasses had so much grain dust on them I had to clean them before I could drive home or I wouldn't have been able to see the road very well.  Only once before in my life have I been hit by so much wind driven dirt and dust that stung so badly as the wind drove it against me.

As I cleaned up back at home I started thinking about the settlers on the prairies and the horrendous dust storms they must have experienced as the land was cleared for farming and any natural wind barriers disappeared.  Today was only a small experience, the mere edge of the kind of wind storms those first prairie farmers experienced in the wide open spaces they lived in.  Here in the centre of town at least there are buildings set beside each other, creating a few spaces to retreat into when caught in such winds. Those settlers had nothing for miles around their first places of residence.  

After once being caught in a "dust devil" that filled my nose and eyes with dust, as well as nearly flattening me to the ground right outside my own house a few years ago, I have developed a healthy respect for strong winds.  We have a "where to go for safety" plan should we be in the path of one of the tornadoes that have begun springing up with more frequency and intensity each year we have lived here.

The power of weather is so evident on the prairies and while sometimes it is scary to me, there is a certain thrill in seeing and experiencing some of the amazing forces that weather is capable of producing.

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