As we embark on 2013, talk in the country seems to center on the weather with a fading mention of the fiscal cliff. Some people talk about the weather for lack of another subject. Ag folks talk about the weather since it’s usually top-of-mind on any given day.
While it doesn’t alleviate concerns for the months ahead, one doesn’t have to look far to find reference to Wyoming’s historical entanglements with Mother Nature. While recently looking through some old copies of Bits and Pieces from the late 1960s and early 1970s I found an account worth sharing. I suspect there are some readers out there who will know more detail than I’ve gleaned from my few pages of reading. Storm stories are passed through the generations of ranch families, each adding their own chapter to the book.
I’ve typically considered flooding to be a springtime phenomenon, but I guess Kaycee’s relatively recent flood took place in August. Not too far away in September 1923 when it rained for eight days straight. “Powder River went completely wild,” says Bits and Pieces. “It showed no respect for houses, barns, fences, etc. People were wading waist deep in their barns trying to cut loose horses and to save hogs, sheep and cattle before moving to higher ground. The water came to the roofs of some of the houses, some were completely ruined, several went sailing down the river along with saddles, harnesses and other equipment.”
Many Wyoming stories begin with the phrase, “During the blizzard of ‘49.” That storm started on Jan. 2. Eastern and southeastern Wyoming reported drifts 20 to 30 feet high. Temperatures, including the wind chill, dipped to 51 below zero. Even the Union Pacific Railroad struggled through the storm, their trains stopped in their tracks by walls of ice and snow. Dynamite was later used to free them.
More recently, many readers in northeast Wyoming will vividly remember the blizzard of April 1984 and the challenges it delivered. A youngster at the time, I appreciated the ample snow and the break from school. I didn’t fully realize the hardship it was creating for our friends and neighbors across the region.
In the coming months I’m sure we’ll all keep our eyes on the clouds and our computers and televisions tuned to the weather reports. For the time being, I’ll be grateful we’re not experiencing one of those history-making storms! I do, however, hope Mother Nature delivers some much-needed moisture to the countryside and snowpack to Wyoming’s mountains in the months to come.
Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at Womack@Wyoming.com or at 307-351-0730.