Good evening, Netizens…
Oh, perdition on it all! The National Weather Bureau has issued a blizzard warning for most of the Inland Northwest tonight beginning at 7:00 PM and lasting until tomorrow morning. Now I will have to whip out some of my old and true stories about what a real blizzard is like, not one of these half-baked Spokane blizzards, such as the one we endured two years ago. That wasn’t really a blizzard; that was just a lot of snow with a city that doesn’t have the training nor resources to deal with deep snow.
Now a blizzard, at least in the inter-mountain and Great Plains regions, is an entity to fear; you must be prepared for it and take speedy and effective action if one is coming your way or you may die.
According to meteorology a blizzard is defined more or less as a combination of high winds (typically 40 MPH or higher), frigid temperatures of less than 20 degrees and snow, either blowing or newly fallen variety.
I remember my first blizzard which took place in the late 1960’s. We were driving approximately 45 miles on a state highway when we first encountered the storm and within a matter of twenty minutes we found ourselves unable to see the road, with blowing and drifting snow and a wind of over 50 MPH blowing snow across the road. We were told by the state highway patrol to take shelter at Saint Anne School as the road ahead and behind us was closed. By that night the National Guard delivered food and beds to the high school gymnasium, the wind outside was gusting over 75 miles per hour which rattled the windows in the high school. Snow plows were stuck and hundreds of drivers stranded in the 20 foot high snowdrifts on both sides of the town.
I also remember another blizzard from 1980-something, one which closed Interstate 80 for over 100 miles, where I ended up parking my truck for four days in Little America, a huge car and truck complex in Wyoming State. There were over 1600 people stranded that time, and again the National Guard were able to see to our basic needs with trucks full of cots, food and medical supplies. The winds blew steadily at between 50 and 75 miles per hour, with over a foot of new snow with drifts over 20 feet high and visibility near zero. The temperatures the last two nights of what was termed a “super storm” dropped down into the teens which put an increased impetus on the rescue of those still stranded along the freeway.
They have at least one or two blizzards each year in the Dakotas which are equal to or exceed the powerful storms I have recalled.
This is not a blizzard, folks. At nearly ten o’clock at night, I can see still the neighbors house across the street and the street lights three blocks in any given direction. It is snowing fitfully and the streets are still marginally passable, although quite slick in places. But a blizzard? No, this is hardly a blizzard such as those I have known in parts of the Midwest and Western States.
This is just a winter snow storm with some wind and frigid temperatures. Your results may differ, of course, depending upon whether you are outside the city lights where the wind and snow can combine to drift snow.