The sun is shining brightly on the freshly fallen snow from the day before, causing it to sparkle. The snow is pristine except for a few animal tracks. I just saw a squirrel lopping along through the snow and caught a glimpse of a few birds.
It is a peaceful scene on a perfect winter day. Well, a perfect winter day from my point of view at least. It is a balmy C-13°|F9° at the moment. Anything over C-18°|F0° is balmy when it is winter in Minnesota.
Unless you are paying attention, you would never know a winter storm warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for later this afternoon and evening. You would never know another blanket of snow (about 4-8 inches thick) is predicted to be added to the existing one.
It was unseasonably warm on the morning of November 11, 1940. It was Armistice Day (now known as Veteran's Day in the U.S.) and people were taking advantage of the holiday. As it was duck hunting season, the hunters came out in droves. Some never returned.
The Upper Midwest, where I live, has some of the most diverse weather in the world. With arctic-like temperatures in the winter and tropical heat in the summer the temperature range is is well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to that, this part of the country is prone to sudden and unexpected shifts in the weather. Historically that has meant a lot of weather-related injuries and even deaths. Forty-nine people died in Minnesota during the Armistice Day Blizzard, most of whom were unprepared for the coming storm. They didn't know it was coming.
Eyewitnesses who were out duck hunting would later report that suddenly thousands of ducks funnelled into the Mississippi River Valley. Elated, the hunters missed the warning sign. The ducks were seeking shelter from the approaching blizzard. The hunters missed the sign and for some it cost them their lives. The temperature suddenly plunged, the winds kicked up to 70 mph and the snow fell causing white-out conditions.
White-out conditions. Trust me. You do not want to be in a white-out. You can't see anything. You are being pushed off course by the wind and you are completely disoriented. Your senses are assaulted. You cannot see anything except blinding snow. You cannot hear anything except the scream of the wind. You must keep moving... or you will die. Yes, I have been in white-outs before but at least I was in some sort of shelter be it a house or a vehicle.
I am a weather junkie. Growing up in the Upper Midwest does that to you I think, particularly if you were born in the days before Doppler radar, computer models, etc. I was four years old the first time Civil Defense sirens were used as a means to alert people that dangerous weather was approaching. I have not one but three weather apps on my phone. I get text messages when watches and warnings are issued for my area. When there is a tornado in the area, you will not find me chasing it. You will find me taking cover in the basement for to me it is neither a game nor an adventure. It is a potentially deadly storm. While I may get these warnings, it does me little good if I refuse to heed them.
God has given us warnings and He has also given us signs to look for. He has not only issued the warnings, He tells us what to do so that we can not only ensure our own safety but share that information with others around us so that they might be safe.
The impending storm is coming. The question is, are we paying attention and are we ready for it?
Photo credit: freefotouk