The Christmas Blizzard of 2012
I first heard about the storm on the 23rd, Sunday afternoon. We were having a family gathering at our house, a preemptive Christmas Eve for my side of the family. A family member made mention of “that serious winter storm coming up on Wednesday.” My ears perked up at the words because just that morning had checked and NOAA suggested there might be a light chance of “1/4″ of snow expected” late Christmas night so I wasn’t too worried. (I still wish I would have gotten a screen cap of that forecast.)
She proceeded to tell me about a group of storm chasers on Facebook – BAM Chase LLC and I took a look at their forecast. Their model indicated we were directly in the path of a whopping big dump of snow, nearly a foot or more, which would come up and out of the Oklahoma panhandle area. That much snow, if it came with ice, could upset things around here for days. perhaps even a full week. Since we lived in the country we needed to be ready to be snowed in. To make matters worse, having been lulled into a false sense of safety with the local warmer December weather, we were low on firewood and propane. IF we were going to get hit, I needed to move fast since Christmas Eve was less than a day away!
I called a friend who had offered help with firewood in the past. He got back to me the next morning and he promised a small delivery. Enough to get us through. As I called a few other people I would hear, “What winter storm are you talking about?” So, I explained and I’d like to think I helped to spread the word a bit concerning what was coming our way.
We pushed northward on Christmas Eve. Time with the family was great. Getting to be there for my nephew’s first birthday was a big plus! By that time the word was out and major weather sites were starting to mumble something about “significant snow” on Wednesday. On the morning of Christmas Day I noticed the flags were being blown by a stiff and steady wind right out of the East/Northeast. I pointed it out to my wife who uttered the very scientific term of, “Uh oh.” Here in the Midwest, when the wind starts coming in from the East it’s almost never a good thing.
Early afternoon on Christmas Day a few cellphones amidst the room went off with a “Blizzard Warning Alert.” Needless to say, it caught everyone’s attention and made me feel a bit more justified in my planning. We left on time and made it home without issue. As I brought in wood so as not to have to dig it out of a snow bank, my wife made cookies.
We were as ready as we were going to be to ride out our first blizzard as adults. (It would also be the first winter storm in our new home. ) The last blizzard I can remember living through was the one which hit Indianapolis in 1978. I’ve been through more than my share of winter storms but I still have memories of the ’78 blizzard as seen through the eyes of a young boy. This typically covered such things as staying inside and watching television, a large snowball fight after the storm had passed and digging a large set of tunnels in the snow of our back yard. I also clearly remember the ice storm of 1979 and running back home as the wind moved through ice-covered trees causing them to lose their limbs and fall all around me.
The wind picked up just before midnight but no snow. Not knowing how long the next day might be, we went to bed. I awoke just before dawn to more than 6″ of snow, blowing wind and a winter wonderland. Our day was pretty uneventful but that was only because of the advance warning. I kept a fire going, watched the internet for news, and wandered out into it every now and then. I took a lot of pictures. I also watched the birds.
Right at dawn a lone cardinal sat outside our snow burdened feeder giving off alarm cries. The snow had caked the feeder and needless to say the ground where I normally place seed was covered. Heading outside I fixed the feeder and cleared off a small patch of ground and placed some bird seed (by the time I was heading back inside it was already starting to cover over again!) Within a half an hour, word was out that the buffet was open and our front yard and tree branches became slammed with birds. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. Cardinals hung in our trees like Christmas ornaments and our front yard around the feeder became carpeted with birds.
The storm tapered off around 4 PM. Overall, we made it through just fine. We were warm and comfortable. We had received close to 13″ of snow and our road was completely impassable without the help of a 4 x 4 truck. We had not lost power (which I was sure was going to happen) and that alone made our blizzard experience completely enjoyable. I knew others were not having as good of a time. Reports had come in of a 40 car pile-up on the major State Road which heads to Indianapolis. Traffic was backed up and motorists were stranded. Power was out in some areas. One time while out on a walk, I could hear emergency vehicle sirens bouncing off the distant hills.
I love to take walks out into storms like this. I’ve wandered out into ice storms, snow storms and tornadoes. I’m always smart and I always stay close to the house. There is something about the energy of Mother Nature at her most fierce. Oftentimes, when Mother Nature is at her most dangerous she is at her most beautiful. There is a drive in me to go experience it, to view that beauty and that energy. It’s not something you can feel through the walls of a house, you have to go out and get in it. If you do, though, always remember to be safe. As I tell my kids, “Mother Nature likes to kill fools who don’t respect her. Remember that and you’ll be alright.”
During one of the later walks a neighbor dog came bounding up to me full of happiness and snow cover. I said my hellos to her but as she bounded off I heard her name being called further up the hill. She happily dashed off into a nearby field and that was when I could see the figure up the hill holding a leash. Someone had escaped.
I spent the next half hour trudging through snow banks and trying to get my canine visitor to come back to me and her owner. I finally tricked her with the old “I’ve got a treat in my pocket” trick and got her close enough to grab her collar. I know she was having fun plowing headfirst into snow drifts but with evening coming she would be better off inside. I hope she forgives me for being such a turncoat.
The storm ended up to be nowhere close to the blizzard of ’78 or others from history. It was a one day storm where others had sometimes come in and lasted two or three. There was hardly any ice and the wind had rarely gotten over 30 MPH. I saw a report at one point that said it had become a Category II blizzard on the 1 – 5 scale, possibly getting into the III level. I’d say that was about right and I’m glad it wasn’t any worse. I’m not sure we would have had enough wood or cookies to get through it!