Ramble with Storm: Weather worries & -20

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Mulling things on my morning ramble with Storm.

I have only been truly worried, as in life-threatening worried, about the weather outdoors a couple times in my life. At one point, I thought I might need to add this morning to that list.

We’ll get back to that.

Probably the most dangerous situation I have been in, at least in terms of weather, was doe hunting with my dad on Mount Nittany near State College in Pennsylvania when I was in my late teens about 40 years ago.

I got so cold that my mind turned to mush. Put it this way, I watched two does walk past me at 20 feet and didn’t even bother raising my rifle. I think that is when Dad realized this might be serious and forced me to keep walking and we made it back to the car and heater.

Later in life as I learned more, I realized I either had hypothermia or was on the edge; and it was no joking matter.

The other big one that scared me came backpacking the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina about 30 or so years ago. I got caught on a ridge in a thunderstorm. Up 3,000 or 4,000 feet in the air, you are a lot closer to the thunderhead than when nearer sea level.

You have to go back to high school trigonometry to explain, but trust, high in the mountains, thunderstorms arrive quickly.

So I misjudged how quickly the storm would arrive. All of a sudden, lightning bolts are smashing into the rocks around me. So I scrambled down and hit under some rocks.

As quickly as it came, the lightning was gone.

This morning was not quite in that danger zone.

I was properly clothed: layered with a shell, leather felt-lined boots, head gear and good gloves inside a leather pair. That wasn’t my problem. Just breathing the bitter air was.

Believe me, I knew it would be bitter cold. The official reading at the nearest National Weather Station had -14. So I knew what we were going out in.

Well ahead of time, I knew the meathead and I would never reach the town pond, but I at least expected to reach the ball field on the edge of town.

The meathead acted stunned by the depth of the drifts and the bitter cold, but then his inner Lab came out and he began leaping around in the drifts with obvious joy.

I did not find it as much fun. I even stopped well short and turned around because I knew we would be going back home into the winds.

Near downtown, my breath started coming short and I realized that is not a good sign. I thought about stopping at the town garage–workers were backing out the front-end loader to help plow the drifts–but figured I could make it home.

And I did, forcing myself to breathe through my nose to warm the air slightly at least.

Not a bit of wildlife, not even songbirds around the feeders.

It was -20 on my thermometer behind the garage. That’s second coldest to only the -27 I remember in the first winter I lived in Chicago in 1985.

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