Tag Archives: Mother Nature

Nature gets in the way

VISALIA, Calif. – You’ve heard it said that “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

Well, my westward journey delivered that truism to me squarely as I drove into what the weathermen and women around the nation keep referring to as the “atmospheric river.”

To be clear, I haven’t slowed or changed my route to the latest stop on Toby the Puppy’s and my trek. However, I had intended while in this central California community to visit one of nature’s grand exhibits, the sentinels that tower above the forest floor in Sequoia National Park.

No … can … do!

The torrents of rain that have fallen on California for the past several weeks have closed Sequoia and nearby Kings Canyon national parks. I called the Sequoia park office today and learned that Kings Canyon would be closed for the remainder of this month and Sequoia will close until mid-April … but that it remain closed long after that.

Dang it!

We were able to visit the Grand Canyon the other day. That was a wonderful period of exploration for Toby the Puppy and me. And after we visit with family in Sacramento and then Santa Cruz, we’ll venture north toward Eureka, Calif., to see more family.

And along the way we hope to see towering redwood timber, providing of course that Mother Nature will enable us to gaze at those trees.

Still, the adventure continues. More to see and enjoy.


Public works teams excel

I have made this point before — many times, I think — but it always is worth repeating as we struggle against Mother Nature’s wrath.

The point is that public works teams answer a potentially dangerous call when frigid weather arrives. And boy, howdy … Mother Nature brought it again to North Texas this week.

I hear reports of power outages. Of streets that remain slick on which to drive safely. Of busted pipes. Who’s there to turn the lights on, to restore water service, to treat our streets? The public works crews, be they public or private employees.

They do jobs I could only imagine doing. Even at that, my imagination has its limits.

I commented on the public works crews and the private utility company teams that fought through the bitter cold of the February 2021 deep freeze in North Texas. We lost our power in Princeton during that crisis and, for a time, we were without water in our house.

I am knocking on my noggin while saying that so far, our power and water have stayed on. Let’s hope for the best, shall we?

Back to my point, which is that it takes a special breed of human being to do the things we demand and expect from our public works staff. Who among us could sit high above the ground in a “cherry picker” basket working on power lines while the frigid wind blows and the sky drops freezing rain and sleet? Not me!

These men and women are brave souls who toil under stressful and potentially dangerous conditions. I salute them all and thank them for risking their own health and well-being on my behalf.


Nature’s awesome power on display … even after it passes

TOPEKA, Kan. — We got here — finally!

As we proceed southward toward The House in Collin County, we have seen evidence of the awesome power that Mother Nature can deliver to we mere human beings.

The Missouri River runs adjacent to Interstate 29 through Iowa and into Nebraska. We saw a flashing electronic sign that told us that I-29 would be closed; a detour awaited.

So, we exited the freeway and proceeded east along Interstate 680. We had to drive about 16 miles out of our way toward our next stop here in Topeka. We turned south and then west along Interstate 80.

This leg of the journey was extended about 40 minutes.

What caused it? The Missouri River flooded. We didn’t see what it had done to the right-of-way. All we know river caused the state highway department to shut down the major thoroughfare.

But we damn sure did see the river. It is quite high at this moment. In places it is just a foot or two from spilling over its bank and onto the highway. We saw street signs below the Interstate that poked only a foot or two above the water. We noticed buildings half-submerged under the Missouri’s tides.

Yep, it’s an awesome sight.

Grand Forks, N.D., had just gone through what apparently occurred downstream. We watched crews seek to siphon water from ditches into retention ponds.

There’s water. Then there’s too much water. We saw evidence of what happens when you have too much of it.

Yes, our friends along the Gulf Coast are experiencing this very thing at this moment. Our hearts go out them. They are in our prayers.

Now that we’ve seen how far widespread nature’s wrath has become, we send our prayers to those we saw from a distance as we zipped along to our next destination.

We humans are such pipsqueaks

The story that is playing out in the Midwest is one that we see and hear about constantly.

Human beings seek to employ all their technological skill, know-how and expertise to corral Mother Nature.

So, what happens when levees burst? What happens when Mother Nature tells us in a voice so powerful that we cannot comprehend it? We experience tragedy, misery, mayhem. Many of us scratch our heads and wonder: How did this happen and what can we do to prevent it?

Look, I have no answer to any of that. I don’t farm the land. I don’t raise livestock. I do not seek ways to keep my land dry or to avoid the kind of flooding pictured in the photo attached to this blog post.

I simply am left to marvel at humankind’s continued effort to subdue forces that we cannot control, no matter how smart or knowledgeable we think we are.

Sure, we can count some successes in that effort. They built a seawall along Galveston Island in response to a 1900 hurricane that destroyed the growing town along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The seawall has essentially done its job.

Yet we hear about other attempts that fail. In recent years we have watched the Missouri River spill over levees in the Dakotas, destroying thousands of acres of agricultural production land. Then as now, it was the result of our meager effort to control the flow of a mighty river.

The lesson here? The river is going to go where the Almighty intended for it to go, no matter what we do to prevent it.

It’s just good to keep our human power in its proper perspective.

Prayers, please, for tornado victims

The tornado that tore through southern Alabama the other day tells us once again about nature’s unspeakable strength and wrath.

At last count, 23 people have died as a result of the massive twister that leveled the area near Opelika, Ala. Ten of them came from the same extended family. How does one cope with such loss? You do so through faith and, of course, with help from your government and your neighbors.

The first couple went to the region late this past week to see first hand what nature had brought to the region. The president hugged some folks and pledged the government’s full support as they start to rebuild after the tragedy.

I don’t quite know what to say with this blog post except to offer emotional support. We chide public officials for offering “love and prayers” after gun violence. We demand more than just platitudes.

Mother Nature’s violence, though, leaves us feeling helpless. There really is little we can do to fight back against the unspeakable power of forces such as, oh, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes or lightning-ignited wildfire.

Thus, we are left just to offer “love and prayers” for the souls we have lost and for those who survive and who must struggle to rebuild their shattered lives.

I am doing so here. Right now. May we all keep our fellow Americans in our hearts as they fight back.

Feeling oddly ‘guilty’ as Michael thrashes Florida Panhandle

Call it a form of “survivor’s guilt,” if you wish.

I am feeling oddly out of place today as I watch the news out of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and possibly the Carolinas. Our fellow Americans are enduring Hurricane Michael’s unprecedented wrath.

Here? In North Texas? Oh, my. Our weather is postcard-perfect: 70 degrees, bright sunshine, a light breeze. Fall has arrived in the Metroplex.

Not so for our friends and fellow citizens way down yonder, southeast of us!

The Carolinas are still recovering from the havoc that Hurricane Florence brought ashore. Now it’s Hurricane Michael’s turn to become flood Americans with indelible memories of just how savage Mother Nature’s wrath can become.

It blasted ashore after being spotted only a few days ago. Hurricane preparedness officials had little time to plan how to cope with it. To its credit, federal, state and local authorities mustered their first responders who — as is their custom — reacted heroically in the face of the storm’s savagery.

Meanwhile, those of us far away are basking in sunshine. We’re also sending all the good karma and prayers we can to those who at this moment are fighting for their lives against forces far beyond mere humans’ meager limits.

If all of that assuages my feelings of guilt, well, it doesn’t matter. I just want this storm to do what it will do … and then vanish.

Nature: Mother of all that is fickle

Can there possibly be another force that is more fickle than Mother Nature?

Consider what has transpired in just the past six months.

We began 2017 enduring a virtual deluge of rain and, yes, some snow. The Texas Panhandle set records for moisture accumulation during the first half of the year. Amarillo reached its annual precipitation level before the summer had expired.

The playas were full. The grass was green and lush. Our livestock were well fed. Dryland farmers were beside themselves.

Life was good, man. Remember?

Then came October. Or thereabouts. It all stopped. Virtually nothing has fallen from the sky since.

The playas aren’t so full these days. The grass that goes dormant in the winter isn’t likely to bounce back with its traditional gusto. Those dryland farmers, the folks who depend on Mother Nature to irrigate their land, enabling them to grow their crops, providing harvests that fill our pantries with food and their pockets with cash? They’re still beside themselves — but for vastly different reasons.

The weather forecasters now are sounding borderline panicky as they report on the extreme fire danger that exists. The wind that usually arrives in these parts in March are howling. The grass that should be somewhat moist from those spring thundershowers are susceptible to being torched by the tiniest of sparks.

What are our remedies? We cannot tell Mother Nature to do our bidding. She doesn’t jump when we tell her to jump.

When he was governor of Texas, Rick Perry took some ridicule when he suggested Texans pray for rain in the middle of an earlier drought. His view was that if we sought divine help, then perhaps we could rely on our collective faith that our fortunes would turn for the better.

They did. The rain came. We were left to wonder whether our prayers made the difference. Who can say categorically that they didn’t?

That time is at hand once again. Mother Nature’s fickleness is causing plenty of angst across our parched landscape. Given that we cannot force her to adhere to our demands, maybe we can go over her head and talk directly to God.

We need help from wherever it’s available.

Drought has returned with a vengeance

I guess we can say with supreme confidence that the Texas Panhandle drought has returned.

In a big way!

The TV weather forecasters remind us that we’ve gone 102 days without measurable precipitation. They bemoan the low humidity, the low dew points. They remind us to avoid doing anything stupid that would torch the landscape.

However, the Amarillo Fire Department today did something I consider to be a bit strange. It conducted a “prescribed burn.” Why strange? The wind was howling! It’s going to howl again — with even more vigor — on Thursday. It was the first such controlled burn in decades.

AFD warns us about the danger of lighting fires in dry conditions. The wind has this way of blowing red-hot embers to places far away. Doesn’t the wind do the same thing to fire departments, too?

Well, no harm today. The burn in southeast Amarillo went off without any serious problem.

The drought is something for us to ponder. We also need to act on it. Don’t waste water. Don’t cause any wildfires. Don’t put your family, friends and neighbors at risk.

The return of the drought demonstrates this fundamental truth: Human beings — no matter our technological advances — are powerless against the forces of nature.

Hey, wasn’t it just a few weeks ago when we completed a year with greater-than-normal precipitation? I guess what’s true in politics is true as it regards Mother Nature: A month is an eternity.

Feeling cursed by Nature’s wrath

Forgive me if I sound as if I’m feeling cursed these days.

Mother Nature is drawing a bead on communities I know well. Beaumont and the rest of the Golden Triangle along the Texas Gulf coast is bailing out from the deluge dumped on the region by a storm named Harvey.

Most of our friends are OK. Not all, though. There’s a lot of heartbreak and agony to go around as the Triangle struggles to recover from the Harvey’s savagery. Our hearts go out to them … along with our prayers.

Now as we look in the other direction, toward the Pacific Northwest, I see that my hometown is under siege from an entirely different foe.


I see pictures on social media from the Columbia River Gorge, one of the world’s greatest natural splendors, and my heart breaks all over again. Flames are consuming many acres of virgin timber. Historical structures are in jeopardy.

Portland, the city of my birth, is now being showered with ash, reminding residents there of when Mount St. Helens exploded in the spring and summer of 1980, blanketing the city with a fine coat of volcanic ash.

The picture above is of downtown Portland. That ain’t fog, man! It’s smoke billowing over the city from the fires that are burning not far away.

We’re getting ready to head that way for a little R&R. Our trip isn’t coming up in the next few days, but we’ll be hauling our RV in that direction fairly soon. My hope is that the fires are quenched soon. I have considerable faith in the firefighting crews that are on the job. They’re pretty damn good at fighting those forest fires.

Their expertise comes from experience, just as the Gulf Coast rescue crews and other first responders have plenty of experience dealing with the aftermath of killer hurricanes and tropical storms.

But these monstrous events make me nervous in the extreme and they break my heart for tangible reasons.

What would you do about a bear cub?

I am on Corey Hancock’s side.

Hancock lives in Salem, Ore., and he likely is in trouble for “rescuing” a tiny bear cub. Wildlife experts are all over Hancock for violating one of the rule of nature, which is that you shouldn’t interfere with Mother Nature’s way of ensuring the “survival of the fittest.”

State and federal wildlife officials are pondering whether to fine Hancock for doing what came, uh, natural to him.

Hancock was hiking along the Santiam River when he spotted the cub. He picked it up, took it home and is nursing it back to good health … or so he hopes.

I understand intellectually the hazards of doing what Hancock did. I cannot get past the question: What would I do if I were in that position? For that matter, what would most folks do?

I get angry just watching wildlife shows on TV where camera crews witness nature’s cruelty. Again, I understand that they’re on hand to record nature, not to change it.

Still, I think the armchair critics ought to give Corey Hancock at least a smidgen of a benefit of the doubt.

He acted like a human being.