Someone advised me, early in my career as an agricultural journalist, to never write about the weather. The thinking behind this sage advice was and remains that before you can get anything about the weather published, it will have changed three times and the article you wrote is as irrelevant as, well, as yesterday's weather.
In the near quarter century that I've been a bonafide journalist, I've ignored that advice on a rather frequent basis. I recall one time publishing a picture of an old barn, the gray, weather-beaten boards and rusty tin roof standing in stark contrast against the freak, but picturesque whiteness of a March snowstorm that hit northern Tennessee. I recall, too, being chastised by our publisher for using a picture that I had obviously shot months before.
I explained that the picture was, indeed, as fresh as the new fallen snow, and that perhaps a caption mentioning the freak snowstorm would have been appropriate. He agreed, and I suffered no dire consequences.
Ignoring the weather continues to be good policy, especially for anyone who counts Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico residents among the readership — unless it publishes on a frequency of every two hours or so. Weather changes fast in the Southwest.
Once again, I'm going against what I know to be good judgment, but this recent bout of weather is a bit more than I can stand without complaint. I'm beginning to believe in that groundhog stuff. But I've never seen a groundhog in Texas, Oklahoma or New Mexico either.
I suppose the pudgy little fur balls could hole up in the northernmost points of the region. Up in the Plains, perhaps. Still, I've never seen one and can't attest to their resident status.
I have seen prairie dogs, however, and wonder if those less pudgy but equally subterranean pests would substitute for a groundhog. Maybe a mole would work.
The likelihood that some of those vermin saw a shadow on Feb. 2 seems pretty high. Except moles are blind aren't they? Perhaps they felt the warmth of the sun on their ugly little pointy faces. Some rodent, somewhere saw a shadow.
Take this week, for instance. When I left Dallas Monday morning for a short flight to Lubbock, it was 26 degrees. (The day before topped 60.) I didn't realize as I drove to the airport that 26 was as warm as I'd get all day. We touched down at Lubbock about 90 minutes later with a 16-degree temperature and a — 9 wind chill.
Meantime, back in Dallas, sleet, freezing rain and plunging temperatures turned I-35, I-45 and every other I-designated highway into long, four-lane parking lots. Folks started heading for the exits about 2 p.m., just to guarantee themselves a good seat in the traffic line.
Back to Lubbock. Folks told me the cold snap was the coldest they'd experienced all year, but wondered if temperatures had to drop so much why couldn't they at least get a little snow with it. I found that a bit perplexing, being one to avoid any form of slick precipitation when possible, but was informed that frozen water is more likely to hang around and penetrate into the soil.
I can understand that. As windy as it gets here a drop of precipitation must need to be as heavy as possible to gain purchase enough to hold on. Also, it doesn't run off as much as the downpour rains they usually get.
But that underlines the unfairness of weather distribution. Dallas, which has had ample moisture pretty much all winter, gets another shot. Lubbock, which hunkers down in the center of one of the Plains most productive agriculture regions, remains dry as toast, frozen toast, mind you, but toast nonetheless.
Farmers in the surrounding area voice concern about declining water tables and a soil moisture profile that's still too dry to plant cotton. A bit of frozen water lying on the surface would help a lot. Temperatures hovering around 10 and winds gusting to 25 miles per hour simply turn dry soil even drier.
I think it Was Mark Twain who complained once that “A lot of folks complain about the weather but no one ever does anything about it”
List me among the complainers.