If the Academy of Weather Watchers awarded a golden weather vane for Best Drama in the Sky, Nebraska would be in the top 10 every year. Nancy Gaarder, author of Nebraska Weather writes, “…the state’s wide open landscape provides the perfect stage for spectacular storms overhead and the sunset encores as the clouds pass.” (Gaarder, Nancy, Nebraska Weather, Omaha World Herald, Omaha, Nebraska, 2014)
Nebraskans, all 1,882 million of us are hostage to weather. Our economy relies on agriculture, i.e., cattle, pigs, turkeys, corn, soybeans, wheat, , and value-added businesses like ethanol and Lone Wolf Wurst Meats, and so many others. Sky conditions affect growing conditions. Rain or shine, wind or calm, freeze or thaw, snow and ice, hail storms, tornadoes, thunder storms, lightning strikes, droughts and deluges, farm and ranch work need doing.
Every day our eyes are on the skies. We watch for cumulus clouds, stratus clouds, strato cumulus clouds, cirrus clouds, cumulonimbus clouds, and all variations thereof. The appearance of thunderheads and even more ominous, tornadoes ties us minute-by –minute to weather reports or we are searching the heavy sky for a telling tunnel shape.
Because the weather gods paint their glimmering portraits in Nebraska’s majestic skies, we talk weather here. Weather merits a comment a day and sometimes more often as weather changes fast on the plains. Instead of “Hello,” we often say, “Beautiful day today, Chilly out there. Is it windy enough for you? Maybe it’s blowing up a storm? Clouds look like rain. Clouds look ominous. Gorgeous day today! Yes, we also celebrate the sun-filled, calm and peaceful days. The Nebraska sun beams brightly in blue skies approximately 120 days/year.
And wacky weather happens! “There is little in the plains to slow the winds that are unleashed when air masses clash,” writes Gaarder. Weather extremes range between Nebraska’s highest temperature, 118 degrees, and lowest, -47 degrees. Yes, we respect tornado warnings, an average of nearly 50 tornadoes a year are spotted. And hail storms pass overhead every spring and early summer. Wind, yes, Nebraska also ranks among the top 5 windiest states in the U.S.
I admit that I like living in a dramatic weather state. I like the change in seasons and the weather patterns that typify spring, summer, autumn and winter. “Nebraska lays out the perfect canvas for those who love weather,” says Gaarder.
Nebraska’s weather is stimulating (think 40 mph wind gusts), and when I step out and immerse myself in the sunshine, wind, snow, or rain or the 100 or more variations, thereof, I feel more alive and awake. For example, on April 9, 2015, I walked to my office on an unremarkable day of 40 degrees and a light mist moistening my face. Within the hour, I popped outside again, and the light mist switched into a pelting rain and moments later to snow then to blowing snow with wind gusts of 50 mph. By 4 p.m. on the same day, the sun emerged, winds died down and temperatures rose to a balmy 70 degrees.
I’m in awe of weather in all its extremes, and I humbly note its dominion over us frail beings.
Photos courtesy of Nebraska Tourism, featured image by Michael Forsberg, and Google www.Nebraskaskies to see additional dramatic portraits of weather in Nebraska skies.