Where is Spring? Not in Montana!

The mailbox in front of our house is almost buried in white stuff.

After several days of shoveling and blowing snow, last week, I looked at fluffy white flakes of snow falling gently to the ground and wondered when it would end.

Then I checked the weather forecast and saw a forecast for sunny but continued cold weather for a few days and then a resumption of snow in mid-week, meaning right about now, as we’re reading this.

Last week, the Washington Post carried a report on the weather system dominating America’s Heartland during most of February and continuing well into March. It’s a big arctic cold weather system with wet storm systems moving in from the Pacific that have been dumping heavy snow across the coastal ranges and far inland.

Friends and relatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been struggling to keep up with the heavy snow. In Minnesota, heavy-duty trucks equipped with snowblowers have been working to clear paths through mile-long drifts blocking I-35 and I-90 in southern Minnesota.

I look at my own yard and wonder how much more snow is going to pile up. In late January, a few grass patches were emerging, but the banks along my front sidewalk, where I’ve been throwing snow since November, are now well over four feet high.

On the bright side, we’re still able to get around, even if our streets are a mess. We’re better off than some areas, such as south of Dillon where I-15 had been closed most of the week, and it’s nothing compared to the Sierras of California which was slammed with 25 feet of snow during February, closing most of I-80 between Reno NV and Sacramento CA.

While we grumble as we grab snow shovels for yet another round, ski area operators across the west, for whom fresh snow is life itself, are smiling as are powderhounds who brave bad roads to play in the snow.

This is shaping up to be a banner water year, when it comes to river levels and irrigation water, though we can likely expect that we’re going to have flooding in areas plus an extended period of heavy water flows.

Still, I’m getting sick and tired of snow and cold.

Every October I plant garlic in a garden bed next to our house and most years I start looking for garlic and tulips to start sending green shoots above the ground around the first week of March.

I look forward to the sound of the first robins as they come to stake out territories for raising families this spring.

A few years ago we had an early spring and both tulips and robins showed up in mid-February.

To be sure, that’s too early for both robins and tulips, and who knows when it’ll happen this year.

Actually, the worst snowstorm I’ve experienced was the first week of March in 1966. We were living in Fargo, North Dakota at the time. A few weeks earlier I had taken a bad fall while on my first try at downhill skiing and fractured my left ankle, so I was on crutches during the storm.

Heavy snow started falling on a Wednesday. I wasn’t able to drive, but a co-worker gave me a ride home so my wife wouldn’t have to drive downtown to get me. He said he’d pick me up the next morning. The next morning our street was totally blocked with 3-foot drifts and my colleague could get no closer than three blocks away.

For several days the snow fell and the winds blew. Much of the time we couldn’t see across the street. The storm finally blew itself out by Sunday, but most of North Dakota and northern Minnesota was socked in. Trains were buried in the drifts.

In the fall of 1965, many thousands of acres of prime wildlife habitat came out of the old Soil Bank program in eastern North Dakota. Then we got that monster storm. The following autumn, pheasants were an endangered species.

As always, winter is that relentless force that determines whether there is adequate wildlife habitat.

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