Last week’s widespread rains were desperately needed, especially in South Texas, an area that had surpassed the critical stage in terms of moisture. The recent precipitation sure doesn’t bring the drought to an end, but it does provide some sorely needed relief.
Here in Colorado, where I live, the experts this week issued a winter storm warning calling for up to 18 in. of snow (yes, snow), at elevations above 5,500 ft. In the end, the storm moved farther east, and, with the exceptions of a few flurries, turned out to merely be cold drizzly rains. But, it sure got everyone to scrambling; generally, one in these parts can easily get calves weaned before worrying about snow.
While our friends in Texas suffered through drought, we were enjoying one of the mildest and wettest summers on record. Of course, those of us in agriculture tend to get nervous when we get too much of a good thing. The summer rains were great, but now everyone is predicting a horrendous winter as a result.
I don’t totally buy into the lore that the height of a certain weed can predict the height of snows to come, or that black hairy caterpillars truly predict a cold snowy winter, but I don't totally disregard them either. The long-term forecasts from the National Weather Service still call for normal temps and precipitation amounts this winter, but that 38° F. I stepped out into yesterday morning felt mighty cold. As a result, windbreaks and calf shelters have moved up my priority list this fall.
Wouldn’t be great if science could actually predict long-term weather conditions with accuracy? But, then again, I suppose it would take a lot of the fun out of this business.
Still, I can't help but think how much easier we have it than our forebears. It’s true that our weather forecasters occasionally get it wrong in a major-league way, but I am amazed at how much warning they generally give us.
Our predecessors had to step outside, look to the sky and live with their own prognostications. If nothing else, at least we have someone to blame – the weatherman – when Mother Nature throws us one of her surprises.