Let's get right down to business. It is about 10 days today, Feb. 18, since the thermometer showed a nice red column, the last day it registered above the freezing point. It just might make it today but it'll have to beat about two weeks which saw that mercury hiding at least twice below the zero mark. It seems like a heck-of-forever since the sun has shined warm on this old Westside Eagle Observer home. Haven't we all had enough of the ice and snow?
This cold spell added to the "corona confusion" that has been endured for more than a year and has added to more "cabin fever" than a person should have to endure. After reading the Arkansas Gazette on the tablet (wasn't the original tablet called the Big Chief?), I had just picked up a colorful seed catalog to admire those big red tomatoes and other veggies and flowers ... the phone rang. Somehow it just felt like it would be a visit discussing the bees and bees-not of today's world. You know, one of those Robo callers who needs only to find out your name, age, Social Security number ... and it would help if you only gave him your checking account number so your credit figures could be improved. After about three syllables, the receiver clashed down and it was back to the old Smith-Corona (there's that daggum word again).
Funny, almost immediately it was a friend's number who began with those words, "Well, (a long silence, so I knew it was going to be a whopper as he added) I guess you should be happy now."
The chuckle in his voice got a nod as I recalled the time in a 'cuff a few weeks ago that I said a nice snow would be nice. After all, there has not been enough snow in four years, if you put it all together, that would be as big as a basketball to be the head on a snowman on a stump. We had a nice chat but then it was back to the old Smith-#m&%-#m&%-?".
I had recently looked back at the weather statistics for the first 20 years of this new century where I had recorded the statistics that I submit to the National Weather Service in Tulsa. I took over that job from Glenn Justice in 1978, and the little weather "house" was moved to our backyard. It's fun to look at old records dating back to 1926 (the originals), but it's a job to sort through pages and pages of information, some of it copies, and just as fun to look at the past 20 years and learn that there have been only 11 zero and below days, not including this year, the coldest being 15 degrees below zero on Feb. 10, 2011. I call it fun but what is fun is to read the comments of the person who read the temps since back in the 1800s. I wish I had those records too.
This past almost two weeks of winter are very unusual in this area even though there have been many zero and below days and heavy snowstorms, tornado misses in the past, and even those terrible icy storms which occurred just a few yeas ago, in 2007 and 2009. We were lucky such an awful weather tragedy came quite close to this area this time. Friends or family who live in Texas have endured tragic circumstances and even our neighbor, Pea Ridge, was suffering in ways that have not been very enjoyable. They deserve our thoughts and encouragement.
Just for fun, I decided to make this 'cuff a sample of info that goes into the records for this past several days. Simple, some odd, others very unsure, particularly measuring snow amounts, particularly in windy weather. So here goes, bear -- that's not bare -- with me:
Tues., Feb. 9: Misty, drizzly all day, 35 degrees, the last day before this snow swarm arrived. The measurement is made at six o'clock each evening and sometimes the high or low for the next day may not seem right for that day's reading which happened to be the high or low for the day, 18 degrees.
Feb. 10: Same messy, wet weather as before; the high occurred at 26 degrees and low of 20; the mist was beginning to freeze on grass.
Feb. 11: A high of 20, a low of 16, more mist and drizzle, some ice now forming on tree branches and grass; some places in pavement showed slick spots.
Feb. 12: More drizzle, a few flurries; 19 for the high and 15 for the low. The glaze was very visible, the lawn crunched and more winter weather was being promised.
Feb. 13: Whoa, there, it hit a single-digit number, 8 degrees, for the low but the high reached up to 18 degrees because the sun was out about three hours in the afternoon. The grass still crunches.
Feb. 14: Double whoas, 5 degrees was the low, which allowed almost two inches of light small dry flakes to accumulate in spots. The high was 15. Happy Valentine's Day.
Feb. 15: As mentioned, there have been 11 zero days this century and today the minus 4 becomes 12 with the temp jumping up to 7 late in the day. The ground ice-covered and topped with snowfall during the night of a little more than 5 inches which added almost a half-inch to that on the ground.
Feb. 16: The bottom really dropped into a hole with a minus-15-degree reading, matching the coldest so far this century. That was a surprise because Fayetteville recorded 20 below. Gravette and Fayetteville almost always are just two and sometimes three degrees apart, once in awhile the same. I guess we got a drift of a southern breeze. It was miserably cold, highways were clear, but streets just dared us old drivers. This was because more snow was predicted that night.
Feb. 17: We had a heatwave to 8 degrees for the low and up to 23 for the high and that prediction proved correct as three inches were added and an additional inch late in the afternoon.
So there you have it. The daily duty is to shovel your way to the rain gauge and the little thermometer shack (no, that's not right, it's a cute little building). You see them everywhere. Today I shoveled two times to clear the path so I wouldn't have to walk in any snow over shoe-top high. I'll admit it ain't as easy as it used to be; lots of breaks, ha. Fortunately, the snow was light and dry, not like most snow we receive which is heavy with moisture.
Measuring snow depth is hardest to work out because wind adds to the problem. It involves several readings, but the important thing is the amount of moisture each snow melts from its collection in the rain gauge. It collects, is taken into the house to melt and measure and another trip back to the ... half-mile trek to the north. Let's see, that's more than 15,000 trips with just once a day trek.
As mentioned, hopefully, we will never have the ice storms as occurred here a few years back. Looking forward, I'll bet that quarter the old Pennsylvania Phil has changed his mind that there won't be six more weeks of winter. He's just busy eating that Hershey bar he found after he ran off from his job a few weeks ago. What fun for a town. Is there something one of the Eagle Observer towns could come up with?
The other fun thing during this almost two-week winter of cold spells was trying to get the old SUV unfrozen from all that misty ice and then scraping off the snow from two dumps, all the time hoping the battery had enough zip to at least make it to the post office. Got to get those bills, you know. There have been no frozen pipes, the electricity was never harmed but the lightbulb above the car in the garage quit and it has to wait until the driveway is cleared so the car can be pulled out.
Ah well, I'd bet that quarter that each 'cuff reader has a tale to tell from the past 10 days with hopes that their gardens can be started soon. Hopefully, spring really is just around the corner; hopefully, none of them will be sharp -- corners, that is. Let's keep cool and keep the faith with patience this corona mess will be over sooner than predicted. Let's try to turn frowns into smiles and groans to good mornings for those we meet.
Dodie Evans is the former owner and longtime editor of the Gravette News Herald. Opinions expressed are those of the author.