And they call Chicago the windy city…

I attended an offsite luncheon presentation this afternoon. The speaker was from Tucson, Arizona, and this was his first visit to Rapid City.

The first thing he said to the audience: “What is up with the wind around here?!”

Apparently, it rattled his hotel room windows all night long. So much so, that he got up at 3 a.m. and turned on the A/C, hoping the white noise would drown it out. Even though the temperature was in the mid-30s.

He’s not wrong. The Northern Plains are notoriously windy already…and exceptionally so this week. We’ve had 60-70 mph gusts ever since Monday. For reference, a storm is classified as a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph. Try walking around in that shit for days on end.

And sometimes, it keeps us up at night, too. Sleep proves elusive when it’s howling nonstop, shrieking through the eaves and shaking the walls.

Because our neighborhood is located on a slope of the Dakota Hogback Ridge — Doris’ daughter calls it a “draw,” a terrain feature formed by two parallel ridges or spurs with low ground in between — whenever the wind ramps up, it creates a persistent dull roar. Kinda like the steady drone you experience when flying on an airplane. It’s very noticeable when we’re sitting in the living room, even with the TV on, but it sort of blends into the background after awhile. Much like white noise.

Living room view: the ridge at the end of our street

That draw also amplifies thunder. Scared us out of our wits when we first moved in three years ago. Thunder bounces off the hills and the shockwaves sweep through the neighborhood, echoing like a bomb went off and shaking the whole house when the storm is right overhead.

I love weather…as long as it serves a purpose. Blizzards and thunderstorms, though potentially dangerous, at least bring moisture. What good is wind, unless you’re a professional kite flyer? It just messes up your hair, drives up pollen counts, and increases the risk of wildfires.

Seeing that I live in the sixth-windiest state in the U.S., guess I’d better just suck it up.

Speaking of weather, there’s a lot of chatter about a potential snowstorm next week. According to whichever model you believe, we might get anywhere from 2” to 20”.

I should clarify: not this kind of model.

This kind.

Obviously, that one’s the most aggressive. The storm could shift track and bring us just a little snow. Or rain only. Worst case scenario? No precipitation; just the godforsaken wind. We’ve been in a drought for a couple of years and desperately need something to fall from the sky.

Preferably from a cloud and not a bird’s ass.

I did mention not long ago that March and April are our snowiest months, so it certainly wouldn’t be unusual. It’s snowed in April every year we’ve lived here (including an inch yesterday).

Ominous forecast aside, it is spring. I know this because I went hiking on Sunday and the pasqueflowers were in full bloom.

These are South Dakota’s official state flower and a sure sign of spring. Also called prairie crocus, Easter flower, and meadow anemone, these guys usually bloom right around April 1 and last about a month. They’re hardy and not bothered by snow.

I’m so enamored by these beauties, I make an annual trek every spring to seek them out. And sometimes wax poetically over them. Like that time, two years ago, when COVID-19 had shut down the world a week earlier and all seemed hopeless. I wrote an ode to the pasqueflower then that was like nothing I’d ever written before. It made my mom take notice, as evidenced by our blog exchange.

Mom: Huh?
Mark: This is my attempt at breaking free from my comfort zone and trying a more artistic post. I took the second-person narrative form, addressing myself as if I were a dispassionate observer, in order to take a non-biased look at my own thoughts and motivations. I also (attempted to) combined various forms of poetry into the writing, and played around with the format to make it more interesting. Overall, the message is intended to be one of hope. You like?
Mom: Huh?

They do say geniuses are often misunderstood.

28 thoughts on “And they call Chicago the windy city…

  1. We have similar wind at our house. Walking between our home and garage feels like downtown Chicago quite often. We made the mistake of having a family reunion in our backyard one summer… the tent, grill, chairs, tables and even the macaroni salad went flying. Good times.
    Lovely flowers. We haven’t seen any yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think “flying macaroni salad” is a great way of measuring wind gusts. I wish the local meteorologists would add that to their forecasts! Tomorrow we can expect sunny skies, but hold onto your plates because there’s a chance of flying macaroni salad by mid-afternoon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I lived in New Hampshire, I was in a valley surrounded by hills. The thunder just BOOMED and echoed off every one of them. A clap would last a good ten seconds. That took awhile to get used to! Downtown Providence is like a wind tunnel some days, because the buildings just funnel it down the streets. I’ve almost gotten blown over a few times walking around campus.

    Now I want to come visit just to see a pasqueflower.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. They ARE awesome, they look so delicate, it’s hard to believe they can survive harsh weather conditions. We have an ugly bush that has very redeeming large flowers in all shades of purple and pink … for two days a year. They’re supposed to last longer, but inevitably, the bush “senses” spring, only to be surprised by the return of winter, and that’s the end of those flowers.

    I wonder if Mark Twain’s mom had time to write concise messages and that’s how he came up with the “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one”, and your mom is from the same school of thought? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not familiar with that Mark Twain quote, but I love it. In fact…I think I’m going to start using that myself!

      Of course, that means I’ll have to start writing letters…

      Like

  4. Hilarious exchange with your mother! 😀 I suspect that’s what my mother is also thinking on the rare occasions I take to her about my writing, but she’s managed to stay silent and nod…. so far. I’ve accepted that my family tend to regard my writing with the sort of amused but uninterested attitude families have perfected over the decades.

    It must be some sort of widespread weather event, this wind you mention, as it’s going gang busters over here in the UK too. All the hair whipping up and blowing your glasses off the top of your head stuff.

    Gorgeous flowers 🙂 I love them – all the more so for their hardiness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your “amused but uninterested attitude families have perfected” description is spot-on. Proof that family dynamics are universal whether you’re in the U.S., the U.K., or anywhere in between!

      Hang onto your hat.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I just remember the horrific thunderstorm when we stayed at the Quality Inn in Hill City. I thought we were going to be blown across the state! Those flowers really are pretty and a hike to see them would be fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I came out here on my road trip in 2011, there were violent thunderstorms all three nights. My car got beat up by hail pretty badly. Then, a month after we moved here, my new car got damaged by hail…in Hill City, of all places.

      This explains why all the auto body shops advertise hail damage report half the year.

      Like

  6. I like your prairie crocus. That’s a better state flower than ours, a carnation. [I’m ashamed as I type this.] As for your mother not understanding your genius, I’m sure she loves you just the same– even if she does think you’re a bit wacky.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve been to South Dakota once – during our 2019 road trip. (I’m in love with the whole state, BTW.) One thing I absolutely did NOT expect was the wind. It started blowing as soon as we crossed the border from Iowa and it didn’t stop the entire time we were there. Oklahoma is not the only place where the winds come sweeping down the plains.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I lived in the Portland area, we had to contend with east winds in the wintertime. They’d blow in off the Cascades and cause havoc. But those might gust to 40, maybe 45 mph, tops. Here, 75 mph winds are commonplace about half the year. It really makes you redefine what you consider a windy day.

      Like

  8. HUH?

    🙂

    The flowers are amazing and I too would seek them out annually.
    Wind + dryness=disaster.
    I hope you get the wet stuff from the sky. It’s been very dry here too and quite windy; my hair hates that!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your snow forecast is downright depressing. And wind? Ugh. The worst of the weather features, if you ask me. Yeah, it has its uses, I suppose, but it can ruin a perfectly lovely morning, afternoon, or evening in the backyard. We are about to head from calm, sunny high 50s nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn8999999999999999999″ (Cheddar just stepped on the keyboard there)
    to the windy high 30s. You know that Crowded House song “Four Seasons in One Day?” April is like four season in one month.

    Liked by 1 person

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