Last year was a strange year. I think I referred to 2012 as the year without a winter. In early March, I planted a ton of herbs in window trays. Most of the time, the herbs were out on my deck. A few times, temperatures dropped, and the herbs went back to the window sill in my kitchen. By April 1, I had moss pots with tomato seeds beginning to germinate. Again, they had to come in a few times because temperatures dropped down to the 40s.
This year, I haven’t planted a thing. If 2012 was the year without a winter, 2013 is the year without a spring. As recently as two weeks ago, we had snow flurries. Temperatures moderated this weekend, but looking at the forecast ahead, I am seeing more lows in the 40s. This is not good for tomatoes, strawberries or herbs.
I’ve lived in western Kentucky for seven years now. Every year has brought something extreme. In 2006, I was still the thin-skinned Florida boy. I thought the weather would never get warm, even if things weren’t nearly as bad as I thought. I’ve seen hurricanes survive, nearly intact, to blow roofs off buildings. We of course had an extreme drought last summer. Meteorologists said it may have been the driest period since the notorious dust bowl of the 1930s. Standing in corn fields with stunted ears on the plants was more than enough to tell me something was wrong with the climate.
Other than last year, winter has seemed fairly extreme to me. If memory serves, it seemed to snow every Saturday in 2011. People said that was what they remembered from their childhoods in west Kentucky, regular snow. It seemed odd to me, but I’m still new-ish to winter weather.
I think the same year brought extreme colds. I had never experienced a low of minus-6 until then. I hope I never do again.
Then, in 2011, we saw the floods. Again, I am drawing upon memory, but it seemed to rain one inch every day in April. By May, I was spending every day of my professional life in Smithland, watching workers enhance the town levee. After that, city and county officials could only hope the levee would hold. Thankfully, it performed as promised, and the Ohio River stayed out of town.
I was at ground zero of the 2009 ice storm in Hopkinsville. I was on my way to Crofton in a Kentucky New Era staff car to get some pictures, and was driving along the Pennyrile Parkway. All around, trees were exploding and falling into the left-hand lane of the highway. I decided to move to the right-hand lane for safety. Not a mile down the road, a tree fell into the road, and swiped the door of the car.
Spring-like thunderstorms seem to come earlier every year. I remember hearing the tornado siren as early as January. This year, we’ve escaped severe weather up until now. Here’s hoping we avoid it this year. The storms seem to be more severe. Tornados are more common, and seem even more intense.
Empirical scientific data seems to indicate humanity is influencing climate change by introducing more greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere. I happen to believe this is true. Others deny man plays a role in climate change.
Whether man-made or not, a casual observation of weather in the past decade seems to indicate western Kentucky and the earth is in some sort of climate change pattern. Severe storms like Sandy and Katrina only reinforce this observation. Rather than deny this, perhaps we should accept it as fact, man-made or natural.
The best thing to do is to study climate, understand it, and what role, if any, we play in weather patterns. If it can be corrected, let’s take what steps we can.
Correctable or not, we have to be prepared for extremes in weather. I remember many were without power during the ice storm. I’ve watched nearby communities destroyed by tornadoes.
Have a reserve of non-perishable foods for any emergency. Keep a weather radio to warn of impending danger. Evacuate as directed to places of safety. And above all, never assume the weather will be predictable or not a risk to you, your home and your family.