Was the snow deeper? Or were you shorter?
When you're a reporter in North Dakota, you learn to write about weather. You learn the number for the National Weather Service by heart, and you know where to find historical information about storms and low or high temperatures of the past.
I've always embraced that, because I know how integral weather is to our lives here, both on the farm and off.
The thing that always makes me laugh is how in almost any case, someone will comment on a weather story that things were way worse "in the old days." The snow was deeper. The wind blew harder. The temperature didn't get above -50 for four months straight. That kind of stuff.
Sometimes it's right. If their "old days" include 1966 or 1997, I don't doubt that their memories are correct. I wasn't born in '66 and I wasn't in North Dakota in '97, but I've seen the photos and read the stories enough to know it was rough.
But oftentimes, the memories are a little off base. I like to check the record books to find out for sure, but many times, people remembering that the snow used to get a lot deeper actually seems to be remembering that they used to be a lot shorter. I like to believe I'm slightly immune to that, since I'm basically the same size I was as a child.
This winter has been rough. I have no doubt that my children will compare future winters to it, whether their memories are accurate or not.
I think the big thing that we have going for us now compared to those "old days" is that our lives have been made easier by technologies and knowledge.
When we got slammed with a blizzard in mid-March, we knew it was coming. Ranchers I talked to all said similar things. Calves were locked up in the barns, as were cows near calving. Animals had been fed a little extra the day prior, just in case it wasn't possible to get to them during the storm.
Yes, the interstate closure put some people out, and yes, we had a lot of snow to push and shovel. But I didn't hear anything about anyone being lost in the blizzard like happened in storms of the past, because we had enough time to make sure we were where we needed to be.
I know some people in the Bismarck-Mandan area were a little put out to have had schools closed and lives disrupted for a storm that didn't come. Meanwhile, those of us just a little to the east were glad we knew what was coming. We were safely home before the wind picked up. By morning, we couldn't see out our windows because of the storm. I would have hated to have been out on the road when it started.
Back in the "old days," a storm like we had in mid-March may have come with a human death toll. Someone would have gone to the barn and never made it back. If we hadn't known it was coming, more people may have been stuck on the roads.
The weather here is nearly unpredictable, but I'm thankful to the people who do their best to predict it and give us a little warning of what's coming. The situation in Nebraska and Iowa reminds us that even the best forecasts can't completely prepare us for what's going to come. Maybe we won't have the stories people had in the "old days," but every piece of forewarning we get can keep us safer.