Spring: The season for blowing your nose

It’s a beautiful time of year, but amid the warbling of the birds and the warm caresses of spring winds on your face, there’s a good chance you’ll hear the honking of people near you blowing their noses. Why? It’s allergy season. And this year could be worse than most. This comes from an ABC News report:

This is the time of year when allergy sufferers are hit the hardest, but scientists insist this year is special.

“The pollen this year is out in full force,” said Amanda Campbell, a botanist at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. “And a couple of reasons for that … [are that] there was a very cold long winter … [a] relatively wet year last year, very wet winter in many parts of the country and now we have a compressed bloom season.”

So, enjoy the spring as much as you can and make sure you have a tissue nearby. Here are some more tips to help survive allergy season.

Fear and trembling: Remembering the Great Storm of 1975

It snowed today in Nebraska — a lot. Here in south central Nebraska (and I’ve lived here since 1994) we don’t get a lot of snow. At least, not in the way I remember growing up in southwestern Minnesota. It seemed like we always had more snow when I was a kid. It would start in late October or early November and there was enough to go sledding down big hills or to build tunnels around our yards or forts for snow fights. We spent a lot of time outdoors because, frankly, there wasn’t a lot to do indoors except maybe get on my mom’s nerves, which was pretty easy to do when you’re a rambunctious kid and you have three channels to choose from — four if you count PBS, but nobody did.

And, when thinking about snow like I am today, my mind always goes back to the big blizzard of 1975. The one that started on Jan. 10 and kept us snowbound in our house for three days without power. My family laughs at me because I recount this episode by talking about all of my family sleeping with all our clothes (and coats) on in one bed to stay warm and eating cold peaches by candlelight. The cold peaches part of the story always brings laughter, as if there were another way to eat peaches (peach pie, I suppose, but the point is lost on my family as they dissolve into laughter).

While anyone can be suspicious of an older person (or a not-so-old person in my case) when they start to wax nostalgic about big storms of the past, my advantage is that I have weather history to back up my stories of just how bad it was. It was bad. The snow came fast and hard and then it just blew furiously for days. We lost all power (as did our entire little town) early on and no one was able to go anywhere. One of my sisters, driven by cabin fever and a loathing for little kids I’m sure, decided she would rather spend the blizzard with one of her high school friends. I never did quite understand this since the friend she chose happened to be from a family of 18 kids. Miraculously, she managed to make her way to her friend’s house though she was literally snow blind almost immediately upon leaving our house.

How bad was it? Try out these facts and shudder:

Winds were blowing at 90 mph in Iowa during the blizzard. North Dakota and South Dakota were stung with wind chills of -80ºF.

The snow began falling on Friday, January 10 and continued for the next two days. Snowfall of a foot or more was common from Nebraska to Minnesota, with a high amount of 27 inches in Riverton, Minn. The heaviest snow fell to the west of the low pressure center, which tracked from northeast Iowa through central Minnesota up to Lake Superior. Sustained winds of 30 – 50 mph with gusts from 70 – 90 mph produced snowdrifts up to 20 feet  in some locations. Some roads were closed for up to 11 days.

Sioux Falls, S.D., saw visibilities of below one-quarter mile for 24 straight hours, and just east of Sioux Falls a 2,000-foot broadcast tower collapsed under the storm’s fury. In Willmar, Minnesota, 168 passengers were trapped in a stranded train for hours, unable to walk to shelter because of dangerously low wind chills. In Omaha, Neb., a foot of snow fell, Sioux Falls saw 7 inches, Duluth, Minn., saw 8 inches, and International Falls, Minn., saw 24 inches.

Record low pressures were recorded in communities in Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin, with a low of 28.55 in  in Duluth, Minn. In all, approximately 58 people died from effects of the blizzard and over 100,000 farm animals were lost. The combination of snowfall totals, wind velocities, and cold temperatures made this one of the worst blizzards the Upper Midwest has experienced.

It is a fearsome thing to see weather like that. Days like this in Nebraska, when the snow falls steadily and the wind blows hard, take me back to those days. We are all so utterly small and helpless before the mighty hand of God.

When all hope fails, God stands

Keep the people of Fargo in your prayers these next days, as they face disaster:

North Dakota’s largest city moved to the brink of potentially disastrous flooding Thursday, with earlier optimism fading as officials predicted the Red River would reach a record-high crest of 41 feet by the weekend.

Thousands of volunteers who have been piling sandbags for days scrambled to add another foot to Fargo’s dike protection, and official briefings lost the jokes and quips that had broken the tension earlier in the week. Instead, Thursday’s meeting opened with a prayer.

“We need all the help we can get,” Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

The city of 92,000 unveiled a contingency evacuation plan Thursday afternoon, but at least four nursing homes already had begun moving residents by then.

And here is some place you can help if you can’t fill sandbags:

American Red Cross

We are all needy people

My thoughts and prayers are with the folks who are navigating their way through their neighborhoods and towns in the wake of ice storms. My friend Barry, who is from Missouri, has posted some pictures and some background about the storm there and what it’s left behind. I also have other friends who have been caught in the storm in their areas as well.

It is during times like these that we have opportunities to look at how God moves powerfully in our lives, even in ways that seem harsh. With one brush of His hand, God breaks into our lives and gives us just a glimpse of his power, creativity and sovereignty. We are left amazed and helpless. God, who seeks glory in all things, stands alone during the storms in our lives. Daniel 4:35 says God “does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’ ”

But we can also know “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” It’s good to know that the same powerful God who makes the storm also directs our lives for good if we love him. And see our need.


Devastation in Texas

UPDATE: I talked with my sister-in-law and she is safe at her parents’ home five hours away. She doesn’t know the status of her home, but was able to gather some things before she left. Consider helping those who have experienced loss here.

This road that goes into Seabrook, Texas, shows the devastation left as Hurricane Ike roared into Texas.
This road that goes into Seabrook, Texas, shows the devastation left as Hurricane Ike roared into Texas.

As my brother fights for our country in Iraq, this is the scene, unfortunately, where he lives in Seabrook, Texas. The damage is what has resulted from Hurricane Ike as it came ashore in Texas overnight. Although I haven’t talked to her yet, my hope is that my sister-in-law wasn’t there when it hit. It’s hard to talk this way when you see the devastation, but we were fortunate the storm wasn’t worse or as bad as originally forecast. Again, this is another opportunity to show you care.

Latest on Hurricane Ike

This shows where Ike has been and its possible path
This shows where Ike has been and its possible path

UPDATED Friday afternoon:

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A massive Hurricane Ike sent white waves crashing over a seawall and tossed a disabled 584-foot freighter in rough water as it steamed toward Texas Friday, threatening to devastate coastal towns and batter America’s fourth-largest city.

Ike’s eye was forecast to strike somewhere near Galveston late Friday or early Saturday then head inland for Houston, but the massive system was already buffeting Texas and Louisiana, causing flooding along the Louisiana coast still recovering from Labor Day’s Hurricane Gustav.

The National Weather Service warned residents of smaller structures on Galveston they could “face certain death” if they ignored an order to evacuate; most had complied, along with hundreds of thousands of fellow Texans in counties up and down the coastline. But in a move designed to avoid highway gridlock as the storm closed in, most of Houston’s 2 million residents hunkered down and were ordered not to leave.

This satellite image showed Hurricane Ike's position as of Wednesday morning.
This satellite image showed Hurricane Ike as of Wednesday morning

Winter comes back, big time

You know the old saying that when you don’t know what else to talk about, talk about the weather? Well, it’s not that there’s anything else to talk about or that I don’t want to talk about anything else, it’s just that I woke up this morning after listening to the wind howl most of the night and it’s freezing cold outside!
What makes it harder is that yesterday it was nearly 50 in Grand Island; ice was melting everywhere, if you were out without a coat you might not care. So this feels even colder. This picture with this post comes from January 2004 (I love the look of Andrew as he helps shovel snow.), but that’s the feeling you have today. The snow isn’t deep enough to shovel, but it’s blowing really hard and drifting. I filled the car with gas this morning and it was a miserable experience standing there with the wind cutting my face the whole time. I grew up in Minnesota and so I mock people here in Nebraska when the complain about weather. But this is uncomfortable.
So, it’s a good day to get things done inside and thank God for providing shelter.