Living in the Great Plains of North America means exposure to plenty of wind. This wind is quite frequently, very strong. These are the average, day to day gusty winds. I am not writing about tornadic winds in this post, although tornados are quite common during the hot months of the year in this area. I’m thinking of the winds that blow from around 25 to 50+ miles an hour on a frequent basis in much of my part of the world.
It’s not my point to explain the cause of wind nor statistics of types and severity of winds across the world or on other planets and on the sun itself. I’m thinking of the wind and how it affects my neighborhood, my yard, my house and myself.
Norfolk is a smallish town, officially classified as a city in Nebraska. It’s situated in the Northeast area of the state. We have weather forecasts on a frequent basis that predict windy weather conditions. This example from NOAA is typical for one of our January days:
“Wind Advisory in effect from 11 am this morning to 5pm CST this afternoon.
Windy…Sunny. Highs in the mid 30s. Northwest winds 25 to 35 mph with gusts to around 45 mph.
Clear…Cold. Lows around 12. Northwest winds 15 to 20 mph.”
Here is the wind advisory that was in effect on New Year’s Day:
“…Strong Northwest Winds Again Today…
.A tight pressure gradient remains in place and strong northwest winds will occur again today. Winds are expected to be strongest from late morning through mid afternoon.
…Wind Advisory in effect from 11am this morning to 5pm CST this afternoon…
*…Wind speeds should average 28 to 35 mph during the advisory period…with gusts of 45 mph or higher possible.
* IMPACTS…High profile vehicles may experience control difficulties due to winds. Also…unsecured outdoor items will tend to blow around. Fires may be difficult to control.”
You can imagine that these kinds of weather events have a great influence upon our lifestyles and even mental attitudes. Regular activities like driving are affected. Even though I drive a mid size automobile, I notice strong wind on the open highway. Thus, I can well understand the increased problems presented by the wind to drivers of SUVs, vans and especially large semi-trailer trucks. In fact, sometimes one hears of a large truck being tipped onto its side by strong, gusty winds.
Here, in town, there are other considerations. Debris blows across streets and yards. I’ve watched as garbage cans and even large, steel dumpsters are pushed across pavement by force of the wind. During one wind storm, last year, I had to get out of my car so I could push a dumpster to the curb. The wind did what took me considerable effort to move and had blocked the street. It’s not mind baffling when you consider that wind has pushed large ships across great stretches of the sea for centuries.
In my own neighborhood, I can look outside the window to see litter, garbage and those infernal plastic shopping bags blowing around in the strong wind. Large boxes, small plastic milk bottles, beer cans and even an aluminum chaise longe travelled down my street during the late evening of December 31st last year. I wonder why the littering laws aren’t enforced more rigorously in this town.
Aside from the annoyance caused by the blowing stuff, I was captivated by the trajectory and general pathways taken by the junk. Subtle changes in wind direction and speed caused different behavior of the trash on the ground and in the air. A large, plastic McDonald’s soft drink tumbler took refuge at the side of a large Dodge pickup across the street for awhile, then the wind shifted and carried the container about 20 feet to the east where it wobbled in the middle of the street for several minutes. A small triangular box that had protected somebody’s earlier purchase of a pizza slice blew past and lodged itself into one of my shrubs.
I also marvelled at a pair of WalMart plastic bags flew by like jellyfish in the ocean. One caught itself near the top of a neighbor’s willow tree. The other continued out of sight to somewhere else.
It’s interesting to find out where garbage collects in my yard after a wind storm. Usually, it stops in an area south southeast of the house. There is a grove of trees that acts as a windbreak immediately behind my home. The worst wind garbage effects come from northerly winds. One summer night, the lid of the dumpster belonging to the convenience store a couple of blocks away blew open. The wind effect sucked the trash from the dumpster into the wind path leading down the street to the grove of trees west of my house. I did call the store. They sent three young employees to collect the massive amount of junk.
Besides the manmade nuisance, I wonder how the tall, elm trees will withstand the gusty winds. This is especially worrisome when the branches are filled out with leaves that catch the wind more effectively. This is no small matter. One large branch could make my house uninhabitable. There have been some close calls with large trees and my house in the past. If the landlord doesn’t respond to my concerns, soon, I could be forced to move out of a crunched house.
The wind doesn’t exclusively blow trash and dirt my way. During a particularly windy March afternoon four years ago, the north wind blew a $5 bill onto my chest. I reached down and collected my surprise reward, then crossed the street with a smile on my face.
I keep hoping that I’ll find more currency in the aftermath of each windstorm. It hasn’t happened yet. The prospect could make the next cleanup of my yard more profitable.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is not at all happy to share the treetops with those nasty shopping bags.