When Mother Nature hits too close to home...

Sometimes, for all our compassion and empathy for far away places struck by disaster, it's easy to forget that the weather can flip your geography upside down as well.

Yesterday a tornado passed just north of Paducah before hopping the river to wreak havoc on the nearby town of Brookport, Illinois. By nearby I mean three miles or less as the crow flies.

One of my dear friends was principal at the town's elementary school until last year, today one of his students was found unresponsive. One of the beloved workers at Mommy's Day Out - a woman who has taken care of both my boys since they were babies - just posted that she lost her home.

Her previous post was yesterday. She had just put up her Christmas tree.

So, in this season of thanksgiving, let us remember that nothing is guaranteed and be thankful for every peaceful moment afforded us.

Then, let us help those who had chaos come knock on their doors.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Wooly Worms

It's going to be a bad, snowy winter, y'all. 

This fact was confirmed for me yesterday when I ran across this guy.

Like most country girls, I grew up with a whole lot of folk wisdom. Because so many people in my town were based in a "grow it and eat it" farming mentality, a huge focus was put on predicting the weather. Dogwood and redbudwinters. Indian summers. And the all-knowing wooly worm.

Now, in case you didn't know, the wooly worm is the larval stage of the Isabella tigermoth. It can be brown or black, or a mixture of the two. Conventional wisdom has always held that the more black the wooly worms show, the worse the winter will be. The placement of the colors can also indicate weather patterns -- a brown band in the middle of a black wooly worm means that winter will start and end harshly with a warm snap in the middle. It's an old-timey tradition across the mountains -- there's even a Wooly Worm Festival in Lee County!

My high school biology teacher had more than a bit of country naturalist in him; he taught us that a lot of natural phenomena that reach "folk wisdom" status are often based in scientific fact. I've read that, while there isn't a lot of scientific data to support the wooly worm's predictive patterns, their color patterns are affected by moisture and temperature. I also know that the wooly worm is usually right.

Did y'all grow up reading the wooly worm?

November Quake

Yesterday, as I took the dogs out for a walk in the hills at my parents' house, I started thinking about how hard it is to characterize these first few weeks of November. It's kind of still football season, and it's kind of basketball season. Halloween is over, and you can't really drag Thanksgiving out into a multi-week holiday. It feels ridiculous to put up Christmas lights already, and yet I get so excited when I see the Christmas displays at department stores.  Maybe that's why there are so many November memes -- we're all trying to figure out what the month is all about.

Recent weather patterns here in Kentucky certainly have added to November's identity crisis. It was sweater weather as my beau and I left Rupp Arena Monday night; by the end of the week, I heard talk of tee times. Now, we all know that Kentucky weather is unpredictable -- if you don't like it, stick around a day or two and it'll change. But, this is one crazy-assed Indian summer, even by Kentucky standards.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any weirder around here, November decided to throw me for a loop. I was already a little on edge today. Deer season started this morning and I awoke to shotgun blasts reverberating throughout the holler. Then, around noon, I was standing in my parents' kitchen making lunch when I felt a weird rumble. A ripple of vibration made its way across the walls of the dining room and kitchen. The china cabinet groaned and tinkled.  At first, we weren't quite sure what had happened. My dad swore he hadn't felt anything. My mom thought it was just her imagination. But, soon enough, we confirmed it on our very favorite news source -- Facebook.

Now, it wasn't anything like the kind of quake they experience on the West Coast. It was a 4.3 magnitude earthquake in Whitesburg, which is about 45 miles away from my parents' house. There's no significant damage to be found. Around here, my aunt suffered a few cracks in her walls. The KSP post for Southeastern Kentucky told the Herald-Leader that they'd received reports of "people's pictures being knocked off the wall, and ceramic figurines being broken."  Nothing devastating, but certainly a memorable flourish on a pretty late autumn day.

I guess November just wanted to be taken a little more seriously.

Kentucky Weather

Growing up in Kentucky, you were likely to see a thunderstorm one week followed by snow the next. I think these last few weeks of weather have proven to keep up with that wacky standard.

Here in Tennessee we've been seeing similar weather, but my parents keep me informed of the crazy Kentucky happenings, including a tornado warning last week following by a chance of snow the next.
I think there was an old saying that if you didn't like predictable weather, then you should probably move to Kentucky.

I know those of you who have been to Keeneland can attest to this as well. You truly never know what the weather is going to be like for the opening of the spring meet. One year it will be sunny and 78 and the next year it will be 38 degrees and snowing.

For example- me at Keeneland opening weekend in 2007:

Bright! Sunny! Beautiful!
And in 2007 a week later:
Huddled in the back of a car with a coat on because it's so cold!

Do you have any wacky weather stories to share from Kentucky?

Stay a day...

My grandmother always says, "If you don't like the weather in Kentucky, stay a day it will change."

However, I'd like to recommend if you are bemoaning the weather any time between late November through mid March, don't stay a day. Get the hell out.

Kentucky winters are grey, rainy, and bleak.

When we first moved here my husband expressed some serious dismay at the never-ending rain. Currently, we are on our third straight day of cold rain.

"Where have you brought me?!?" he exclaimed.

I always welcome the rain at first. I love rainy days. It's like Mother Nature is giving you an excuse to be lazy. You can stay in, read a book, lay on the couch. Of course, now I have a two-year-old and an infant so rain days are spent slowly. going. crazy.

One rainy day is bad enough. Last winter, I think it rained for a week straight. It felt like two. (And we won't even talk about the Flood.) It just gets old is what I'm saying, particularly when the holidays are over and there is nothing to break up the monotony of the cold, grey days.

Thanks only to climate change we've started getting more snow, which in some ways lifts the veil of grey but in others makes life miserable because most Kentucky towns (at least the ones in Western Kentucky) are ill-equipped to handle true winter weather.

Not to mention, some times the winter weather is just enough to cause some real damage (see Ice Storm 2009). No sledding. No beautiful snowscapes. Just ice and sleet, which is even worse.

Luckily, Kentucky springs are the stuff of dreams and Kentucky falls are the prettiest around. They make up for the winters...but just barely.