Jack Ohman

Editorial Notebook: Weather is serious back in Minnesota

A lone surfer catches a wave caused by high winds in Lake Tahoe on Thursday. Winds gusted to 140 mph through the Sierra ahead of a powerful Pacific storm, damaging homes and a church in South Lake Tahoe, closing schools, and grounding commercial airline flights in Reno.
A lone surfer catches a wave caused by high winds in Lake Tahoe on Thursday. Winds gusted to 140 mph through the Sierra ahead of a powerful Pacific storm, damaging homes and a church in South Lake Tahoe, closing schools, and grounding commercial airline flights in Reno. AP

Sacramento seems to have avoided the brunt of the big storm that has hit the West Coast. The general reaction here is a collective sense of relief. There were harrowing moments in other parts of the state, and I do not minimize that, although I did notice that some people went surfing.

But growing up in the Midwest was an entirely different meteorological experience. The phrase “Death From Above” comes immediately to mind.

Many of us snowbirds remember walking uphill in the snow to school both ways. But I work with some native Californians, who don’t know what it means to weather massive frigid blasts that get running starts in the Arctic Circle and come roaring down the prairies.

They dump 3 feet of snow, push temperatures to 20 below, and merit this reaction: “Oh, maybe we should plug the Impala head bolt heater in tonight.” Or not.

As a kid, the threat of tornadoes received more serious attention.

When I lived in the Twin Cities, the AM radio behemoth WCCO would break into its coverage of soybean futures to blast an earsplitting klaxon, followed by: “THIS IS A TORNADO WARNING. TAKE COVER IMMEDIATELY.” And you did.

Sometimes, the funnel cloud would be sighted 60 miles away in Dakota County, and it would be sunny in Ramsey County. Regardless, I would run to the southeast corner of the basement, and hide under the oak picnic table that served as a movable bomb shelter.

We learned the difference between tornado watches and tornado warnings. Watches meant that you could be swept away into Dorothyland in an hour, and warnings meant that you should start looking for the civil defense sign at school.

On Wednesday, I prepared for the storm by checking my flashlight battery.

Being kept on a constant state of weather alert was stressful for me as a child, because, like all of us who are of a certain age, we also needed to worry about incoming Soviet ICBMs.

I moved 30 years ago to Portland, where what we in Sacramento experienced in this storm so far would be considered another day at the office.

A friend who was a TV meteorologist in Portland moved back to the more dramatic weather mecca of Dayton, Ohio, because the Oregon weather pattern was so predictable: Tonight: rain, 46. Tomorrow: rain, 46. Weekend outlook: rain, 46. Next week: rain, temperatures dipping. 45. Pete and Kathy, back to you!

I’m glad Sacramento didn’t get hit too hard Thursday, and hope the rest of the state isn’t too badly affected. For the next Big One, I’m going to find a really nice oak picnic table to hide under. With pontoons. Just in case.

  Comments