October 26 Winter isn’t sneaky — it’s slammin’

Winter’s first blow

Wow. Winter didn’t pull any punches with its introduction. It hit us hard, and it’s still two months until the first calendar of winter.

The blizzard rolled all day and tonight it’s slow going on Highway 83 at Wilton.  Trucks are still doing their thing, but a few have decided it’s not worth it. So, they pulled in to the Wilton Cenex truck stop.

I wasn’t sure what I’d find to photograph when I went out, but had hoped to catch some snow plows working Highway 83.  I gave up after about 10 seconds. I’m not used to this cold, yet.  So, I captured these images to show what we are in for until spring.

In a way, I find it a bit exciting to be challenged like this by winter, but it’s also groan-worthy because I know it’s going to be a long winter ahead.

And just as conflicted as I am about winter, I’m conflicted about the Wilton City street crew.  Yes, they do a great job of clearing the streets,but dang, a full 6 months of this is gonna be hard on my back — cleaning out the end of my driveway every time the snow plow goes by.

The morning after the night before

(Actually, this shot belongs with tomorrow’s entry, but I thought it was fitting to put it here to give a glimpse of the “aftermath” of this Intro to Winter 101 course.)

May 7

Just when tulips think it’s safe to come out, they get hit with a reminder than winter doesn’t let go easily in North Dakota.

What started as rain last night turned in to snow by morning.  Wet, heavy snow.  Farmers have been working, motorcycles have been riding the highways, and now it’s back to snow shoveling.  I thought the Good Friday snow storm would have been the end of winter, but I was wrong.

The snow plows are even back at it.  I caught this one as it was turning in to Wilton at the truck stop/convenience store.  That familiar rumble of plows on the highway had been echoing through the wet countryside most of the morning, and I just happened to catch this one as it pulled in to town.

On the other end of town, the Dakota Missouri Valley and Western Railroad is back at it. Apparently the spring melt that had caused the fatal train derailment back in March was just a temporary setback and trains are rolling again through Wilton and north.  The surprise find for me is this cut the railroad makes through a small rise in elevation of the ground on the south end of Wilton.  I guess I hadn’t paid much attention to it until this day.  One of these days, I’m going to find some good ways to shoot this train coming through a low-level pass in to Wilton.

April 3

Boy was I surprised to come home from western North Dakota to find this!  A spring snow storm in the central part of the state while I had been out shooting a custom motorcycle, enjoying a ride down the road while other parts of the state were tossed back in to winter.

I hadn’t even been able to get home because a large transmission line carrying power to Minnesota and other eastern states had been taken down by the snow and wind, and Highway 83 was blocked.

I should have suspected there was something back home that was not right. When I got to New Salem I could see toothpicks sticking out of the new snow. They were power poles that had been snapped off.

Power was out in many of the towns on the western edge of the storm and for good reason. Those wooden poles could not stand up to the 6 inches of heavy wet snow and 40 mile an hour winds.

I couldn’t get directly home because of the downed power lines, but took a back road route up the Missouri River across the prairie to my home, only to find that the streets had been plowed,  but access to my home was shut off.  I only had to wait a day or two until it all melted.

Such is the short lifespan of spring snow storms in North Dakota.

February 23

Buried in the snow, but about to be revealed by the soon-to-come warmth of spring, this old Pontiac lays exposed to the afternoon sun.  It’s ratty interior is barely visible.  It’s rusty surface deflects the snow and absorbs the heat.  The snow drift on the side indicates it’s been a windy winter. Again.

I pass this car often on my road trips east of Wilton.  In the spring it stands out against the green pastures. In the late summer, it is framed by blooming wildflowers and weeds.  I’ve never seen any sign of ownership, though it is in a fenced off collection of old cars, trucks and tractors, but as far as I can tell, I’m the only person who pays it any attention.

Wildlife bounces around the Northern Plains in the winter, looking for food and shelter. Deer especially congregate anywhere they can find food, including this farmstead near Wing, North Dakota.  It’s one of the few signs of life you’ll see on the prairie in winter.

Otherwise, it’s not only the cold, but the wind that populate the Northern Plains.  So, next to an abandoned farm house, with its wind-powered water well, is the newly installed wind turbine that harvests the wind 12 months out of the year. It’s never too cold to grab a bit of North Dakota’s plentiful wind and turn it in to a useable commodity — electricity.

February 17

pushin snow

By the middle of February, it’s tough to find new and different ways to shoot winter as it is in North Dakota.  Take this guy using a garden tractor to widen the approach in to his driveway.  For me, the shot was just any other shot, but I played with it in Photoshop to give it a look that represents my ‘impression’ of winter in a small town…gritty, grainy.

newspaper look of winter

February 7

Plowing snow at night

When most of us are home for the day, trying to get warm, and stay that way, there are men and women who are out late at night making the world an easier place to travel.  In Wilton two men keep the streets clean all winter.  They work all day and all night to keep the snow off the roads.  It’s not a job that can be neglected because wind and more snow can make it even tougher.  So, when it snows, they’re out there immediately to get the streets clean. Thanks go to Dean and Terry for their work.

January 6, 1020

January 6, 1020

Pushing snow

All across North Dakota a seemingly tireless group of men and women work to keep roads and streets open.  Their work makes it possible for schools to get students to and from class, for emergency vehicles to respond as needed, to allow people to leave their homes to buy staples and goods. Therefore, snowplows operators, as bothersome as some people feel is the pile left in driveways, are actually vital to keeping North Dakota moving in the winter.