Storm Approaches


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An unofficial source of Eagle Harbor, Michigan news, views and information.

Winter Storm Approaches

The Week's Weather Journal.

"...when we don't live with birds or weather or waves we lose the opportunity to think hard about ourselves, to discover from nature important facts about human nature."
(excerpted from Nancy Lord's, Fishcamp)

The Week Of March 1, 1998


I'm in Minneapolis (Edina) having just returned from a terrific trip to California with Carol to be with our youngest on her 30th birthday. WOW, do they have weather out there! We were in Santa Barbara when last Monday's El Nino storm arrived. Beaches, hillsides and roadways already badly battered by the series of El Nino generated storms that have been Californian's almost daily lot for the last few months, were ripped apart by Monday's deluge of rain and pounding surf. We were on Santa Barbara's main downtown thoroughfare (State Street) in the height of the storm, temporarily marooned by a storefront to storefront cascade of water racing down to the sea from the hills that border this beautiful old Spanish port. The steep hills, already saturated by record winter rainfalls, yielded to this latest onslaught in massive mud slides that buried all in their path. Raging rivers clawed away at roads and bridges creating road closures that will take weeks to reopen. All roads to Los Angeles were shut down for several hours and the Amtrak line was wiped out at several points. Unfortunately, several lives were lost and damage to homes, businesses and farms is awesome. After witnessing the other side of our hemisphere's record setting weather phenomenon, my continual complaining about the winter tempering impact of El Nino here in the upper midwest, especailly the sparsity of snow, seems trival, almost unjust.


I learned today that the total February Keweenaw snowfall was 7.9 inches. This is the least amount of white stuff to grace a Harbor February in the 40 plus years Keweenaw County has maintained a measuring station at Delaware. The old record was 15.3 inches. This is downright embarrasing! Hopefully, November's over 50 inches will save us from setting a new annual record low, but it's going to be close. We need another 15 inches to escape that fate...a little less that half the average snowfall for March, April and May. Few Copper Country veterans can remember a winter with as little snow, as much open water, and as warm as this. Friends and acquaintenances here in the Twin Cities who have for years patiently listened and respectfully oohed and awed at my many tales of Keweenaw snowfalls, seem perplexed, or is it amused, by my sudden avoidance of the subject. Last week during the couple of beautiful days following the Monday storm and while sipping some of California's finest chardonnay on the sunny balcony of our spacious suite at the Santa Barbara Biltmore Four Seasons, gazing out over the blue Pacific across beautifully manicured green lawns and colorful gardens lined with palms swaying in the gentle warm breeze, I wondered why I thought a winter at the Harbor was my chosen lot. The fact that I, self appointed chieftain of Harbor winter loyalists, could have such thoughts is simply evidence of the corrupting influence of a snowless winter. Perhaps it was instead the influence of living beyond one's means, or at least pretending to do so. The suite, with a closet posted rate of $1800 per night (I looked), was a free upgrade from a room at less than a tenth of that rate by a resort apparently grateful for any guest in off season and in the teeth of El Nino. (We were two of less than a dozen guests in this many acre beachside enclave.) Here's to El Nino!


I drive the 400 miles to the Harbor today, with Abby sleeping peacefully in the rear of the van. Good thing she didn't know what was going on. Her sleep might have been as fitful as my mind...a mind trying to cope with the challenge of driving with a right leg and foot that didn't respond to commands to lift, push or just tell the brain what was going on down there. A holdover injury from my last hospital escapade that is yet to heal. Aches like hell but otherwise doesn't seem to be there. I'm hopped up on massive dosages of painkiller that makes me a bit spacier than usual (also added to the thrill of the ride up here!). The doc's will work on it Thursday. Fortunately, the driving weather was good with only light snow flurries to contend with. Lots of small towns along this route, each with their own collection of families, sense of place, pride of history, and daily routine. I love and wonder about the names. Places like: Alpha, Siren, Hertel, Trego, Spring Brook, Mellen, Upson, Merriweather, Ewen, Bruce Crossing, Donken, and, of course, the several mining locations that dot M-26 south of the bridge along the Keweenaw Fault. I never lived in a town as small as these and wonder what it would be like. Such wonder is probably what fuels the popularity of the Lake Wobegon stories. Perhaps my big city bias, but I sense as I drive by that all these places have rich and interesting histories, but that they are just hanging on, probably only a few generations from being much more than a name on old maps, a gathering place for centennial reunions, and a holdover 45 MPH zone. The change is slow however, they certainly have more staying power than the Copper Country mining locations abandoned when veins petered out. However, each year of the forty plus I've travelled this route witnesses a few more buildings down, a few more storefronts boarded up, and another of the few remaining schools replaced with a school bus stop. There are surely stories of personal hardship and disappointment in all of this, but they, thankfully, are not evident to the passerby.


The wonderdog and I are gathered by a cozy fire enjoying a quiet winter morning. There is snow outside, not much, just enough to cover the ground and a light dusting on the woodpile. No snow windrows along the roads and the piles at driveways seem to be gone. It's a grey day with very light flurries blowing in off the lake. No ice in the harbor or on the lake, not even along the edges. The harbor entry rocks are ready for summer. We arrived at dusk last evening after an absence of two weeks. There were very few lights in harbor windows as we drove by and nothing seems to be astir as I survey the scene this morning. Not surprising for an early Eagle Harbor March, typically the time when most folks who are getting away for a short trip are gone and the snow birds are yet to return. The talk in the stack of local newspapers accumulated in my absence is, not surprisingly, the weather...or more to the point, the lack thereof. The general tone is positive. Of course El Nino gets much of the credit but there was a report that "Fuzzy" Waara, our friendly Fraki's butcher says that the credit should be given to "El Niemela", who Fuzzy says is a renowned Finnish researcher who discovered a way to make changes in the jet stream. I wonder what spin Eino and Toivo will make of all this. The few snow freaks around have reportedly been out trying to stir up some snow by looking up into the clouds while chanting the Heikka Luntta snow dance song. I suppose I should join them but midnight, new moon, outdoor dancing is just not my thing, nor do I own a pair of the requisite swampers, and anyway, a one-legged dance probably wouldn't be very persuasive!


In late afternoon, just as I returned from a vist with my docs in Marquete, the seemingly incessant cloud cover scooted to the east and the Harbor was bathed in the golden glow of sunlight filtered by its long oblique journey through the dense atmosphere of our western sky. Abby and I parked ourselves on the front stoop, basking in the suddenly pervasive sight, sound and smell of early spring. The forested ridges that shoulder the harbor are still in their grey winter garb, but as the setting sun works to the north the long late day shadows sharpen the relief, giving three demensional character to the cascade of ridges that in winter's low light seem shapeless. The heart news today was encouraging and, indeed, the frequency and severity of angina episodes has lessened. I'm grateful for this respite. The leg problem, however, has worsened. I return to Marquette tomorrow for some tests to determine the extent of what appears (and feels) to be damage to the big nerve that lies alongside the repaired femoral artery. Between the leg pain (feels like a tooth ache in the leg) and the narcotics I'm taking to relieve it, my power of concentration is greatly diminished. I'm afraid attention to editing the web page will suffer.


A beautiful round-trip drive in bright snow showers, but the news at Marquette was not good. The damage to the nerve is severe. Apparently the eight hours of "femoral stop" pressure cut off blood flow to the adjacent nerve. Without blood and the oxygen it supplies, nerves, like muscle, will degenerate. That seems to be what happened. There are now just a few live nerve fibers. Just enough to generate a lot of pain, but not enough to transmit brain signals to the leg muscles. Thus no leg control. There is a chance the surviving nerves will spawn new nerves, but the doc says that, if it happens at all, may take months. Kind of a bummer for someone as outdoor active as I've been. She started me on a new "nerve specific" pain killer. I noted the Rx was for three months supply, with three renewals. Not good. Let's hope they help. I can adjust to the loss of leg function, Abby being my inspiration, but the persistent pain interferes with everything. Writing, reading and mindworking, for me some of the usually almost effortless and always most gratifying aspects of life, I now find to be a real challenge. I was well aware and very accepting of the risks of repeated heart catherizations, the alternatives seemingly of greater risk, so I have no regrets. I'll work through this.


Yesterday's Journal entry had little to do with "Harbor Weather", or even Harbor life. I recognize how inappropriate many Harbor Web viewers might find such personal ramblings. The Weather Journal is an account of living at Eagle Harbor, and dealing with such personal challenges is as much a part of life here as it would be anywhere else. As I observe and share accounts of nature and man at work in this wonderous place, I recognize that my perceptions are shaped by the filters of my personal biases and changing circumstances. In this context, a Weather Journal account of these circumstances may be relavant. It is for me. My circumstance certainly makes me more cognizant of the special caring of Harbor neighbors, an aspect of Harbor life that all who have strong Harbor ties know to be at the core of the Harbor appeal. I'm also more attuned to the healing, yea nurturing, power of our unique natural environment. Its greatest gifts are the daily examples of renewal, and the overpowering perspective afforded by the scope, perpeturity, and immediacy of the grandeur of our setting. Good friends and a nurturing environment. What more could I ever need?

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