It’s not hot today. The high is supposed to be 84. There could be thunderstorms, although in Las Vegas that can mean you get a 30-second sprinkle and call it done. This is the first time we’ve had a day like this in months. It’s been a hot, dry summer. This is not terribly unusual for Las Vegas, but it’s definitely a significant contrast with Iowa, where we were for three years previous. I don’t mind the heat, but I do mind the climatological monotony.
My work at the Mob Museum is going very well, but Las Vegas generally is not as hospitable as one would like. With the endless violence reported on the news, the ubiquitous homeless people approaching us in parking lots and the thoughtless and angry motorists on the streets, not to mention the recent report ranking Nevada 50th in education, we are less than impressed with our new-old home.
But summer is weird. Things might look better before too long. Fortunately, it’s that time of year when some things return to normal. In a week, our younger daughter will return to Iowa State University for the fall semester. In two weeks or so, our son-in-law will return to the classroom to teach eighth-graders. At month’s end, college and pro football will start their regular seasons. In mid-September, the fall TV season will kick off, bringing back a handful of shows we like. And by late September we might start feeling the first signs of fall.
Since I don’t blog that often, I should throw in a few updates:
- The Nevada sesquicentennial book launched in May with a great event at the Clark County Library. The book has been well received and is selling well. In fact, the first printing is nearly sold out. We’re not sure yet whether there will be a second printing.
- I wrote a long essay for this year’s Las Vegas Writes book. The book’s theme is “Lost and Found,” and I wrote about lost and found Nevada historical documents and artifacts. The book will debut at the Vegas Valley Book Festival in October.
- Speaking of the book festival, I am scheduled to participate in two panel discussions there, one on the Las Vegas Writes book and one on the Nevada sesquicentennial.
- I’ve been writing some essays and book reviews for Desert Companion, Nevada Public Radio’s monthly magazine. My old friends and colleagues Andrew Kiraly and Scott Dickensheets run that operation, and I enjoy writing for them.
- I recently completed a big project to rescue the Las Vegas CityLife and Las Vegas Mercury hard copy archives from the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which wanted to dispose of them, and donate them to the Nevada State Museum. There were many car trips from the R-J to my house, where the 75 banker’s boxes of papers were stored in my garage, and then there were many more car trips from my house to the museum. Thanks to museum director Dennis McBride for taking an interest in preserving these publications.
And so it begins . . .
Nov. 9: Woke up to about an inch of snow in the yard and on my car. Yesterday’s rain turned to snow overnight. The roads were wet but not particularly slick. The snow is expected to melt off later today. This aspect of our adventure has started a little earlier than we had hoped or expected, but maybe there’ll be another period of clear weather before winter arrives in earnest.
Nov. 14: We had great weather the past few days while we moved into our new house on Clemens Boulevard. Highs in the low 50s, lows in the low 30s, and no rain. Anybody can cope with those numbers. We’re really pleased with our new house. It’s big, comfortable and in a great neighborhood. Two different neighbors have brought over cookies. Lots of kids playing outside. The only downside is we’re quite a bit farther away from work and school than we were in the rental house.
Nov. 23: It’s the day before Thanksgiving. Overall, the weather since the Nov. 9 snowfall has been really quite good. Very little precipitation. Just a few cold days. One morning I got into my car to go to work and it was 20 degrees. That’s pretty cold. A few evenings ago, Tammy and I attended the city’s Christmas tree lighting downtown and a bitterly cold wind put a damper on the festivities. But there have been many other days, like today, when the daytime temps have been in the high 40s and even low 50s, while it barely dropped below freezing at night. There has been talk of snow next week, but as far as November is concerned, I can’t complain.
Dec. 1: It snowed today. Nothing serious. It didn’t stick, at least not in Ames. Tammy and I drove in to Des Moines this evening, and we did see some lingering snow on the patches of grass in the shopping centers and on some of the cars driving around. Must have snowed a bit more there. Significant precip (rain or snow, or both) is forecast for Saturday.
Dec. 3: It rained all day, finally turning to snow about 10 p.m. But the snow came at the tail end of the storm, so Ames got, at most, half an inch. Northern Iowa got a lot more. I hardly needed to shovel anything, but I did anyway because it was easy.
Dec. 5: Bitterly cold today. High in low 20s, but wind making it feel like mid-teens.
Dec. 6: Even colder today. It is 9:22 p.m., and the temperature is 9 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dec. 8: Snow this evening. We saw little rabbit footprints in the snow covering the back porch.
Dec. 9: Shoveled driveway and sidewalk this morning. About half an inch, so pretty easy work. Sara drove to and from school today without incident. Although it didn’t get above freezing today, the sun managed to melt a lot of the snow. Very cold this evening at 12 degrees. Supposed to get down to 3 or 4 overnight but warm up considerably in the next two days. A high of 40 is considered to be quite warm.
Dec. 11: It warmed up, as expected, and most of the snow melted today. I leave for Las Vegas tomorrow evening, so I won’t be here for a few days. We’re supposed to get some precipitation while I’m gone, but the good news for Tammy is it likely will be rain, not snow, so no shoveling will be required.
Dec. 18: Fifty degrees, sunny and no wind today. Beautiful day. We sure have been lucky. December has been a little colder overall than our mild November, but the snow has been minimal so far. We leave this evening for a week in Las Vegas, and the forecast for Ames is mostly clear and not too cold while we’re gone. There’s a chance of rain/snow in a few days, but it doesn’t look like much, especially if it’s all rain. It’ll be just a little warmer in Las Vegas!
Dec. 25: No white Christmas in Iowa this year. It’s been unseasonably warm, and the big holiday was no exception.
Jan. 1: Very windy overnight. We were supposed to get a quick shot of snow but it never materialized in Ames. Just big wind gusts that kept on through the day. Cold today but it was the wind that made it uncomfortable. The warmer, drier fall and winter are being attributed to the La Nina weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean. The Des Moines Register reported yesterday: “Almost no snow has fallen. The ground is bare, and winter seems an abstract concept. Ice melting tools crowd the shelves of Porter Hardware in Des Moines. The store’s snow blower inventory is full, and shovels are plentiful.” And guess what: Dry conditions are forecast throughout this week, with temperatures warming back to 50 or so by Thursday. Some winter!
Jan. 5: It was warm and sunny today. Wait, that’s hardly a worthy description of this deep-winter day in Iowa. It was 63 degrees in Ames, and 65 in Des Moines! High-temp records were set all over the state. People didn’t wear jackets in the afternoon. They golfed. Kids played outside. Longtime Iowans marveled at the highly unusual weather pattern. Some cynics figure this means that when winter finally comes, it will extend into April or May. Certainly hope not.
Jan. 16: Winter finally arrived last week. We got several quite cold days and two moderate snowfalls. However, a warm day (in the 40s) over the weekend melted all the snow. Today was pretty decent but it’s supposed to get cold again tomorrow and maybe snow. Still an unusually warm, dry winter overall.
Jan. 19: It is 7 a.m., and the temperature is minus-1. The wind chill is minus-17. This is the point where the TV weathermen warn people about the grim prospect of frostbite if their skin is exposed to the elements for more than five minutes. Significant snowfall is expected here tomorrow. If so, it would be the first time we’ve gotten more than an inch or so this season.
Jan. 22: It was a fairly warm day today, with a high of about 35. But it wasn’t sunny at all. So some of the snow melted but not a lot. Today’s relatively balmy conditions followed several days of bitterly cold temps. We got up early one Saturday morning and it was minus-6. With the wind chill, it felt like minus-20. I think the high that day was about 8 or 10. So it’s late in the evening right now and it’s raining. The rain is likely to convert to snow sometime in the night. Recipe for slippery conditions in the morning, I expect.
Jan. 23: Yep, we got a pretty good dose of snow overnight. Major shoveling in the morning. Quite a workout. Some neighbors used their snow blowers. The roads were a little slippery in the morning. At a four-way stop near the high school, Sara’s car was bumped from behind. No damage or injuries. It turned out it was Sara’s friend who slid into her car. Then, the snowplow nicked our garbage can and knocked it over, spilling garbage. I had to go pick it up.
Feb. 2: We have been having phenomenal weather. Record-setting warm temperatures. The high a couple of days this week was around 60. Almost no precipitation and little wind. It has been such a mild winter here and across the Midwest that it’s big news. According to USA Today, “the jet stream has cut off the cold air for much of the winter, shoving it north of the USA.” Despite the unusual warmth, an elderly couple near Des Moines went ice fishing. They drowned. We’re supposed to get some rain and snow this weekend, but already the forecasters are pulling back on their predictions about the storm’s severity.
Feb. 13: Awakened to a pretty healthy snowfall. Continued to snow during much of the day. Probably about 2 1/2 inches total.
Feb. 14: Warmed up nicely, and most of the snow melted today.
Feb. 19: Very nice today, sunny with the high in the low 40s. Can’t complain.
March 7: We got more than three inches of snow a few days ago, probably the most we’ve had in one day this winter. But then, the past couple of days, we’ve had wonderfully warm spring weather that melted the snow. It was about 70 yesterday and 65 today. It’ll be maybe 50 tomorrow but then warm up again, hitting the 60s by Monday. So this Iowa winter, which we dreaded, has been remarkably mild, and it’s almost over.
March 25: Let’s put a bow on this endless blog post. It’s been warm and nice, if a little breezy, since that snowfall almost three weeks ago. Highs in the 70s. Some rain, but no thunderstorms yet. The grass is green. The trees have buds on them. Birds everywhere. On March 20th, the Des Moines Register had a headline declaring, “One More Freeze Remains a Possibility,” with the state’s climatologist saying it would happen by the second week of April. A hard freeze is defined as 28 degrees or lower. I would bet against it. The Register article also offered some interesting statistics about this winter past. It’s been the warmest winter in a decade, and the ninth warmest winter in 139 years of Iowa climate records. Snowfall was well below normal. We set records for warm days in March.
Long story short, we survived our first Midwest winter. We’re very grateful it was a mild one. No car accidents. No painful falls. It could have been a whole different story if it had been a lot colder and snowier.
The eighth installment of Midwest Adventures was published recently as my column in the the Ames Tribune. You can read it here. I’ve been told there’s some funny stuff in there.
The next installment will be a little different. I intend to document the experience of winter day by day. All of this material will be contained in one blog post, so I will update it as often as I can.
It is not winter yet, thank goodness, but fall is in the air. The leaves are turning and falling to the ground. The mornings are cool. However, we still are seeing some warm days. It’s expected to hit 80 again early next week.
The Des Moines Register had a front-page story the other day looking at the long-range forecasts, trying to determine what kind of winter we will have. Long-range weather forecasts are notoriously difficult but there are legitimate climatological signs that can be read. This is what we know:
- Iowa has had five straight winters with more snow than usual. Iowa received 40.8 inches of snow last winter, and 49.2 inches the year before.
- Iowa has had four straight winters with below-normal temperatures. The average temperature last winter was 18.7 degrees. It was 16.6 the year before.
The forecasts are for these trends to continue. That’s not great news for this thin-blooded family.
Maybe we’ll get lucky and have a winter like Iowa enjoyed in 2005-6, when the average temperature was a balmy 25.4 degrees and there was only 26.3 inches of snow.
Of course, the winter experience can differ depending on where you are in Iowa. The state’s northern half tends to see a little more severe winter than the southern half. But not always. It depends on where the jet stream is flowing. Ames is right in the middle of the state, so it could go either way.
I will post the first part of #9 as soon as signs of winter emerge.
Last week I drove to Minneapolis to take in a baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Dodgers. I met my Las Vegas friend Steve Guiremand and his son, Kyle, at their hotel near the Mall of America, and we took the light rail to the stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
The drive from Ames to Minneapolis is a little more than 200 miles. It took me slightly less than 3 1/2 hours. It’s a simple route. You get on U.S. 35 in Ames and take it all the way to Minneapolis. There’s not a whole lot to see along this route, other than green fields.
Iowa has some amazing rest stops. In a previous post, I discussed one outside Iowa City dedicated to the writing art. The one I stopped at en route to Minneapolis is a two-story structure in the form of a barn. Inside, there are numerous vending machines, and upstairs there’s a coffee shop. It was not open yet when I stopped there fairly early in the morning.
Across the way from the rest stop is another of Iowa’s casinos, the Diamond Jo. I didn’t go inside but thought I’d document its existence anyway for those who are curious about casinos outside the state of Nevada.
Minneapolis’ light rail is very nice and easy to use. It’s clear that it gets a lot of use. Las Vegas really ought to think harder about building one. We joined literally hundreds of others who parked at or near the Mall of America, in a suburb of Minneapolis, and took the light rail to the game, thereby avoiding the hassles of navigating traffic in one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. It’s also not very expensive: We paid $4 for a roundtrip ticket.
Target Field, just a little more than a year old, is a fine baseball stadium. It seems like there’s a great view from every seat, including ours. The food is good, and the prices are surprisingly decent. I had a brat, of course. I’m eager to see a few more major league stadiums in the Midwest.
After the game, which the Twins won 1-0, and a return trip on the light rail (packed with baseball fans), we checked out the Mall of America, or part of it anyway. I bought a hard-to-find style of baseball cap and T-shirt (Brewers) in a sports apparel store. Wandering over to the Barnes & Noble, wouldn’t you know it, but Sarah Palin was there doing a book signing. Hundreds of people were lined up, or snapping pictures from afar. I managed to squeeze through the hordes to get a decent photo. It wouldn’t have been decent if I didn’t have a great zoom capability on my point-and-shoot Kodak.
Once the family arrives later this month, I could see us taking a trip to the Mall of America, which has every store on Earth, plus many other amenities, including a roller coaster. It’ll make for a long day, but it’s doable.