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S n ow

Remembering the blizzard of 1968-69 The Blizzard of ’69 actually started in 1968. It quit – finally — in 1969, after six weeks of winter on steroids. My recollection – augmented by others’ memories and archives at the museum — is this: Dec. 30, I open the back door to go to work at Travler’s Motel and – holy snow flakes! The walks are full. My car is buried. Snow is horizontal. I face into the blowing snow and begin the wade through two feet of snow to the motel on Fifth. The lobby door is snowed in. From both sides. A foot of fine snow has sifted in under the door. I shovel both sides. The thermometer reads minus 30. Holy frostbite!

Breakfast cocktails

The motel is full of skiers. They can’t get to Schweitzer, which is closed anyway. In 1969, Sunday in Idaho is dry, but skiers from the country up north, ever prepared for such emergencies, have broken out private supplies of alcohol and are having cocktails with their eggs. At 8 a.m., I call my boss for advice. His sage words to this high school senior: Stay out of the restaurant. Next morning, minus 37. The people from up north brought enough for Monday, too. Thus began the blizzard, but snow has been coming in record amounts — 32 inches in December, 12 inches over average. By

Jan. 16, six more than the 24-inch January average has already fallen. Our dad’s 1967 F-100 four-wheel-drive pickup with a newly installed block heater and tire chains is the go-to neighborhood transportation option. The sheriff allows snowmobiles on public roads. Most curbs are piled so high that there is no more piling. It keeps coming.

Giant snow castles

By Jan. 23, the storm has become old news, moving to the back page of Section A of the Sandpoint News-Bulletin. That day, though, the temperature drops to minus 14. Here we go again. Sixty-seven inches of snow have fallen. Schools are still closed. Kids are incredulously happy – giant snow castles are being built in massive curbside piles – but they are the only ones. The school board begins talking about school on Saturdays. Ha! The teachers put the skids on that. Jan. 30, weather comes back to the front page. “Bonner County struggling out from under worst storm in more than 20 years.” Ten lows in single digits or below zero since Dec. 28 and 82 inches of snow, 20 since Jan.16. Twelve-foot drifts in town, 20-foot drifts in the Selle Valley. The county begs the state for a rotary plow. Papa Bear, aka Chair 4, aka Sunnyside, opens

at Schweitzer, with snow accumulation at 161 inches, but nobody can get to the celebration. The Boy Scout troops of Sandpoint get stranded at Camp Stidwell on Mirror Lake. Troop 111 and the Sea Scouts, of which my brothers are members, enjoy the luck. The F-100 provides a ride home for many. As a last hurrah, the Idaho Elks Convention gets stranded the first weekend in February.

PHOTO FROM ROSS HALL COLLECTION

They, too, have brought emergency supplies. Once again, I stay out of the restaurant on Sunday. On Feb. 6, Mother Nature is done. The blizzard of 1969, that started in 1968, is over. It was the coolest.

–Sandy Compton

T

hey’re the ones wearing white after Labor Day, the iconic snowshoe hares of North Idaho – and northern latitudes. But lately, the bunnies’ white phase has arrived well before winter’s first lasting snows and lingered weeks longer than the spring snowpack essential to their disappearing act. Sandpoint’s Gary Payton started noticing the pops – or hops – of white at mid-elevations a few springs back. The snow was gone, but the hares were still white. “These animals have evolved over centuries so their hair color changes from winter to summer, from white to brown, to provide them with camouflage,” he said. But global warming is quickly changing the equation, stranding white hares in brown and green forests, sometimes for weeks before their outfits change for the season. They’re not the only critters struggling to adapt to climate change, just some of the easiest to spot. They’re also among the few species that biologists have already studied for the impacts of climate change. A team of researchers from the University of Montana and 86

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North Carolina State University just published a study of 186 snowshoe hares in western Montana. It’s a costly fashion blunder, wearing white after the melt, the scientists found. For every week a hare didn’t match its surroundings, the chance of predation increased by as much as 7 percent. Lynx and coyotes are particularly fond of a rabbit dinner. And that’s bad news if biologists are right in predicting that, by 2100, hares could be a mismatch for as many as eight weeks yearly. Biologists hope that hares can evolve to molt later in the fall and earlier in the spring. The unknown is how quickly they can adapt. Yet some researchers think hares may move to colder, snowier climes. Prime habitat is moving north at a rate of 5.5 miles per decade.

PHOTO BY DON JONES

Winter shade of hare

–Sherry Devlin

W I N T E R 2 0 17

10/25/16 9:10 AM

Issuu smw17  

In this issue: Wings of Winter, Future of snow, NFL Super Bowl Champion Ron Heller, Art of Megan Atwood Cherry, Urban Moose, Thrill of shed...

Issuu smw17  

In this issue: Wings of Winter, Future of snow, NFL Super Bowl Champion Ron Heller, Art of Megan Atwood Cherry, Urban Moose, Thrill of shed...