Springtime in the Flint Hills
The week's only half over and already it's been one to remember. Before I moved to the Flint Hills, I was driving the turnpike from Topeka to Wichita one evening, and I saw huge amounts of rolling smoke and some flames. I had never, at that time, heard of prairie fires or burning the prairie. Now it has become a spring ritual to which I look forward each year.
Yes, I even enjoy smelling the burning grass and I know that sometimes the smoke-filled atmosphere creates the most incredible sunsets. The burning is another signal that soon these blackened hills will be covered with lush green grass and bright wildflowers.
In past years, I'd often jump into my car and drive and drive and drive if I smelled the hint of smoke or saw it or the flames in the distance. Many nights I spent chasing the almost elusive fires because they always seemed just over the hill. In reality, they usually were many miles and many hills away.
Monday night, we had a wonderful fire "just over the creek and the next ridge" (in reality it was a little further!) The coyotes and turkeys were raising quite a ruckus. By the time I got my cameras and a jacket, the north wind was so brisk I couldn't hold the cameras steady and the rain began pelting me. But I did manage to snap a couple shots before it came down so hard it doused the fire. None of the shots is good, but you get the picture (pun intended!).
Then, I was awakened at 1 a.m. to a terrible crashing sound on the skylights and roof. I soon discovered it was hailing. Although not the largest (only pea to marble size), it was certainly some of the most and the hardest I've experienced. Covered the ground with about an inch of ice. And, the wind was horrific.
By morning, despite it being 45 degrees, the ice was still piled against the house and we could barely open the back door onto the deck. Piles of it still covered the lawn.
We were lucky, though. The wind blew over a cast-iron hand pump in back and it rained in around the skylight in the guest bath. An internet report from the National Weather Service and Butler County Law Enforcement indicated the brunt of the storm hit not far from us, maybe 10 to 12 miles to the southwest, with wind speeds exceeding 80 mph:
Yesterday as we drove to Wichita we saw lots of damage between Burns and El Dorado. Power poles and trees just snapped off and some roofs missing. We saw one of the semis mentioned still sitting at the entrance to the turnpike; it was part of a UPS truck. Utility crews were everywhere replacing poles and restringing wire, and we saw a greenhouse that had been destroyed.
VERY LARGE HIGH VOLTAGE POWER LINES DOWN ABOUT 4 MILES SOUTHEAST OF BURNS.
SEVERAL HOMES WERE REPORTED DAMAGED BETWEEN THE TOWNS OF EL DORADO AND BURNS. EXTENT OF THE DAMAGE IS UNKNOWN. SEVERAL SEMIS WERE REPORTED OVERTURNED IN NORTHERN BUTLER COUNTY ON THE KANSAS TURNPIKE NORTH OF EL DORADO.
This morning Charlie braved the fog and below-freezing temperature to hunt one of those noisy gobblers we've been watching and hearing.
Just another week in the Flint Hills.