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Monday, January 11, 2016

Chinook Weather

"It's true. Somewhere inside us we are all the ages we've ever been. We are the three year old who got bit by the dog. We're the 6 year old our mother lost track of at the mall. We're the 10 year old who was tickled till we wet our pant. We're the 13 year old shy kid with zits. We're the 16 year old no one asked to the prom, and  so on.  We walk around in the bodies of adults until someone presses the right button and summons up one of those kids." ~ Anonymous

     My last blog post detailed my favorite non-boating blogs. This morning I read the latest post from Idlewild, Alaska written by a homesteader named Amy. In it she writes about the word Chinook, offering several different definitions: a helicopter, a dog breed, the proper name of a Pacific Northwest coastal native tribe, and the name of the warm, strong winds that roar down off the Alaskan mountains bringing warm, wet weather, gusts with speeds up to 100 MPH, and near tropical temperatures of 40F in January! She writes,"But to me, the chinook is a winter storm in Alaska. It’s that warm southern wind that blows in and often brings rain and sometimes eventually snow with it. The winds howl at 100 mph or more. Trees blow over. Power lines are knocked out and the roads turn to wet ice rinks. Temperature will go from negative 20 F to 40 above in a matter of hours. I adore windy days because of these chinooks. To me, wind means warmth!"
     Amy's post transported me back to my Alaskan childhood and the feeling of excitement that used to vibrate through my limbs upon waking to find the Chinooks were blowing! Such a contrast to the short, brittle, freezing days when temperatures plummeted to as far as -30 F. Bear in mind that in The Last Frontier children play outside at recess until the weather officially drops below -20F. I plodded off to school in my winter gear minus snow pants. Chinook weather was a good reason to wear a dress and tights! I would anticipate the walk home in the afternoon when the winds had melted the top layer of snow on the roads, forming a mantle of water over the hard packed ice. 
     We would purposely leave our winter boots behind at school, escaping to the street in our shiny, hard bottomed dress shoes which performed like skates on the wet, slick road.  Opening our coats and holding each side out like bat wings, the ice-eating winds pushed us along--children sailing on the winter streets, giggling and laughing, playing with the weather. Of course we would get home and be in trouble; feet soggy, coat soaked, tights wet and grimy from falling, hair a-tangle and cheeks glowing with the pink kiss of the wind, but who cared! The wind, the wind, the BIG Chinooks came to play with us!
     Jump forward in time to 1980 when I was the mother of a toddler, living in a second floor apartment across the parking lot from a truss maker--a local south Anchorage company--that manufactured huge wooden roof trusses. Their yard was protected with 15 foot tall chain link fencing. In the corner of their lot nearest the road was a tall stack of industrial grade plywood sheets three inches thick, eight feet wide and twelve feet long. I remember listening to the wind rattling at the windows, watching the road ice melt into a shining, water-slick surface as the Chinooks gathered strength throughout the day. When it reached 90 plus MPH, the invisible breath of the wind lifted the sheets of plywood one-by-one, an invisible hand shuffling a giant deck of wooden cards, flicking each sheet over the top of the chain link fence with nary a struggle, sending giant wooden panels skittering down the street like toys. 
     Out in the Alaskan wilds Amy writes about taking advantage of the warm wind to split logs in preparation for the colder weather which will surely follow in the wake of the mighty Chinooks. Les and I suffered firewood envy as we drooled over her blog pictures of their wood pile. Thank you Amy for a mighty blast from the past!
Firewood during the Alaskan Chinook - IdlewildAlaska
Copyright 2016, Idlewild, Alaska

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NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs