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Stranger from a strange land: In like a lamb, Out like a lamb

by David Specht

The saying “In like a lion, out like a lamb” characterizing the changes in March weather from the beginning of the month to the end might be lost on we citizens of the south.  Warm weather is already here and has likely established its foothold for months to come.  The lion symbolizes cold rough weather and the lamb represents warming mild conditions.  The spring equinox is later this month when winter officially changes to spring.  The annual climate tradition of Louisiana seems to be not to procrastinate on the demise of winter.  And why dawdle with spring?  Let the elements cut right to summer.

Our winter was bearable, even pleasant.  I wouldn’t cite the lion as a feline parallel to the cold here.  More like a Persian cat.  Too bad we weren’t here for the Minden winter of 1898-99.  Now that sounds like a respectable winter of cold and snow.  The coldest Louisiana weather since they started keeping records of such things happened in our fair city on February 13, 1899 when the mercury dipped to -16 degrees Fahrenheit (-26.7 Celsius).

That’s not noteworthy historically speaking in the northern states but definitely a teeth-chattering time in northwest Louisiana.  You figure the record for Pelican State cold happened somewhere in the north and Minden is as good a place as any on what would eventually house the I-20 corridor.  But here’s some interesting trivia on the hottest day in recorded Louisiana history and it’s not south of I-10.  Nearby Plain Dealing tucked away in the northwest corner of the state soared to 114 degrees Fahrenheit (45.6 Celsius) on August 10, 1936.  Great Caesar’s Ghost!  As my friend Keith who lays asphalt understated to me about a hot job last summer, “Now that’s warm.”

Heat makes me cranky.  I often liken the summertime Ark-La-Tex to Hell’s Kitchen.  Whereas I can layer on the clothing in the cold, I feel heat gives me limited recourse to cooling down.  Other than cowering inside with the air conditioning.  That’s how I spend my summers here.

Accurate weather forecasts have been an unanticipated advantage of my move south.  It might not be a fair fight because Missouri weather is likely harder to predict than Louisiana conditions.  It’s hot, cool, or rainy here.  Snow and sleet and extreme cold make the northern forecasts more varied.  These days I primarily rely on KTBS-TV meteorologist Joe Haynes for my weather predictions and the guy seems utterly reliable.  He is calm and measured and dependable.  Recently I took the motorcycle out on an overcast day that looked like rain, but Joe’s colleague Neil Shaw assured me there was zero chance of precipitation and he was correct.

I think the Kansas City market was under pressure for sensationalist coverage of the elements.  One very likeable weather forecaster, clearly passionate about his vocation, often made some wacky prognostications to stir his viewers.  It seems the meteorologists down here are the very antithesis of the Boy Who Cried Wolf.  You might take it for granted but not all parts of the country enjoy your local weather accuracy.

Whether running your heater to counter the cold or your air conditioner to halt the heat, more months than not in Missouri you faced a triple digit gas or electric bill respectively.  Thus, I thought nothing of expensive electric bills when we moved south.  After all, you have to run the AC in the blistering southern heat and I knew that was coming long before we loaded the moving truck.  I didn’t know about the contractual intrigue between the City of Minden and the company providing its electrical power.  When we moved to the eastern side of Minden in 2018, we were delighted to discover our electricity costs plummet under the Entergy regime.  Triple digit bills are now as rare as they used to be common for us.

But before you residents of greater Minden get even angrier about your costly electric bills, let me tell you what you have going for you.  In our previous residence in Minden as we experienced in Missouri, when power went out it was generally resolved within minutes or hours.  My sample size is less than two years, but I’ve observed when Entergy goes down, it stays down for hours or days.  I called it the “fainting goat” of utilities but that’s not really accurate because Myotonia congenita (or fainting goat syndrome) sufferers are generally soon back up on their feet.  Entergy is more like the “boxer taking a fall” of utilities.  Once down, it stays down.

In June we were without power for three days.  In October we lost power for hours in the afternoon and it stayed dark into the next morning.  In January we had no electricity for two days.  I haven’t experienced more power outages in the past year than my previous half century plus, but cumulatively I’ve lived in an electricity-free house for more hours during that time than all the previous outages combined.

Too soon?  The straight-line winds and tornadoes of January are still fresh in our minds.  I am thankful our neighborhood wasn’t decimated by the storm and this reads like the fussy grumbling of a guy with First World problems annoyed to take a cold shower a few times a year.  I too salute the linemen and women working long weekend hours to restore our power.  I mention this only to provide comfort to the people of Minden who pay higher electric bills than we Entergy customers and are understandably resentful.  Even if my house goes dark more often than yours (including an hour down the afternoon of the Super Bowl last month to really make us anxious), I wouldn’t trade back for pricier utilities even in winter’s worst.  Which again, down here doesn’t strike me as terribly cold.  

Except in 1899.  That must’ve been a lion.

Dirk Ellingson is a Minden, la resident and is currently a pharmacy technician at the local Walgreens.

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