Uncommon Ground

Extremely Unstable

Meteorologists have been forecasting what the Flathead weather might look like over the decades to follow and no one will like the predictions

By Mike Jopek

In 2015, taxpayers spent nearly a billion dollars compensating hard working farmers, cleaning out infected commercial poultry coops and disposing of 50 million chickens and turkeys diseased with the deadly bird flu.

This year the bird flu decimated flocks again killing 40 million birds to date while spiking egg prices across America for families already facing excruciatingly hard economic times.  Montana saw 80,000 birds affected earlier this month.

As temperatures scorched above 100 degrees, Kansas reported that 2,000 cows died due to the sweltering waves of hot air which suffocated the region. Last year a mega-drought overran North Dakota forcing ranchers to sell thousands of cows young as feed was unavailable or unaffordable. 

Hundreds of thousands of New Mexico forestlands and ranges quickly burned this springtime as the unprecedented wildfires rage. It’s an ominous start to summertime’s notorious heat waves changing landscapes across western America.

On the other side of the planet, China reported rescuing over 200,000 people from torrential flood rains that dropped three inches of water per hour.

In Yellowstone an extraordinary one in 500-year flood decimated farms, homes and businesses while closing the northern portion of the park for weeks. The catastrophic event continues a third year of hard luck for the thousands of workers earning livelihoods from Montana’s majestic lands during a pandemic.

Flathead speculates that many Yellowstone tourists might relocate vacations to the Glacier Park area. Seems hard telling with gas over $5 and the airfare spikes. The unpredictable increases in wildfires during hot summers also complicates plans for vacationers.

In 1993 rains continued throughout the Flathead summer, dropping 3.7 inches in June, 6.1 inches in July, and 1.5 inches in August. Those were the wet days on the farm. Wildfires rarely choked out the valley. Extreme weather events occurred less frequently. The weather was plenty powerful yet less chaotic with fewer back-to-back extremes. 

This month Whitefish reportedly saw nearly four inches of rain fall before solstice. The rain gauge at the farm said five inches over one weeklong storm as rivers of water poured from the sky. Forecasters predict 80-degree days upcoming.

For the fortunate amongst us who have many houses across the nation, it’s easy to vacation where the climate is nicest while fleeing more extreme weathers.  Working-class locals ride out the storms as graciously as humanly possible given how little Congress seems to care about what’s happing to our planet right in front of our eyes.

Reason might have thought that a pandemic, which killed a million Americans, might have woken our sleepy government to the power of nature and incline congresspeople to work together to solve common problems. Rather, our politicians seemingly want us mad at other humans and ignore our shared plight.

Meteorologists have been forecasting what the Flathead weather might look like over the decades to follow and no one will like the predictions. Insurance companies are taking note and frequently underpaying policyholders for all the repairs of extreme weather events.

A lifetime ago, Mike Mansfield successfully acquired the funds to build the miraculous Hungry Horse Dam after numerous and dogged attempts convincing a hardheaded Congress of the need for power and flood control in rural Montana.

If not for Mansfield, the valley may have flooded much worse this spring, sending homes down the river like at that other national park in the state. In the 1900s alone the Flathead saw seven major floods before the dam was built by hardworking people. 

Mansfield had vision. He did right by Montana.  Our current congressmen don’t much like each other, making the gracious style of leadership exhibited by Mansfield significantly less probable. Today, few in Congress want to do much of anything about peak oil shortages or extreme weather except pay disaster damages using the taxpayer’s billfold.

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