Conditions have normalized this week and there were a few downright warm days early this month, but without a doubt, November has at times been more like mid-winter than mid-autumn in 2014.

Obviously, this past weekend’s snowfall is clear testament to that reality, but meteorological data also supports it. According to information posted on the Weather Underground website (www.wundergound.com), five record low temperatures for November dates had been recorded through Monday at the Fort Leonard Wood weather station, including four straight from Nov. 14 to 17.

And Tuesday (the 18th) surely extended that streak; at about 6:30 a.m. that morning, I saw a starkly frigid reading of 6 degrees on the thermometer mounted to the well house at our remote Texas County high country outpost.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

The recent run even included a stretch of eight consecutive days with high temperatures below 40 in Springfield – something area TV and radio meteorologists pointed out had never before occurred in November.

But then, November 2013 was pretty cold in these parts, too. The Weather Underground site indicates six record lows were recorded at the Fort between the first and 17th of the month last year, including three that still stand in the face of this year’s onslaught of cold.

Of course, time will tell what the rest of this November’s weather will be like, and the same goes for December. But here’s to hoping we don’t take the same path as last year, because looking at last December could definitely bring back some cold memories.

Weather Underground data from the FLW station includes 11 days with high temperatures at or below freezing and two with highs only reaching the teens during the month. There were also eight days with lows at or below 11 degrees and three record lows, including a reading of only 6 degrees on the 24th and a mere 5 degrees on the 7th.

And of course, a lot of people – like me – grudgingly recall what happened last January and February, when the mercury dropped below the zero mark with amazing regularity.

Remember minus 14 on January 6? I have copies of two photos of thermometers showing that arctic reading that were taken at Texas County locations about 25 miles apart (I took one of the mercury-style unit at my place and a man well-known in the community took the other of a digital unit at his place).

Brrr.

Anyway, I’m not a big fan of big-time cold, but I’m a huge fan of living in the south-central Missouri Ozarks, so it’s OK by me if things get a bit nippy now and then.

And my wife can make awesome pots of bean soup and chili, so it could be far worse.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

A digital thermometer at a location about three miles north of Houston shows a frigid minus 14 degrees at 7 a.m. last Jan. 6.

A digital thermometer at a location about three miles north of Houston shows a frigid minus 14 degrees at 7 a.m. last Jan. 6.

A thermometer at a location about 10 miles east of Houston shows a frigid minus 14 degrees at 7 a.m. last Jan. 6.

A thermometer at a location about 10 miles east of Houston shows a frigid minus 14 degrees at 7 a.m. last Jan. 6.

A thermometer at a location about 10 miles east of Houston shows a frigid minus 14 degrees at 6 a.m. Nov. 17.

A thermometer at a location about 10 miles east of Houston shows a frigid minus 14 degrees at 6 a.m. Nov. 17 (2014).

When the sun came out and the weather warmed up last weekend, I know I was far from alone in being glad.

After dealing with cold, wintry conditions for as long as we had in these parts, that was about as welcome a change in the weather as one could imagine. When the temperature reached “normal” levels in the mid-40s on Saturday, it was easy to tell we had turned the corner. And even though the wind was blowing at gale force all day Sunday, the 60-degree temperatures were a huge relief.

Looking around the remote Texas County high-country outpost where my wife and I live, it was obvious the neighborhood critters were relieved, too.

On Saturday morning, I saw probably 50 or more robins bouncing around on the ground near the house, no doubt taking advantage of the thaw – and the fact they could actually see grass – to find some tasty organic morsels just below the surface. At the same time, dozens of other birds could be seen flitting around in trees and bushes, all the while doing what seemed like a little more than the standard amount of chirping.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

A little later in the morning, members of the property’s chicken community left the confines of their six-by-16 “room” for the first time in more than a week and were out and about pecking the ground, flapping their wings and generally doing what they usually do when there isn’t a thick blanket of white stuff coating the ground.

By afternoon, the dogs were in full lounge mode, lying around on the walkway, porch and in different spots on the lawn.

Of course, the aftermath of a winter storm inevitably includes a muddy, mushy period that lasts a few days after the thaw takes over. With that in mind, my wife Wendy and I took a “walk in the mud” in the afternoon sun.

In addition to seeing mud puddles, we observed that water was flowing big-time in the spring and its outbound branch, and that the creek at the base of the ridge was running high, as snow run-off roared through Cass Township’s big culverts under the bridge.

Seeing all of that water was nice, and knowing it wasn’t enough to be destructive was, too.

By Sunday, the mush factor was beginning to subside and there were actually a few places around the property that were firming up.

But man, that crazy wind – blowing hard and steady with gusts of a good 35 to 40 miles per hour – made it hard to get out and enjoy much, but it provided plenty of valuable pruning to all the trees in the area. I spent quite a while picking up branches and sticks and I didn’t mind a bit; they just went into the bigger of our two fire pits and will come in handy when it’s time to sit out and enjoy some flames on a picture-perfect evening in maybe March or April.

The two horses and the donkey took the nice weather as an opportunity to relax and spent a while lying down in the sun together in a seemingly organized row. And being the smart four-leggers they are, they did so on the leeward side of an outbuilding, where the wind was minimal.

Speaking of changes in weather, I saw a report last week on a Springfield TV newscast that pretty much confirmed what a lot of people who live in this region of the United States already suspected: The area has the most diverse weather in country. The segment featured a weather expert (I think from the National Weather Service) who said there is nowhere else in the country – and few places in the world – where weather so often goes from one extreme to another in a short time the way it does here.

He pointed out that the all-time record high for Springfield is 113 and the lowest temperature ever recorded was minus 29, and that the difference of 142 degrees was highly abnormal. He said we only had to look at the current week to find a prime example, as the temperature was in the neighborhood of minus-15 on Monday and was destined to rise above 60 only six days later.

He explained that the reason the region seems to be riding a weather yo-yo is its proximity to both the Gulf of Mexico (which provides warm air masses) and northern Canada (from where frigid arctic air migrates south), but that neither is close enough to be a dominant factor in the climate. In other words, we’re not close enough to an ocean to get the consistent moderation that coastal areas experience, but we’re close enough to at times be affected by warm, moisture-laden air masses. Likewise, we’re not close enough to the arctic to be inundated by cold with much regularity, but we’re close enough that the jet stream lets arctic air masses pay a visit now and then.

It all stands to reason. Welcome to the middle.

Surely, there’s plenty of time for another deep freeze and a three dog night or two to descend upon central North America before temperatures rise and another set of extremes takes center stage – the kind that can cause residents of south-central Missouri to wonder if the driveway is going to wash away or whether there will be enough water in the pond for the cattle. It’s probably safe to say we’re not out of the winter woods yet and we’d best not start raising our expectations.

For crying in the slush, it’s only mid-January and we all know what February can be like.

Still, I can’t think of any break in the weather that’s been more timely than the one we’ve recently experienced. What a relief indeed.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

A trio of resident of the remote high country Texas County outpost enjoy last Sunday's warm weather on the heels of a big-time wintry blast. From left, Bennie, Abe and Sur.

A trio of resident of the remote high country Texas County outpost enjoy last Sunday’s warm weather on the heels of a big-time wintry blast. From left, Bennie, Abe and Sur.

 

My trip last week to southern California showed me a few things and reminded me of many others.

Staying with my mom and seeing my brother in the San Diego area was a nice experience in many ways. Almost three years had passed since I last saw them, and I was reminded that perhaps that’s a bit too long.

But the distance between the Ozarks and the southwestern-most part of the U.S. is pretty hefty, and I guess it’s not as easy getting there as I wish it was.

As I walked on a jetty at the entrance to Batiquitos Lagoon in the La Costa area of Carlsbad (the city where my mom lives), took photos of passing pelicans and watched the waters of the Pacific Ocean pound against the rocks, I was reminded that there’s something special about coastal areas that can’t be duplicated. As I played golf in bone-dry conditions and 85-degree temperatures, I was reminded that the days of being an avid snow skier during my nearly 30 years living in the Northwest are a distant memory, and I now enjoy warm weather far more than cold.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

But as I pulled up to stop lights and was surrounded by dozens of cars at intersections of four-lane roads in Encinitas, Vista, and other towns with close to 100,000 residents, I was reminded of how much I enjoy driving 10 miles to town and maybe seeing three vehicles the whole way there.

By the way, there’s a bunch of towns that size in San Diego County. And the county itself is huge. No, really, I mean HUGE. Texas County is the largest county in Missouri, occupying about 1,179 square miles. San Diego County is almost four times larger, at 4,526 square miles.

It’s almost the size of Connecticut. And it’s not even close to being the largest county in California. San Bernardino County covers 20,100 square miles (albeit mostly desert). Try to imagine that.

Anyway, being away from home was fun, and I loved seeing my family members and doing the SoCal thing for a while. But being away also reminded me of how blessed I am to live where I live.

I was only gone a week, but it didn’t take long for me to miss a lot about good ‘ol Texas County and the remote outpost where I eat, sleep, and store my shoes at night. I missed the big views of pastures and forested hills, the silly Corgis, and my bed. I missed drinking the wonderful water that comes from our well, hearing the neighborhood coyotes sing in the evening, and even the donkey. But most of all, I really missed my wife Wendy, and just being home.

And you know what else? I must be getting old, because that whole airport deal and sitting on airplanes for hours and hours just flat wore me out. As I have since I was a kid, I still enjoy staring out the window from 38,000 feet as the world spreads out below, but my knees and ankles don’t handle the cramped space of an airliner seat anywhere near as well as they used to.

Being 6-3 used to be so easy, but maybe not so much any more. Same with being away.

There’s no place like home.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted on the blog page at http://www.houstonherald.com. Email:  ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Pacific Ocean waves crash against a rock jetty at the entrance of Batiquitos Lagoon at Carlsbad State Beach in San Diego County, Calif.

Pacific Ocean waves crash against a rock jetty at the entrance of Batiquitos Lagoon at Carlsbad State Beach in San Diego County, Calif.

Surfers prepare to enter the water in 80-degree weather March 1 at Carlsbad State Beach in northern San Diego County, Calif.

Surfers prepare to enter the water in 80-degree weather March 1 at Carlsbad State Beach in northern San Diego County, Calif.

Pacific Ocean waters shine in the sun on a warm, clear day March 1 at Carlsbad State Beach in San Diego County, Calif.

Pacific Ocean waters shine in the sun on a warm, clear day March 1 at Carlsbad State Beach in San Diego County, Calif.