Big spring snowstorms are our most important source of moisture here in the Wet Mountains. But for as much life as these storms can bring, they can also be deadly for those who are unprepared.
This time of year I keep my eye on the Weather Channel and NOAA, which has a website that allows a user to zero in tightly on a forecast for a local area. Today NOAA’s forecast indicated the storm I’ve been tracking for the past week could dump anywhere from 16 to 28 inches of snow here in the next 48 hours.
I went into high alert and began to prepare for the worst. In 2003, a storm like this brought 7 feet and stranded us here for five days. Over at Bear Bones Ranch, which I manage for Ross and Jan Wilkins, we feed both the horses and cattle with 1,200-pound round bales that I set out in feeders with a tractor. This works out great, but you need to be careful with the timing so that you don’t run low right before a big storm.
I checked the cattle hay feeder and saw it was less than half full, probably enough for two more days, but maybe not. There’s an arena in the pasture where the cattle are, so I put a big round bale inside the arena and closed the gate. If the cattle run out of hay in their feeder during this storm, I can now open the arena and cut the strings on this bale and they’ll be fed for several more days.
There also are eight horses at the ranch. They had a significant amount of a round bale left, but I decided to put out another one just in case.
I topped off all water tanks, 170 gallons on hand for the horses, and 350 gallons for the cattle. If the power goes out, as it often does during heavy, wet storms, this should be enough water for a couple of days.
Back at home I made similar preparations for my burros, though it’s much simpler to fill two 70-gallon tanks and set a small square bale of hay out by the fence not far from my front door.
With all this done before noon, I decided to go for a run before the storm set in for real. I headed out into the wind, and shortly before being blinded by the first squalls of snow, I saw something most people probably never will — two red-tailed hawks mating in an aspen tree.
Soon after I arrived back home the storm set in for real. The only thing left to do was to wait it out.