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Please Don't Quote Me

By Caralee Aschenbrenner


WEATHER. It’s all up and down or swirling around in Northwest Illinois. It’s seldom the same two or three days in a row so we don’t get bored! Perhaps, deserts or mountain valleys have relatively calm weeks but knowing the United States they’d be active too. It’s been interesting to read of some of the weather phenomenon here in the Midwest. Hope you’ll enjoy it also as you nestle into your cozy slippers and lap blanket.

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The year was 1816 and an earthquake centered in Missouri rattled bells as far away as Philadelphia adn temblors could be felt underfoot in Boston. Think what it must have done to the terrain in the old town of New Madrid along the Mississippi which had its course changed by the force of the shaking that continued for about three months. The earthquake buried islands and created lakes in the sink holes including a large one, Reelfoot. There were no Richter Scales back then to measure the power of the quake but it is thought to have compared to the terrible one that demolished much of San Francisco in 1906. It is a little chapter in American history because the location was a vast wilderness and unpopulated.

An earthquake was predicted to occur in December of 1990 and the media over-dramatized it. But here it is 2013 and we hear earthquake warnings on the radio every so often but none took place. But BEWARE, ANOTHER ONE WILL HAPPEN ... Nature goes in cycles in all things.

Not long after the massive earthquake, in 1816 was the “Year Without a Summer.” In spring, May, it was still cold. Winter lingered. In New England on the 5th of June the temperature was 83º but plunged to 45º by the next day. A heavy frost killing the few crops able to have been planted. A blizzard fell in New England—ten inches of snow.

On the 4th of July it was 45º in Savannah, Georgia. Throughout the East icicles hung a foot long from eaves. Ice on water froze an inch thick. Temperatures averaged 30º-35º all day some days. In 1816 there was no technological type of communication so it wasn’t until later that it was discovered that this cold wave, a mini-ice age, occurred worldwide. And that it was caused by a volcano in the far off islands in the Pacific ... On explosion the ash was thrown high into the stratosphere so that the Sun’s rays were blocked by the immense dark clouds of ash for days, annihilating crops, destroying the food supply for hundreds of thousands, affecting society globally.

All of Mother Nature’s events and everyday bits and pieces are connected to each other, believe it or not.

And they are cyclical ... Always were, always will be. Two most tell-tale helpers to tell cycles of the past and predict the future are tree rings and sunspots.

Tree ring are made in the tree trunk for every year of their lives. In favorable years, enough moisture and sun, etcetera the tree ring will be wide, with harsh conditions the ring is narrow. By counting backward and figuring the weather in certain years, future conditions can be figured. So, too, with sunspots whose activity should be compared to other data kept for chronicling weather coming up Spike O’Dell, late of WGN Radio, was about the only person who talked about sunspots and other interesting natural occurrences!! Everything is in a cycle, remember.

Drought cycles occur on an approximately twenty year cycle ... 1936, 1956 and 1976 ... forty years, now, are we going into another cycle? What was 1996? by tracing sunspots back in time, could we figure a drought’s arrival in 2016? The thing is a drought or other such activity doesn’t always occur in the same location or of the same duration. That’s Nature for you! Many scientists have researched tree rings and sunspots and found them to be fairly accurate when using other information. There are so many many things to include but if patient the goal can be fun to go after. Make a journal.

Although weather facts and figures had been collected for centuries, a weather map wasn’t published until 1816, and then it wasn’t learned that a weather map could be used to predict what had happened and what would happen by plotting the wind, air pressure and space and using temperatures and conditions the next time those same things occur, the weather in future would be the same or near it.

But it wasn’t until 1854 that was done. It was during the Crimean War that French and British ships were lost in a storm and by seeing what conditions had been, map readers saw how easy it would have been to predict what would occur.

As a result, four years later, January 1, 1858, Paris issued the first daily weather bulletin. On September 3, 1860 Britain published the first daily weather conditions. September 3, 1861 its first storm warning. And from then on weather news has become an important part of our everyday lives. It figures in nearly everything we do.

Perhaps, a bit surprising is the fact that as early as 1830 Illinois already had two official weather observation stations: One was at a small garrison on Lake Michigan, Ft. Dearborn (Chicago), where a few isolated souls were camped with a few fur traders and at Ft. Armstrong (Rock Island) where a couple thousand had planted themselves on the frontier looking westward or toward the lead mines. The records of Ft. Armstrong from 1830-31, remain.

That winter was known as the “Winter of the Deep Snows,” legendary in retrospect. We’ll relate that in future. The winter of 1836 was epic. Samuel Preston as a lad assisted his family in moving from Princeton to southwest Mt. Carroll, Preston Prairie, and writing of it matter-of-factly but making it come alive. It was a period of heavy snows ... A cycle to be repeated every twenty years or so after.

Following is a story come across while wading through the filing cabinets (mostly merely moving “stuff” from one place to another!). And we have no idea if this occurred here in the Midwest or not but it is so interesting you will enjoy pondering over it ... It’s too long in time to be an eclipse and too brief for a volcano cloud. What was the curious “Dark Day,” as it was called ... in part ...

“It was May 19, 1780 and William Ingersoll, then a boy of seven, was hoeing in the family garden on their farm in New Hampshire (later he came to Harmon Township in Lee County.)

“It was about nine o’clock in the morning when the sky began to darken. A yellow haze developed, growing more thick as minutes passed. The sun, too, turned a dull yellow. all darkened with Sun fading away and the haze becoming more thick until William could not see to hoe. Looking around he could not see much beyond a few feet away. He ran for the house and when he entered he found that candles had been lit as if it were night.

“The chickens began to roost and the cows would not stay in the pasture but came to the house, lowing like at milking time. Sheep huddled together.

“All was as silent as midnight except for an occasional crow call or a dog howling mournfully. the night was darker yet even though there was a full moon. It was pitch black outside. Towards morning and the moon being full, was an odd sight because it became blood red. Blood red.

“Some thought it was the Day of Judgment and on Sunday next, used themes suggested by Matthew 24:29 or Acts 2:20. Some held prayer services the Dark Day at their homes or in nearby churches. Those who witnessed the night thought that it was darker in some places than in others. No business could be done unless there was artificial light. There was wakefulness and apprehension that night wondering what the next day would bring. When daylight did come it was like any other day with no darkeness as the previous day had been.

“The Dark Day covered all of New England. One author had said its boundaries have never been determined nor its cause explained.

“Herschel, the great astronomer, has said that the strange phenomenon of the Dark Day in 1780 has baffled all astronomical solution and must remain an unsolved mystery till the end of time.”


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