30mph/365 – Living in the Windy State
By Cynthia Cassel
I was born in the great state of Kansas and I will most likely die here too. While there are some good things to say about Kansas, what I say next may be shocking to you. I love and hate this place simultaneously.
Whether you are cold-natured or one of those folks who walk around in shorts and flip-flops all winter long, there is no getting around the single most uncomfortable and annoying aspect of this state; the never-ending, never even waning…wind. You can bundle against the cold, you can strip like Gypsy Rose Lee when it’s summertime but you can never ever, ever get relief from this gawd-awful wind.
Chicago is nicknamed ‘The Windy City’ but that’s really a misnomer. Chicago got that bad rep due to an editorial in the New York Sun in the 1800’s referencing the hyper-loquacious nature of Chicago politicians. Since the nickname could be applied to every U.S. city, this must be the windiest planet in the galaxy–but I digress.
In a recent Kansas City Star article about the Flat Ridge Wind Farm being built in southern Kansas, John Graham, CEO of BP Wind Energy said, “Kansas is blessed with very strong winds.” I don’t think the words blessed and strong winds belong in the same understatement, but that’s just my opinion.
What occurred to me this afternoon, as I desperately tried to keep my feet connected to the ground, was the possibility of another Great Dust Bowl era. As I write this, the wind is blowing a steady 26.4 mph from the West Southwest. We’ve had a couple of years of miserably dry summers and relatively dry winters. While farming practices have changed and improved since 1930, we still have daily gusts that could scour the paint off your car. What will happen to the land? According to an article in the K-State Research and Extension News written by Kathleen Ward (Windy? Kansas? Well, Yes. And No 1/30/06), that during the Dust Bowl, “Experts estimate western Kansas also lost twice the dirt moved in digging the Panama Canal.”
The other downside is that I keep getting accused of having bad posture. It’s not bad posture that makes me walk like Grouch Marx. I’m a small-ish person – it’s the only way I can keep from being blown over backward.
But back to the wind farms. Whether you are a proponent of wind energy (in other words, you’ve got a big gob of land you’d like to lease for a tidy profit), or a proponent of a form of energy that doesn’t thwack pretty songbirds into a stupor, you’ve got to admit Kansas will suffice as a good source of wind. Less dependence on middle eastern oil is the upside and the 274 wind turbines at Flat Ridge-2 can supply 1,600 homes with electricity. Another plus is that projects like Flat Ridge and Flat Ridge-2 bring dollars into the state. And even a curmudgeon like me has to admit that hundreds of snow white turbines all spinning at once looks like a lovely in-place ballet.
Another bit from the K-State Extension news article about wind:
A Lakin Eagle newspaper writer joked that a 2-gallon funnel could gather enough Kansas “zephyrs” to drill a 180-feet hole in solid sandstone – easily producing a well with “condensed air.”
Yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about! Find a way to make those turbines catch that wind, channel it into a great big funnel and use it for yet another positive purpose. It wouldn’t be able to blow all of our lovely Kansas soil from here to New York and I could finally walk like a normal human being.
Cynthia Cassel is a SEE Grantee where, for 3-1/2 years, she has worked with the Wetland and Streams team in the Water branch. Cynthia received her BS from Park University and lives in Overland Park where she regularly carries a bag of rocks so as to remain safely earthbound.
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