Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Prairie Weather: Powerful And Unpredictable

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief


Tags: farm, prairie, weather, tornadoes,

GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.GRIT associate editor, Caleb Regan, texted me one evening last week to know whether the funnels that had been sighted several miles southeast of Carbondale, Kansas had crossed my farm. I had seen some weather on the way home, and noted a certain closeness to the air while doing chores, but I was blissfully unaware that tornados were on the prowl in my neighborhood. Sometimes it's just not possible to keep tabs on Mother Nature down in rural Osage County. Mostly, I don't even try to keep tabs.

Weather in Kansas on US 75 

Back in the late 1980s, I watched a tornado blow up a neighbor's barn just across the section. I was transfixed by the sight, sound and power of it.

Weather in Osage county kansas 

I was amazed by how quickly it appeared and how rapidly it moved. The thing about the prairie is that most of the time you can see weather coming -- all you have to do is pay attention.

Kansas weather 

In the 1990s, while cultivating half-mile-long rows of newly-planted South Dakota shelterbelt, my long hair quite suddenly stood up and bushed out from beneath my Stetson.

Kansas weather report 

I caught a good whiff of ozone as I dove from the still-cultivating tractor and hit the earth a split second before the bolt of lightning obliterated a century-old Cottonwood tree growing in the creek bottom about 100 yards away.

Kansas weather vanishes 

As fast as that squall snuck up on me, it was gone -- poof. Lucky for me, I managed to roll out of the cultivator's path and catch up with the tractor before destroying the young trees.

Powerful tornadoes, and other damaging weather have avoided my 1907 four-square farmhouse for the past 103 years. I anticipate that the place will stand more or less unmolested for the next 103.  If not, so be it. There's nothing I can do about the weather on my patch of the Kansas prairie. And that's exactly the way I like it.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .