|"Blue" Norther on the horizon, 5 x 7 watercolor|
So was our joke a few years ago as a "blue norther" swept through rural Oklahoma, plunging temperatures into the teens in a matter of minutes, with a biting wind chill to boot.
If you live any time on the Great Plains, you have experienced a blue norther sometime in your life.
Most memorable for me was several years ago, driving on a clear day through the Texas Panhandle toward New Mexico.
But up ahead, I could see this dark wedge against the northwest sky. Almost within sight of Amarillo, the ragged dark gray edge of clouds, ahead of dark blue gray on the horizon angled toward me.
In a few minutes, I was pelted with sleet and freezing rain, and Interstate traffic slowed to a crawl. I saw jackknifed trucks within a mile or so. Instead of making it to Santa Fe by nightfall, I stopped, ate, watched the weather get worse outside. I managed to get to Tucumcari for the night.
Blue Norther? I looked it up. It's a a fast-moving cold front that causes temperatures to drop dramatically and quickly. Common characteristics are a dark blue-black sky, strong winds, and temperatures than can drop 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit in a few minutes.
Ironically, they are commonly associated with the Texas Panhandle, and are sometimes called Texas Northers, though they occur elsewhere on the Great Plains.
The Texas State Historical Association reports that the term "Blue Norther" has at least three attributions:
"The term refers, some say, to a norther that sweeps 'out of the Panhandle under a blue-black sky'—that is, to a cold front named for the appearance of its leading edge. Another account states that the term refers to the appearance of the sky after the front has blown through, as the mid-nineteenth-century variant 'blew-tailed norther' illustrates. Yet another derives the term from the fact that one supposedly turns blue from the cold brought by the front."