Arctic Blast

I was hoping for a mild winter.
Yeah. Right.
This is what greeted me from the Weather Service when I checked the NOAA website this morning:
21 Below Zero--what the ...?

“Another arctic blast is expected to move across the area late on Sunday … with the coldest temperatures expected Monday into Tuesday. At this time … it appears this arctic blast may be one of the most severe since the arctic outbreak of February 1996. The combination of the frigid air and persistent 10 to 20 mph winds will cause dangerously low wind chill readings in the 30 below to 50 below zero range at times Sunday night into Tuesday. Wind chill readings this low can cause frostbite within 15 minutes. Wind chill warnings will be likely needed Sunday night into Tuesday.”

The high — the high — on Monday will be -14F … fourteen degrees below zero … with a low of -21F.
That’s nuts.
The black bears that disappear into caves every autumn to snooze until spring have it right.
Winter is for hibernation.
Black Bears got it right--sleep through the winter!(Bear Photo by Greg Hume)

The Miracle of the Fire

Main altar at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Champion, Wisconsin

I realized this morning that many of our friends and family are not aware of the upcoming remembrance on Monday October 8th of the Miracle of the Fire, and thought you might be interested.

The Miracle of the Fire occurred on October 8, 1871, at what is now the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, which is here in Northeast Wisconsin. If you haven’t heard of the Shrine, it is the first and only site in the United States that the Catholic Church has approved as having had authentic Marian apparitions. It was approved in December of 2010. In its entire history since the time of Christ, the Catholic Church has approved less than 25 sites throughout the world as having had authentic apparitions of Our Lady, including sites like Fatima, Lourdes, Our Lady of Gaudalope and Our Lady of Good Help.

The Miracle of the Fire occurred at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help. Every year the Shrine holds a remembrance of the miraculous event in which the lives of the congregation and local farmers were spared in the middle of the worst fire ever recorded in the history of the United States.

The Shine is located geographically in the midst of the area burned in the Peshtigo Fire, which covered 1,875 square miles. Only one location within that area wasn’t seared to ashes: The Shrine. Temperatures, at times, within the region that burned during the Peshtigo Fire were estimated at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Manhattan Project scientists working to build the first atomic bomb actually studied the Peshtigo Fire to understand better what happened at the ground level because it was as intense as an atomic blast. Nothing else like it had ever happened that scientists could examine to predict how an atomic bomb might act at ground level.

The Shrine should have been totally consumed by the fire; there is no science that can explain how it and the people who fled there for safety survived.

By the time the fire was over, those 1,875 square miles (1.2 million acres) of forest, farms and towns had been consumed, in total an area approximately twice the size of Rhode Island. Some sources list that as many as 1.5 million acres burned. Twelve communities were entirely destroyed. An accurate death toll has never been determined since local population records were destroyed in the fire. At least 1,200 and possibly as many as 2,500 people lost their lives in one night. The 1873 Report to the Wisconsin Legislature listed 1,182 names of deceased or missing residents known to have lived within the area consumed by the fire. Peshtigo alone had an estimated 1,700 residents before the fire. In addition to the identified dead from Peshtigo, more than 350 bodies from Peshtigo were buried in a mass grave, primarily because so many had died that no one remained who could identify them. Many bodies that were searched for throughout the area where the fire raged were never found because the remains were immolated in the fire.

The fire was so intense it jumped several miles over the waters of Green Bay and burned parts of the Door Peninsula, as well as jumping the Peshtigo River itself to burn on both sides of the town of Peshtigo. Surviving witnesses reported that the firestorm generated a tornado of fire that threw rail cars and houses into the air. Many of the survivors of the firestorm escaped the flames by immersing themselves in the Peshtigo River, wells, or other bodies of water. Many, however, who sought refuge in water drowned, while others succumbed to hypothermia in the frigid river The river itself, although so cold at the bottom it caused hypothermia, was reported by survivors in some places to have became so hot at the surface that it boiled. Others who made it to bodies of water died from inhaling the superheated air which fatally damaged their lungs.

When the wall of fire, estimated to have reached several thousand feet in height at times, approached Robinsonville (now renamed Champion), the location of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, Sister Adele (who had received apparitions and locutions from Our Lady), the Sisters, children who attended the Chapel’s school, area farmers and their families fled to the Shrine for protection. The Shrine’s statue of Mary was raised reverently by the Sisters and they processed around inside the five-acre boundaries of the Chapel grounds praying the rosary. Though the fire raged entirely around the chapel, with its incredible heat, and suffocating air that obliterated almost two thousand square miles, burning and singing even the outsides of the posts of the fence that surrounded the chapel grounds, nothing and no one inside the tiny five to six acres that made up the chapel grounds was harmed.

You can read a little more at the Shrine’s website about the Miracle of the Fire, as well as read about other events that have happened at the Shrine.

Also, I recommend reading a short article with an eyewitness acount from a survivor of the events surrounding the Miracle of the Fire published in the Green Bay diocese’s official newspaper, the Compass.

For general information about the Peshtigo fire, you can find links to tens of thousands of pages with this Google search.

Please join in with your prayers on Monday to remember the anniversary of the Miracle of the Fire.

(Pictured above: the actual altar at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin, photographed in December, 2011)

It’s A Record!

Last week we passed the all time record for total snowfall in northeast Wisconsin for the month of December.

Like this was a record we wanted to break?

Michael was kind enough to pause whilst shoveling out our front sidewalk so I could take a photo out the window to show you just how deep the snow is piled in our front yard.

 Northeast Wisconsin December 2008 snowfall total hits record amount.

Mind you, Oh Best Beloved, that this photo was taken only four days after the official start of winter… January and February are when we really get pounded.


Good Morning, Wisconsin!

Snow covers every tree branch, every twig, in a white wonderland.

This was the scene looking out of our front window yesterday morning. It might say “autumn” on the calendars, but around here winter has settled in to stay. Last year was our third snowiest here in northeast Wisconsin ever since the National Weather Service started keeping records. We had around 87 inches of snow. But, hey, records are made to be broken… we’ve already had twice as much snow this year as had fallen last year by this date.

Couldn’t we do something different this year and break the record for, say, warmest winter?


I’m guessing not.

Snowbound winter backyard.

This is what our back yard looks like now. That’s a lotta snow for this early in the winter. The large black and white blob in the center of the yard, btw, is a gorgeous loon windspinner that Michael gave me for my birthday this year. Besides being fun to watch, Loony is a great wind vane, moving to face into the wind with the slightest breeze.

James the Bunny (son of Stewart) has become our yard bunny for the winter. Stewart moved across the street this summer and Petunia also found new digs. James was my constant companion for the second half of the summer and early autumn, hopping about very happily when I was in the yard. He’s now become quite curious about Michael’s comings and goings between the yard and his workshop, to the point where Michael has to be careful to not step on him.

One of these days Michael will hear a soft tapping on his shop door… and when he opens it James will blithely hop in and claim a spot right in front of the heater where he can warm his toes and ears.

If he asks for a glass of carrot juice, that’s where we’re drawing the line.