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In Our Own Backyard...Blizzard, anyone?

"Expect the unexpected and you will never be disappointed." That has become my mantra over the years.

When I was pregnant with my second child, the doctor told me he thought it would likely be a boy. Since I already had one beautiful son, I was perfectly fine with having another. I started giving more serious consideration to boys' names and mentally redecorating the nursery to incorporate fewer frills. When the big moment arrived and it turned out to be a girl, I reacted with overwhelming (though startled) joy.

As a young wife and mother, I was absolutely certain I would raise my family and live out my life in the Brainerd lakes area where we were living at the time. But then Potlatch in Cloquet came a'calling and my husband accepted a job transfer there. Heartbroken, I believed there was simply no way I'd ever reconcile myself to leaving our home on the lake and moving to "that stinky old mill town." Little did I know it at the time, but Cloquet was to become my home for the next 20 years, and I love it still.

Over time I've learned there is nothing quite as certain as uncertainty, and yes -- I've come to expect the unexpected.

It was with only a small jolt of surprise, therefore, that when I booted up the Pine Journal website late last week, at the top of the list of "Most Read" stories was one titled, "Winter Storm Warning for Cloquet." After all of the wild weather of the past few months, it didn't exactly surprise me. I was at least a little dismayed by it, though, since the ice had finally started going out of our lake and the maple buds had begun to swell to a fiery redness.

Since I post most of the stories on our website personally, I figured Pine Journal Editor Jana Peterson, who does most of the breaking news, must have received the weather warning from authorities and posted it herself. I clicked on the story link and read on.

"A winter storm warning remains in effect from 6 a.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday," the story read. "Snow accumulations of 8 to 12 inches with some locally heavy amounts possible. Winds northeast 25 to 40 miles per hour, with higher gusts possible near Lake Superior. Visibility less than a quarter mile at times."

Now, I started to get really worried. My mom, sister and brother-in-law were driving over for Mother's Day weekend and I feared that the unexpected snowstorm might throw a monkey wrench in our plans. In horror, I read on.

"The combination of heavy snow accumulation and some blowing and drifting snow will result in snow- and ice-covered roads and difficult travel during this time period," the weather warning stated. "The combination of strong northeast winds and heavy wet snow that may accumulate on trees and power lines may also result in local power outages."

"Holy CRAP!" I thought to myself (an expression I never use....). I knew that spring in Minnesota can be unpredictable, and even though it's May, we haven't had anything that vaguely resembles spring yet, but this was ridiculous!

"Precautionary/preparedness actions -" the weather statement continued. "A winter storm warning for heavy and blowing snow means the combination of strong winds and falling and blowing snow will cause dangerously low visibility and drifting snow. Snow and ice covered roads and dangerous travel conditions can be expected. Delay travel if possible. If you must travel, use extreme cautions and allow extra time to reach your destination. Keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle, including a flashlight, food, and water. Let someone know your travel route and expected arrival time and have a cell phone in case you become stranded."

I nearly passed out. How could this possibly be happening again?

And then I stopped dead in my tracks. "It can't be happening again," I realized suspiciously, "- because it isn't!" I scrolled all the way back up to the top of the story and realized the date it had been posted on the website was April 10, not May 10! Apparently some reader must have gone into the archives and clicked on the link to the old story, which in turn made it show up on the "Most Read" story list for that hour, causing other readers (including myself) to click on it and read it as well.

As relieved as I was that it was old news, I felt more than a little foolish to have believed we were about to have another blizzard.

"Expect the unexpected and you will never be disappointed," I reminded myself.

And then, the first snowflakes began to fall....

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