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Weathering the Kansas warning signs

For the first time last week, a touch of fall filled the early morning air. With the coming of fall and approach of winter, it's fun to recall some time-tested weather sayings.

Many of the following weather signs were collected from farmers and ranchers across the state. It seems there is very little people would rather talk about than the weather.

So let's talk weather.

During the winter season, strong northerly winds indicate snow and sometimes a blizzard within 24 hours. Southerly winds are a sign of dry, warmer weather.

When cattle stand in a line with their backs toward the northwest, you can figure on a heavy, driving snow.

Dense fog at dawn is a sign of clearing skies by mid-morning.

The absence of birds around water denotes an approaching storm.

White, fluffy, small clouds are a sign of fair weather ahead.

Odors become easier to detect just before rain. High pressure usually traps odors like a lid due to air density, while lowering pressure releases odors.

When you see lightning in the north, rain is likely within 24 hours.

When distant sounds appear louder, rain is usually on the way.

Rising smoke is a fair-weather sign. When you see smoke going downward or showing very little rise, rain is likely.

Birds perch more before a storm because the low barometric pressure makes it more difficult for them to fly. When you see hawks circling high in the sky, this is a fair weather sign.

When frogs croak, look out for rain.

Hens and other barnyard fowl pick at themselves -- oiling their feathers -- just before a rain.

Lots of dead skunks on the road mean plenty of moisture is on the way. Another good sign of approaching wet weather is the aggravation of corns, bunions or arthritis pains.

These signs are surprisingly accurate because they are based on generations of farmers, ranchers and other people who have observed cyclical changes in the weather.

There is plenty to be said for the folk wisdom of our ancestors. They watched and charted weather patterns for generations rather than just a few hours or days. It's fun to hear their conclusions handed down from one generation to the next, and anyway, what would we have to talk about if not for the weather?

Hoxie native John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansan who writes for the Kansas Farm Bureau.