News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Mar 18, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck
That was a ferocious little snowstorm that arrived Monday night. A fast mover, it took the green right out of St. Patrick's Day and left a new blanket of white.
Two separate traveling parties told Ranger staffers Tuesday that the drive from Jeffrey City to Riverton on Monday presented some the toughest road and visibility conditions of the winter -- or maybe several winters.
And, as often is the case when a winter storm follows quickly on the heels of a warm period, the roads glazed with ice quickly. Our police scanner was crackling with emergency reports of accidents all morning. It goes to show that there doesn't have to be heavy snowfall for travel conditions to get very bad very fast. Three words, everyone: careful, careful, careful.
Equinox at hand
This is winter's last gasp -- at least officially. Spring's first day in the northern hemisphere is Thursday. That's the day the entire half of the planet north of the equator finally will have more daylight than darkness for the first time in six months.
In Wyoming, incidentally, that milestone actually was reached Monday (check the sunrise and sunset times).
But spring on the calendar doesn't necessarily mean the end of winter-like conditions. In fact, there almost always is more wintry weather after the equinox. Remember April? We got a snowstorm per week.
Political races are shaping up early this year, including some that don't often see much competition. For example, we'll have a contest for coroner, which is unusual. But with incumbent Ed McAuslan announcing his retirement after a long tenure in the job, at least two candidates say they will run for the spot.
Exactly why the office of county coroner is an elected position is a throwback to pre-statehood establishments from more than 100 years ago. It is odd, but it's also what the constitution of the State of Wyoming stipulates, so vote we will.
The coroner's office operates with a small staff considering its department head's status as an elected official. This is a hands-on position, and the work the coroner does is crucial. That means the decision voters face this year is crucial as well.
We'll talk later
The vast, supposedly intractable Russian bureaucracy, with the old Soviet Union as its model, has the reputation of moving more slowly than a glacier in the Ural Mountains. But Russian President Vladimir Putin is showing just how quickly the wheels can turn if he's the one stepping on the gas.
As of Monday he declared the Crimean Peninsula to be an independent state, and as soon as Wednesday he is posed to make another declaration that Crimea is part of Russia (enjoy your two days as an "independent state," Crimea).
All this comes amid a blizzard of diplomatic objections from all corners of the world and in the face of economic sanctions led by the United States and Britain. Expect those to become even more stinging in the days ahead.
Putin acknowledges the outside consternation, but he calmly goes about the business of swallowing up Crimea all the same.
His message to the world is this: Sure, we can talk about it. Of course, I'm all ears. Meanwhile, I'm taking Crimea.
The goodwill of the Sochi Olympics has faded quickly, hasn't it?
March Madness has arrived, that 20-day period in which people who haven't blinked an eye at college basketball since April suddenly get interested. Not only do they get interested, they suddenly decide that they are experts as well.
The view on a dozen teams from one three-week expert is, first, that Florida is the proper No. 1 seed overall. If you'd rather not over-think the situation, go with the Gators. Wichita State is the most intriguing of the high seeds, with a semi-light schedule that has produced 34 wins without a loss. The Shockers are in a brutally competitive regional bracket for the tournament. If they go far, it will be based on defense, and they have a good one.
Villanova could stand justifiably as a top seed, and Iowa State will last longer than a lot of people think. We have some optimism about San Diego State from our own Mountain West Conference. The Aztecs are one of an imposing group of No. 4 seeds, including the Monday morning media darlings Michigan State and Louisville.
If you have a taste for a stunner, consider North Dakota State over Oklahoma, or Dayton over Ohio State. Look for VCU to give Florida its toughest tussle on the way to the Final Four for the Gators. And Creighton has a shooter's chance to reach at least the round of eight.
Final Four? Florida, 'Nova, Wisconsin and either Louisville or Michigan.
There's one opinion. There literally are millions of others. Have fun with your tournament bracket as you catch some of the excitement of March Madness -- and don't get so wrapped up in bracketology that you can't enjoy the games.
Here's to a good week.