Monday, February 28, 2011

An Oscar Thunderstorm

The barn during a recent sunset.
Sunset, after a mostly calm day. This morning, as I ate my breakfast, we had thunderflurries for about a half hour. It was almost the laziest thunderstorm I've ever witnessed. Didn't see any lightning, just heard some slow thunder. I could see flurries drifting past the window, but they didn't amount to much either. And then it stopped, and the flock of blackbirds that have been hanging around the house and yard since yesterday resumed their chatter.

Last night, though, was a different story. I'm from Colorado, where we don't get thunderstorms in February, so I'm still getting used to storms this early. And storms in Colorado do not rate on the same scale as the storms here, even with all that hail. These thunderstorms are so loud, it's incredible. The thunder shaking the house, the winds shaking the house, the rain shaking the house.

Since moving here last August, every time we have scheduled a big party, there has been inclement weather. Our first party was an ice cream social and we held it on the day of the first cold blast of autumn. Next up was our Christmas cocktail party, cancelled in part because both of us, and many of our friends were sick with a bug, but that turned out to be a good thing, as anyone who would have been at our party would have been snowed in. When we rescheduled the cocktail party, we got more heavy snow. New Year's Eve, tornadoes about 15 miles south of us. Last night was the Oscars, and we held a small Viewing party. And we had thunderstorms.

I'm impressed with the way they forecast severe weather out here in the Midwest. They do not mess around or take it lightly. The weather service was saying we would get rain in the afternoon, and as the temperatures warmed up throughout the day, our risk of thunderstorms would increase, and we'd get severe weather between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m. (It also seems that almost every thunderstorm we've had since moving here as happened at night.) They were predicting mostly heavy rain, strong winds, frequent lightning, but a tornado couldn't be ruled out. The storms arrived a little late, about 8:30 or so. We'd been watching their approach first on the television screen, as a series of ever-eastward shifting severe thunderstorm warnings showed up on the map in the corner of the screen. And then by the subtle approach of lightning out the south windows of the living room. I had been worried mostly about heavy rain blocking our satellite feed, or lightning taking out our power. Both things tend to happen during storms, and thought it would suck having a party that needs both electricity and a good satellite feed (but knew our guests would at least be well-fed and able to imbibe even without power). The satellite feed did get interrupted a couple of times, but not for very long. Many of our guests, though, took to standing in the front door to watch the lightning once the storm really got going. I missed the big bolt that struck across the street (I did hear that crack of thunder, though), but there were plenty of spectacular lightning bolts to go around. Our friend, Sherry, had brought over a crepe paper velvet rope that ended up getting damaged in the storm. Rain started streaming in through the now-sealed door to what had once been a deck off the second floor, and that rain came through the ceiling and down the front door. Puddles of water in front of both doors. But that was the only damage. We didn't even miss a single award, which we all thought amazing because at one time it seemed the satellite had been out for something like ten minutes. The storms lasted until about 2 a.m. As I went to bed, I saw that Cumberland County, just about ten miles to our south, was in a tornado warning.

When I remember being a kid and whenever we had a thunderstorm, my sister and I would stop what we were doing and watch the storm, going from window to window, or (if Mom wasn't home) sitting on the back porch on swings listening to the rain on the porch roof. I recall hail popcorning in the yard, lightning bolts playing with the lines down the street, and the sound of tornado sirens. As an adult, I still tend to drop what I'm doing during a thunderstorm and watch them from window to window. Here, though, there are no sirens to warn us of impending danger, and we must rely on our weather radio... And since the storms have been hitting at night, I've been able to see the heavy rain only during lightning flashes. They're still awesome, and scary, and exhilarating, and last night it was nice to weather one with our friends.

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