A little back story
More than ten years ago lightning struck our house. Not much to speak of if you’re one with a wild imagination. The house shook from the boom, but we’d heard more ferocious thunder in the past. There was the briefest intense flash but not blinding in intensity. Meh. So what?
That was an afternoon of intense storms none of which the Whether1 Bureau had predicted accurately. Human beings essentially gumballs, folks were all on their front porches watching the storm move through. This gumball was on his back deck, a higher, better vantage point, looking out across building sites yet empty, a prairie so to speak. A young neighbor across the street hollered over at me when I came out my front door after I’d determined I’d seen all I wanted to see from my back deck.
“You okay over there?”
“Sure. Some storm, eh?”
“I’ll say! I just saw lightning hit your house!”
“Yeah! Walked the ridge, one side to the other. I was coming over to check on you!”
I never believed him. That he was coming over, yes. His wife woulda killed him had he not. But at first, the ridge-walk was unbelievable. Had lightning ‘walked the ridge,’ it would have done more damage than it did and scorched more than a few shingles.
Looking back, probably forgetting a few items, it came to this: took out my sprinkler system controller. Boogered both garage door openers. Crippled my air conditioner. Fried two computers. Cooked my receiver, amp, CD, VCR, turntable, all the speakers, and the big screen television that was still pretty much virgin. Of course, it set every digital clock back to 12:00, some of which never recovered. In the space of a few years, my ovens, microwave, and refrigerators pooped-out, I suspect because their circuitry was compromised by the strike. I’ve got a wine cooler that still takes a hike on occasion, forgetting it’s set at fifty-two degrees, turning itself into a mini freezer.
More back story
I’ve been a storm watcher as long as I can remember. Of course, prime observation days were back when I was stoopid, single, invincible, and in the service in Oklahoma, a great place to observe severe weather. I recall watching mammatus, insanely evil green, I kid you not, rolling in so low you could reach up and grab a handful. Standing on an iron exterior staircase for a better vantage-point with lightning all around taking potshots at anything tall, isolated, and metallic. Air smelled ozone-funny. Hair on your neck stood on end. Animals all disappeared, dunno where, just gone.
But that was when I was invincible. Something changed. Sometime. Somewhere. Not that I’m afeered of dying, just that all the same to you, brother, I don’t see any good arguments for hurrying things along. Not that I’ll go along peaceably when the time comes. But neither will I argue with the Reaper. Bones2 and I, both of that age and that time no one speaks much of anymore, were fond of telling each other we were running on someone else’s ticket, ours surely had been called for punch-out long before then.
Last night was interesting
Around eight pm, I was contemplating a post for today, to be poked into the standard-size keyboard and scheduled for WP to pop-loose around ten3 pm. Do that to early-morning greet my friends in Great Britain. My cell went nutzo. We get the “Amber Alerts4.” When the doobers come at three am, it scares the living mumbo-jumbo out of you. Try to sleep after that!
Last night was not an “Amber Alert.” Tornado Warning. Not a “watch.” A “warning.” A “watch” says conditions are ripe for tornadoes – be on your toes and ready to take shelter. A “warning” is all done messing around. It says, “No foolin, kiddies, a tornado is confirmed in your area and headed your way, don’t think about taking shelter, do it!”
You have to understand our house here. There is no basement. There is a “crawl space.” Once inside the crawl space there is a remote corner simply perfect for surviving a tornado – low, isolated, and with concrete sufficient and underground to survive the whole house being ripped-up and dropped back down near where it started.
Getting into the crawl space is a trip. I do it regularly, inspecting pipes and such. It is not convenient. It is not a place for the first twenty feet for anyone who suffers claustrophobia. I am not about to suggest the Boss crawl behind me into the crawl space. So we’ve an alternate in the garage, a space with concrete block and low enough it should be survivable.
With the music of the tornado warning softly playing in the background, syncopated by lightning flashes and monstrous booms of thunder, the Boss and I secured what we could inside, unplugged and isolated electronics, grabbed a flashlight, and retreated to our almost safe place. Boss was cool. Sat there eating a bowl of ice cream.
The Weather Bureau advised we’d be under the warning until 8:46. In that respect, a warning is easier to handle than a watch. A watch is usually two or three hours long while the Weather Bureau tries to sort it all out or until the radar announces the J-hook patterns turning a watch into a warning. A warning usually lasts about fifteen, maybe thirty minutes, depending on the speed, direction, and intensity of the storm’s movement.
Oh, in this day and age, WB your cell. The storm track will pop-up on screen courtesy of the Weather Bureau and courtesy of your phone’s GPS there will be a puny little marker that lets you know where, exactly, in all this nastiness you are. Ugly when you’re in the red zone.
As you surmise, we survived. Not without anxious moments.
Only thing more unnerving than last night are those times you are mindlessly working in the yard on a summer Saturday around one pm. Say, on your knees weeding a flower bed. About three miles south is a CD5 tornado alert siren. Another is less than two miles north. They are fierce instruments. They do as they were designed. They get your attention.
Forgetting once a month, spring to fall, on Saturdays, they test these sirens, you get caught off guard on your knees weeding the garden when the &*^% things fire-off. In the microseconds it takes you to put all the pieces together, figuring-out the test, you are left with only one thing left to do when the sirens end.
Go inside and change britches.
When it had all passed last night, I wasn’t much in the mood to sit down to fiddle with WP.
1 Whether Bureau. As recently as twenty, fifteen, or even ten years ago, talk of the Weather Bureau was accompanied by chuckles and snide remarks. Such as whatever the WB called for, whether or not their predictions would be even close to what happened. Hence “Whether Bureau.” I’m going to be the first to admit that in recent years, or perhaps in failing memory as my odometer rolls perilously to the million-mile mark, the WB’s accuracy approaches unbelievable in the way of improvement. “People in the area of Gasper’s Junction can expect the rain to reach them by 8:13 pm with winds of 26 miles per hour, gusting to 43 and approximately 0.356 inches of rain.” They are getting scary-accurate.
2 Bones got his nickname long before Star Trek and Doctor McCoy. Sadly, Bones is no longer with us. He’s likely wondering what the hell is taking me so long.
3 Ten pm. I do sleep and like to hit the sheets as soon after nine pm as possible. Long ago, I’ve scheduled posts to release after the witching-hour on the date of the post. WP sees me not paying attention and refuses to release a post now and again. The less attention I pay, the more WP is apt to be remiss. Went on vacation once with five posts scheduled. When I got to a reliable connection, none of the scheduled posts had released. WP, I suspect, was laughing it’s head off. So. I compromise, now releasing as late the day before as I figure to be wandering the house pre-evening nap. If WP gets cranky, I can go release manually. So much for automation.
4 Amber alerts are text messages sent to cell subscribers when a child is abducted, usually with the description and plate number of the automobile used in the abduction. Can’t cite effectiveness. But it must work, or they’d not continue to do it. Tempted to suggest this is admirable. Thinking of the number of times abductions are estranged parents, and the evil things parents do to one another when they stop working in pairs. You work it out for yourself.
5 CD Civil Defense. That was olden days. I’m “olden days,” so that’s how I think and talk. Now, they probably call it FEMA or something equally mind-boggling.