Writer’s Workshop: Wicked Weather

Fairly clear… for now. From the NOAA Hi-Def Radar app.

Thank heaven, in the 33 years Mary and I have lived here, we haven’t had to deal with any damage to our house due to severe weather. It’s a constant threat here, especially during the summer, but really any time of the year can be bad. We’ve seen more dangerous weather here than we ever saw in Chicago.

We’ll be watching TV in the evening, and suddenly a red stripe appears at the top of the screen and we’ll hear the duck calls of the Emergency Alert System, letting us know that there’s a severe thunderstorm or tornado on its way to make life interesting. Problem is, when they announce the counties, sometimes we can’t tell whether we should be concerned. I have a bunch of weather apps on my phone, including a couple of radar apps so I can tell where the storms are and roughly the direction they’re moving. If it looks like it could be bad, we move down to the garage and sit in the van until it passes over.

I generally don’t have much use for Twitter, which too often seems to be strangers yelling at strangers, but during severe weather I’ll watch it for what people are saying about the weather and what they’re seeing, if they include their location (most do, some don’t). Plus, it can be fun when you’re stuck down there.

Forewarned is forearmed, as the old expression goes, but unfortunately knowing bad weather is coming doesn’t mean you can do anything about it. You can protect yourself from the bad weather, but you can’t keep the bad weather from coming. Shortly after we moved here, we woke up in the middle of the night. The electricity was out and we could hear the wind blowing outside. After a couple of minutes, the wind died down and the red letters re-appeared on the alarm clock, so we rolled over and went back to sleep. Early the next morning, Mom called, wanting to know if we were all right, that she had heard there were severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in Marietta. We assured her that all was OK, they didn’t come close to us.

A couple of hours later, I was at work, and one of my former managers came up and said “I bet you’re happy you didn’t buy my house.” (When we had been working with our realtor, we stopped at a house that was pretty nice, then I discovered he owned it. We would have bought it if there hadn’t been so many stairs to deal with, thinking my father-in-law would have trouble with them.) When I asked him why, he told me that a tornado had come through and knocked it off its foundation and that it had been condemned. It was about a mile south of us. We never told Mom…

15 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Wicked Weather

  1. We were fairly slammed here when Tropical Storm Isaias came through the Hudson Valley recently. Oddly enough, unlike the threat of winter storms, the supermarket panic didn’t set in with panic-stricken shoppers clearing the shelves of milk, bread, toilet tissue and beer. This usual scenario has been the norm since the pandemic’s arrival so shopping has taken on a more organized pattern.

    There were lines for gas needed for generators and Home Depot and Lowe’s had no generators available for last-minute power-less shoppers. The winds brought down trees and wires; power was out for more than one week along with FIOS, cable, landline and…cell service.

    Local news keeps sharing releases about “this year, the most active hurricane season, ever!” but, at present, that threat seems to be waning with no line of storms on the horizon. We shall see.

    Stay safe!

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  2. You’re right, there’s often nothing to do but ride it out and hope for the best. I’m in Colorado, which is known for mountains, but the eastern half of the state is flat as Kansas. Tornadoes are often a threat in summertime.

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    1. I’ve only ever been to Denver. I was there once and there were all kinds of weather warnings one evening; could they have been tornado warnings, or is that too high up?

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  3. Wow, it’s scary how a mile can make so much difference!

    I was once at work on the phone to a friend on our other campus about a mile away – they were having a huge downpour, while we had nothing at all. During the conversation the rain moved from her to me.

    I hope your good fortune continues x

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  4. We definitely have had our share of thunderstorms this summer. The thunder was so loud the other day, I jumped off of my chair and our poor cat ran underneath the bed. However, the weather here is mild compared to what we experienced in Florida. The afternoon storms were severe and the lightning was scary. Plus, there was hurricane season, which I lived through many of those. We had to replace the roof on our house in Florida due to wind damage. Fortunately, it was covered by our insurance, however, unfortunately, we had a $1000. wind deductible. And so it goes…

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    1. When I’d go to Miami, you could always count on a thunderstorm at around 3 in the afternoon, complete with loud thunder and torrential rain. The client I’d visit, Dade County Public Schools, had their training facilities in a building with a metal roof, and when that rain hit the roof I’d send the class on break, because there was no way they could hear me, even if I used my “trainer voice.”

      Did you get any rain yesterday? We had thunder and the sky got darker, but the most we had were a couple of drops.

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  5. Hi John – interesting to read about … glad you’re safe though … I sincerely hope nothing happens – but life does at times … stay safe this weekend – Hilary

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    1. That’s about all you can do, pray and hope for the best. We have a great homeowner’s policy in the event we need it, which so far, thank God, we haven’t. Have a god weekend!

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  6. Growing up in the midwest, I used to love big thundery rainstorms. Sure, lightning might strike a tree, but I never felt in danger especially. Living in the south, weather freaks everyone out so much–but I blame the weather media for it hyping everything up. I feel like they’re yearning so much for the extreme, the novel, the recording breaking and are always hinting at the weather like it’s a bad serial soap opera—“stayed turned for the next development…something might be happening here soon…” etc.

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    1. We have four network affiliates in Atlanta, and they all go into high gear when the National Weather Service sends out a weather warning. Severe weather usually starts in the late afternoon, and they won’t give up until all of it has cleared the area, or until prime time, and then they’re breaking in at every commercial break, or “when conditions warrant.” Funny thing is that they’re all showing the same thing, using the same Doppler Radar, getting the same alerts from the NWS and SPC. You’d think they could set up a round robin with each station taking an hour, or taking turns with each storm (channel 2 does the first, channel 5 the second &c), with the other stations running a crawler telling which station is doing the weather this time. Better still, have one station (maybe a subchannel) that all the weather people contribute to. But I guess that makes too much sense…

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    1. That’s terrible. We’ve gotten rid of all the trees that could fall on the house for that reason. Kind of a shame, because we had the really tall pines that had been there since the Cherokee lived here (well, maybe not that old, but certainly the descendants of them), but we didn’t want to take the chance. The last thing I need is a tree falling on the roof…

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