Thursday, April 26, 2012

26 April 2012 “Listen to the thunder shouting

  I am! I am! I am!”
          Thunderstorms are incredible displays of raw power that manifest on all measurable senses and on a few that can’t be quantified.  They possess and demonstrate the ability to discard the efforts of mankind to alter the outermost layers of the earth.  They can, and have, made it impossible to use our highest and most complex levels of technology.  We’re just beginning to understand them, a long way from fully knowing what keeps some relatively small and benign while others form into supercell and spawn deadly tornadic storms.  
          The flash of lightning and the clash and rumble of thunder are commonly found in mythical explanations that are found in multiple cultures.  The mythical thunderbird of Native American mythos is matched with similar African tribal legends, which also attribute lightning and thunder to a magical bird.   Olympian Zeus is pictured and sculpted with a ready arsenal of thunderbolts, Thor’s goat-drawn cart rumbles from legend to legend.  There is a relatively large list of “thunder gods” compiled by geographic origin that can be viewed at
          Last year, 27 April was a sadly memorable day in this region as well as many other places between the Rockies and the east coast, as a major tornado outbreak occurred, shattering records for total storms in outbreaks, and causing large loss of life along with immense levels of property loss and destruction.  There were tornadoes where they rarely happen including one within 0.1 mile of our home and two more that were within a linear mile or less of our home.  The common random distribution of vortices within the tornadic funnel was readily apparent. We were fortunate, suffered no property damage, no injuries, and had all services restored within 48 hours. 
          As we lost power and cable/internet shortly after the first of the three roared by, our only source of information and warning was our portable, hand-cranked NOAA weather radio. We’ve since added a smaller and better radio since then.  We’ve programmed it to disregard storm warnings that don’t apply to our location. By doing that, we miss about 90% of the alerts.
          The local papers and TV stations have been replaying footage of last year’s storm damage and featuring articles about people who have been able to rebuild and those who haven’t.  The region is not used to tornadoes, they have been rare here.  Climate change may be responsible for the increased incidence.  It may be climate change in association with other factors. Something has altered the local weather patterns. 
          The one-year anniversary has been the cause for some unease as thunderstorms form and roll in.  The weather pattern that brings the larger and more dangerous cells in after dark is particularly disquieting.  We’ve been watching the forecasts and hoping that there is no repeat outbreak and no repeat storms here. 
          Imagine our alarm when the weather radio fired off a warning at 0700 today!  Radar displays showed a large squall line moving toward us from our north west, at 60 MPH.  There was apparent wind bowing, suggesting acceleration over the ground.  The relevant Severe Thunder Storm warning listed likely hail, high winds, and frequent cloud-to-ground lightning.  We just had time to shower and dress before we were at risk of power loss. 
          The squall line hit just as predicted.  We received a quarter inch of rain, moderate winds, no hail, and were treated to a chorus of thunder peals echoing off valley walls and down the valley.  The dog went through her normal thunder routine.  She’s learned to associate the alarm from the weather radio with thunderstorms.
          A certain amount of skittishness is normal after extreme weather.  It is much easier to avoid dysfunction when it is daylight and the power and commo functions are intact. 
          Here’s to Henry Hudson and his keglers!

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