The Power Of A Summer Storm

IMG_2388As I drove home tonight, heading east from downtown Columbus, I could see the heavy black clouds rapidly approaching in my rear view mirror.  Suddenly it was upon me — one of those violent thunderstorms that are as much a part of summer in Ohio as sweet corn or Little League baseball games.

You forget how powerful these storms are until you are out in the middle of one, with lightning forking down and the wind lashing the rain across the pavement.  Even the inside of an SUV feels a bit insecure when the crack and roll of heavy thunder shakes the countryside and the trees bow down in recognition of the storm’s might.

But you turn your wipers to their fastest tempo, and you slow down to avoid hydroplaning on the water-covered pavement, and you leave a bit more distance between your car and the one ahead of you, and you move on.  Eventually, the storms pass, as they always do.

A New Weather Name, Awfully Late In The Game

Until a month ago, when severe thunderstorms and strong wind gusts devastated electric power service to most of Columbus, I’d never heard of a “derecho.”

It turns out that a derecho is a line of thunderstorms that produces widespread, damaging “straight line” winds.  Today, when another black, gusty thunderstorm cell rolled through town, people were talking about derechos again.  (Whether Columbusites are pronouncing the word correctly is another question.)

Isn’t it kind of late in human history to be coming up with new names for weather?  I’ve lived in the Midwest for most of my life, and severe thunderstorms are not uncommon during the summer months.  Until now, they’ve just been called severe thunderstorms, which seems like a more than adequate descriptive phrase.  Why not stick with that, rather than coming up with an unpronounceable, unknown term?

And while we’re at it, why do new weather systems always get Spanish-sounding names?  First El Nino, then La Nina, now derecho.  It sounds like the name of John Wayne’s ranch in The Sons of Katie Elder, or perhaps the moniker for a new Taco Bell faux Mexican concoction.  A derecho probably would involve browned meat, smoked bacon, Velveeta cheese, habanero sauce, and ranch dressing, sprinkled with crushed Doritos and wrapped in a soft taco shell.

No doubt some college student would drive hundreds of miles, through countless severe thunderstorm cells, to give it a try.

Storm’s Aftermath

Our power is back on, about 24 hours after the storm pulverized parts of the central Ohio power grid and cast us into darkness.  Good job, AEP — and thanks for putting some light back in our lives.

Walking and driving around town, we saw signs of the storm’s aftermath everywhere.  Gates knocked off their hinges, tree limbs everywhere, and debris in roadway — it will be good to get back to normal.

Summer Storms

Last night a cell of severe thunderstorms rolled through central Ohio and knocked out power in our neighborhood for hours.  It was our first true summer storm of the season, with all of the hallmarks of the same:  fierce winds, a torrent of rain, heavy thunder and lightning, a quick, sharp drop in the temperature, and the low moan of the “serious weather” siren in the background of it all.

There is something awesome and majestic about summer thunderstorms in the Midwest.  As Kish and I looked out our windows last night, we saw the winds bending our backyard trees and bushes almost to the breaking point, making the trees shake like believers at a revival meeting.  The storm dumped so much rain so quickly that water pooled up even on our brick patio and flower beds.  We heard the crack of lightning, felt the low, grinding throb of cascading thunder vibrating the ground, and heard the staccato beat of the gusty rain drumming against the outer walls.  Through it all, the sky had that sickly yellow color that always seems to accompany a severe storm. We were very glad to be indoors!

This morning, Penny and I ventured out to assess the aftermath of the heavy weather.  Although the storm seemed violent, it didn’t appear to do to much damage in our immediate neighborhood.  A few branches were knocked to the ground and leaves and other tree debris were scattered across the roads and walking paths, but no big trees were down.  The sky was clear and blue, and world felt cool and well washed.