Friday, May 27, 2011

The Summer of Storms

Once again the railroad threw me a curve and like always, it was strike three and I'm out.  I was supposed to go to work on my regular run last night but due to that ever-invisible (to me anyway) "Big Picture", there was no train to be had.  No deadhead either so here I sit.  They do this stuff occasionally and it's always annoying.
I have a 24 hour call 'window' during which I have to be available at any time to go to work.  That's sometimes a problem in itself in that anywhere from midnight to midnight, the phone can ring and off we go.  Ever tried to be awake and rested for 24 hours straight?  It's great if the call comes in the morning or even mid-afternoon but when it drags on into the late evening, it gets a little more challenging.  Usually I've slept all night like a real human, got up with the brood, fooled around most of the day waiting and watching the train lineup, then about the time a normal person is thinking about slowing down and settling in...that evil electronic voice rings my cell and it's time to go.  Now I've been up all day and even if I had tried to take a snooze in the afternoon, that's usually a complete waste.  I can't unwind the old biological clock so true to my evolution, I'm awake during the day.  It's always a dance trying to stay one step ahead of the call office and I'm certainly no Fred Astaire.

It all worked out in the end though.  After I'd pretty much determined for sure that there wasn't going to be anything outbound for me, I settled down with a sandwich and watched the sky get dark and ugly off in the west.  The TV started flashing thunderstorm warnings about six o'clock and kept it up every five minutes for the next two hours.  I looked at the weather site and sure enough...tornado warnings to go along with the t-storms.  Tornados, hail, dangerous lightning.  For crying out loud, this is New York, not Kansas.  We aren't supposed to be the northeast extension of Tornado Alley.  I started thinking maybe it wasn't such a bad thing that I'd be home this night.

Along about eight, I decided there was nothing doing so I'd read a while and try to sleep on the odd chance that something would pop up and I'd get a call after midnight.  I took one more look out the window and realized it was a lot darker out there than it should have been.  I hadn't heard any thunder yet but our chubby-chicken of a dog was cowering under the table and and shivering so I knew something was going on.  I decided I'd stay up a little longer and see what was coming over the hill.

In short order, the sky to the south and west started looking like it was falling in on top of us.  There was a perfectly straight line between dirty white and pitch black above the southern hills, lit with lightning.  A few tatters in the cloud layers almost reached the ground and were moving east faster than I thought possible.  The whole sky in the south was one continuous chain of brilliant flashes and I knew that somewhere off in that direction, somebody was getting a pounding.

Odd thing was, there was almost no thunder.  A few distant rumbles and bangs but not the explosions I would have expected out of such a display.  That dividing line tore off out of sight but I could see a blank wall of gray rain following right behind.  Before I could pull down the glass, a waterfall materialized in my lawn and instantly soaked the carpet.  Through the downpour, I could see the trees whipping and bending in the suddenly violent wind.  I scooted around to make sure all the windows were closed and was halfway out of my son's room when the power went off.  This is not a good sign.

We scrounged up flashlights and made the rounds to be sure the house was battened down.  Somewhere in there, our ever-watchful escape-artist of a cat saw a chance for a clean break when elder son went out the breezeway door to check the car windows.  Opportunity knocked so the furball made a run for it.  The blue-eyed feline shot down the steps and made his usual beeline to get around the corner or under a vehicle before anyone can catch him.  He almost made it when he realized he'd run into a solid wall of water and wind that would either drown him, blow him into the next county or both.  Suddenly the house didn't look that bad after all.  It's the only time I've ever seen him rocket back in as fast as he went out.  He'd probably say he meant to do that but I know he got suckered.

With no juice and no light, I perched next to a window to watch the storm.  The wind was still fierce but eventually the rain slowed down and I could see beyond the end of the driveway.  It was an awesome show.  The entire southern horizon was lit from end to end with constant chains of lightning.  It looked like strings of burning lace high up in the night.  The bolts jumped from one anvil-top to another in intricate, white hot patterns and at times it looked like the whole sky was on fire.  Webs of light chased back and forth from unkown origins to mysterious destinations.  It might have been road maps to heaven flashing among the mountains of clouds if anyone was quick enough to read them.  I've rarely seen anything like it.

Even so, it was still strangely quiet.  Except for a few strikes relatively nearby, there was only distant rumbling.  The heart of the storm must have been many, many miles away to be so muffled but the power of the thing to be felt and heard from so far must have been unbelievable.  When nature decides to really bring it on, she doesn't fool around.  After our serving of humble pie at the hands of a thunderhead, the line of storms marched off to the east and left only the peepers singing in the dark and a few encore booms of thunder to remind us who's really in charge.  The electricity finally came back sometime in the early morning after we sweated all night without a fan and through the whole affair, the railroad never called.  All in all, a wild and strange night.

I tend to think of the seasons in terms of the way they behave and if this is any indication...this will go down at the Wayward Home as the Summer of Storms.  I think I'll keep my eye on the sky.

1 comment:

Tim Joe Comstock said...

I don't know why, but I have always loved heavy weather. I have sat through tornadoes in Indiana and hurricanes in Florida, been trapped offshore when All Is Lost, and like you, just watched the thunder and the lightning from a window at home. There is a certain Freedom of the Soul in the moments when there is nothing we can do but Ride the Storm Out. Good post, Wayward.