Monday, June 21, 2010

Storm Damage

Were I a superstitious person, I might think that saying the following would jinx it, and the string of good luck would be over. However, I'm going to say it anyway: we live in a relatively storm-free zone. In 19 years here, I've watched storms go north of us, south of us, stay west of us, or head east into Wisconsin. I'm not saying we never get any, but the biggest, rainiest, lightningest, heaviest hail producing storms go around us.

I blame the heat island effect. Since most storms come out of the southwest, and the metro area lies along that path before they get here, they seem to either get diverted or weakened before they arrive. I'm not sure how that makes everything go elsewhere than up here, but it's a handy excuse.

In a way, it's a disappointment. I love storms. Favorite memories involve watching storms from a place of safety. I built a screen house attached to my house with a west view so I could sit outside/inside and watch them roll in. That screen house has even helped my granddaughter get over her mother's fear of storms. Yes, I said that right. When she first started visitation with me, Jordan was afraid of storms, particularly lightning, not from any personal bad experience but because her mother fears them. On one drive up here, a storm overtook us and she was huddled scared in the back seat. Since I was driving, I couldn't stop and comfort her, so I devised a little game instead. I asked her to watch the lightning (since I had to drive and couldn't do it myself) and tell me what color each flash was: yellow? green? purple? She quickly grew interested, and once up here, spent time in the screen house during various storms with me checking out lightning colors. I still go out there to watch storms roll through. Or, more often, roll past.

Last Thursday this state had a line of tornadic super cells move through, stretching from Lake of the Woods to Albert Lea. They of course split and weakened once they hit the metro and came past us. But the weird thing was, once the skies had cleared, the tornado sirens went off. We were actually watching live TV at the time, keeping track of the weather, and there was absolutely no reason we could see for the alert. Nothing mentioned on the weather crawl at the bottom of the screen, no colored section of the state near us.

I found out later there was a sighting up in Rush City, at the far opposite end of the county. Nothing further was said about it, with Albert Lea and Wadena rightly getting all the attention. I nearly forgot about "our" storm for a couple days, until Steve called me. He'd planned on going fishing from Franconia Landing, where last week he'd parked his car on a sandbar along the shore of the St. Croix and pulled in several small bass to toss back. Friday the river was much higher and his spot and the way to it were under a foot or two of water. Somebody upstream had obviously gotten a lot of rain.

I knew just who to ask about upstream rainfall. My friend Lynn lives just outside of Grantsburg, WI, about 30 miles north and a hair east of me. So I called her today to ask how her weather had been last Thursday. Did they get a lot of rain?

She said they had, then casually mentioned she was sore all over. Of course I asked why. It seems she and her husband along with some neighbors had spent a long weekend cutting up trees. That tornado that skimmed the northern bit of our county crossed Hwy. 70 as it went on into Wisconsin, aiming itself just to the north of Grantsburg, and incidentally through much of the back of Lynn's ten-acre wooded lot, before heading over to Crex Meadows wildlife refuge. By her count, 50 trees had been felled and/or ripped apart on their land, and as of the end of the weekend they had managed to cut up five of them. One of them had been a 100-foot oak.

Luckily their buildings had all been missed, one by just ten feet. (Thank goodness for the fickleness of tornadoes!) She and Dave had huddled with the dog in their house's central hallway listening to the house shake as the twister passed. They just got inside in time to find that amount of shelter, and not enough to try to locate the cat. It seems they had been watching the storm roll in, since their power had gone out earlier. As far out of town as they are, no sirens are audible, but one of the neighbors had a better view than they did and took a few pictures.

Lynn tells me that Dave is generally reluctant to share the wood he cuts up, since they use it for bonfires in their back yard for entertaining company. He has just now started informing friends that they are welcome to what they cut. In light of last week's events, Dave now has decided to get a NOAA weather radio for next time.

Oh, and the cat's fine, thanks for asking.

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