Sunday, March 8, 2009


We had a thunderstorm today. The first one of the season, I think.

I recall that I used to be scared of thunderstorms. I think it’s a prerequisite that small children are scared of thunderstorms and its companion, lightning. Unwritten rules of childhood or something like that. I outgrew it eventually and I’ve come to respect thunderstorms.

I’m not going to say I love thunderstorms, because as I say that, I envision myself prancing about like a ninny in the middle of a thunderstorm holding a golf club when I say something like that. I also don’t like them so much when I’m driving and I have my wipers on warp speed and I still can’t see crap out of the windshield. I also don’t like thunderstorms when the basement floods.

Therefore, I’ll respect the awesomeness of the thunder and lightning shows that we’re treated to occasionally during the spring and summer months. We always knew when the angels were bowling and when they got a strike! I sat by the window and watched for the big flashes of lightning, hoping to see where it struck. Then the thunder clapped and I became a little scared until the next lightning strike. I was also amazed how dark it would get during a storm. At night, it made me wonder if the dark just got darker. I don’t think I ever got that question answered.

I especially liked the flooded streets afterwards when we (my brothers and I) were kids. We weren’t lucky enough to be able to afford a pool, so we took advantage of any standing water that we could, frolicking and playing until we were soaked through and through.

Racing paper boats (toothpicks, popsicle sticks or even just regular sticks or whatever we could find that would float) from the middle of the street to the drains was pretty cool, unless a car came and swamped us as it drove by. We also liked mucking waterlogged worms. Back then, the entire world was our playground. Everything was fascinating; everything was worth exploring. As I grew older, I liked going outside right after the rain had ended, searching for that summer “just rained” smell that summer is famous for.

As a teenager, I started hanging out in the garage with the door open, watching and listening to the rain, and the thunder and lightning. I had learned that thunder always followed the lightning because the speed of sound was a lot slower than the speed of light. I also learned that I could kinda measure how far away the storm was based upon this phenomenon. I’d start “one-Mississippi, two Mississippi…” until I heard the thunderclap after the lightning flashed.

I like the thunderstorms that accompany the tornadoes in the middle of the summer. The clouds become a sickly green color. If you were lucky, you got to see the hammer and the anvil that seem to hide within the clouds themselves. You felt the lightning strikes and the thunderclaps rattled you to the core, making your bones ache. So loud!

Then the winds would pick up and the sky would get darker and greener. The rain would start with sprinkles and then, if you were really fortunate, the hail would start. That’s when you knew you had to seek cover, lest you looked like a big huge bruise the next day. We’d turn the radio on at that point (unless it was already on), listening to hear where the tornado hit and what kind of damage it caused. I remember generally being disappointed by the lack of damage that the storm had caused.

Thunderstorms make me think. Is it the rhythm of the raindrops? Is it the hammer beating on the anvil? Did Saint Michael get that strike to beat out Saint Gabriel in a heavenly game of bowling? How far away was that lightning strike? What or who did it hit? Is there an electric acrid smell where it hit or does it smell more of ozone? Who’s lining up all those positive and negative electrons? Why wasn’t I invited? What’s the meaning of life? Such questions deserve answers, but will we like the answers?

Nowadays, I tend to be generally annoyed by thunderstorms. I think that’s the curse of growing up. Every once in a while though…I remember all of these wonderful things that occurred when I was growing up. That’s when it’s time to forget about life for a while. It’s time to play. Anyone for a paper boat race?


  1. Wow, I have a whole gamut of emotions on this one. First off... I never count the seconds between lightening and thunder. I'm afraid the maple out front my blast through the window and try to eat me. Talk about rocked to the core!

    Second... I remember playing in flooded streets too. Until I learned about raw sewage.

    I used to live on the "other side" of the snowbelt, in Livingston County... where my blogger friends are. Talk about storms. Honey, the crap we get here aren't storms. These are minor little squalls. Out there, they get STORMS. I can't tell you how many times we sat in the cellar under the front porch wondering if the house would still be there after it passed.

    On another note though... Den and I lived in the apartments at 27 & Van Dyke back in my Medstar days. We were home when they got a call. He went to the station, and I stayed in the apartment. This hellacious storm rolled in. Because I spent so missed so many storms as a child (being tucked in a cellar), I had never seen a green sky before. I was on the 2nd floor of our apartment watching out the window. Suddenly it got very, VERY calm. And I got VERY VERY scared. I looked out the window to see the trees by the car ports suddenly bend in half. I just about wet my pants. I ran downstairs into the hallway.

    Low and behold, our friends who's apartment faced the other way, saw the tornado! It went between us at 27 mile and the fire station which was like 26 1/2 mile!! Right over the freeway into the trailor park. She video taped it! Crazy girl!!

    Now I know about the "calm before the storm". lol.

  2. This was a nice trip down memory lane. I did this one on a whim. I was chatting with Dave Hunter's daughter and she had made a comment about thunderstorms...

    The coolest thing I ever saw was being out in the middle of the eye of hurricane Hugo when I was in the Navy in South Carolina. That's a story in itself. The whole night was like a thousand trains driving by the house (I was staying with a friend and his family further inland to avoid the 30 foot storm surges that were expected along the coast).

    Being out in the middle of the eye was very eerie because it was completely calm for about an hour and you could actually see the wall of the edge of the eye as it got closer. It was night when Hugo rolled through so it made it hard to see...but you could see it. Then we had the thousand trains rolling by the house for the second half of the storm.