Saturday, August 30, 2008

Memories . . . storms


Watching the radar is a frightening pasttime right now.


Storms seem larger, more fierce than before, but perhaps that's only my older eyes watching that swirl and determined path of the present hurricane.


When I was a child, my family lived in Houston. During the summer of 1964, Tropical Storm Abby hit the area. Tropical storms pack sustained winds from 39 to 73 miles per hour. That is the 'constant' range; gusts can exceed these numbers. The power behind these storms can sweep a person from their feet and certainly awe or terrify a child. Even young, these memories have stuck through the years as though attached with the permanence of superglue.



Our small three-bedroom, sided-house displayed front and rear plate-glass windows that were in direct viewing line of one another. As these windows were our observation platforms to every happening on Crooked Creek Street, I'm certain my mother seldom found the glass clear of child-sized finger prints and smudges. As the storm approached and the radio crackled with constant weather updates, my father retrieved rolls of masking tape from his never-empty, and constantly-fascinating tool box. With careful precision, he laid racing stripes of beige tape across the glass as though marking the spot with a large 'buried treasure' X. As Tropical Storm Abby neared landfall, my brother and I were constant voyeurs to a world gone mad beyond the panes. Massively tall oak trees stood sentinel in our side and back yard. The trees were so numerous, grass was sparce beneath the constant cover of multi-colored leaves. The sky darkened bit by bit until everything seemed gray. The winds built and the trees danced back and forth across the dim sky. Sheets of rain blew in, sometimes straight and flooding against the street, sometimes sideways as though simply passing through and on its way to another town. Gusts kicked up and snatched any trashcan, yard tool, or poorly attached shingle. It looked cartoon-like to us as the debris hurried down the street on its way to some unseen destination. Wind intensity increased and tree limbs snapped, some entire trees groaned then fell, power lines gave way, and transformers sparked and lit with Christmas-tree glow, and the entity of our house went dark. Our ooh-ahhs turned to squeals then screams as the sound of the storm roared through our neighborhood. Flashlights clicked on and my parents dispensed all the needed hugs and reassurances then we waited. Safe in my mom's embrace, the power of the storm seemed to fade. I don't remember closing my eyes or nodding off to sleep, but suddenly it was morning and the sunlight was back.

What happened the next day? Did we have a lot of damage? Glass broken, limbs down? I, honestly, don't remember. It is the roar of Tropical Storm Abby that stays with me so many years later.

Your turn.


Share your storm memory. Hurricanes (or Tropical Storms) not required. Any storm memory that lives with you is welcome.


To all those I know in the path of the lion -- know that you are in my prayers. Be safe.


Do drop by the porch anytime. I always have the sweetened tea ready to pour.

Until then
~Sandra

7 comments:

Sue L said...

We live on a hill, our house has 72in. square windows all around and so we've seen some spectacular storms through that glass. To date -- we've weathered them, although I don't guess we'll ever forget huddling in the bath tub to wait one out with both young sons, the mastiff puppy, the old dog and the pet rat.

My youngest son is a weatherbug and 'storm tracks' on the computer whenever there is weather. I can't say I blame him.

Sherry Davis said...

There was one storm when my oldest was 10 and my youngest was just 4 months old. That's the most scared I've ever been.

Fort Worth seems to be a magnet for tornados during April and May. We lived in a peir and beam house in a lovely old section on the East Side. I remember the sky turned a dark green that day. The animation of every tree, leaf, pebble, dust kernel and blade of grass, you name it, just stopped.
There was an eerie universal pause up and down the street. Neighbors who'd been tucking last minute things away, locking doors, taping windows, etc., all stopped, my husband and I included. Like robotic statues, we all looked up.
There, above us, the thick, heavy dark clouds seemed to converge. For a minute, maybe two, we stood there, paralyzed until a lone shingle on my neighbors roof floated straight up into the darkened sky.
Needless to say, we all ran at that point, inside to our kids and pets. The hubby and I hunkered down beside the four kids in their extra-wide tub. There just wasn't room for more. I remember putting the baby in the bath, in to my oldest's waiting arms and seeing the fear on her face. I knew the same emotion had to be mirrored in my own as I lowered the twin mattress on top of them. We'd already decided that I'd jump inside the tub at the last minute. But my hubby had nothing to hold onto but the plumbing fixtures under the sink. I remember thinking: If that storm hits us, he wouldn't make it. None of us would.
The storm roared through our neighborhood, touching here and there, ripping off a couple of roofs, tearing up a good many others. It leveled a couple of sheds, tore down trees and power lines. It was like a war zone. A couple of blocks away, it took the roof off a storage facility. The metal had been rolled back like a can of sardines.
As I said, that's the most scared I've ever been. We decided to move out of that peir and beam house because of that storm. Good old brick and mortar for us.

Jen FitzGerald said...

Sleeping (or not) in the top bunk during a sever thunderstorm in Omaha, Nebraska. I was 13 or 14 at the time, and understood that thunder is just noise, but being right up under the ceiling as the walls shook was a bit nerve-wracking.

Jen FitzGerald

naida said...

that is scary. luckily I dont have any scary storm memories. The only thing I do remember is whenever we had bad storms and the power would go out, me and my sister would always pull out board games to pass the time.

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

L.A. Mitchell said...

Storm-chasing with WeatherBoy, definately. I think the scariest part was being at the mercy of the middle of nowhere roads in Kansas--when you need to go a different direction because the storm has shifted and there's nothing but two directions and wheat fields on either side. We never saw anything more than rope tornadoes, but such a thrill.

The only other extreme that scared me was being in that same middle of nowhere Kansas town and having a blizzard that completely swallowed our windows and doors in drifts. With no snowplows for two hundred miles, you have to rely on Bosephus with his John Deere to make it up your street "when he gets around to it". That was more a trapped feeling and scarier to me. I think it took us four days to dig completely out.

Great post, Sandra. I love reading everyone's tales :)

Marilyn Brant said...

Reading these storm stories is fascinating, Sandra--thanks for the interesting post and to everyone for their responses.

Between Wisconsin and Illinois, we've had storms of the tornado variety and terrible blizzarding snowstorms (no hurricanes up here...), but I remember many of them: Rainstorms that pummeled our house when I was a kid and seeped into the window wells, leaving a foot of water in our basement. The Ice Storm of '76 (I feel like an old lady when I say that :) that froze powerlines and kept us out of school for a whole week. And a ferocious wind/lightning storm a few years ago that made fireplace kindling out of every 5th or 6th tree in our town.

When I was in high school, 90-percent of a neighboring town was leveled by a tornado...so I tend to be more scared than intrigued by bad weather--unless I know there's no real danger. Thoughts and prayers to those in Gustav's path this week.

Sandra Ferguson said...

Thanks everyone for sharing. It's rather like good ghost stories, isn't it? Hey, they would work for next month and no, you can't steal my idea. GRIN!

Happy writing everyone, and stay safe.

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