Monday, May 16, 2011

What's With the Weather Watching?

I know a lot of you on Facebook probably get sick of my constant weather-watching.  Have you ever wondered why I'm so terrified of thunderstorms?

When I was little, my mom worked as a cocktail waitress, and I saw my share of sitters.  Some were great, like the sweet high school girl that used to walk me to the pool every day the summer I was 5 so I could swim.  Others were awful, like the girls who threw a party when I was really small (can't remember how old I was), and their friends were mean to me.  It seems I went to a different sitter every few weeks, mostly because of her weird schedule.

So, after the nice sitter when I was 5, I ended up at the home of a family with several kids.  I'm not sure if all of them were theirs, or if there were others there for pay.  In any case, a lot of the family kids were boys.  They lived on a little hill, and had a giant picture window in their living room.  During one particularly bad storm, the boys found out I was scared, and began taking turns shoving me up against the window and telling me the storm was going to kill me.  Then, when the thunder boomed, they would fall over like they died.  Funny-ish now, terrifying at 5.

Fast forward to my late teens.  I stayed for a summer at my uncles' (yes, plural) ranches outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  I mostly stayed at one uncle's home, because he was gone a lot (truck driver), and he was the only one that didn't grow stuff (so I didn't have to help with planting/hoeing/harvesting/working).  In exchange for cleaning his large, incredibly out-of-place-on-the-prairie log mansion, I was able to stay there mostly alone with his billion-channel satellite and full pantry.

Pretty much every day on the prairie, a storm blows through and produces either rain, wind, lightning, thunder, or hail.  At least, it did when I was there.  The storms weren't so bad, so as long as I remembered to get the laundry off the line and keep the windows closed, I wasn't too bothered by them.

I was taught by the uncles that life on the prairie means keeping a radio on at all one day when the usual dark clouds were piling in, the weather alert tones cut into the day's stock reports.  Only seconds later, the phone of the other uncles told me the weather service had issued a tornado warning for our area, and I was to take the radio, cordless phone (this is pre-cell phones), and a lantern into the root cellar and wait for the all clear.  And. he. hung. up.

I instantly panicked, crying and rushing around the house.  I located the tiny wild kitten I had coaxed into the house to keep me company, rounded up the radio, phone, lantern, and some food and water (hey, never hurts to be prepared) and we climbed down to the creepy root cellar together.  There were no lights of any kind down there aside from the lantern, which is probably a good thing because I was envisioning all kinds of creepy-crawlies coming out of the earth walls.  Above, the wind roared, and thunder boomed so loud I thought the house would collapse atop us.  I had never lived anywhere where there was a threat of tornadoes, so I had NO clue what they were like or what to expect.  I huddled on the dirt floor clutching the kitty and begging the higher power to let the storm pass over me.

About 45 minutes after it started, the wind and thunder just stopped.  Not gradually slowed, not tapered off - just STOPPED.  It wasn't long after that the radio said the threat had passed, and my uncle called back to tell me I could get out of the cellar.

We hadn't been visited by the tornado, although it had come close enough that the nearest town (about 8 miles away) had sustained minor damage.  It had been the worst thunderstorm the locals had seen in quite a few years, and the wind had taken some of the shingles off the roof.  It ended up being my sign that I didn't belong on the prairie, and shortly thereafter I returned to the Pacific Northwest.

So you see - storms are a source of major anxiety for me.  Oddly enough, it isn't lightning that scares me - it's the thunder.  I KNOW it can't hurt me, but that rationale flies out the window when I hear it boom.

Now you all thought I was a bit eccentric - here's proof!

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