Things sure got hairy for us folks in the greater NYC metro area
yesterday afternoon, and they're not back to normal yet.
Just after 2 p.m., I'd gone down into the basement to put a load
of clothes into the dryer. All of a sudden, the sky darkened
almost to a twilight darkness and the wind picked up to a truly
astonishing degree. I managed to get upstairs in time to turn off
and unplug major appliances (like the desktop computer!) and it
was literally just in time -- Mother Nature put on a light and
sound show the likes of which I have never seen.
Five major lightning strikes occurred within 150 feet of my
house. Two strikes took down two huge trees across the street
about 125-130 feet from the house; a third took out another
smaller tree about 135 feet from the house; one took out another
small tree about 40 feet from the house; and the last one we
*think* hit a power pole directly in front of the house (the Fire
Department raced over and said they thought it hit the pole which
is now listing to one side, but they're not sure -- whatever it
hit, it was CLOSE!!).
The power went out almost immediately; I got my power back
between 5-6 a.m. today -- folks just a few blocks north of me
don't have power on even now (2:45 p.m. -- more than 24 hours
Two weather stations nearby clocked winds between 80 and 100 mph.
The station that clocked the 100 mph speed then broke, so we
THINK the winds were higher but we don't know for sure. Tornado
funnels were spotted in two nearby towns.
Three deaths so far attributed to the storms: two fishermen out
on boats and one teenager hit by a falling tree.
I watched most of the storm from the open front door (probably
stupid, with lightning hitting all around) but it was too good a
show to miss. The power of nature is something to behold, and it
is simply amazing to be in the middle of something like that.
The whole thing was over in about a half hour, from the very
start of the sky darkening to the end of the torrential rains
that followed the lightning storm. Amazing stuff. Just amazing.
Then it was out the door to check on the damage. The astonishing
thing was, with all the hits right around my house, there was NO
significant property damage. Not one house, not one garage, not
one car got hit with four good sized trees on the ground.
Everybody's yard is full of branches big and small (I just called
the kid who takes care of my lawn and he was smiling -- the
schools were closed today because of storm damage and lack of
power AND I'll pay him to clean up the yard) but nobody right
around me lost anything more than some barbeque equipment.
And for all those who say it's nature, not nurture, that fixes
our attitudes about things like being afraid of storms, I offer
A whole bunch of us kids -- my brothers and sisters and cousins
and I -- were by ourselves at the Fork Union, Va., home of my
aunt Cladyne and uncle Barrett (the grown-ups would have all been
at my grandparents' farm several miles away) when it became clear
that one hell of a storm was brewing. The house sat all by itself
on a hill and there was no question it would get hit if anything
Just before it hit, my uncle Barrett pulled up in his car, alone,
from the farm. He brought all of us out onto the porch and sat us
down and, while the storm raged and lightning hit and thunder
boomed and then the rains came, he told all us wide-eyed kids all
the stories he could think of (and some he probably made up on
the spot) about the gods of thunder and lightning. We heard about
thunder being when the gods were bowling, and Thor, and a lot
more. He stayed with us until the storm was over and then went
back to the farm.
I don't think there's a single kid out of the group from that
porch who's afraid of thunder and lightning storms today.
My uncle Barrett died in 1967 of a malignant inoperable brain
I miss him still.
-- September 8, 1998