Monday, September 3, 2018

Reminiscing: If the Thunder Don't Get You...

Is it just me, or has it been quite awhile since we’ve had one of those big time, summer thunderstorms? I mean one of those thunderstorms that seems to go on and on, not the ones we’ve gotten lately that last ten or fifteen minutes. It’s not that I’m hoping for one, but sometimes I kinda miss the adrenaline rush that comes with the flash of light and nearly immediate thunder.

I was frightened by thunderstorms a lot longer than most kids would have been. I can trace that directly back to a big storm that happened when we were still living in Lyndonville. We moved to Lockport when I was five, so that memory definitely affected me quite a bit.

I think that big storm happened the summer before we moved. I must have been four years old. There was a lot of wind and lots of driving rain with bright lightning and booming thunder. We drove around the day after the storm to see some of the damage around the village. Just around the corner from our house, there was a house that had its front stoop crushed by a falling tree. That image stuck with me. Suddenly, the lightning storms were not so much fun.

My bedroom was in the front of the house. I had two windows looking out onto Maple Avenue. Directly in front of the house was a big, old maple tree. The thing was huge, at least to the eyes of a four year old. And it was scary. Especially after seeing how the storm had ravaged some of the other trees around the area. Was that tree going to crash into my room? I know that every kid has a fear of thunderstorms, but I think this was where the irrational fear I had came.

I definitely had an irrational fear. My poor parents. They had a dog that needed to be tranquilized whenever there was a storm because of some jerk kids. And they had a kid who slept on the floor on the side of the bed whenever there was even the hint of thunder in the sky. Heck, if they were using dump trucks too early in the morning in the distance, I freaked out. Once I moved into the basement, I didn’t hear the storms anymore, and I got over it.

There was a night, a few years after I moved out and got married, that a single clap of thunder woke me from my sleep. We were living in Gasport at that time. My sister lived across the street from my mom and dad, almost directly across the street from where we live now. That single clap of thunder apparently accompanied the a bolt of lightning that struck a tree at my sister’s house. It blew out the electrical in the garage, traveled the wire to the house, where it blew some siding off the house. Some of the glue liquefied and splattered all over my brother-in-law’s car.

When I got to work that day, my brother-in-law wasn’t at work. His excuse, which they didn’t believe? His house got struck by lightning. They were asking my about such a foolhardy excuse. In those days before cellphones, I had no idea what had happened. It was the next day when I saw my sister, brother-in-law and niece on the front page of the newspaper that I finally started to get the story pulled together.

My mom told me that my sister had just gotten out of the bath when the lightning struck. Thankfully she was out of the tub by then. But it was just by minutes. I told my mom that thunder woke me up about five minutes to midnight, but that it looked like a clear sky when I had glanced out the window. She told me that was the time that the house and tree got hit. Amazingly, it woke me out of a sound sleep over five miles away from the strike.

That was not my sister’s first run-in with lightning. When I was gone to Boy Scout camp, there was ball lightning that struck between my parent’s house and the neighbor’s house. She and my brother were watching TV in the basement at the time, and it killed the TV. For some reason, neither of my parents directed them to unplug the electronics.

Do people even do that anymore? If I hear a big rumbler coming, I’ll unplug the power strip that runs the entertainment system. But if a storm comes in the middle of the night, I may or may not get up to unplug anything. Unless it sounds like a big storm. When I was growing up, there was absolutely no question that we’d be unplugging things. It was harder when my room was in the basement because I generally couldn’t hear the thunder. However, the sound of dad fumbling for the plug directly above my head was a good sign.

We’ve had a couple of good storms since we had kids. If you were ever afraid of thunderstorms, having kids will cure you of it pretty quickly. Now I know how annoying it was for my parents to have us come running every time there was a loud noise in the sky. Plus, you want to put on a brave face for them. Most of the time, I barely even hear the storms anymore.

Back to the original question: What happened to the storms? What we get these days are mostly very fast moving storms that make some noise and then move on. At least in Lockport that seems to be the case. We miss most of the weather, I guess. I’ve heard thunder in the distance, but have not experienced one of those thunderstorms that lasts an hour or more in several years. Not that I’m looking for one. It’s just that weather patterns have changed so much over the last thirty years.

My personal meteorological device (my smartphone) constantly tells me that lightning is likely, but it only correctly predicts that about 10% of the time. I used to run to batten down the hatches whenever I saw that a storm could be coming in. Now I mostly ignore the notifications. It’s another case of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. Someday it will come back to bite us in the ass. For now, we’ve been numbed by the weather guys who create a national panic for every drop of rain or flake of snow.

Craig Bacon has sat through some of the most intense thunderstorms while waiting for the band to take the stage. He may be pretty darn sweet, but he won’t melt in the rain.