Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I Can Tell You a Little More About Thunderstorms

Beth, over at Grand Mental Station, has a nicely written reminiscence about surviving a fierce thunderstorm when she visited her grandparents in North Dakota when she was 15. She's right--the storm we experienced a few days ago was mighty loud and pretty scary, but can't compare to a storm on the plains.

I speak from experience on this myself. Living on the High Plains of West Texas for six years, we were subjected to numerous mighty loud and pretty scary thunderstorms, plus damaging hail storms (we lost two roofs and a couple of car windshields to golf-ball size pellets), and tornado warnings.

But the worst came on a night when the rain hadn't even started falling yet. Sometimes we'd get that dry lightning, when you could see the strikes for miles into the distance. This was one of those nights.

We were all packed up and ready to move to New England. The moving van had left the day before, and we were camping out on the carpet tying up a few loose ends before departure from Texas. We ate dinner with friends. My friend Melody had told me, "If you ever move from Lubbock, I'll never speak to you again!" Fortunately, she didn't keep her promise, and we had a bittersweet dinner with them.

On the way home, I heard one of the loudest crack-BOOMS! I'd ever heard. I nervously said, as I often did, "Whoa--hope that didn't hit OUR house." Ha. Ha.

As we pulled into the driveway, I saw smoke pouring out of the attic. A boy from across the street ran up to us and yelled, "Your house was hit by lightning! I already called 911!" That crack-BOOM had indeed struck our house.

Our friends were still with us (they'd followed behind so our sons could play in the nearly-empty house), so I stayed back with the two boys, while Jim ran into the house to save our pets. All of them live in cages, so three trips later, everyone was safe outside. (Though we learned on the drive to Massachusetts that Jim had earned himself a case of smoke-induced pneumonia.)

We were lucky in some respects: The volunteer fire department that provided coverage for our rural street was having it's weekly meeting, so all hands were on deck and available to respond immediately. The moving van had already left, so only the few items still in the house for our camp-out were damaged by the smoke and water. (It turns out that many things can't be salvaged after severe smoke or water damage, so the insurance company cuts you a check. Which is fine for a sofa, not so good for your photos or your child's toys.) Our insurance company paid to rebuild the damaged parts of the house--much of the house, since it was a single-level ranch--without a fuss. Our Realtor took on the job of general contractor, overseeing the restoration while waiting patiently for the house to be marketable again.

The clothes we'd saved for the trip were smokey and wet, so a fire-recovery company took them away for repair, and I shopped at Wal-Mart at midnight for a couple day's worth of stuff. I still wear the cotton sundress I picked out for the next day's going-away party at Texas Tech, where they served barbecue--and Jim couldn't bear the smell of smoked food.

It's been four years since then. And Jim can handle smoky barbecue again. And the pets are just fine, including our parrots, which you'd think would have been most affected by smoke (in the tradition of the canary in the coalmine). I've even started joking that the lightning strike was a classic, Texas-sized goodbye, the ultimate "don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out."

So, yes, Monday night's storm was a thriller. But I've seen worse. And I hope never to again.


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