Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thunderstorms and things

Thunderstorms and things that lightning and wind damage…..Musings and memories

All these thunderstorms, tornados, straight-line winds and rain that we’ve experienced the last few days have been frightening, to say the very least. While our area was not hit as hard as neighboring communities, we did lose electric power on Friday, June 12, 2009 at about 5 p.m. Repeated calls to the Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division (MLGW) were inadequate in information, being one of those hated ‘menus’ where you keep punching in numbers until you finally get “information”… “A crew has been assigned” and “your area has a circuit failure”. Big help. HA.

Power was restored to our neighborhood by 7 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, but the storms and resulting damages effected the cancellation of a big DAR Flag Day Luncheon since the Colonial Country Club had no power – and no way to prepare the meal for 150 reservation-holders.
Multiple phone calls and emails were made and sent to those members of our DAR Chapter who had power restored and could receive the messages. I hope all the 150 ladies did not go to the country club anyway, thinking the show would go on.

Seeing on TV all the storm damages to mid-town Memphis, Cordova and particularly Olive Branch and Byhalia in Mississippi, made us realize how very fortunate we were to have lost power and nothing else. Updates from MLGW show that there are still almost 70,000 homes without power on Sunday, but of the total 130,000 who lost power, the utility company is working ‘round the clock to get everyone back up and running again. Even so, it’s extremely frustrating to realize how totally dependent we are on electricity. We sat on the front porch – after the rain subsided – and read until it was too dark to see. Then candles and flashlights had to serve their purposes. No TV, computer, microwave – anything electricity-dependent – was not available.

Now on Sunday, June 14th, another storm system is moving through the area with a lot of lightning and thunder and some rain. Thankfully there seems to be no ‘Wind’ connected to this storm front.

All these storms remind me of bygone days and other storms that we experienced since we’ve lived in this house.

One incident in particular stands out: I was in the one bathroom that we had then, and sitting in front of the east window, when a huge bolt of lightning struck the elm tree near the house at that spot. The strength of that bolt literally shook the house. After that storm subsided and the rain ceased, we went out to survey the damage… and found that the elm tree had sustained a killing strike. When the lightning went down the trunk and hit the ground, mud splashed across the yard onto the side of the house! THAT was some kind of big strike, believe me. We all felt very fortunate that the elm tree took the hit instead of the house next to it! The elm had to be taken down, and the stump that was left eventually rotted out – but it took years!

Another storm produced lightning sufficient to strike the ancient pecan tree on the west side of the back yard. A scar was visible from the top of the 100-year-old tree all the way to the ground, and mud was kicked up into a wheelbarrow that rested on the trunk. I made pictures of that scar, since I figured nobody would believe what I was describing. The old tree still lives and produces pecans! I find that to be amazing in itself.

Farther back in time, one April about 1974, a storm blew the massive oak tree down in the middle of the night. I had gone to the kitchen at about 4 a.m. to get a drink of water, when I heard a ‘whoosh’ sound outside. It was too dark to see anything, so I went back to bed. Next morning when we looked out the kitchen window on the north side, all we could see was leaves!
That oak tree was uprooted and lay across our yard from the west property line to the east line…about 100 feet. The root section was at least 9 feet across – maybe even more. Our three sons were delighted to have such a wonderful ‘jungle gym’ to climb and play on, and were disappointed when the crew came to cut up that gigantic old tree and haul away the debris.

The tree had smashed the front end of the shed we used for storage, which had been Grandfather’s garage for his Terraplane automobile. Instead of demolishing the rest of the little building, I suggested that the workmen pull the outside walls together and build a new ‘front’ for what was left. The resulting shed/garage has served us well ever since, storing all kinds of yard tools, lawn mowers, boxes and paint cans.

Another big loss was the old oak tree in our east-side neighbor’s yard at the street. That tree was blown down during another storm and lay down across the street and onto the railroad tracks that parallel the street. The Town crews came quickly to clear the tracks and the street, but the neighbor’s yard was full of debris for a long time after the storm.

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