Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring Storms

We’ve had some chilly, damp weather recently. It’s the time of the spring where we get farther and farther from the memory of snow, and the belief in it. It’s getting hard to even picture what the sidewalks looked like with ice on them. (Every day without icy sidewalks is a good day! Hooray!)

Granted, I’m not constitutionally “against” winter weather, but by the time it’s April, I yearn for all that stuff to be over! And so instead, we usher in the season of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes!

As you know, this spring I reread Edwin Way Teale’s North with the Spring, which describes Edwin and Nellie Teale’s zigzagging travels as they traced the progress of spring from the southern tip of Florida to the northern tip of Maine. Their trip occurred in 1947.

The book covers much more than just violets and robins; Teale examines several aspects of springtime that few people think about. The arrival of elvers in fresh waters and their long, wriggling trip up rivers and streams to the place where they will breed; the seasonal vertical migration of duckweeds within a single pond; and the movements of some bird species that migrate altitudinally on a mountainside instead of longitudinally up and down the map. He witnesses the springtime activities of Appalachian herb gatherers, who pick bags and bags of waxy balm-of-Gilead buds that ultimately wind up in salves and ointments. Spring is many things to many organisms.

One thing that Teale left out of his book—probably because in his trip he stuck to the eastern quarter of the United States—is “tornado season.” For folks in the Midwest, this is the time to make sure the emergency radio has fresh batteries, that there’s a comfortable place in the basement in which to wait out the storm, and for public officials to test the community’s emergency sirens. In schools, March usually includes “natural disaster awareness week” or some such, where all the kids learn what to do if there’s a tornado watch, tornado warning, or severe thunderstorm watch or warning. (Of course, a lot of that has changed since I was a kid!)

So they’ve been predicting possible severe weather practically every other day these last few weeks. Sometimes we get a good thunderstorm out of it; on Tuesday the 19th, at 3:45 a.m., we got quarter-sized hail. (That’ll wake you up!) But in regard to serious, serious destruction, it “never” amounts to anything; often, it’s absolutely clear it’s going to bypass us. And sometimes we don’t even get a drop of rain (sometimes the storms are very scattered).

So it tends to make one apathetic. But then there are a few times each year when the forecasters, the radar, the sirens, the sky, the birds—everything—indicates a strong possibility of a tornado heading right toward us. Again, it “never” hits, but then, you never know . . .

(To be continued in my next post . . .)

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