Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blogging A Storm: Knock It Off, Zeus!

Oklahoma hail storm, photo by Bill Waugh, AP
By Pat Browning

Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2:19 p.m.
Lovely rainy day here in Oklahoma. Warm spring rain, the best kind. But also thunder and lightning. Imagine that, and just as archeologists announced they have found the probable birthplace of Zeus, god of thunder and lightning. It's on top of Mt. Lykaion. In Greece, naturally. Quoting Yahoo News:

***Excavating a trench on Mount Lykaion, in an area which ancient Greek historians later called "the ash altar of Zeus," archaeologists found more than 50 drinking vessels, fragments of human and animal figurines, as well as burned sheep and goat bones. All of the artifacts are consistent with cult ceremonies of the Mycenaean people, who settled Greece approximately between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago, historians say.
*** The period also coincides with the first historical mentions of the god Zeus in Greek texts, suggesting that the Mount Lykaion ceremonies were to honor the man himself.
***Younger, higher levels of the trench have yielded silver coins, a bronze hand holding a lightning bolt and petrified lightning in past dig seasons. All are clear dedications to Zeus, indicating that the use of the god's altar on Mount Lykaion was likely unbroken for several millennia.

I love it when they talk like that. Anyway, it's a perfect day to make vegetable soup, otherwise known as Clean Out The Fridge-Freezer Soup, and cornbread.

2:51 p.m.
Whoa! What happened to spring? I glanced out the window and it was black outside. Then the tornado siren went off and I turned on TV loud enough so I could hear it all over the apartment. Got my purse and shoes and plodded into my walk-in closet with the TV blaring TAKE SHELTER, STAY LOW etc. etc. etc. and that siren making my ears ring.

Once again, Yukon escaped with only rain, thunder, lightning and softball-size hail. Man, did it thump on my roof. If the people upstairs are home they must have crawled under the bed. It's odd, but those tornado rotations always go down I-40, about 2 miles south of me, past the Xerox plant. Those poor people at Xerox must be half-deaf by now. The tornado rotation has now moved slightly east of Yukon into the OKC area. So I'm safe, for now. Just hail hitting my window. I'd better pull the blinds. Human nature -- I have to resist opening the door to watch.

3:30 p.m.
I remembered to turn off the burner under the soup pot when the first siren went off. When things cleared up it poured rain, melting down the hail before I could venture out to take pictures. Pity. My side yard looked like the weather gods upturned a giant bowl of popcorn.

So I put on the kettle for coffee and I’m dipped if the siren didn't go off again. Storm #2! Meanwhile Storm #1 spawned a tornado north of Oklahoma City. A few pictures already coming in. Schools are in lockdown, with the kids in safe places inside the buildings in the entire metro.

Oklahoma is catching hell this afternoon. The storms seem to be moving in almost a straight line, south to north, so I guess they’re coming up from Texas. Storm #3 just reared its ugly head.

3:40 p.m.
The siren guy’s finger must be stuck on the button. Tornado touched down 10 miles south of here and Storm #3 is hovering. Every time I trudge to my closet I take something else with me. Last time I took my lantern. If this keeps up, everything I own will be in that closet.

4:02 p.m.
Siren just stopped. Ears still ringing.
Some school kids put on buses to go home. Others are still locked down.
Hello, Texas. We’re getting a line of storms forming in Wichita Falls.

Hail is huge. Good picture on TV. Looks like the weather gods got tired of popcorn and are now bouncing tennis balls. Can basketballs be far behind?

5:48 p.m.
OMG. Zeus threw a blockbuster this time. Probably to remind us who’s in charge. Most school kids have been sent home. I had time to finish cooking my vegetable soup, and have cornbread in the oven as we speak.

But we’re still on storm watch for another couple of hours. It will be a long night for police, firemen, EMTs, utility workers …

7 p.m.
Up and down, up and down. Poured rain and hail where I am. Dark, light, dark again as clouds pass over. We’re only on the edge of the danger zone and the local CBS station is actually running NCIS and The Mentalist, so we must be safe for now. My soup and cornbread are delicious.

But things got ugly in a hurry down in southwestern Oklahoma. A humongous tornado is tearing up the place, moving slowly across the state, headed east, to wreak havoc in neighboring states. This is serious business, folks. Even where tornados don’t touch down, fierce winds uproot trees and blow off roofs, blow out walls, and pounding rains cause flooding.

I’ll read about it tomorrow, and watch it on TV. Storm chasers, reporters, photographers, chopper pilots are either brave or nuts, but they are out in force.

Nothing’s ever a complete loss. Sitting in the closet all afternoon gave me time to think about books.

DEAD MAN’S ISLAND by Carolyn Hart: Henrie O, a retired foreign correspondent, answers a call for help from her first love, a famous publishing tycoon. They meet on a remote island off the South Carolina coast – with a hurricane on the way. Hart’s description of the hurricane is terrifying. I had just read it when our own tornados blew through. Shudder, shudder.

More pleasant was the prospect of receiving an ARC of Debby Atkinson’s latest book, PLEASING THE DEAD. Like all of Debby’s books, it’s set in Hawaii. Golden sands, balmy breezes, gorgeous sunsets … ah ... you betcha-boots I want to read it. With storms piling up here, one after the other, I’ll just think of Debby’s book as "Pleasing the Living."

But that’s fiction. In real life, I’m sleeping in my clothes tonight.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Doesn't sound like much fun, Pat. I prefer California earthquakes or Rocky Mountain blizzards. But I'm glad you were safe in your closet.

By the way, Happy Valentine's Day!


Beth Terrell said...

Bless you, Pat. I'm glad you weathered the storms.

Jean, I think I could handle a blizzard, as long as I could get inside, but you may have my helping of earthquakes. Mike and I were in that big one in San Francisco 1989. It was our 3rd anniversary. I told him, "Okay, you've made the earth move. Never do it again!"

Vivian Zabel said...

One thing about tornadoes, we have plenty of warning. I've been in blizzards, too, and don't like being without electricity for weeks and weeks. That gets very cold.

Anyway, tornadoes hit every state in the nation, just depends on the weather conditions. At least what earthquakes shake us occasionally don't do much damage -- and there's no notice when they hit.

I think I'll stay here.

Everywhere has disaster potential. Ish.

The tornadoes came within a couple of miles west of us before setting down five miles north. God watched out for us again.

Ben Small said...


I've been through tornadoes and blizzards, and much prefer the blizzards. It's especially scary when you see the tornado coming. Once, one just missed me, and we had baseball sized hail, which broke a few windows. I walked outside just after the tornado passed, and was able to see the back side of it extending up 50,000 feet or more. Amazing view. Wish I'd had a camera with me. It was one of those one in a million shots. Once, I was at Denver's Stapleton airport when I heard on CNN that tornadoes were at Stapleton Airport. I looked out the windows, and sure enough, there were two or three. Aircraft continued taking off, however, and as my plane took off, we were about a mile away from one on my side of the aircraft. Talk about weird!

Even more, however, the dust storms of the desert are really scary. They come up and if you're on the highway, there's no visibility at all. Where to go? There's the fear that you'll pile into someone, or someone will pile into you. Scary stuff.

I'm so glad you weren't hit during this recent round. Oklahoma really got pounded.

Anonymous said...

Jean, Beth, Vivian, Ben --

The little town near Ardmore was just about demolished. Pictures and stories have been sad.

Vivian, I must confess -- I miss Central California weather. The fog could be scary, but it was never as bad as being iced-in here a couple of weeks ago. For a solid week I didn't even walk up to my mailbox.

Earthquakes -- I always said, only half-jokingly -- that Hanford was the only town in California not sitting on the San Andreas Fault.

Jean, were you living in Hanford at the time of the Coalinga earthquake? I felt the earth move that time. Did lots of damage, but Coalinga is what -- 40 miles from Hanford? I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when that earthquake hit.'

Beth, I remember that San Francisco earthquake, too. Pretty scary for the people who were there.

Ben, those desert dust storms sure have a bad rep. I ran into one in New Mexico years ago and was too dumb to do anything but keep driving. Fortunately I drove right out of it. The flash floods, I hear, are terrible.

Our planet is a scary place. Amazing, when you think about it. Earth isn't scary enough for us, we have to launch ourselves into space as well.


Mark W. Danielson said...

You made me laugh, Pat. I can relate, having lived in Texas so many years, guarding the kids while golfball sized hail hammered the roof and came through the skylight. To prevent that from happening again, I boarded over the skylight when the roof was replaced. That proved wise, for the following year we had softball sized hail! Ah yes, I remember it well, and when we move back to Texas, you can be sure we will build a safe room into the house.

Anonymous said...

Good thinking, Mark,and you are lucky that you have time to prepare.

I read that installing shelters in already-existing homes is a big business in Oklahoma. And rather expensive,too!