Thursday, May 25, 2006

Storm Season Redux

I think I've written more about weather than anything else on this Blog...

I do think it's fascinating though. Funny, I've always lived in a If-you-don't-like-the-weather-just-wait-5-minutes kinda place; Coastal Massachusetts, Washington State, and now Texas.

But the Texas Storm Season I just love, and I've been bummed out, because in the five years we've lived here, we've only had two really good seasons; until now. The normal routine , for as long as Texas has been Texas, is that between roughly mid-April and mid-June, you've got wave after wave of kickass thunder storms rolling through this neck of the woods. Yet the past three years, there've been virtually no spring storms worth talking about.

This year's back to the norm. Storms kick up east and south of us, either in the late afternoon, or after midnight, depending on the prevailing pattern, and then it's on, baby! In storms past, I've seen the biggest hail I've ever seen, (Genuinely tennis ball sized); seen my street turned into a river, with two feet of fast moving water taking everything loose with it, (We found our trash can four blocks down - At least I think it's ours...); had my back and side yards completely under water within ten minutes of the storm's start more times than I can count; and heard the city-wide tornado sirens of Fort Worth go off three times now.

It's more often than not fun, but it's not always funny. There's a local arts festival called Mayfest than runs in Fort Worth on the first weekend in May. Many of those festivals have been rudely interupted by serious storms. My drummer's car survived the '95 Mayfest, where baseball sized hail injured a lot of folks who couldn't find shelter fast enough. His Nissan is peppered with rough, fist-sized dents as much as 2" deep in the sheet metal as a trophy of that event. In '99, a tornado came across the field outside my office windows, past those grain silos, crossed the river, turned right and smacked into what was then the 40-story First Bank Building and basically destroyed it. It was vacant until two years ago when developers turned it into luxury condos. In '01, another tornado approached Monica's office in southeast Fort Worth, taking down businesses, (A small bank's vault was found 2 blocks away from the destroyed building), skipped over her office and the freeway, then touched back down on the other side and took a neighborhood of houses out. The building I was working in at the time, mostly glass, became suddenly surrounded by grey mist through which we could not see. You could watch the windows breathing, bulging in and out, until all the plate glass in the lobby imploded at the same time and equalized the pressure; that was just a straight-line wind, mind you.

Yesterday, three houses through the metroplex were hit by lightning and burned to the ground. My street was littered with shingles the next morning, luckily none of them were ours...

Those of us who live here, or in Tornado Alley, San Francisco, Indonesia, Seattle, or Alaska, aren't far off the mark from the folks who live down in Waveland, Mississippi where I visited earlier in the year. For whatever reason, we've chosen to live and build in places where nature still exercises her power from time to time. Here, there, and elsewhere, we learn that in all honesty, she doesn't give a shit what you do; she's gonna knock your ass over if she feels like it. To some extent, you have to know that - Especially if something happens, and you rebuild in the same place again. I feel for those folks down along the coast in a way you only can when you have been there, met them, and seen what happened. Some of them rebuilt after Camille, thinking that they'd seen the worst the ol' lady had in store for them - Not: Along came Katrina, and a new Worst Case Scenario was born. As we continue to screw with the earth, changing things via pollution, development, and constant growth, I know in my heart of hearts that we have not seen the worst yet.

Take your pick; killer storms, tornados, hurricanes, cyclones, earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, volcanoes, meteorites: They're all still there, they're all still active and they will do what they do again. If not in our lifetimes, than in someone elses. It's not fatalism, paranoia, or prescience, it's just a fact. When I was studying Geology at the University of Washington in 1978, the seminal text on the Cascade Range proclaimed Mount Baker, up near my old home town of Bellingham, as the most likely vocano to go off soon: The least likely candidate? Yup, you guessed it - Mount Saint Helens. Baker is still active, and may well go off some day, but not yet... You could also have done a doctoral dissertation at the time trying to figure out where the boundary between the Juan de Fuca Plate and the North American plate was and what it was doing. Plate tectonics was new stuff and predominantly theoretical; nobody knew the answer. Now, we know it's a subduction zone where deep small quakes happen more or less constantly - Unless the edges lock up for a long time, like they've done countless times in the past and will do again: When they release after such a period, the movement that each plate makes is measured in tens of feet per millisecond, not inches per decade. The Great San Francisco Quake don't mean squat - There was a small population and a bunch of wooden buildings then - What's it gonna do next time?

So what do we do; Do we worry? Do we move, build a storm shelter, what?

I say we live on. Do what you want, live where you want to. Don't worry, pray for those who get hurt, pray for guidance and shelter, and help your neighbors as you would want to be helped when bad things happen to them. This earth is and will be as it always has been. The life evolution of a planet is a violent process; it's huge in geologic time, and occassionally so on our time frame, as well: It was and is, and shall be.

We only go around once, so we might as well enjoy the ride.

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