Midnight storm clouds dripping silver

Now, I will agree with you, that nobody likes to jump out of bed at midnight, after you just got to sleep, because the wind is howling like a bunch of dervishes, and the tornado sirens are blaring. Worse yet, you have to go into the rooms of those jumping monkeys of yours, who are finally still in their beds, and rouse them out of sandman land, terminating peace and quiet.

Although there are many things about having my family room in the basement that I do not like; there is much to be said for having two nice full-length sofas to curl up on while you watch the storm pass on the TV’s radar. I know you’re not supposed to be watching TV during a storm; but my husband can’t resist such a temptation. While the radar storm graphics, with bright orange and red hot spots are very exciting, nothing can compare to watching a TV meteorologist chatting away in breathless tones with his other meteorology friends, as they discuss, what could be the storm of the century.

Why is it, I wonder, at 12:14 a.m., do the meteorologist have to run from their homes, wearing suits and ties, to cover the storm? The person who is “on-duty” has got it all under control anyway. It’s not like a baby’s coming, and we need to doctor here so we can push. Alas, I realize, this is what they’ve been trained for. This is their big moment; and the drama of the night is nothing short of that Hollywood movie, about the Tornado Chasers. Even though there is really nothing the weathermen can do to stop the storm.

Then it occurs to me that the TV weathermen, who are issuing out cautions about going to the northeast corner of the basement, interior closet or bathroom if you don’t have a basement; never once mention the safety precaution about not turning your TV on. They did mention the phone once. That’s bad; you can die if lighting strikes the phone, they said.

Still, they use the phone anyway, because they’ve got men and women out on the scene to describe what they’re seeing. “Rain coming down in sheets,” or “Lightning light up the entire sky like it was daylight,” and “Flooding.”

It was surreal to watch that red dot of the storm move right on top of the map where we live. I pointed this out to my 12-year-old, who responds with, “But I don’t hear anything.” That’s what you need to be worried about, as I explain the meaning of the phrase; the calm before the storm.

I’m tired, and with two little boys wrapped tight around me like a pretzel, pillows propped under us and blankets, I decide to stop answering my 12-year-old’s questions about the storm and get some sleep. However, this is difficult to do. The weathermen are just too excited about this storm to ignore. I try, and I end up hearing snippets:
“You looked scared when you came into the studio.”
“I was; I’ve never seen a wall cloud that big before…”
“Just kicked up out of nowhere, with incredible force.”
“Seeing some flooding.”
“You looked so frightened.”

We cannot go back upstairs to sleep. There are more storms coming behind this one; and this one is unpredictable. It has “hooks” the meteorologists say; those can swirl into dangerous tornadoes. I try to drift off to sleep, safe in the basement, but then I think about people I know living in each suburb they mention; are they OK? Are they watching this same blabbering I’m watching? What about the elderly people next door; I know they can’t make it down stairs. What about any elderly woman living by herself who can’t make it down the stairs by herself; and what if water is running into her basement? I think about the people who don’t have finished basements, with babies and toddlers, trying to stay comfortable. I think of relatives in towns and counties farther out; where the storm has already passed through, or where the storm is headed. Are they all OK? Are they worried about us?

The kicker of the whole night is when the TV weathermen start reading viewer emails. “George here says he couldn’t even see anything in his back yard.” “Melissa wrote in and said the lightning lit up the whole sky.” They encourage us to hurry up and send our photos of the storm so they can show them on the airwaves; the storm coverage is not complete without the vision of the readers. I’m flattered they’ve asked for my contribution; but at a time like this, I’d much rather rely on the experts to tell me if that hook that’s forming at the bottom of the storm cloud is something I need to be concerned about. Still, I know this is just another ploy to keep the ratings up. If my Aunt Betty calls me to tell me she sent a picture to the TV station; I’ll stay and wait for them to show Aunt Betty’s picture.

Who is on their laptops at a time like this? More accurately, they’re on the laptop AND the TV. And who has their Nikon out, uploading photos, and emailing them?

They’re missing the whole beauty of the storm. The gathering together of the people that are closest to you to provide comfort, security, and the necessary task of erasing fears. Are they quietly sending a prayer to their friends and family for their safety? Have they paid attention to that yearning to let family and friends know that they’re OK? In the morning, my Mom used to always call, what time did the storm hit, how much I did or didn’t sleep, and how many limbs were down. This silent caring and pondering about our love for others is that elusive experience we all want at Christmas; the part that always comes up missing, because we get too caught up in the festivities; the presents and the food. And here it is; the magic of Christmas comes sneaking in like a thief in the night, in the middle of summer; and we hardly notice it’s here.

There is a quietness in the center of every storm; a calm that envelops you to remind you of the very things that matter most in your heart. This is the silver lining in the midnight rain clouds.

I barely got back to sleep the rest of the night. The lightning was too intense, and the accompanying “raining in sheets” tormented my mind with images of flooding, the sump pump running all night. I’ve seen more darkness in the middle of a firework show. Still, it was a night I won’t soon forget. Neither will the weathermen, I’m sure.

We’re back from the lake to take care of some necessary doctor’s appointments.

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15 comments to “Midnight storm clouds dripping silver”
  1. That’s scary. There are thunderstorms here—but only happens once or twice a year—or sometimes rarely.

    A few days ago there was a mini-cyclone outside of the house. Call it mini but it’s loud enough to hear its howl and it’s already strong, it opened all our windows.

    Anyway, happy to know you’re doing okay there. 🙂

  2. Your description is vivid and frightening to this Californian to whom tornadoes are no worry. I can really relate, though, to the comforting feeling of closeness that you describe, BTW, how do the weather-casters hope to have watchers if they tell you not to turn on the television?

    Every time California has a slightly bigger than daily earthquake, our far-flung family checks in to see if we are OK. You drew a lovely picture of that kind of connection.

    Great Post

  3. Things strike once. Being an Indian where calamities float in like wishes, related to this one well.. nice piece. too blog. would be nice to know your feed back.

  4. Since we don’t have this kind of heavy storm with tornadoes and such over here, I wonder if portuguese weathermen are doomed to never having their big day…
    I hope there wasn’t much damage around you. It must be scary knowing what kind of damage those winds and rain can do, but that calmness you mentioned has a special feeling to it, I’m sure.

  5. I can certainly relate to this!

    I’ve wondered some of the same things about the meterologists around here. They seem to get so worked up at every storm though, it’s hard to know when it really is bad or when they’re just excited to be in the spotlight.

  6. i am a real bag of nerves when we get these horrendous storms, yet somehow i can’t stop myself from watching every flash and cringing at every rumble and crash – sort of like not being able to take your eyes off a snake even though you’re terrified of them — this blog paints the peaceful calm of a family unit in the centre of the storm beautifully — wonderfully shared!!!

  7. I can well identify…we have those storms, and those weathermen. I think they are just showing off for the large, captive audiences. Ah well. Our TV is in the basement. Usually someone calls us and we go down there to curl up on the one old couch next to the camping equipment. We watch all the excitement and then go back to bed. Now when one really struck here…we were all out in it. I was running to get my son off the football field and ended up in the school basement with the team. My husband and daughter were on the way home, saw the tornado drop, turned the car around and outran it. Then they went into the city to pick up the pieces. Someday I’ll blog about it.

  8. i use to live in texas.. it is exactly how you say… my mother would call us all as soon as the bipbip would come on the tv.. wake us up and demand we get outta bed and come over to her house… bless her heart the tornadoes really frightened her… it was most enjoyable how you brought in the closeness of family.. thoughts of how other people are doing.. exhausting night but we were all together… thank you

  9. I’ve been loving the intense thunderstorms over the last few weeks here in NY, but I could do without tornadoes. Especially because our basement is damp and full of boxes 🙂

  10. I swear, I am going to make some paint-can ice cream and hand-deliver it to my local weather crew. They are VERY different, in a very good way.

    Glad you guys are okay. Is everyone else that you know?

  11. What a time you all had. How are you doing now?

    Here in the Pacific Northwest we often can have day after day after day of drizzle. Dramatic storms are few and far between. The rare thunder and lightening storm is relished by the children (but not by our dog, who is terrified of the noise).

  12. interesting post.

    when we had evacuated to Tenessee before Katrina we were watching the weather channel, and I kept saying “That moron is standing at the bridge. Doesn’t he know that he’s in a mandatory evacuation zone? Get out, you idiot!” Then he moved just north of the line of mandatory evacuation and I was saying “That’s the home depot where we were just yesterday trying to buy a generator. Dude. They are out of supplies. LEAVE NOW!”

  13. Ahhhh… Texas weather. I miss the storms, but not the sleepless nights. I love, LOVE your post title – gives me an idea for a poem. Mind if I use it?

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