Storm watching

This is the season for turbulent, sometimes violent, weather in Oklahoma.

I was in my recliner reading at 5 AM this morning when a gentle rain arrived. A few minutes after that shower ended, I heard a distant rumble. A little while later, a flash of lightning lit the sky and loud thunder crashed overhead. Rain pounded the windows and wind swayed the maple tree out front. There was no warning from our weather radio. The lightning flashes weren’t that frequent and the thunder clashes not that loud. I kept reading and the early morning thundershower moved on long before sunup. Now we have misty clear skies but the weatherman promises scattered thunderstorms this afternoon.

If a storm threatens our area, we will turn the TV to channel 7 and watch the thunderstorm clouds on Doppler radar. At the same time, we’ll view the weather map on a computer. The view is so good, we can zoom in our street and know exactly how near the threatening “red” blob is. In the event “circulation” forms near, we’ll seek shelter.

Things were different when we were young and sometimes for old time’s sake, we step outside and gaze at the sky (until the rain drives us inside). If there is a lot of electrical activity, we will stay inside and watch the display from the sunroom. However, in years gone by, our dads stood out in the wind to watch the approaching clouds.

We each learned a little about storm watching form our dads. The wind may blow low non-threatening clouds across the sky. But storm clouds build high enough to reach the stratosphere and form an anvil shape at the top. The beautiful tall towering clouds on the distant horizon with the anvil streaming to one side become dark and threatening when viewed from below. Dark ragged clouds overhead contain wind and turbulence within. Clouds with greenish pockets hanging down contain hail. And if you see a portion of the cloud drop toward the ground, run for shelter.

My dad spent many hours watching the clouds while we waited inside. “Get in the cellar!” struck fear in my heart. I was afraid of the storm and not all that brave about going to the cellar. I was little and light, it felt like the wind would carry me away. And, there were creatures in the cellar. Once I touched the wall on the way down the steps and pain shot up my arm. I had come in contact with a stinging scorpion, a creature that loves dark lonely places.

Once the four of us (Mom, Dad, Little Brother, and I) were safely in the cellar, the door shut, and the lantern lit; we tried to take our minds off the hail beating on the door and the wind threatening to pull it off its hinges. Daddy made shadow rabbits in the lantern light and helped Little Brother and me position our hands to make little rabbits. Mama told us stories to pass the time. And before long, the sounds on the cellar door became silent and thunder faded into the distance. Daddy raised the cellar door and peeked out, then threw it open. “Smooth cloudy,” he’d say. And we dashed up the cellar stairs and ran for the house.

In the eighteen years I lived with my parents, only one storm did structural damage. A small tornado dipped down and took part of the roof off our house and blew the chicken house away. So… if Daddy could have sat in front of his TV and watched Doppler radar… we would have only needed to head for the cellar once.

I am so thankful for Channel 7! We see shades of green and read, know exactly where the storms are, and where they’re headed… When the weather channel issues a thunderstorm or tornado watch, we watch TV. However, a warning is issued, we stay alert and the words “Take shelter now” strike fear in our hearts.

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