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    Entries in storms (4)

    Friday
    May272011

    Yes or No?

    While major storms moved through the Midwest Tuesday and Tuesday night, our excellent youngest son and his lovely wife were traveling I-40W from Memphis.  They were coming to our house for a visit, and knew about the line of storms heading our way.  Upon reaching Russellville, AR, they could see, in the distance, lightning, and the approaching storm.  Little did they know then that two super cells were converging around Ft. Smith, only an hour and a half drive north.  Wall clouds, funnel clouds, storm rotation, as well as tornadoes, were associated with these severe thunderstorms.  When they reached Alma, AR, a phone conference was held between father and sons (our fantastic eldest already here from NYC).  Should they hole up in the Ft. Smith area or make a mad dash for northwest Arkansas?

    One of our nieces left NWA in the late afternoon, headed for the Dallas, TX area.  She knew the forecast and the anticipated severity of this weather event.  The storm overtook her around Atoka, OK so she called her parents for storm information and advice.  Atoka has a Wal-Mart Supercenter, as well as hotels along US 69S.  Should she get off the highway and seek shelter; or drive on through, hoping that the Red River valley and points south was clear of bad weather?

    We don’t have the weather channel, so we were glad to get a phone call from my parents letting us know that GB’s mother was about to be affected by a section of the advancing storm front.  She lives in Sherman, TX with her husband, who is in declining health.  GB discussed with his mom the options she has for storm safety - the hall closet, or a small, rectangular room originally built as a bar.  They are both in the center of the house.

    Decisions.  Some are made almost unconsciously.  Stepping over the shoes lying in the floor verses plowing through the middle of them doesn’t take much thought.  Other decisions require more time and consideration.  Which university to attend, choosing between two jobs, or a move can all have life-altering consequences.  Some decisions are really inconsequential - fish or chicken for dinner?  Others weigh very heavily on us; and the results of some decisions affect not just us, but all those we know and love.

    Good decision-making is, really, a learned skill.  Most folks are not born with the ability to make sound decisions.  And, having to do that quickly can be especially difficult.  Looking at all sides of an issue, gathering information, and listing pros and cons are important for decision-making common sense.  Developing clear and calm thinking is also helpful.  A rational, levelheaded approach to most dilemmas will garner profitable results.

    GB and our eldest checked the available storm information and advised J&A to come on north, post haste.  There was a window between the two cells that was clearly visible on radar.  The massive front, and even one tornado on the ground, was still several minutes west of them.  High winds and rain were just beginning in our area, and the tornado warning had been cancelled.  They ran into their first taste of strong wind and heavy rain about 30 minutes out, but made it on to the house just fine.

    Southern Oklahoma and northern Texas were not in the clear, so our brother-in-law found (online) the designated storm shelter for the town of Atoka, one of the Junior High schools.  They guided our niece there over the phone and she stayed put for two hours.  Later, her brother directed her onto I-30W, around Dallas, to keep her on the backside of the huge line of storms.

    My mother-in-law decided on the hall closet, as the small room has two mirrored walls, glass shelves on the wall, and glassware on the glass shelves.  The storm passed over Sherman without much impact, but they were as prepared as possible.

    Accessing the available information, discussion, and a little common sense enabled good decisions to be made.  The traveling kids (we still call them ‘our kids’, even though they are adults) made it to their destinations safely, and we are thankful.

    We continue to pray for the families impacted by our wild spring weather.  That Tuesday night, cities and towns across Oklahoma and Arkansas were disastrously affected.  Communities, once again, are picking up the pieces.  Other communities, once again, are lending a helping hand.  Good decisions are being made, and those suffering will reap the benefits.

    Monday
    May162011

    Mighty Waters

    Well, well, this has been a spring to remember …

    Driving to Tennessee and back (about an hour and a half east and a little south of Memphis) afforded some astounding views of the recent flooding of the Mississippi and her tributaries.  Even though the river crested some days ago, in the Western TN/Eastern AR area, and waters are receding; floodwaters still cover the land.  Along I-40, from West Memphis, AR to the Mississippi River Bridge at Memphis, there was only water to see, as far as you could see.  Full-grown trees standing in water up to the lower branches is always astonishing, but some were submerged until only their topmost leaves were showing.  I can’t imagine what it must have looked like even a week ago.  The part of Memphis that we drove through was not flooded, but Mud Island still had sandbags and you could see remnants of the recent high water along lower-lying buildings.

    One considers the outcome of such devastation - to farmers, homeowners, businesses.  I remember two different episodes of major flooding in the Tulsa area when I was a child.  My grandparents lived across the street from a creek that was famous (or infamous) for flooding and their home was inundated twice.  Not just a squishy carpet kind of water damage, but a couple of feet of standing water.  The clean up and repair took weeks.  New carpet, floor and wall repair, even a new car after one event (grandma’s car ended up floating down the street and moored itself, nose down, in a ditch).  They were rescued by boat once.  The water came up so swiftly, there was no time to drive out.

    Changes were made to the major creeks and rivers throughout Tulsa and low-lying areas were re-zoned.  Mobile homes were moved and the acres turned into just parks.  Houses were torn down, and complete neighborhoods were abandoned.  It was sad - mother’s wedding dress was ruined as it lay soaking in creek water in the bottom of the cedar chest.  It was not fun - hot, humid weather followed and folks worked very hard to rip out rooms full of soggy, smelly carpet.  More than that, those times fostered togetherness, camaraderie, and fellowship.  Our church family worked with us to get my grandparents’ home livable, in very short order.  The city gave out supplies, vouchers, and other help.  The Red Cross did their usual great job.

    Some folks moved away, but most stayed.  Nothing was destroyed or ruined that couldn’t be fixed, replaced, or gotten over.  We were only sad and burdened for a short time.  The folks along the Mississippi and other rivers have faced this scenario before and they always persevere.  We all pull together and the work gets done.

    Like the rivers, life flows on.

    Monday
    Apr252011

    Drought Be Gone

    We can now burn the pile of limbs and yard debris that is gracing our backyard.  And has been for several months.  We call it, The Burn Pile.  Our corner of northwest Arkansas, dry and dry, has been under a burn ban for quite a while.  The recent round of high and constant winds has not helped.  Arkansans are not the only ones afflicted with dry weather and roaring winds.  And now, we are not the only ones canoeing our way to work.  Those mighty drafts brought spring storms and days (and days and days) of rain.  With and without thunder and lightning.

    So, water.  I am very happy that my two water barrels are full, with several buckets and one tub extra.  If you garden, even a little bit, if you grow even one container of flowers, it must be watered.  Maybe not anytime soon, but in the hot, dry days of summer, you will be filling your watering cans for sure.  Where will you get your water?  From your kitchen faucet or outdoor spigot?  Will you pay for that water?  Again?

    Think about this…every time you turn on said faucet, you pay for it.  Even if you are rinsing off an apple, and the water just swirls right on down the drain.  Say you are waiting for the water to get hot, and it just runs and runs and runs.  You are paying for it.  How wonderful it would be to capture that water and use it.  Again.  What about all this lovely rainwater?  It is most definitely soaking into the ground, or rather pooling on top right now.  Free, fresh, and yours for the saving.

    Let me encourage you to consider water conservation.  Nothing large scale and nothing that will take over your limited space.  Use one of your garbage cans, or buy an inexpensive one at the dollar store.  You do want a lid to keep out the mosquito larvae, and to keep it scum free.  Utilize one of your large plastic containers, of a size that will fit into your sink, and let it fill with your daily water.  Not foody water or soapy water.  When you rinse your hands, rinse your food, drain your pasta, wait for hot water…you get the idea.  Pour your daily (or several times daily) water into your water barrel and you are ready to go.

    Set buckets or bowls out when it rains; or set them under a downspout.  Add that to your water rations.  Or better yet, construct a rain barrel that stays in a permanent place attached to your guttering.  There are several online instruction sites, or check out a book from the library.  Your County Extension Office will also be able to help you.

    Begin in a small way (pouring leftover tea on your houseplant), and you will soon become addicted.  One of our sons asked me one time why I saved our sink water.  The first thing that came out of my mouth, even before I really thought about the answer, was, “It makes me happy.”  In the winter, when we really don’t need all that water, it is hard for me to watch it just running down the drain, or pooling up outside.  Sounds a little obsessive and compulsive, huh?  I’m working through it and thanking God for the rain.

    Here are some additional tips to get you started:

    Buy large quantity items in buckets:  laundry soap, cat litter, etc
    Re-purpose your plastic ware and old garbage cans
    Locate a source for used plastic barrels - food-grade, non-chemical
    Check out the stand-bys - yard sales, thrift shops, etc
    Make sure everything has a lid
    Clean out and refit your gutters and downspouts for rain barrels

    Friday
    Apr222011

    Hail Away

    Yesterday, the wind died down and beautiful storms rolled through.  Beautiful and potent.  The storm front could be seen in the west, and it was sort of a dark bluish, gray-green color.  There was no buildup for the first downpour of the traveling weather - a hailstorm.  It started out slowly with occasional loud bangs on the roof.  Like mini-explosions.  As the downpour gathered momentum, I was amazed at the speed with which these blobs of ice rained down.

    We have a large covered front porch so I stood outside to watch.  As the ice missiles hit the driveway, most would explode into smaller fragments.  A few of these shards would fly up onto the porch, even as far as the front door (I didn’t venture too far away from that post).  I did run back in to get the camera and was able to photograph a small piece that had split perfectly in half.  Inside, the concentric ice rings were visible…you could even see the starting ring that formed around the original drop of rain.  Fascinating!

    GB related that, depending on the height of the storm and the strength of the accompanying updrafts, these ice formations continue to grow in size until their weight becomes too much for the clouds to contain.  They then come hurtling down at great speed.  They not only sounded like missile explosions, they were missile explosions.  Ice missiles.  Our poor neighbor was out mowing on a large riding mower and was caught in the ‘hail’ of hail.  She had to drive her mower down the road, around the corner, and up the street to where the mower lives (they own the property next to us and behind us).  I stood watching her all bent over, driving this large mower (she wore earphones), and trying to hurry.  As I tried to figure out what I might do to help her along, she rounded the corner and was gone.

    The hail didn’t last long, five minutes maybe, but it was enough to stop traffic and make you feel a tiny bit anxious.  Cars were dented, windshields around town were broken; one woman even suffered a broken arm.  I’m sure there are some roofs that will need repair and maybe a fence or two to fix.  The new leaves were torn from limbs and scattered the ground.  I didn’t even think about our new vegetables plants, but they fared well.  The flowers too.  The hailstones ranged in size from peas to softballs.  It was a menagerie of ice, in all sorts of interesting shapes (why did I think that hail was mostly rounded?).

    Is it not amazing that these few moments had the potential to change the way we planned our day, or even the next few weeks (the woman with the broken arm)?  I didn’t know it was going to hail like that.  Even the weather predictors can’t know the size, amount, or destructive force that will fall from the sky.  Prepared for a spring hailstorm we may never be, but we can prepare ahead of time to take what comes with resilience.