Thursday, August 25, 2011

Swirls in the Atmosphere; Meteorologist Dreams

It's very strange to have a category 3 hurricane so close to us, yet no watches or warnings, and not even very much rain yet.  I think some of the outermost band is over us.

I just got back from the beach, where I did a jog/walk/lean kind of exercise.  My skin should be very soft, since I've had a spa-like sand abrasion.

I can see the atmosphere swirling as I look to the sky--a literal swirling.  The only time I felt fear this morning was as a band of dark clouds moved over me, and I felt a current of very cold air, as if someone had left the door to the refrigerator open.  I thought, I may have miscalculated this morning's weather.

But I made it back to the car with very little rain falling on me.  Again, very strange to have such a huge storm nearby with so little rain making it to us.

I feel a thrill, watching weather as it happens.  This morning, I thought, maybe I should be a meteorologist!  But that's probably a bum dream too--lots of budget cuts there.  And I would need many years of school.  No, I'll continue with the family trade of amateur meteorology.  My grandmother has always watched the weather religiously, as do her children, and this grandchild.  I've always wondered if that trait comes out of her farming background, where those swirls in the atmosphere spelled success or doom for the family finances.

Not surprisingly, weather finds its way into my poems.  If you find yourself writing about weather, check out Leslie's post where she tells us about some journals planning issues based on weather.

I remember our first hurricane watch down here, where I watched the clouds curling through the sky.  I've lived near the coast before, in Charleston, SC, but I never saw the atmosphere snaking around itself in quite the same way.

That was a year of many storms (1998):  Georges and Mitch seemed most ominous.  We got free tickets to a Marlins game because one of my spouse's coworkers had season tickets, but when one of the hurricane watches changed to a warning, they decided to stay home and board up the windows instead.  We had great seats, seats we never would have afforded on our own.  We sat near a woman from Houston who couldn't decide whether or not to worry about the storm.  We told her not to worry.  When I caught one of the baseballs, I gave it to her.

I say caught, but the baseball really just fell on me.  It's not like I have any skill in catching baseballs.

In a much earlier year, we were in Jacksonville for the Jazz Festival when a hurricane threatening North Carolina sent magnificent waves our way.  We battled the surf for about an hour before calling it quits.

More people die during U.S. hurricanes from drowning because of rip tides than any other reason.  It's foolish to go into the surf.  Back then, we were young and stupid.  Now, I stay out of the water.

One year (1999 or 2000), we had a category 1 storm blow up out of nowhere.  It developed so quickly it didn't even get a name.  We lost a tree to that one.  We spent the night hearing the branches go thunk, thunk, thunk.  The head of the tree removal crew had "I AM BECOME DEATH" tatooed across the top of his back.  On that same day, from the gay guys' apartment complex on the next street, I could hear disco music, The Village People and Donna Summer, in an endless loop, interrupted by the buzzing chain saws from the tree crew.  Very surreal.

Hurricanes make normal life a bit surreal.  In some ways, that's why I like a weather disruption--it takes me out of my normal routine.  I don't regularly spend a lot of time staring at the sky.  Hurricanes remind me of why I like to do that and why I should do it more often, even if I'm not a meteorologist. 

I much prefer hurricanes that only wink at us as they hurry on by.  I'm glad we're not dealing with impact.  But even the aftermath of a hurricane, with all its disruptions, makes me cherish regular life again.  After our disastrous hurricane season of 2005, I savored my coffee each and every morning.  Even more, I felt intense gratitude for the ability to heat up that cooled cup of coffee in the microwave.

If you're further up the coast, good luck with the storm prep.  Add extra lines to the boat.  You're going to need them.  Start making ice.  Get the fridge good and cold now.  Fill up the gas tanks.  Do it now, before the spirit of chaos takes over.

(a nod to Sandy, who inspired part of the title of this post, with this post of hers)


Kathleen said...

I'm glad it doesn't feel too threatening there...I will imagine you watching the swirl w/o fear!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Kristin. Lovely piece today. I, too, am an amateur meteorologist. When my mom arrived at Iowa State as a freshman, she tried to get into their meteorology program. They told her that girls couldn't be meteorologists. So sad. Still, she knows so much about the weather and how it works. I guess a lot rubbed off on me.

Stay safe down there!