Day 26: The Storm

Weather has been a topic this week in my writing. I have always been interested in weather going back to fourth grade I remember reading the book about hurricanes many times. Living in the Chicagoland area provides many opportunities to learn and experience weather. We have a humid continental climate with four seasons, short, hot, humid summers and long, cold, snowy winters. As a geography teacher, I want my kids to remember the type of climate we have and that it is similar to the climate experienced in north central Europe and stretches across north central Asia. Chicago and other American cities such as Detroit, Buffalo, Minneapolis, and Boston have such a climate. Worldwide such cities as Moscow, Helsinki, and Beijing experience the same climate as Chicago. The Midwest is affected by a weather phenomenon, we know as severe thunderstorms, which are influenced by the Gulf Coast moisture and cool dry air from Canada that only occurs in North America. It is also one of the few places in the world that experience tornadoes. In an effort to help students remember basic weather information and be able to compare and contrast weather to other places around the globe I use a 40-40 rule. The 40-40 rule explains the amount of annual precipitation and snowfall that Chicago receives. The actual average is 36.27” of precipitation (includes snow) and 38.0” of snowfall annually. Pretty close and it is easy to remember.Since my return from Paris last week, we have had a stormy time with Sunday being the only day without heat, humidity, or storms. Last Friday, heavy storms battered the area and even delayed Julie’s return flight to Mississippi. Monday night we had storms with thunder and lightning. I slept through it. Tuesday was hot and muggy with storms expected late in the evening and early Wednesday morning. The forecast was accurate and it was raining with thunderstorms yesterday morning when we all awoke. By mid-morning the rain had stopped and I checked the rain gauge, it measured .3.” The forecast for the afternoon was thunderstorms, some possibly severe. By midday, a Tornado Watch was posted through 9:00 PM – which means that the conditions are right for tornadic activity.

Yesterday afternoon, I had taken the truck for an oil change and have the door handle repaired. I decided to wait while the dealer serviced the car and was working on the blog as the storm front moved across northern Illinois. It seemed to explode and gain energy as it moved closer to the Chicagoland area. I was talking to Warren, when the television’s emergency broadcast system alerted its viewers the National Weather Service had issued a Tornado Warning for the viewing area. Rain had begun earlier, but now when I glanced outside it was pouring, buckets. The sky was dark and the rain came down in torrents. My service agent met me with the invoice and told me the truck was finished and ready to go. I paid and got in the truck and pulled out.

This tree was struck by lightning in the storm, 6/23/10, Wheaton, IL

It was dark and still raining and tornado sirens wailed. The street I pulled on to was covered in water; I had no idea that the storm had brought so much water, so quickly. It was still raining and coming down hard. I dialed in the radio and the weather was the topic. The station was reporting on the storm, which had arrived during rush hour and caused havoc with the afternoon commute. The announcers were cautioning listeners to go into their basements and await the storms passing. I called home and William answered and said they were in the basement. The storm sewers were having a hard time keeping up with the water with water puddling along the roadside. In some places, there was standing water and the rain was still coming.

I arrived home to find everyone, including Ivy in the basement. Water had come over the foundation and was pouring through a crack in the laundry room and pooling on the floor. Beth and William were working to get it up before it soaked into the carpet. I got the look – what are you looking at, stop standing around, and help us. Olivia and Ivy were in the basement and both were true to form -excited and rushing around and in general adding to the chaos. I helped with rags, towels and moving boxes and furniture. Gradually, the storm moved east, the rain stopped, and so did the water coming into the basement. We got it cleaned up and as dry as we could; we plugged in fans and moved dehumidifiers to get the room dry; and began the task of washing and drying all of the rags we had used.

The sun casts an orange glow after the storm has passed. 6/23/10 Wheaton, IL.

I went outside to check the rain gauge. This time it measured 2.3” – it had rained 2” in about an hour! Ivy needed to go for a walk and Ivy and I went outside. The scene was eerie the sun was emerging through the clouds and the tops of the trees took on a strange light with the shadows along the ground and a rainbow emerged in the sky. Ivy is particular, at times, and we walked the neighborhood searching for the right spot. She found it and we were on our way home when I spotted a tree or what had been a tree. It looked as if it had exploded. I hurried home to get William and show him. The tree, a tall evergreen, had literally exploded, apparently struck by lightning. Chunks of the tree were strewn on top of the roof and around the yard. A couple of neighbors were inspecting the scene and the homeowner, an elderly man, came out to tell us that the house was fine. He and his wife had been away when the storm came through and pulled into the driveway to find the tree destroyed. I was amazed; besides the tree, there was no damage, at all.  I offered my help and asked if I could take a picture; I did and will get him a copy. On the walk home, I snapped a picture of the sunset going down over the house with the sunset streaming through the trees.

The storm had passed and Thursday promised to be milder with a high-pressure system and drier air coming in for a couple of days. Summer is summer: some days are stormy and some are fair. The day was done, the kids and Beth were safe and so was the house. We had work to do, but we were all safe. Day 26 was done fifty-six more ahead.

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