Sunday, June 22, 2008

Show & Tell: Stormy weather...

Last Friday night (the 13th), dh & I finally stopped off at a local garden centre & picked up some bedding plants for our yard, which I planted the next day while he mowed the lawn. I'm not much of a gardener -- I like the idea of a garden & how it looks, but don't have the time to be constantly weeding & watering. Every year, I plant a few impatiens & petunias just to add some colour to the yard.

Our weather lately has been a mixed bag -- mostly overcast, a little sun, temperatures in the low 20s (Celsius = high 60s/low 70s Fahrenheit). Monday was overcast & it rained a little downtown (which is about 20-25 miles from where we live). However, when we got off the train that night, back in suburbia, dh noticed a pile of white stuff by his tire. "I think we had some hail!" he said, inspecting the car (which was, thankfully, dent-free). There was a pile in the corner of the parking lot that looked like the remnants of a snowdrift, and leaves all over the road as we drove home.

Here's a few pictures of what we found at our house:

This was around 5:30... apparently the storm had gone through around 3:30-4, but there were still hailstones to be seen in certain spots. My flowers at the front of the house were fine, but in the backyard (& one spot in particular), they were pretty beaten up. :(

Today was mostly overcast & around 3 p.m., some thunder rumbled through & it rained briefly, but now the sun is shining again. Yet on the suppertime news, they had photos of more hail in a town about 12 miles further down the road from us. You never know what's going to hit you & what's going to miss.

I've always had a certain horrified fascination with thunderstorms & tornados in particular. I credit (?!) this to my maternal grandfather, who was afraid of bad weather. Apparently his mother was afraid as well, so whether it's genetic or learned behaviour, it's something our family has lived with for generations. The area of the Prairies where I grew up (& likewise the small town in NW Minnesota where my grandparents lived) is at the northern end of Tornado Alley, & tornados are not unheard of.

My sister & I spent a good chunk of every summer growing up with our grandparents. At least once or twice during that time -- & often, by some coincidence, the night we arrived -- we would be hauled out of bed by my grandfather because of bad weather approaching (it was always at night, of course...!). Early in our childhood, we'd be taken down into the dirt cellar, which lay beneath a trap door in the kitchen floor. In later years, when the cellar was deemed too unstable, we would hustle across the yard & down the alley, lightning flickering in the sky overhead, to the house of a neighbour who had a proper basement. A lot of times, we didn't even go into the basement -- just being somewhere where there was a basement would make my grandfather feel better.

Needless to say, all this made a huge impact on my childhood psyche. To this day, I still have "tornado dreams," where I watch funnel clouds advancing on me. Sometimes I escape into the old dirt cellar (the house was actually torn down more than 10 years ago), but instead of a hole in the ground, there is a whole underground city waiting for me there.

In July 1995 or 1996, I believe, a tornado actually did touch down on the outskirts of town. I have seen footage of it on those weather shows on TLC & Discovery. It was the last night of the county fair, & several hundred people were in the old wooden grandstand to watch the stock car races, the traditional wrap-up entertainment. (The grandstand was built in 1937, & my grandparents were actually married onstage at the grand opening ceremonies as a "stunt," which I think is totally cool, but my grandmother seemed embarrassed to admit & would never talk about.) When the warning siren went off, many of them took cover in the sheltered area under the bleachers. The beautiful old grandstand & several of the fairground buildings were completely flattened, but miraculously, nobody was killed. The grandstand was later replaced by a horrible modern tin structure that makes me shudder every time I look at it.

By this time, my grandparents had moved out of their old house & into a fourplex -- a basement suite. My grandfather slept through the whole thing & never even heard the sirens. Figures.


  1. Looks like that particular storm wreaked havoc on some poor trees.

    I feel the same way as you about gardening, I mainly like the idea and look of it :o) Glad your petunias and impatiens survived...mostly.

  2. I've been through three tornado drills -- one while at camp in MI, and two when in the midwest for school, and they're a bit scary. I always thought the sky got this freaky shade of green right as the sirens went off.

    In VA we had a "microburst" one September that did far more damage than any of those "tornados" combined. Go figure.

    I always worry about the car during hail storms. Sigh.

  3. I'm visiting thru show & tell and yours looks like it should come from my house in Dallas TX - not Ontario! Storm/tornado watches & warnings mean nothing to us here, but we're used to them. I'm glad you're safe!

  4. I saw you had hail from the news today. Holy cow - lovely June we're having.