Thursday, April 23, 2009


Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!
Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!

- King Lear, Act III, Scene 2
Tonight we were treated to a tempest right out of Shakespeare as our little Thursday evening minyan group hunkered down over dinner at the Marietta (“Home of Honkin’ Big Desserts!”) Diner.

As we left the synagogue, we could hear the wailing of the tornado warning sirens. It was easy enough to establish that the warning was for the severe thunderstorms that were rumbling by to the south and west - no tornadoes, at least not yet - and so we proceeded westward toward the diner, a six-mile drive. The sky was an ominous-looking dark grey to the south, but the setting sun still poked through numerous cloud-gaps.

Forty-five minutes into our dinner, though, things got decidedly less clement.

The skies darkened, and lightning flashed. Not that dinky heat lightning, either - these were huge, branchy displays, thick with energy, the kind that paint a tracery of jagged light across the entire firmament. One bolt scored a direct hit on our building (or very close to it), knocking out the power momentarily and startling the bejesus out of everyone. Not a good moment in which to have had a mouthful of hot soup.

The NWS warnings, meanwhile, had gradually ratcheted up their stridency... and their hail size projections, which had started at quarter-size, moved up to golf ball-size, and peaked at tennis ball-size. Which was enough for me to start worrying about our car, which was sitting outside in the diner’s parking lot. Tennis ball-size chunks of ice falling from a few thousand feet will do all kinds of things to cars, none of them pleasant.

When the rain finally came, it was a deluge of Noahide proportions, with the wind coming from a different quarter every few seconds, strong enough to whip flags straight out from their staffs in a frenzy of flappage. There’s an old Texas expression that likens heavy rain to a cow pissing on a flat rock... but any cow that tried to piss in this wind would find her bovine urine landing miles away from the target rock, owing to the fierce wind.

No hail, though. I was grateful for that, although there’s that Curious Little Kid part of me that would love to see tennis balls of ice fall from the sky.

When things quieted down, we hurried to pay up and get out of Dodge... and we were treated to a major light show all the way home.

Postscript: What we didn’t know was that at the height of the storm, our friend Stefan was at his office a mile or so northeast of us. As he looked out at the weather through his westward-facing window, he saw a funnel cloud begin to form... right above where the Marietta Diner was. Right above where we were. Lucky for us, the funnel never touched down - instead, it vanished back up into the boiling mass of storm clouds above. Close call, that...

No comments: