Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stormy Weather

Living on the prairies means you can't always predict the weather. The last couple of weeks our weather has changed dramatically on some days. Sun, rain, sun, rain and sun all on the same day. It hasn't really been warm yet, but there have also been four or five tornado sightings - which is a bit unusual for cooler weather and this time of year.

A nice gentle rain with a little thunder in the distance or sheet lightening is not a big deal and can actually be rather enjoyable, but then there are the storms that make you cringe just seeing the clouds roll in. You know they have the potential for major damage. Someones home and livelihood can be wiped out in a matter of minutes.

Manitoba is quite a bit further north than Tornado Alley in the USA, but we still get several funnel clouds every year. There are usually about a dozen or so touchdowns - mostly in remote areas with little damage - but sometimes we aren't that lucky.

One year ago today, there was an F3 tornado that caused major damage in and near Elie, Manitoba (40km/25miles west of Winnipeg). No one was injured or killed, but there was over 1 million dollars in damages. There was an F2 tornado that struck at a camp ground at Gull Lake north of Winnipeg on August 4, 2006. One woman was killed.

I've never been an adrenalin junkie, so I've never understood the fascination of chasing tornadoes or even taking pictures/videos of them. Every time a tornado is sighted there are dozens of photos/videos sent to the local media. When the Elie tornado hit last yer, there was even a photo in the paper of a child standing in the forefront smiling at the camera as the person took the picture! What are these people thinking? You grab your kids and head for cover, not pose for a photo op! Tornado's can move very quickly and unpredictably. Standing with the camera for that perfect shot is just asking for trouble.

I have a friend on line who lives in the heart of Tornado Alley. She and her family have already spent several hours in their shelter this year. I have another friend in Minnesota. A tornado hit just three blocks from her home in late May. That twister killed a toddler, injured several and destroyed a number of homes. That was a little too close to home for my friend.

I hate these late spring and summer storms. You never know what can develop. When I was younger and still living on my parents farm, there were a couple of really bad electrical storms. One was when I was little and the other was in the early 80's sometime. It had been a very hot day - perfect conditions for T-storms and it hit just after dark and lasted off and on for several hours. I remember the thunder was so loud and so close that it shook the whole house. I've heard that kind of thunder described as the angels bowling - the REALLY loud ones are a strike! When we heard loud noises like that in our home, we always said "Now that will jar your preserves!" The brightness of the lightening and the volume of the Thunder was terrifying!! I jumped every time it boomed and even screamed a couple of times! I'll admit it, I was a wimp! I pulled the drapes, turned on the lights and put music on with the headphones. The lights flickered a lot and I could still hear the "thunder boomers". Needless to say I didn't get any sleep that night!

People, who weren't raised here on the prairies often ask how we can put up with such long cold winters. They want to know why we stay in such a changeable and often frigid climate. The answer is easy. We love the changing of the seasons. We get the full beauty of all four seasons - each one unique in its own way. Yes the weather can be challenging, but it can also be quite wonderful. We don't have to worry about earthquakes or hurricanes - just an occasional blizzard, Thunder storm or Tornado. Small stuff in the grand scheme of Mother Nature's possibilities.

I still hate electrical storms!! They scare the bejeebers out of me! I only remember a couple of times that we had to take cover with a tornado watch but luckily nothing ever came of them. I'll take a good old prairie blizzard over those any day!!


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