Wicked Wednesday-Unexpected Weather

Jessie: In New Hampshire, enjoying the warm breezes and flowers in bloom!

I think we can all agree that recent health events were not necessarily anticipated. So, this month we are chatting about the unexpected. So, Wickeds, I was wondering about the most unexpected weather incident you ever experienced? Tornados? Floods? Hail? A beautiful day in the dead of winter?

Edith/Maddie: I’m sure many here will have blizzard stories, and I did have to drive at night in literally blinding snowstorms a couple of times, which is terrifying- you don’t want to pull over and wait it out because you’ll freeze to death, but all you can see are the taillights on the semi in front of you. So instead I offer this as entertainment to you northerners: when I was a southern California child, a freeze was forecast. We kids were SO excited because that never happened. (The citrus farmers, not so much.) My siblings and I put a pie pan of water out in the patio to see if it would freeze overnight. It didn’t, but it was cold!

Barb: That is a funny story, Maddie, at least to us northerners. I’ll never forget the sight of a college dorm-mate from Hawaii dancing in his first snowstorm. I was on Cape Cod once working at the Barnstable Registry of Deeds. The weather was fine until I started to drive home on 6A, when a snow squall blew up so vicious I couldn’t see anything. I was terrified of stopping because someone could hit me, but also terrified to keep driving because I knew there was a brick railroad bridge abutment coming up an I was scared of driving into it. Finally I pulled off to the side of the road. At least I hoped it was the side of the road. When the snow cleared enough that I could see a little, I went on. There was no snow on the ground by Plymouth. No cell phones in those days, so when I finally stumbled into our apartment in Boston, super late and muttering my excuses to my husband and the friend we had invited to dinner, they looked at me like I was crazy. Snowstorm? What snowstorm?

Julie: The winter of 2015 broke snow records, so that was pretty epic. I remember trying to walk down city sidewalks, but they hadn’t been shoveled so it would deadend into a 6 foot drift. I also remember Hurricane Gloria in 1985. I was living in an apartment with a friend, and like everyone else we taped our windows, filled up the tub with water and prepared to wait it out. We also bought a case of beer to help. We did lose power, and there were winds, but it wasn’t the window shattering hurricane we’d expected. That said, our windows were taped for several weeks afterwards.

Sherry: Julie, interesting that my weather story was also in 1985. Having lived all over the country I feel like I’ve lived through it all except for living through an active volcano. However, one of the scariest weather related experiences occurred when I lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming. A rain storm dropped six inches of rain in four hours, plus there was a tornado. I was at the mall huddled in the interior hallways not normally open to the public with one hundred other people — some hysterical. When the tornado threat passed we were told it wasn’t safe to leave because of flooding. Later as I drove home water was shoving my car as it flowed down the road and I had to pick a way to go home. I picked the right one and made it safely, but twelve people died that night. Four on a route I almost took. There’s a saying “turn around don’t drown” please follow that.

Liz: Oh wow Sherry – that’s so scary! I remember back in the early 2000s there was a wicked crazy ice storm that hit – I lived in southern New Hampshire at the time and commuted into Massachusetts for work and school. I tried to go to work that morning and it took me two hours to go two miles, then when I tried to turn around I couldn’t get up one of the main roads because it had a slight incline and the roads were so icy. Cars were stranded everywhere. I had to go sit in a Dunkin Donuts until they got the roads under control and I could get home.

Jessie: I remember that ice storm too! Here, neighbors across the river into Maine were without power for over two weeks! My most unexpected weather event was actually one of my favorite childhood memories. Once when my family lived near Chicago there was a summer evening when there was an amazing lightning storm. For hours and hours streaks of it danced and flashed and crackled across the sky like a natural fireworks display. But it never rained, not a drop. My parents let my sister and me stay up far past our bedtime to watch it. I still love a summer storm!

Readers: Share your experience of the unexpected from Mother Nature!

22 Thoughts

  1. The ice storm that took out power in Maine was 1998. I remember it well, and the cheering when the power came back on after more than a week. I was in the local small grocery store, where they had stayed open by using flashlights and old style adding machines at checkout. Biggest problems locally were for folks without their own woodstoves (very few had generators back then). And I remember that the warming shelters wouldn’t let people bring their pets.

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  2. On Christmas morning, my folks had came to spend the day with us as was our tradition. They showed up for breakfast after which Mom and I started on our Christmas big meal which is normally around mid-afternoon. As the morning progressed, the weather started to look more than just wintry.

    With my folks being elderly, living 30 miles from us and know how fast weather can change, Mom and I put a rush on our cooking. By the time things were ready to eat, it was decided that it would be best to divide up the meal and send them back towards home. Turned out to be the best decision because even though a short 30 miles the weather deteriorated the more south the went before making it home. As the day progressed, we knew we were in for a bad one as they say down south.

    Where we lived at the time, isn’t know for pretty snow falls but rather nasty ice storms. Boy, did we have an ice storm! We ended up with no utilities for NINE days. Living in the country that also means no water or heat – nothing. So proud we sent Mom and Dad home where they were only out for 4 days, but thanks to a little gas heater in the back room were able to stay warm and got back to normal faster than if they had stayed with us longer that day.

    Definitely a Christmas we won’t ever forget!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  3. Scariest thing I remember is when I was in grad school at Miami of Ohio, there were tornado warnings. I was from Philly and had never been through a tornado so I was pretty nervous. I went to bed late and was awoken by what I thought was the train on the tracks behind the apartment. I looked out the window and didn’t see anything odd, so I went back to sleep. In the morning I listened to the news and found out that a tornado had gone through Oxford, and the damage was on the street on the other side of the tracks! The train I thought I heard was the tornado, and it caused a lot of damage in Oxford.

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    1. Wow! I’ve often read in books where things are described as sounding like a freight train but I am not sure I have heard a tornado described that way! Yikes!

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  4. Mine is much more recent. Late this March during a “heatwave,” our phones started blowing up with tornado warnings specifically directed at our precise location. We’ve never had a tornado warning here. Around us? Yes, but not pinpointed at my home on the weather radar. I packed my cat in her carrier and hustled her and my reluctant husband (“why don’t we wait and see?”) into our basement where we huddled in a back corner. The noise was terrifying. When the storm passed and we wandered outside, there hadn’t been a tornado or any major wind damage, but the yard was littered with the biggest hailstones I’ve ever seen! Our new steel roof on our garage still has the dents to prove it.

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  5. I have several good weather stories, but before I get into them, I want to give a great big congratulations to Edith for the story on her (in her Maddie Day persona) in Mystery Scene magazine’s latest issue (including a cover mention). Woo Hoo, Edith!!!

    I grew up in Northern California where winter often means you put on a sweater before going out, but in summer, there are days you have to huddle indoors because if you try going outside, heat so intense, it feels like a physical wall.

    One bit of weather we do have (or at least did have in my childhood – climate change is affecting everything) is what’s called Valley Fog or Tule Fog. This is an intensely thick fog that stays close to the ground, but can make objects just 3 feet away invisible. Typically you get it in the early morning and at night. There are family stories of my grandparents driving home from downtown Sacramento (a distance of about 40 blocks) with the fog so thick you could see nothing. My mother would tell me that her older sister (my Aunt Mary) would have to get out and walk in front of the car (where she could see the streetcar tracks) to keep the car on the right side of the road.

    My aunt Mary also figures in another weather story. When she was a teenager, she was sent to Bay City, Michigan to have an extended visit with her grandparents. One afternoon, she was sitting in the living room when it began to snow, something she’d never experienced. After a few minutes, she called out to her grandfather. “Oh look! It’s snowing, and it’s so beautiful!” Her grandfather came into the room stared at her for a moment and replied, “Mary, are you out of your mind?” He then went to the garage, got the snow shovel, handed it to her and closeted himself in his study.

    My story isn’t exactly weather, but it feels like many of the weather stories here. On October 17th, 1989, I was living in Sunnyvale, California. It was a four-plex with two upstairs apartments and two downstairs. I lived in one of the downstairs apartments, and the upstairs apartments were over the four garages, so there was no one physically above me (this is relevant, trust me).

    The San Francisco Giants and the Oakland As were playing in the World Series. The Giants hadn’t made it to the World Series in decades. In fact, it may have been their first World Series since leaving New York. October 17th was the day for their first home game in the series and there were big celebrations. The cast of Beach Blanket Babylon (if you’ve never heard of it, google it, it was truly amazing) was to sing the national anthem, and there were other ceremonies planned.

    I had invited a bunch of people for dinner to watch the game with me, and I had a big crock pot full of short ribs cooking on my kitchen counter. They were just about to announce the national anthem, when the oddest thing occurred. My big console television began to walk across the living room. The hearth on my fireplace had about a two-inch lip at the front, and I watched as my huge television went from one side of the room to the other and climbed up onto the hearth as I heard the sounds of crashes and glassware breaking coming from the kitchen.

    Sometimes, when something completely unexpected is happening, you don’t process it initially. It was that way for me. I have no memory of any sensation that the ground was shaking. I just knew that my television was NOT supposed to walk across the room. That was just WRONG!

    Then I realized that I was in the middle of an BIG earthquake (this was the Loma Prieta earthquake and I was four miles from the epicenter) and did exactly what you’re not supposed to do. I tried to run outside. But just as I opened my front door, another tremor hit, and I was flung (that’s the only word to use – I had no motive power of my own) out the door and hurled off the porch. We had a very small front porch, raised about four feet above my concrete driveway. The porch was covered, and that fact probably saved my life. The roof was supported by a wooden pillar at the edge, and as I was flying past, I grabbed that pillar and held on for dear life. If that pillar had not been there, I would have been hurled head first four feet down onto the concrete.

    And as I stood there, holding onto that post, I watched every car in every driveway down my street doing the “Wave”. It was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen.

    After the initial tremors ended, I went back inside to find a horrific mess everywhere, but most especially in the kitchen and in my study. In the kitchen (which unfortunately was carpeted), my crock pot of short ribs was all over the floor, and I could already see the ants heading for it. Literally every piece of glassware (including some really beautiful antique stemware) was broken and the floor was covered with thousands of shards of broken glass mixed in amongst the short ribs.

    But my study was worse! I had eight bookcases, most completely filled with computer magazines. Those magazines were now all on the floor. It made a pile almost a foot high, filling the whole room. Worst of all, one of the two phones in the house was on the desk at the opposite side of the room from the door. Of course the phone had been knocked to the floor which meant that it was off-hook.

    Well, boys and girls, this was before the days of cell phones. And with landlines, children, when you have two extension phones, if one of them is off-hook, you can’t dial or receive a call with the other extension. I tried walking across the pile of slick magazines to get to the phone and hang it up. I then, very suddenly, tried crawling toward the phone. I hadn’t intended to try crawling; I was walking and then I was crawling. The trouble is that a large pile of slick magazines shifts. Unfortunately, I was no more able to crawl across that shifting pile that I was to walk.

    The only solution was to start at the doorway and begin to remove those thousands of magazines from the room. That should have been listed among the Labors of Hercules. Unless you’ve had to do it, you can’t imagine how laborous (which probably isn’t a word, but should be) and time-consuming that task can be. I couldn’t do it at night because we had no power for four days. I had to do it alone because I couldn’t contact any of my friends because I had no way to make calls, besides which they were busy coping with their own clean-ups.

    I didn’t own a transistor radio, but I did have a portable television with a two-inch screen. So I was at least able to watch the news that first night (before the battery died) and learned that the Bay Bridge had partially collapsed, and the the triple-decker freeway which ran through the East Bay had also collapsed, ultimately killing over 200 people.

    But after that first night, I was cut off from the world. That isolation (combined with the truly frightening aftershocks which continued for months) was horrible and frightening. I haven’t been genuinely frightened many times in my life, but I was during that first night.

    So, not exactly a weather story (unless you consider an earthquake weather), but it feels (at least to me) like many of the other weather stories here today.

    Best to everyone. Please stay safe … from Big Weather and everything else.

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  6. My story is a snow story. From 8 years ago last week. In Southern California.

    I was signed up for a Tough Mudder a couple hours from me up in the mountains. I had signed up for Sunday. It was Memorial Day weekend.

    Saturday, it was 70’s and sunny.
    Sunday, it was 30’s and snowing.
    Monday, it was 70’s and sunny.

    I drove all the way up there. The instant I stepped out of my car, I knew there was no way I could do it, and I turned around and drove home. The friend I was supposed to do it with had to back out at the last minute (family stuff), so I would have been doing it alone. That didn’t sound smart on a day like that. If it had been warm, I would have done it without a second thought.

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  7. Since I worked as a climatologist at Environment Canada (EC) for over 25 years, I studied plenty of extreme weather events. The top one I experienced personally was a major rainstorm on July 9, 2013 in Toronto. Over 5 inches (or
    126 mm) of rain fell in 3 hours and flooded out the transit systems and major roads. A normal 1 hour commute home from EC’s HQ turned into a 4.5 hour travel nightmare home that evening. Photos of submerged commuter trains, buses and flooded out subway stations filled our TV screens that night.

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  8. Winter of…2017? 2018? in Buffalo. The year that 80+ inches of snow fell in less than three days in November. You can find pictures of the “wall of snow” that is the lake effect storm. There is a church that exemplifies this perfect. One side is almost indistinguishable because of the clouds and snow, with drifts three feet or more deep. The other side is a bright blue sky, nary a snowflake to be seen. Freaky.

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  9. I’ve always ridden the bus to work. Once after waiting half an hour or more in a snowstorm, I walked home. Beat the previous bus home by a block! in 1973, my family had been at the Milwaukee Zoo when it started to rain. It was a major thunderstorm, which seemed worse when it’s flat instead of hills and valleys in Pennsylvania. When we got to Kenosha where my cousin lived, the manhole covers were up on steams of water like the cartoons! Wow! Stay safe and well.

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  10. Several years back we received a foot of “partly cloudy” when I had not anticipated shoveling snow that afternoon.

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