Tuesday, April 04, 2006


We had a thunderstorm last night.

You could see it coming. The day had been just as clear and blue and hot and humid as you please. April in Washington kind of weather, with the promise of a late afternoon thunderstorm.

It didn't disappoint.

Some time in the late afternoon, the light changed. Looking west you could see it. The sky was still blue, but now it was that deep dark blue that says "About that late afternoon thunderstorm we'd scheduled? Well, it's running a little behind, but don't you worry, boy, because it is coming."

It was, too.

On the East Coast, you don't see thunderstorms like this too often. This is what I imagine a Plains thunderstorm must look like. The storm turned from dark blue to gray, not the dull leaden gray of the ocean but but a living, malevolent gray with lightning flashing from somewhere within. As it closed in you could see the storm's leading edge swirling and twisting, turning over on itself like the ocean crashing on the shore, with little white tendrils of cloud writhing along the very edge of the cloud, darting in and out of the oncoming wave.

Because this was no ocean that surges and retreats. This was a storm, a storm that had killed in the Tennessee valley, a storm that had spent much of its energy crossing the mountains, but a storm with one last punch to deliver.

It had eyes. It had an angry mouth. It would devour, if it could muster the strength. And as I stared at it, I could swear it was coming straight for me.

Two arms protruded from its body as it closed in. Little cone shapes, inverted mountains of cloud. Swirling and twisting, trying to turn all that discordant energy that kept colliding in flashes of lightning into something more powerful. Something more rotational. You could see just a hint of that rotation as they closed, little wisps of cloud gripped by those arms and turned before they slipped away from the grasp that was not quite strong enough.

Not quite enough energy left to hold. Not quite enough energy left to kill.

Then it lunged.

And it missed.

One last angry gust of wind and the wave was gone, passing overhead, the two stillborn tornadoes still struggling for life but not there, not yet, perhaps not ever. The rain came, hard, replacing the evil gray with its own darker but somehow less frightening shade. I retreated indoors; it lashed against the windows, its own winds howling, rattling the windows, trying to get in, but not meaning anything by it, only wanting to share in warmth and good company.

I let it.

After a time, the rain abated. The storm clouds carried it to the east, dragging it on to visit other places, with its intensity perhaps abated by its visit to this place. And as the end approached, there came an orange glow from within, almost like that of a streetlamp on a foggy night, which eventually became, as the storm passed and the clouds parted, the sun, low on the horizon and burning yellow-hot as it hung there. A last few clouds were still trailing along behind the storm, silhouetted sharply against the light, and the sun stayed until it had shooed them all away. And then it too was gone, evening fading into night like the lights going down on the stage of the world.


Blogger Anon_e_mouse said...

Reminds me of a storm that you are too young to remember... back in March 1983 the four of us were heading home from Rocky Mount, after supper and shopping, in the '68 Caprice wagon. It was a moonlit night with violent storms visible to the south and west - in other words, to our left and directly ahead - as we approached the bridge over I-95 on Old US 64. The old wagon - known for its floaty suspension anyway - suddenly felt as if it was being lifted up, and I brought it to a stop on the roadway as a funnel cloud passed not 200 yards in front of us and about 100 feet up in the air. We later learned that it was part of a line of storms that had devastated some trailer parks a few miles to the south and would touch down again a couple of miles to the north, turning a couple of barns to matchsticks but sparing homes and people that time. That's the closest I've ever been to one, and it was up close and personal enough for me.

9:51 PM  

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