Thunderstorms and lightning – music to my ear

Lightning, thunder, and rain – oh my.
Our soggy, wet, thunder-filled weekend included siren after siren – warning after warning.
The sun shined brightly. And then clouds rolled in. Rinse and repeat.
Saturday night, I made a mad dash for home – despite some news warnings and hesitation from the people around me. Driving in the driving rain required some skill – slow and steady, I made my way home. Quite a few people had pulled over, covered by cement bridges, watching the rain pummel everything it hit. Since I have a major fear of bridges (and that was pre-35W bridge collapse), hiding out under a bridge sounded about as good as hiding under a tree. Thus, I rode on, eyes focused on the road in front (the part of the road I could actually see).
Surviving Saturday wasn’t super scary, but on Sunday when I awoke, the sun was shining and I started singing “Oh what a beautiful morning” from the forever-and-a-day-long musical, Oklahoma.
But the weather changed in the blink of an eye.
As well-noted on this blog, I enjoy grabbing large quantities of food, socks, and batteries from my local Costco Warehouse, and on Sunday I found myself stuck inside Costco due to black clouds, tornado touchdowns, and pouring rain.
I’d just stuffed my last bite of hot dog (topped with deli mustard and onions – yum-o) into my mouth when a voice came over the PA system advising all customers to abandon their over-filled carts and get to the center of the store near clothing.
Listening to the warning, I made my way to the location, noting some “storms scare me, mom” faces on children, clinging to their mother’s arm.
Of course, whenever these storms pop up, a hint of fear shoots through everyone in its path – a natural human reaction (especially after hearing about the mass devastation in the south).
But another part of me relishes the adventure of storms – of weathering them with those you love and perfect strangers – of creating memories and moments to remember forever.
As a life-long Minnesota resident, I’ve seen my fair share of midwest tornados — but there are some that stick out – storms that immediately call up dramatic thunder and lightning scenes, along with freak out moments and laughter. Here are just a few:
– Once my mom ran to the grocery store, leaving me home alone. I was old enough to stay home all alone, but when the sirens started going, and there was no sign of my mom, I started crying. Hysterical fits of fear. My little sister had to calm me down! As it turned out, someone had accidentally set the sirens off, it wasn’t even close to being a tornado!
– 6th grade – I went on a long bike trip/ride with a bunch of friends and some adult leaders. That may or may not have been the same trip where my friend rode off the dirt path and down a tree-lined hill – I sat on my bike and watched, laughing the entire time, while our other friend screamed and yelled out to make sure our friend hadn’t died.
The bike trip ended in utter disaster! We fought against rain and gusts of wind as we made our back to our original location. One of my friends’ bikes blew over – with her on it – and she fell into one of the boys’ bikes – with the boy on it (which as you know was a big deal back then – ironically they eneded up dating a bit in high school). We peddled and peddled, wondering why we ever wanted to go on a bike ride in the first place! We made it back in one piece, drenched and exhausted, but safe. Nonetheless, it was a bike trip to remember.
– Hanging out with the same girl who biked down the tree-filled hill, our parents left us alone and told us that if storms blew through we had to turn on the radio/TV, grab flashlights, blankets, and go to the basement. Above all, they told us we could not scare our younger siblings – we specifically were banned from saying the word “flash flooding” because it would cause my friend’s little brother to cry and cry. Oddly enough, he became a huge weather-buff and storm lover.
– High school – some friends and I went out to a friend’s house who lived quite far away. Unfortunately our night of fun was cut short. Storms popped up all over the Twin Cities, and though we all lived in different cities and burbs, none of us were really able to leave. Stuck in her basement, we clustered around the television, watching to see when we could drive home. I’d driven two friends and was a little freaked out about driving home – but the storms had cleared quite a bit and our friend’s dad gave us all the OK. Right when we pulled out of her driveway and down the road, buckets of rain fell on us. At one point, less than a blcok from her house, we considered turning around. But the dirt road was flooding – so much so that we couldn’t turn around even if we wanted. It helped having my friends with me – reassuring me as I steered – gripping the wheel like it was my life preserver.
– College – sophomore year there was a late-August storm. It’d been a hot and humid day, and walking back to my dorm from my last class of the day, I wondered when fall would arrive. Before that happened, summer had to shout out one more time – in the form of a massive storm and power outage. I was sitting in a friend’s dorm room, chatting away, when we suddenly looked out the window and noticed the dark sky and rain. Before we knew it, the dorm was in a tizzy over the thunder and tornado sirens. Girls ran around knocking on doors, barging in to see if their roommates and friends were ok. The halls darkened, our cell phones were the only lights. I ran through the darkness to my dorm, checking on my two roommates. Both were fine. We spent that night in the dark, one eye half open- watching for more storms. When we woke up, there was still no power – and we had classes and internship-type places to be. I showered in the dark – a cold, cold shower. Classes were canceled, not all of our internship-type places were though. We still had no power, so we shut our refigerators, conserved our cell phone batteries. That night, going on 24 hours no power, my friend invited us over to her parents house – a mere fifteen minutes away. They had power – AC, a cold fridge, a warm shower, and light. We stayed up half the night doing homework, still unsure if we had classes the next day (it was a day-by-day deal). There were no classes. But our homework was compelte and we’d at least showered.
– Two summers ago, I worked outdoors. From 8:00 am – 6:00 pm I was outside – in the woods, on the lake. I loved it! But when you work outside in the summer, in Minnesota – there’s a chance you’re going to run into some nasty storms! And did I ever. Once, while on the lake, I was out with a co-worker manuevering a commercial boat. We’d safely let off our passengers and were making our way in the torrential rain to the boat slip. Wind was against us as we tried to will the boat into the slip. I stood on the bow, a rope in hand, trying to figure out how I’d tie us off without slipping into the bay and dying. Thankfully some back-up help arrived and we were able to successfully dock. I felt quite proud of my accomplishments that day!
– Another time that summer, my friends and I had to gather buckets of beach sand and drive it up to our indoor location – the rain really put a damper on some end-of-the summer outdoor plans. We heave-hoed those buckets into the back of a truck. But in order to get the truck close enough to the buckets, we had to back the truck up–down a steep, dirt and gravel hill. The buckets loaded into the truck, we jumped in, drenched and cold, and fired up the vehicle. The rain on the dirt made it difficult to drive forward…so some of us had to get out and push the truck which had become semi-stuck in the dirt-turned-mud hill. We spun our wheels and spit dirt. But it was an adventure in truck-driving-4-wheel-driving!
– Nanny days – I remember a few times where I had to get the children to safety, to protect them like they were my own. I tried to make it fun – hiding from a storm – and kept a keen eye on the tv – an ear tuned to the radio.
And it was during those times, that I was thankful that I’d been through my own storms – that I knew how to weather them. I think that’s why I like storms – why I fear them and relish them. They are reminders – strong and loud – that life is an adventure. That if everyday were sunny and bright, I wouldn’t be as strong as I am. I wouldn’t know how to fight for myself – how to protect those around me.
Thunderstorms and lightning – I like that tune.

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