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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Weather I Remember

As I write this, we here in the Buffalo Niagara region are awaiting the increased pounding we're going to receive as Hurricane Sandy's course takes her on a path that will give us what is, compared to what the Jersey Shore and NYC Metro areas are receiving, a glancing blow. But a glancing blow from a hurricane, even as it diminishes to a tropical depression, can be quite a hairy thing.

At this point, what we're expecting is high wind and a lot of rain. The ground is already wet from rains in the days ahead, and quite soft; the trees have grown their root systems to anchor against usual winds from the south and west, whereas this storm will be giving us winds from the north. So there's quite a lot of potential for ugliness as this storm unfolds. Currently, its path is forecast to take the center of the storm on a course about sixty miles east of Casa Jaquandor.

As this happens, I'm thinking back on some weather events I recall from years past....

:: The Ash Rain of Portland. I have no idea what date this was, save that it happened either in 1980 or 1981. It was a cloudy, rainy day in the Portland, OR area, which isn't all that remarkable in itself...except that Mt. St. Helens had just erupted, so the rain deposited about an inch of wet volcanic ash on everything. Dad was off at work, so it fell to me to shovel and hose all that ash off our driveway. This, as I recall, took me most of the day.

:: The tornadoes of Kane, PA, in 1985. Kane is a town about an hour south of Allegany, NY, where I grew up, and on one night in late spring, there was some volatile weather that led to tornadoes down there. At some point not too long after that, we drove through Kane on our way to Pittsburgh to see some relatives and family friends, and for the first time I saw actual tornado damage. It was something to behold. I'd always envisioned tornadoes as just destroying tons of stuff, and it did, but I hadn't realized how localized the destruction was. We'd drive through quarter-mile-wide sections of forest that were leveled, and then we'd pass through a sharp line back to forest again. Ditto the houses; you'd see a house leveled next door to one that had lost a few windows. It was really amazing...and scary.

:: The Storm of the Century, 1993. This happened on a weekend that I was supposed to go back to college, from a spring break at home. An enormous storm formed that blanketed half the country, it felt like. My parents drove me to Clarion, PA, where I was to rendezvous with a guy I knew, with whom I would drive back to school in Iowa. The snow was already quite heavy as we drove what was normally a 90 minute trek to Clarion, and this was while the storm's center was still in Georgia. Yup, it got worse. A lot worse.

The guy and I ended up staying in a hotel overnight in Clarion as the storm pounded the hell out of the entire Eastern seaboard; I'd later learn that it took my parents something like six hours to get home. The next morning it was all over but the digging, so we set out for Iowa, going very slowly at first. All the Interstates were closed in PA, and I remember crossing into Ohio near where I-80 enters PA, and seeing hundreds of semis and cars waiting for the road to open. What was really weird about that storm was that we didn't really have to drive far to get out of the big snowfall region, and that it all melted in days anyway, since the storm was so late.

:: The Storm of November 2000. This one hit Buffalo not long after we moved here from the Southern Tier, and it was a doozy, resulting in kids snowed in at their schools, disastrously snarled traffic downtown, and The Wife, who was starting her new job, snowed in there, as well. It was the first time she'd been apart from me since The Daughter had been born. I wasn't working at the time, so it wasn't an enormous trainwreck, but wow...that one was brutal.

:: And then, a year later, it happened again, as something like seven feet piled up right where we lived at the time. Ouch. Worse was that The Wife was snowed in again at work! We were OK at home, since I was snowed in with my Mother-In-Law, who was visiting at the time. As I recall, we didn't leave the apartment for three whole days. For years we would have a running joke that my in-laws never once visited Buffalo when the weather was any good. Even when they visited in summer, it was during a rainy cold snap.

:: The October Surprise storm. This is the most recent of the notorious Buffalo storms, happening in 2006. It was a lake-effect storm that dumped quite a bit of snow, although as I recall, the snow amounts themselves weren't unheard of. What was harsh this time was that it happened in early October, before most of the trees had managed to drop their leaves, so the branches ended up getting piled with snow. As the weight increased, branches began breaking...on thousands of trees throughout the region. This resulted, of course, in huge power outages that lasted longer than a week in some places.

On the morning after the storm, I was driving to work. It was slow going, but I was moving along fine until I reached the top of a bridge right by The Store and got hung up on a big hunk of ice and snow. I wasn't budging from there. The guy behind me is in an SUV and says, "I gotta get through...do you mind if I nudge you with my bumper?" I weighed the option, considered that the car wasn't really my favorite anyway, and said, "Sure, bring it." Which he did. I gave the guy the green-light to rear-end me. And it worked! Huzzah!

So, what weather-related adventures have you all had?

2 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

Storm of the century, March 1993
Surprise October 4, 1987 storm (you had one in '86?)
The July 15, 1995 straight wind storm - 70 mph winds woke e out of a sound sleep.
Irene and Lee last year, while not that bad here in Albany, terrible in Binghamton, Owego, and Schoharie. My wife and daughter were in Charlotte, NC and could NOT get back by train, or car. HAD to fly, a pricey proposition.

On Mother's Day one year when I was a teenager, my mother slipped on the ice on the front porch!

SK Waller said...

I've been thinking about you, so I'm really glad you wrote this update. Take care, snuggle in and drink scotch!

As for weather, we actually get hit by outer bands of major Gulf hurricanes here. I once watched our patio chairs fly down the street, which freaked me out. I'd just moved here and had no idea we were vulnerable to hurricanes.

But our big baddies are tornadoes. Two years ago one tore up a street only a block away. They make me a nervous, shivering wreck and I'll be glad to be back in California. Give me an earthquake anytime!

You guys be safe!