Friday, August 21, 2009

Are you afraid of thunderstorms?

Yikes. What a night!

It's been a pretty thunderstormy month of August here but nothing like last night. Tornadoes?? In Toronto? Holy smokes. Luckily my section of the city wasn't hit too bad but woke up this morning to see the swath of destruction north of Toronto on the news. Miraculously only one death occurred in Durham a town just north of Toronto. My heart goes out to the parents of the boy that was killed. How can one ever imagine that a tornado will touch down in your town and wipe out your home or a loved one?

I always believed that tornadoes happened in open farm country (that's what repeat viewing of the The Wizard of Oz will do to you as a kid). I grew up on a farm in southern Ontario and while we had some wicked storms I never witnessed an actual tornado but I was always deathly afraid of them. As a small child I would huddle under the blankets of my bed trying to plug my ears to the rushing wind and thunder and close my eyes to the flashes of lightning I was sure were going to hit my Dad who would always stay out in the fields no matter what the weather. The only concession he would make would be sitting under the wagon until the storm passed. Drove my mother nuts.

I still remember one summer storm vividly. I think I was about sixteen because I'd just gotten my drivers license. It was a usual hot, humid southern Ontario afternoon out in the fields like always. I was picking tomatoes (or maybe it was peppers or eggplant - the vegetables have all run together for me.I hated them all equally). I was trying to keep my mind from withering in the heat and boredom and wondering what excuse I could make to take a break and go into the barn to try and cool off. When I looked up to see that the sky had turned a really sickly shade of green. Whoa. Not good. I didn't have to make any excuse to leave. Because the next thing I saw was my mother freaking out and running as fast as her little legs could carry her to the pick-up truck. I was driving and she was shrieking and crossing herself and praying as we bumped along the dirt road and onto the highway. My stomach was in knots as I took a quick look in the rear view mirror only to see this massive, now dark green, sky crawling up behind us like some kind of monster. It was the only time my mom let me drive like a bat out of hell from the farm to get home. We made it home before the rain crashed onto us but I still remember trying to outrace what was looming up behind us and thinking that we just might not make it.

The ferocity of thunderstorms makes me really appreciate how utterly powerless we are when faced with raging nature. No wonder people flock to see disaster movies! Maybe that's why I love living in a city. I know a lot of people consider cities more dangerous than the country but for me I feel like there are more safety nets here. Less random acts of nature (or maybe more contained? Fewer open spaces?. Although I do concede that there can be more random acts of violence. Still, being in a city, the power of nature has always seemed further away. Until last night. It proved to me that when Mother Nature strikes she doesn't care if you're on a vegetable farm in the Banana belt of Ontario or sitting in a car at an intersection in a busy city. When she wants to get you she will. So take cover people.

Anyway, I hope this is the end of the wild weather. Off to the cottage tomorrow and hopefully a week of warmth and sunshine. Can you believe September is only a little over a week away? Hope everyone has had a safe summer so far - with no thunderstorms!


  1. I used to love a good thunderstorm when I lived in California. Now they make me a little nervous, living in Montana in the middle of the forest. This year has been pretty mellow and so far we haven't had any bad fires, which is good. When we first moved here, there were a few small tornadoes that touched down. I totally didn't expect that in Montana.

  2. I've always loved a good thunderstorm... Have great memories of them as a kid, both in Montreal and Winnipeg. Two places that have awesome thunderstorms (as does Toronto.)

    But last night's storm scared me. Seriously. And I didn't even know about the tornados at the time.

    As the storm was ending, the sky was so strange... went from nearly black to almost green to yellow to pink. At the time, I wrote it off to the sun was setting, but now I'm thinking my eyes weren't lying about that green tinge.

    This isn't supposed to happen in big cities! I feel for everyone whose roofs got torn off... (not to mention the parents of the boy who died up in Durham.)

  3. I remember that storm with the green sky. It was 1980 and I was on the 2nd floor of Kennedy high school reviewing math and chemistry... again! It was very scary, especially looking at all the damage on the way home. An entire new house (in the framing stage) collapsed!

  4. Hi Rena! I have to admit being surrounded by trees and thunderstorms freak me out probably more than being in an open farm field. Hope Montana has more sunny days than cloudy ones!

    Maureen: That storm was wicked, wasn't it? It doesn't help when your power goes off and you're sitting in the dark looking out a window and thinking, "Huh. Maybe I really should go down into the basement (which never seems safe to me as I think of being buried alive by a collapsed house and all).

    Jan! Buddy, your first comment on my blog! So nice to see you and trust you to remember the details of that storm just as vividly. Yeah, so tell me, which was worse: the almost tornado or the fact you were studying math and chem in the summer? :)