Friday, October 26, 2012

The Macabre and Primal Wonder of Storms

Hurricane Katrina just before it hit the Gulf Coast

There is a dark majesty to big storms as they remind us that for all our human advances, the force of nature remains paramount to our existence. We exist and are beholden to the supreme countenance of nature and always will be. Perhaps that is why so many people, including myself, are fascinated by storms. Through modern technology we can watch them grow into behemoths of destruction, and anticipate their arrival. We know they will bring devastation, destroy people's lives and property, and yet cannot help feel a rush of excitement as they approach.

Lord of the winds! I feel thee nigh,
I know thy breath in the burning sky!
And I wait, with a thrill in every vein,
For the coming of the hurricane!

               -- William Cullen Bryant (1854)

Is it part of the human condition... this macabre and primal wonder of storms?

Blizzard of 78'
My relationship with massive storms began early. As a sixth grader, I kept the daily weather statistics for my math class, writing the highs and lows on a bulletin board for all to see.  When I heard a big Nor'easter was heading our way, I placed a yardstick below the swingset in our back yard and waited for the snow.  From the kitchen window my eyes were fixed on the accumulating snow until I was sent to bed.  The next morning, my eyes widened in awe.  I could no longer see the three foot marker.  It was completely buried by the Blizzard of '78, and so was my hometown and much of New England.

As a young man, my sister and I left the shelter of our home and stepped out to feel the force of the wind from the "No Name" storm of 1991, a complex weather system that combined a hurricane with a classic North Atlantic nor'easter.  We were only yards from the back door when I heard an explosion above me.  I turned to see a hail of bricks fall behind me.  The wind had knocked down a large chimney from the house next door.  It was a close call for both of us, but experience only helped to increase my fascination. How about you?