Last night was an event we were looking forward to with great anticipation.
Jay and I have become fans of the ABC show “Commander in Chief”. We were
really looking forward to sitting down and enjoying the first new episode since… well, I can’t remember. It seems like that show has been on hiatus for most of this season.
So we fired up the old telly at two minutes to nine and had brief thoughts about getting comfy on the sofa.
That’s when we noticed the blue bar at the bottom of the TV screen. The
one with text scrolling across it. The one with the big yellow letters that spelled
“Severe Thunderstorm Watch” followed by half of the counties in southern Wisconsin, and even bigger orange letters that spelled
“Severe Thunderstorm Warning” followed by the other half of the counties in southern Wisconsin.
Our county was one of the orange ones. This was a bit unexpected, as the
local meteorologists had been predicting storms for three out of the last five days and had come up with a big fat zilch in
the rain gauge. Yeah, they’d forecast a chance of thunderstorms for tonight,
but we figured that they had gotten bored, started playing with the multi-sided dice from their D&D game, and rolled a
thirteen or something, and decided that meant there would be severe weather this evening.
We didn’t think the situation was going to get serious enough for them to ramp up the threat level to orange. Lime green, maybe; even chartreuse, enough to freak out all the yuppies that got their
Beemers washed today. But nothing as critical as orange.
As the alert message crawled across the screen with all the speed of a turtle on quaaludes (yeah, I read just a little
faster than your average person), I looked out the window to see what was going on.
Nothing. No rain, no wind, no horsemen of the apocalypse… for about thirty
seconds. Then I saw some lightning. Then
some more. Then it looked like the whole panoply of Greek gods was trying to
beat Zeus at a bolt-throwing contest. So I (in my infinite wisdom, and with one
whole storm-spotter class under my belt) went out onto our balcony to look at it.
Jay (in his even more infinite wisdom) grabbed his digital camera and went outside.
It still wasn’t raining. There was just non-stop cloud-to-cloud lightning. And it was really, really weird, because there was no thunder at all. It was like someone had pressed a cosmic mute button.
This went on for at least fifteen minutes. Jay came back inside to upload
his attempts at photographing the celestial pyrotechnics. I was still on the
balcony, trying to get an idea of how bad the storm was by the glow of the lightning, and muttering towards the cars driving
down the road below me. Ya’ll might want
to get home before this gets nasty, I thought out loud as they whooshed by. Plus, you’re covering up the sound of the thunder.
Because there has to be thunder. You can’t have this much lightning without
it, and I know I haven’t gone deaf in the last twenty minutes. I can still hear
“Commander in Chief” blaring away in the living room. I don’t know what the heck
is happening on the show, and I don’t even care, but the fact that I can hear it is proof that I can still perceive sound. Yeah, there’s a rumble. Okay, there is
thunder. I think.
Except it wasn’t your typical, thunder-y sound. It didn’t boom or crack
or pound at my eardrums. It was just a low, constant noise, kind of like the
sound of a jet coming in low for a landing. Except it wasn’t moving. It wasn’t dopplering across the sky. It was just there.
And then I realized it was getting louder. I stuck my head inside the
patio door and told Jay that he’d better come outside and listen, because this noise was one of the weirdest things I’d ever
No rain. No wind. Only this
bizarre noise, increasing in volume, until its roar filled the air. It didn’t
have the chugging sound that is typical of a tornado, and it seemed way too loud to be just rain, even rain heavy enough to
make you wonder where you parked your ark.
Then I heard it. Puck. It sounded like a rock hitting the street at an incredibly high rate of speed. Then there was another one. Puck. More silence. Puck. What the hell is happening? Puck.
Puck. The roaring noise pressed against our ears, punctuated by a
staccato Puck. Then more. Puck-puck. Puck. We peered out at the street, trying to figure out if we were just hearing the biggest
raindrops the world had ever known, or what. Puck. Puck. Puckety-puck-puck-puckety-puckety-puckety-puck-puck-puck-PUCK-PUCK-PUCK-PUCK-PUCK-ROAR!
The biggest hailstones I had ever seen were being hurled out of the night sky.
Giant rocks of ice pelted down, littering the street, the lawn, and the sidewalk.
They thudded on the roof so fiercely that it sounded as if they were punching right through the shingles.
At this point I started to get a little freaked. (Okay, Jay would say
a lot freaked. But I wasn’t dashing about the apartment grabbing my valuables
and heading for the cellar, so we’ll call it a little freaked.) In less than
ten minutes, the hail had subsided and the torrential rains had begun. And when
that was over, we went out to survey the destruction.
I went out on the balcony and took these pictures.
(Notice the size of
the hail in relation to the small flag that got knocked to the ground)
Jay went down to the street. His pictures were even more astonishing.
These were just three hailstones he happened to pick up.
As for our TV show, I guess we’ll have to wait for a rerun to find out what happened.
I just hope that when it does re-air, Mother Nature doesn’t decide to once again add her own musical accompaniment.
“Hail to the Chief”.