Spring Winds

Spring weather in north Texas tends toward the dramatic.  Last year—on April 3, 2012—a monstrous band of thunderstorms, some spawning tornadoes, ripped through the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Video of semi-trailers being flung hundreds of feet in the air made national news.  Images of massive damage to structures made the news, too.  But the images that didn’t seem to make the news were those that preceded the devastating explosion of nature’s wrath.

There is no single path toward the fury that nature unleashes.  Sometimes, ominous black clouds, curling like the lips of a snarling dog, set upon a clear blue sky as if the clouds were about to shred and then devour everything in their path.  Other times, the fury begins more gently.

A dull, grey sky can change almost imperceptibly, taking hours to make the transformation from benign to ferocious.  It may begin with a slightly darker smudge interrupting the monotonous overcast, followed by an even deeper gray smear that fades and disappears into the dullness.  A punctuation mark, a white wisp, may speed across the sky, giving those who pay attention a clue the dull grey ceiling conceals high winds.

Then, the winds that blew that wisp across the sky might dip down, giving those of us who didn’t notice the wisp the first suggestion of severe weather.  Trees begin to bend, and new leaves fly from branches.  Suddenly, the dull overcast becomes a cauldron of black and grey froth.  As if to call attention to the change, a brilliant flash of lightning lights up the sky, followed instantly by a deafening clap of thunder, shaking buildings and the ground beneath one’s feet.  The faint sound of warning sirens compete with the roar of the wind and thunder.  Rain begins to pound at windows.  Gutters meant to divert rainwater from roofs instantly overflow, sending sheets of water cascading to the already soaked ground below.  Storm drains cannot handle the volume.  Streets begin to flood.

Umbrellas are useless.  Either they are ripped from one’s hands and sent tumbling down the street or they turn inside out.  The wind is blowing sideways by now, anyway, so even the strongest umbrellas over one’s head, anchored to a concrete post, would provide no protection against the rain.

Strong brick houses with well-built roofs, houses that normally seem perfectly adequate for protection against the elements, feel flimsy and vulnerable during these storms.  If the storms turn particularly violent, the houses and their inhabitants stand no chance; the winds can rip them from the ground and send them skyward in an instant.  Hailstones, some as big as grapefruit, can shatter windows and walls and roofing materials.  Big, old-growth trees can be stripped bare and broken into kindling by the fierce winds.

The aftermath of violent storms is awful.  But the storms themselves are beautiful.  The strength they possess, the power they unleash is stunning.  Watching the sky become carnivorous is mesmerizing.  Frightening, yes, but mesmerizing nonetheless.   I understand why amateur storm trackers do what they do.  They are after savage beauty.  They want to witness the brutal power of nature.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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1 Response to Spring Winds

  1. robin andrea says:

    I love this description, John. It really captures the awesome power of clouds, winds, pressure systems– the whole drama of weather.

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