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Posted: April 5, 2011 9:20 p.m.

Giddens: Respect but no fear for storms

The wind wailed more like a hurricane than roared like a train when it whipped through Newton County early Tuesday.
Pine cones and assorted debris sounded like golf balls as they bounced off the roof of our Oxford cottage.

The cats were anxious, as was Sophie the granddog, and Donna was, too.

Or so I'm told.

I was asleep.

Donna talked to me, nudged and maybe kicked me once or twice, but the wall of wind blew through about 12:45 a.m. and I missed it.

How things change.

I was for many years what could be kindly described as "weather aware."

I watched The Weather Channel for entertainment long before they began producing documentaries and programming other than forecasts.

When Tharon III was born, we had the television in Donna's room set to the Weather Channel, and for much of the day watched dapples of pinks and whites cover the radar as Upstate South Carolina was engulfed in snow.

I'd worry about approaching spring storms while they were forming out on the Plains. A tornado watch would set me into an over-caffeinated frenzy of worry, pacing and planning. A warning would send the pulse rate soaring to levels experienced by an antisocial cat in a roomful of curious toddlers.

I came by it naturally.

My mother was born during a violent thunder/snow storm in January, and my grandmother was never quite the same.
My father, always the early adapter, bought a cube-shaped weather radio back in the 1970s. It still works, by the way.

Come a thunderstorm and he'd be pacing in the living room, with the TV on and the weather radio turned to 11, producing more static than news.

The dog would be right behind him, matching his pace.

And just like the dog, I had my own Pavlovian experience, as I learned not just to respect weather, but to fear it, too.

It was most pronounced when Donna and I went through our "Green Acres" phase, living in a Depression-era farmhouse in Madison County for several years. Standing alone on a slight rise in a soybean patch, the house seemed to offer little protection from the spring storms.

You could watch the blanket of wind and rain seemingly obliterate the neighbor's home across the field a mile away as it raced toward our rickety house, overwhelmed in the sound of the wind, the thunder and the rain.

A thunderstorm one night knocked out the power. I headed to the kitchen to close the windows and was blasted by lightning that was hot and white. It had hit the oven, 10 feet away, and set off the broiler element, which glowed red hot in the night.

It was enough to set the internal weather anxiety setting to overload, which is where it stayed for decades.
Respect for weather and natural phenomena remains, but the fear has eroded over the years.

Maybe it comes from long years of covering weather stories, talking to folks who faced first-hand what I had only faced in fear.

There was a couple who had faced an F-3 tornado after a Sunday night supper back in 1992. Their brick carport had been carried off in the wind while the rest of their home was untouched. Just a bit down the road, their elderly neighbors were killed when their house had all but exploded into splinters. Randomness and chaos at work.

And there have been dozens of good folks like Ronnie and Sherri Spells whom you can read about them here who have told me their storm stories. The Spells had no time to act early yesterday before the wind hit their rural home. All they could do is listen in awe as the world around their home was smashed and shredded.

Trees fell. A shed was destroyed. And yet their home and lives were spared, as was that of a pit bull in a pen across the yard.

The randomness of nature, of storms, is beyond our power to comprehend, let alone control.

So I respect the power inherent in nature, and I always will. And I'll take the precautions necessary when faced with a storm, but the fear is gone.

And I sleep, maybe too soundly, at the approach of the wind.

I'm just glad Donna is there to shake me awake if there's a need.

Tharon Giddens is editor of The Covington News. Reach him at (678) 750-5011 or at tgiddens@covnews.com.

 

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