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Storm watcher

By Philip Hunt

Tales of the hunts

Clouds gathering and rising at the Blue Wall are a common sight during summer evenings. Afternoon rain showers offer a bit of respite from the summer heat. As the storm passes, the mist rises from the fields, fireflies dance in the twilight.

I come from a long line of “storm watchers”. In fact, going inside when it thunders seems odd to me.

Just recently we were having a cookout at a friend’s house. As we were congregating on the porch, the winds increased as the temperature decreased. A summer storm was upon us. Our host assumed we would want to go inside. I wondered why you would want to leave as the show was about to start.

Storm watchers start to get comfortable as the first rumble of thunder rolls through the house. With every flash of lightning, I’ll start to count until I hear the corresponding thunder. Since light travels faster than sound, you can gauge how close the lightning strike occurred. I don’t know the exact correlation, but I do know that if the lightning flashes at the same time it thunders, it is close.

Another hint that the lightning is close is when you hear a pop before the boom of thunder. Obviously, don’t hang on to any metal rods. When a storm is this close you shouldn’t inspect a flagpole.

Another pole to avoid is a fishing pole. One summer evening a few years ago, I was caught in a storm while fishing a local river. Before I could make it back to the truck, lighting was cracking all around me. I proceeded to throw my fishing rod and hide under a dirt bank.

A fly-fishing mentor of mine would talk about dodging lighting storms out west. The large valleys made by the great trout rivers are immense stages for thunderstorms to perform. He tried to explain to me that you could feel the impending lightning strike in the metal guides on a fly rod. He may be able to feel them, but I would have dropped my fly rod at the first flash of lightning.

I came to realize there are two types of storm watchers: recreational and extreme. Just as some kayakers will hurl themselves over waterfalls for pleasure, there are others that will get as much satisfaction as paddling on a lake. Neither option is as safe as staying on the shore, but a sense of adventure calls them to the water.

While the safest place in a storm is an interior, ground floor room with no windows, there are some that push the envelope by getting closer to the elements. The recreational storm watchers enjoy a nice porch with an easy escape plan. The extreme storm watcher always seems to be in the worst place at the worst time. They also tend to have the best stories.

Whether you dread thunderstorms from your basement, or relish them on the porch, they are a great reminder of the power and unique ability of nature to overpower modern luxury. Winds cause havoc and rains flood. In a split second, a lightning bolt can lay waste to the most advanced computer. The price of admission for this wonderful show is a rocking chair, a porch and a sense of adventure.