Night Winds Blow

High wind during the day annoys but does not scare me. Blowing dust or snow can be a pain in the patoot, and grounds for staying indoors and giving thanks that I’m not out in it, but unless there’s a tornado included, or an ice storm has just wrapped up (BTDT and yes, I did buy a tee-shirt), I don’t mind it much. Let the wind cry in the night, however, and it stirs every old, perhaps ancient, fear.This was not always the case. Back in the day, I ignored wind in the night. Or I opened the windows and enjoyed the cool breeze. Or sighed at the dust I’d have to clean up the next morning but otherwise did not think much of it. Or watched the snow dancing in the porch light and snuggled deeper into my blankets and book.

There are a few good things about living on the western edge of the Great Plains, west of the 20″ rainfall line. One of those is that you get to sit in your lawn chair at the airport and watch monstrous thunderstorms forming – to the east. They pick up the glow of sunset, turn all sorts of magnificent colors, and head out to wreak havoc on some other poor schnook. Not always, and I recall one rip-snorter of a night when the guy on the four-state radio station said, “Look, if you can hear me, you are under a warning of some kind and should be under cover, preferable in a basement.” That was the night I called to get an aviation weather briefing and the man said, “I can’t confirm this, and no one’s in the area to give me a pilot report, but radar indicated tops are 78,000 feet.” If it was true, the storm topped out in the 80s, meaning that anyone under it had better be on really good terms with their deity of choice, because they were probably about to meet. And I’ve seen the pictures of grapefruit-sized hail from western Nebraska and Kansas. But you don’t live in your basement like folks in Wichita, Omaha, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Wichita Falls sometimes do.

[As an aside, all indications are that this is going to be a nasty, intense storm season for the next 45 days at least. If you live in Tornado Alley or its suburbs, please plan accordingly.]

Night-time storms bug me. Night time high straight-line wind bugs me. There is a connection. The most recent tornadoes that I dodged both swept through well after dark, one at 0200 CDT and the other at 2100 ish. For the first one I was spending the night in the Flat State U library, because my apartment had no basement. The second one passed within 1/4 mile of my apartment. I had a basement apartment at that point (see above) and was tucked into the closet, listening to the radio, and thinking stuff like, “Please G-d may no one get hurt, please may it lift and go away, pleasepleaseplease.” Alternating with “this closet needs a mini-fridge, padded bench seating, and more leg room.” That second adventure was how I discovered that blown-in insulation looks like Big Bird’s feathers when it comes out of a house wall. Tornado took out one wall and racked the house on the foundations. I was helping recover belongings at the place next door, also damaged, and we could see the insulation blown’ in the wind. And had been told that if the building started getting bigger, we needed to run at right angles to it. Anyway.

Since those little adventures, I’ve had one other night-time near miss, when the funnel lifted just as it reached the edge of town. Now, strong winds at night bother me. A great deal. I listen to them hissing and roaring around the building, stirring the leaves and making wind-chimes clatter like dry bones. And it scares the spit out of me, even though I know darn well that 50 mph winds are pretty much par for the course out here.

I don’t like wind at night.