Climate Change: Wacky Weather Observations

All right, inspiration takes shape- naturally! Here it is mid-February, and it is going to be 43 or maybe even higher in Chicago. Europe is in a deep and hard freeze, Afghanistan’s children are suffering in refugee camps, and snow is causing hazards in Eastern Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina, and there has been a deadly avalanche in Washington.

I understand first hand (and first sight too) the effects of climate change in the United States, and of course the patterns are global. Weather is affected by elements of atmospheric condition that circle the planet and where air, heat, water and winds mix and mingle.

April 16, 1998 in Nashville, Tennessee started out in a strange way. As I left for campus it seemed something was not right. It was too warm, though spring in the southeast was well in season. I went ahead to Belmont to spend time at the computer lab, and went out for a short break. Around 3 PM or so I returned to the business complex and noticed something in the northwestern sky that made me stop and examine it.

There was a majestic storm cloud dominating my view, and it already had an anvil top. At the time it did not register how close the storm was, and I had not listened to any news or weather reports. Well, before 3:30 a lady came into the computer lab to warn us about severe weather approaching our area. People went to the windows and outside to look at the storm. It had the classic “Weather Channel” appearance- mingling colors of yellowish gray, white, black, and grays, and the clouds were moving. In the northwest it was very dark and there was a sound as of rushing wind or an engine.

Stupidly, I was one of those who went outside, drawn as if magnetically to look at the big storm. “Is that wind?” I asked, and then it dawned on me that we could be in real trouble. I looked around to the south-southeast and saw a line of cloud moving at what must have been over 100 miles an hour, going to the north as if following 12th Avenue into downtown. Around that point we were told to get inside as the doors were closing. I think reports indicated that the windows at the campus were all ready starting to buckle and bend.

Inside and below ground, I phoned my mother and wondered deep inside if it would be our last conversation. Then came this darkness that seemed tangible, heavy and as if you could feel it. I wondered how much of downtown would be left when we emerged. When the time came to go topside, we went up and looked around.

Downtown was still there and from our view looked no worse for wear, which it turned out to be at later reports. We also learned another storm was on the way, and I wanted to find out if I could make it home. I started walking and – would you believe it- saw my mom’s car going down one of the usual streets we would take to the office. I could not catch up to her, and eventually got a ride from a nice lady with young children, and made it home, away from the downtown area.

Turns out that downtown was hit by winds of an F-3 tornado. Storms that day did damage on the east side of the Cumberland River as well, uprooted trees that President Jackson had planted at the Hermitage, and unleashed golf-ball sized hail, the aftermath of which could be seen on damaged cars. Color video and photos from that day show greenish-black-gray skies, terrified people, and damage to structures, and people watching the second incoming line of storms from the downtown area.

Tornadoes- energetic tails from gigantic supercell storms that spawn regularly in the southern regions- can happen it seems almost anytime of year now. Tennessee has had them in January and in November. Conditions being right, they can happen any time, and anyone in storm-prone areas must be on the alert when the elements conspire. More on that in my next article.

Divi Logan and ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2004 – 2012.


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