Recent Wind Incidents

During most of the day yesterday, and especially late into the evening, brisk winds blew around here. I fell asleep listening to the strong wind, and while that can be a soothing sound, it’s much better if you’re in rental property.

In the morning, when calm air had returned, there was no visible damage. Some items outside on the deck had been moved around, and a few small branches had fallen. It all made me wonder: if the rotation of the Earth ultimately moves the atmosphere, how is it that the wind isn’t always like that? Or worse, like it is on the gas giants, with their perma-storms? What makes a calm day on any part of the Earth?

When returning from Texas Sunday before last, the wind was up as the plane came in for its landing at Midway, making one of the bumpier approaches I’ve experienced lately. About two minutes before touchdown, when even the flight attendants had buckled down, suddenly one of them got up, wetted a towel, and dashed past me — I was on row six or seven — and helped clean up a few rows back, where a woman had thrown up. Then the flight attendant, navigating her way as the plane bumped around, made it back to her seat for the landing. Expert moves, clearly.

On Sunday, February 19, a few days before we arrived in the city, a handful of tornados hit San Antonio. According to the Express-News on the 21st: “The National Weather Service confirmed late Monday morning an EF-1 strength tornado with 105 mph and a path length of 4.5 miles touched down on Linda Drive near the Quarry shopping center.”
That’s a few blocks from my mother’s house.

Fortunately, an EF-1 is a weak tornado, or I’d be writing a very different post. As it was, she lost power for a while, and it looked like a neighbor’s fence had been damaged, though it’s possible the fence had already partly fallen through neglect. Otherwise my mother’s house wasn’t damaged.

A few days after the hit, we noticed some damage to a small shopping center a few blocks north of her house — bits of missing signage, broken tree limbs and roof problems, mostly. Also, some workmen were taking down a damaged ornamental brick wall at a nearby apartment complex. Better to have no tornadoes, but if you have to have one, a weak one is what you want.

Isaac’s Storm

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (1999) promises to be a good read. Especially if it’s as well written as The Devil in the White City, by the same author.

Got it the other day at a resale shop, a bit beaten up and miscategorized as fiction. Not so. “A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History,” says the subhead, which doesn’t quite pin it down as nonfiction, but I happen to know it’s about the Hurricane of 1900, which blew through Galveston, killing – no one knows for sure how many, but the usual figure quoted is 6,000 to as many as 12,000.

Isaac is Isaac Cline, resident meteorologist for the U.S. Weather Bureau at Galveston, and survivor of the storm, though not all of his family made it. In the movie version of this story, Isaac would heroically warn the unbelieving residents of Galveston that a bad blow was coming. Unfortunately, he seems not to have done that. No one knew how bad it was going to be. Hurricane science was still fairly primitive, after all.

I peeked ahead, and found that afterwards Cline had a long career with the Weather Bureau, posted in New Orleans. Among other things, he was there for the Flood of 1927, the subject of another book I want to read, Rising Tide (John M. Barry, 1998; I read his book about the Pandemic of 1918, though). In fact, though retired, Cline almost lived long enough to see the first weather satellites, dying in his 90s in 1955.

Up, Up, and Not Quite Far Enough Away

A short, vigorous thunderstorm rolled over my house late this afternoon. A lot of rain for a short time, but it didn’t seem like a lot of wind. I was wrong. A microburst of some kind must have slammed the back yard, because when I looked outside, I thought, something’s missing. What’s missing? The deck umbrella.

The damn thing was mostly broken anyway. One of the supports was busted somehow  during the winter, so even at best it was only half of an umbrella, and yesterday it wasn’t even open. Yet somehow the wind had taken it somewhere. Where? I didn’t see it on the deck or in the yard.

It was on the roof, pole and all. Must have been a freakishly strong wind to open the thing up, lift it and the few pounds of pole away from the cast-iron patio table, and deposit it on the roof. Chairs were moved but not knocked over, and one plant had been tipped over, but otherwise there was no hint of strong wind. Odd.

Once the storm was completely over, I got my ladder – the hard part was getting the ladder out from behind the debris in the garage, not getting to the roof – and persuaded the umbrella wreckage to come back to the ground.