It’s one hundred degrees today and I find myself longing for a good thunderstorm. I’ve loved them ever since I was a boy. And I’m not referring to storms like the devastating derecho which smashed the East Coast two weeks ago. I’m talking about your garden variety summer thunderstorm, after which the air is cooler and smells sweeter.
When I was growing up our house faced almost due west, which was the direction our weather normally came from. I can remember when I was about ten years old or so, in the late afternoon when those midnight blue clouds gathered on the horizon, I’d go and sit on the front stoop to watch the impending storm roll in. There’s just something thrilling in those moments just before the storm hits.
I read years later that the extra electricity in the air actually triggers a biochemical reaction in some of us. The theory was the anticipation of the storm wasn’t just on a mental level, but an actual physical reaction. That always made a lot of sense to me. It explained my almost irrational attraction to them.
When I was a lifeguard in high school, I worked at a country club where the lifeguards not on duty watching over swimmers used to bring cushioned mats to the members who rented wooden lounge chairs. There were several of these mat stations positioned at different spots on the sprawling grounds that included both a short course and a long course pool. So when we’d see those dark clouds appear suddenly above the tree line, we knew we had just a few minutes to gather up all the mats and get them under cover. If a storm was blowing in quickly, you’d see eight to ten lifeguards in a mad scramble to gather up all the mats and other odds and ends. For me, it only made the storm that much more exciting.
Even with an average storm, there is some danger, of course. Ask Lee Trevino. For those who don’t know who he is, he was a star golfer from the late sixties until the eighties, and was struck by lightning while playing the 1975 Western Open at the height of his career. He’s one of the reasons why the PGA is so careful when storms crop up now. And one time at the country club, all the guards were scrambling to finish up the last mat station, pulling the cover over it, when BAM!, lightning struck just above us. We were all knocked to the ground. I’ll never forget the scene of eight lifeguards strewn about, slowing getting to our feet, making sure everyone was alright. One of the guys swore he got hit by the lightning, but he was OK. So I guess we were lucky.
Now that I’m an adult, the storms can be a bit more problematic. If they come along during a weekday it’s often during rush hour when I’m making the trek home. I really don’t enjoying driving in them. Who does? So now I only love them now when I’m already home.
And of course, here in the Mid Atlantic we don’t have some of the problems seen in other parts of the nation. Tornadoes are relatively rare, and we don’t often get the full on lightning storms that they get in other parts of the country. So the relative danger for us is minimal. It makes the storms easier to love.
Ah, karma baby! As I was writing this, a storm was gathering in the West. Sadly, the deck off the back of the house looks to the East, so I’ll have to watch the storm out the front window. Note to self, when we move someday, make sure the back deck looks Westward.