Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Storm

This building is on the left as you're going down to Freeport landing. I won't say one more word about my ancestors and Freeport, but I will say that when I took this picture it had been raining cats and dogs for 4,679 days straight, and I took this just as Mr. Wind was blowing all that dampness out of here.

Speaking of wind and rain, I am pleased to share a story about a storm written by Mathews Mountain Man, also known as MMM in the Comments section.

MMM grew up in Mathews and played a significant role in my track career, such as it was, but really he's a writer and doesn't admit it. Maybe he just doesn't talk it, who knows. He and his family live in another part of the state but will hopefully be visiting during Blog Fest weekend. He's on the guest list, so that means he has to show up, along with his wife and children. Anyway, he and my mother are the real writers on this blog--along with Anonymous Mathews Native who has not submitted a contribution lately (chop chop, AMN). I'm just the rambling host, the emcee (you can call me Chuck Barris) and the photographer.

Also, I am someone who is going to coordinate a Goose Naming Contest (GNC) on Friday. Yes, folks, the quality of the entertainment will be sinking to new depths. My mother needs a name for her killer goose, and I feel certain someone out there can come up with a name. Stay awake tuned for more details.

Without any further ado, here's his story.

That Was No Squall
by Mathews Mountain Man

"Mathews is a long way from Tornado Alley, but occasionally we hear the sound of the proverbial train from nowhere furiously spinning its way through a torrential downpour. “What the hell is that?” we wonder as our eyes dart back and forth from face to face. The sound is so rare in our little spot on the Bay that we don’t even think to hit the floor, much less to head for a well framed closet – I only know of one house in Mathews that has a basement.

But, I did hear the train once – or at least something like it. It was on a summer afternoon when I was in my early teens. There were five of us at our home on Stutt’s Creek; my mom, two of my three brothers, my brother’s friend and me. Heaven knows where the third brother was, but the little fart might have freaked out if he had been there.

The five of us were hanging out in our vintage 1860’s home, with its leaky old, single pane windows that rattled when you turned on a ceiling fan. I don’t recall if we knew that there were storms in the area or not, but in Mathews a gully-washer-of-a-storm can kick up and clear out in the span of twenty minutes. Depending on where you live in the county you might not see a storm coming, except, perhaps, for the ominous black cloud that often acts as an escort by properly introducing the wind and rain.

This storm was typical, the sky suddenly got black and the wind started stirring. My mom called out for us to close all the windows. Minutes later it started raining and almost immediately the drops were the size of small marbles, pounding against the windows and pelting on the metal roof. At least four of us meandered carelessly about the house making comments like “goodness gracious,” or “golly gee,” or “I lay-in-el ole’ fella, she’s blowin a clippin-clear gale out there,” – just ordinary expressions.

Moments after the storm hit though, we heard an unusual humming noise like a tuning fork, only louder. I didn’t know at the time what the noise was, but I was tempted enough to look out the window. We had three small apple trees in our side yard and their supple trunks were bent over so far that the tops of the trees were touching the ground. That’s when I knew that this was no ordinary storm. Meanwhile, the humming noise grew louder. Our carefree attitudes vanished and frantic voices called out around the house. “Get away from the windows,” someone shouted and the five of use gathered in the hallway. The humming noise grew louder still. “What is that?” someone asked. We starred at each other and shrugged our shoulders in ignorance. For a few frightening moments we stood there feeling helpless, unable to comprehend what was happening.

Five minutes later the worst was over. The winds calmed, the rain subsided and we slowly began to relax. As the sun came out, we stepped outside to inspect the damage. Right away we found that a number of large branches had broken off and fallen close to our automobiles. Remarkably, not one of the branches landed on a car; not even a scratch. One sizable branch fell directly above a car, but it got caught up in the lower part of the tree and dangled precariously overhead.

At the edge of our yard a few large trees, some a couple of feet or more in diameter, had been uprooted or twisted off at the bottom. I ran over to the remains of a favorite pine and soon discovered that the base of the evergreen was the origin of a narrow pathway of destruction. Looking toward the creek I saw many trees, some of them easily over a hundred years old, lying helplessly on their sides. When my brother’s friend wandered over and surveyed the destruction, he said, “Look at that, a clear path. Those trees; their huge.” He thought for a moment and then proudly announced, “That was no mere squall; it was a tornado. We had a tornado!”

“And we lived to tell about,” anyone with sense might have added.

The next day – while the aforementioned little fart was playing amongst the debris; a virtual wonderland, full of imaginary friends and foe – after we confirmed with the local Coast Guard that a twister had touched down in our area, we solved the mystery of the humming noise, or at least we think we did.

As the twister passed by the house, the air pressure outside dropped rapidly and sucked the air from inside the house, through the leaky windows. The humming noise came from the air rushing past the metal weather stripping in the window casements. Imagine what might have happened if we had had high-efficiency replacement windows.

Ah, life in Mathews." -MMM


Grandma J said...

I dread tornados. I have had a few scarey events when the tv blares "go to your safe place".

I can't wait to see the goose who needs a name.

Mental P Mama said...

I think those leaky windows saved themselves! High-falutin' windows would've blown clear across the bay.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Some of our Nor'Easters can be as damaging as a tornado (in my opinion). Water spouts are not unusual either. We definitely get some ferocious weather, but for some strange reason I love storms--as long as nobody is hurt.

We had/have a basement and were herded down there on many occasions by my mother, in anticipation of The Big One.

My parents' old farmhouse next door, built near the turn of the century, also has a basement. (It's very creepy, may I say.)

Another house across the lane from us, built by the same man (Donald T.) who built this one, has a basement too, so I don't think they're terribly uncommon, but I guess on Gwynn's Island they're very few and far between given that it's at (working on *below* in some places) sea level.

mmm said...

Grandma J, I've never lived anywhere where tornados are common; and, I don't think the few we experience "back-east" compare with those in the Midwest - and Texas.

Mental P (funny name by the way), you got the point; if the house had been more airtight we might have had the windows, and who knows what else, sucked-out.

CBW - I agree completely about the Nor-Easters, nasty storms that sometimes last for days.

Now I know of three houses in Mathews with basements.


Daryl said...

We had a tornado here in NYC once .. tho I think it was lost, it actually hit NJ and then spun across the river .. and actually caused a window in my office to implode so those leaky windows you had sure were the reason you didnt get swept up like Dorothy & Toto

Caution Flag said...

Mr. Wind visits our area frequently. He seemed harmless enough, so I married him.

foolery said...

I love it when MMM writes.

Believe it or not, we get a funnel cloud at least once a year here in the Valley, with a twister touching down about once every three years. One destroyed a barn 1/4 mile from home when I was a kid. But just as MMM said, NOTHING like the Midwest and Gulf states. And no hurricanes or Nor'easters, either. Which is good because NO BASEMENTS.

Thanks MMM!

Margaret Cloud said...

Boy, that was an interesting story, I always get scared when it gets black out and the wind is blowing hard. We are lucky, we live by Lake Michigan and we have high sand dunes that protect us. Hope you have a nice Easter.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

Curt's aunt and uncle's house in PA got hit by a tornado; she was thrown a bit by it - literally - and hasn't been quite the same since they put that metal plate in her head.

My mom used to herd us into the basement if the sky got black... not sure why, as I don't think she ever experienced a tornado first-hand, but you just never know.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

By the way - a goose charged me today in the Metro parking lot! He was hangin' out on the pavement near where my car was parked. As I headed towards him, he stood up, spread and flapped his wings,and opened his bill as if to say OH NO YOU DON'T, SISTER! I was on a cell call and yelled at my son, GOTTA GO, I'M BEING ATTACKED BY A GOOSE!! I went the other way and walked waaaay around the cars and I guess my evasive maneuvers were a little too quick for him; I managed to get in the passenger side of my vehicle and scamper away.

So if there are geese at Blogfest? GAH, what should I do, bring my briefcase for a weapon??? Someone, please tell me.

mmm said...

Daryl - I let my son know to look out for those lost tornados in NYC, he lives up there.

CF - Sounds more like a cool breeze to me.

Foolery - Your comments are always the best.

MC - Unfortunately, our sand dunes don't help much; they might be two feet tall.

Meg - Maybe CBW will invite a few goose hunters to Blogfest too. I'm sure they'll look out for you.

Everyone - In case you haven't figured it out, I'm tired, so "Good Night!"

Looking forward to the name the goose contest tomorrow.