Frequency of recent storms is unusual

In our storms, rain follows lightning

When George Stewart wrote his book “Storm,” published in 1941, he named the storm Maria; the author stipulated that it should be with a long I (Mar-aye-uh).

A singing group calling themselves the Kingston Trio wrote and performed a number called “They Call the Wind Maria.”

I doubt that anyone has named any of those we have had recently, but they have been characters just the same. Although no buildings were destroyed, a number of sizeable trees were blown down.

When I heard the first rumbles of thunder, I attributed them to planes but had to change my first opinion. The second time my guess was better, and I lay and listened as the storm worked its way up the valley to us.

I think I know when it began to rain, and here I observed, again, a phenomenon I first became aware of years ago when I visited Susan Breshears when she was staffing the lookout on the mountain just outside Tonasket.

From up there we could see the storms approach, working their way up the ridge that rims the valley. The radio antenna would tap faster and faster as the wind rose.

Intrigued, I wrote to the geology department of one of the colleges, asking about this. The letter was never answered.

Now, comfortably in bed in Omak, I heard it again. When the soft rush indicated rain was falling, the lightning and thunder stopped. And they had been up close and personal as the weather rose.

Nature was insistent. It would not spend energy on two activities simultaneously. Are there times it does?

When we mention this natural activity, we normally watch thunder and lightning.

I once heard someone say that we had had lots of thunder in a recent storm and that there had been some lightning, too.

Well, yes. The lightning comes first and the thunder follows. Without lightning, there would be no thunder.

The poor animals, of course, don’t know what to make of it. If firecrackers send those pets scurrying under the bed, what must some of those big peals of sound have done to them in these recent nights?

When we were growing up, we used to tell each other gravely that lightning made a hole in the air and the thunder resulted when the sides of the hole bumped back together. Well…?

When I was growing up, 20 miles outside of Chicago, there often were nightly storms in the summer. My brothers and I would kneel in an upstairs window and watch. The heaving trees, tossing in the wind in the unearthly light of the lightning, were dramatic.

But buildings of that place and time all wore lightning rods, and I remember one night when a bolt struck the house and ran the electric wires to an outlet box, instantly followed by thunder. The operation was extremely noisy. The contents of the box were melted and fused.

When I first came to the Okanogan, I was amazed that there were so few electrical storms, and so it has seemed for many years. Having two as close together as we have just had is unusual. But lightning rods here are very few in number, if, indeed, there are any.

I have been hunting, so far without success, for a passage in Stewart’s book which said that two banks of cloud, moving in their respective paths, were such that if they had ever come together, there would have been an explosiveness which would dwarf any bomb we had ever made.

This was in 1941. Now I wonder about that statement. But so far, though I have hunted for it, I have not found it.

Years ago there was a movie named “The Unchained Goddess,” which was a fascinating explanation of weather, its terms and principles. How I wish someone would issue a DVD of that film! It explained a great many things and did it with flair and imagination.

Meanwhile, I wonder if it will storm again tonight.

Elizabeth Widel is a columnist for

The Chronicle. This is the 2,852nd column in a series. She may be reached at 509-826-1110.


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