Summer is now upon us and along with fun outdoor activities come the threat of some serious weather at times. Thunderstorms especially have frightened me since I was a child. Scary as they may be, I have learned to cope with them and take several precautions to make sure I’m prepared.
I remember camping in the Berkshires during the summer of 1957 and, my dad was always good at distracting me from my fear of storms. On a Thursday afternoon, as thunder and rain cut our swimming time short, my dad teased my brother and me by saying “Henry Hudson was bowling in heaven.” This eased my fear as we tried to dodge the rain drops on our way back to the camp site.
As an adult, I began finding my own ways to cope with thunderstorms. While my father’s humor helped when I was younger, preparedness and preparation would serve as a good distraction in my later years. I would run around closing windows and unplugging unnecessary appliances to be sure that my home stayed dry and certain electronics wouldn’t be destroyed if there was a sudden power surge.
One Friday evening in June of 1991 there was violent thunderstorm in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Marshall and his daughter Pam loved the flashes of lightning and dramatic crashes of thunder. I decided to be brave and joined them in our partially enclosed breezeway. As I heard the heart stopping violent crashes of thunder, I clung to Marshall and thought, “I must be crazy to be out in this storm with them.” As I grew more accustomed to my closer-than-normal interaction with the storm, I went towards our metal screen door was about to touch the handle when a crash of thunder sent me running back to them. I think that, maybe, fate intervened to save me from potential danger on that stormy evening. Marshall always thought I was over-cautious, but advice from NOAA weather and several horror stories have proven me right more often than not.
When I became a widow, I found sure-fire ways of coping with these storms. I always shut off my computer, take out the window fan, and shut windows. I will also not use a landline phone, wash dishes or clothing, and do not cook or use the microwave during a storm.
NOAA weather warns, “If you can hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning.” Do not wash dishes or clothing, or shower during a storm. Lightning can travel through pipes and water is an excellent conductor of electricity. Close windows, and when appropriate, turn on air conditioning to stay comfortable. Shut off and unplug desktop computers and avoid corded phones until the storm passes. Most importantly, if you are outdoors swimming or barbecuing or doing other activities, go inside when storms threaten your area.
Since many of us do not have sight to sense approaching storms, there are some ways to tell when one is on its way. First, the air is often very still with oppressive humidity. If the wind ever picks up drastically, a storm will approach your area soon. Increased static on the AM band is one more way you can know that lightning is in your area, as well.
If you like these storms, then spring and summer is the prime time for them all across the country. But no matter where you stand on them, take precautions when they come–they can save your life, electronic equipment, and property.