Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Explosive Cyclogenesis or Wow, is it Windy!

I woke up before dawn this morning to the sound of rain pounding on the house roof.   I stretched lazily and thought about rolling over and going back to sleep, until I remembered the weather report for today and tomorrow and then I broke out in a cold sweat.  The weatherman predicted it was going to get very windy today, wait, not just 'windy' but hurricane-force windy with sustained winds in excess of 35-40mph with gusts approaching 60 mph. 

Yesterday the National Weather Service said,"The winds will be a product of an extreme low pressure phenomenon called "explosive cyclogenesis."

Oh, my!

Here was the view to the west early Tuesday morning, the creek was up on the lawn again (we've had almost 3" of rain in the last two days) and the sky was not happy:

  I have never experienced a hurricane, let alone Explosive Cyclogenesis, so I'm nervous. The wind started to pick up a little bit.....sleep was impossible, time to get up and 'batten the hatches' or nail boards over the windows (is that battening and is a window a hatch?) or something.  We're supposed to have this wind all day Tuesday with a slackening off on Tuesday night, followed by an increase in wind on Wednesday with a more westerly shift.
 The woods across the road

Right now we're lucky; our house is protected somewhat by our neighbor's forty acre woods on the south side which is blocking some of the wind, but on Wednesday if the wind switches to the west, our house, garage and garden will be taking the full brunt of the wind.  It's kind of hard to imagine what tomorrow could be like, seeing as how some of the gusts this afternoon have been downright scary as even the woods has a hard time slowing it down.  The house is creaking and groaning and so am I.
 The view from the Thing Garden, looking to the west at 10 AM Tuesday.

So, like I said, I've never experienced a hurricane, not living here in the middle of flat Wisconsin my entire 52 years, no hurricanes venture this far north,thank goodness!  But I have experienced a tornado or at the very least, 'tornadic-like winds'.    

Time for another flash-back, all the way back to 1980.  Carl and I were married in 1978 and had built our little hut in the alfalfa field where we live now, on my parent's farm.  Mom and Dad lived right up the road less than a quarter mile away and were still farming at that time, though they had cut back to around twenty cows after I got married.  

On the night of the Big Wind, Carl and I had been downtown to the county fair and had decided to go home around 2AM (this was B.K.= Before Kids) when it was evident there was a storm brewing to the west.  There were lightning bolts flashing off in the distance just like veritable pitchforks tossed from a haymow, and the air felt clammy and odd.  We drove around for a little while, watching the lightning which appeared to be almost red from a distance.  This could have been due to the amount of dust in the atmosphere or? who knows, but it was really kind of pretty.  If you like lightning bolts...which I do, but I don't, you know what I mean? 

We then realized the storm was getting too close for comfort, so Carl high-tailed it for home, putting the car in the garage and shutting the door.   I made a beeline for the basement with our German Shepherd dog, Sparky, hot on my heels.  The dog and I scurried into the fruit cellar and prepared to hang on for dear life.  The power went out, and we were in the dark.  The lightning and thunder were upon us, the wind was tearing mercilessly at the house, it was so loud it was hard to hear Carl when I asked him if he'd locked the door on his way in the house.  He didn't answer me, so I asked him again.  Still no answer.  Then it dawned on me, Carl wasn't in the basement!  I started hollering for him at the top of my lungs.  He finally answered me, "What's the matter?  I'm upstairs taking pictures of the lightning." 

While I was cowering in the basement with the dog, Carl was on the second floor of our house, taking pictures.  (Is it any wonder our eldest son chases storms just to photograph the lightning?)  Anyway, I went berserk when I found out what he was doing and told him to get downstairs NOW!  The storm was intensifying.

To pacify me, Carl came downstairs.  But he did come not into the fruit cellar to sit on a five gallon pail, put his head between his knees and kiss his sweet patootie goodbye,  like me and Sparky Dog were doing; no, he was now standing on a chair seat, looking out of our little basement window, watching the mayhem.  

"Karen, you really OUGHT to see this, it is AMAZING, I have never seen a storm like this one, " he tried to coax me into joining him. Carl is not normally a person who gets agitated about much, so I knew he was seeing something pretty impressive. 

Against my better judgment, "You're not supposed to stand in front of windows during a bad storm," I said, but, nonetheless,  I climbed up on top of the chair with him and peered out into the maelstrom.  I was worried about my parents too, how were they doing?  At this time, they were in their late 60's.  The wind was incredible, I'd never seen anything like it.
With every lightning bolt, my parent's big red barn was lit up entirely and it was a comforting sight.  All is well yet.  Until the next lightning bolt....wait, where's the barn?  

"Carl! The barn is gone!"

"What? No, it can't be. I'm sure it's still there. It's just the rain making it hard to see."

But then, the next bolt showed us the sickening truth, the barn was, indeed, gone.  We had no choice but to wait out the rest of the storm, which thankfully did abate after another fifteen minutes or so.  We carefully felt our way up the basement stairs and when we got to the main floor, cautiously opened the door to see if there was still a roof overhead.  Amazingly, with all of that wind, we weren't even missing a shingle.  We were very lucky.

There was still a steady downpour pounding down and we got into our car and headed up to Mom and Dad's.  There were trees from the woods down across the road that we had to move so we could drive through. When we finally made it into their driveway,  I was never so happy to see my folks come out of the house all in one piece!  Their house was fine, too, no damage, but the barn was destroyed completely, with about 20 head of cattle still inside.  
 Mom & Dad's farm--minus the barn, 1980
Before we could make a move to help the heifers and cows trapped in the barn, we had to make sure the power was off as there were live power lines down in the driveway.  Mom had called the fire department in our nearby little town, but they said if there wasn't a fire, they wouldn't come out.  Since, thankfully, nothing was burning, we decided to handle it ourselves.   (We found out the next day, that if Mom had called our recently formed volunteer township fire department, they would have come with bells on, and I know that is true, we have an awesome local fire department.)

Mom threw the main power switch in the basement and Carl, Dad and I went out to the barn and let as many cows out as we could.  They were panic-stricken and pulling as hard as they could to get out of their stanchions, which was making us nervous, as the stanchions were the only thing holding up the haymow which had fallen down on top of them.   It was still pitch dark and raining steadily, oh, such a mess, but we got all but one cow out that night.  One was lying down when the barn floor above her fell in, and she couldn't get up due to debris behind her.  When the police showed up and shone their flashlights into the barn from the outside, I could see Lady the Cow, chewing her cud calmly, looking at us as if to say, "Well, I guess I'll be here awhile."  We did get her out, unharmed in the morning.
 Inside of barn, with haymow floor resting on top of stanchions
I was so worried about how my father was going to handle this catastrophe.  Losing a barn is a crisis for a farmer.  It's your livelihood.  But Dad was actually quite calm about it, "I was wondering how I was going to retire, and now I know.  I don't even have to figure out what to do with a big, empty barn anymore.  The decision's been made for me."
The next morning, the heifers are milling around; we were so lucky not to have any fatalities or injuries.

We were so lucky then.  In our neighborhood, there were eight barns damaged or destroyed that night and the path the wind took was obvious through the woods and cornfields.  
Listening to the wind literally howl in the woods right now, it's amazing any of the trees can survive the onslaught.  I know much of the country is having extreme weather right now, so I hope everyone comes through this with as little damage as possible.

Hold on and be safe!



Gatsbys Gardens said...

Karen, what great storyteller you are! You make life so real. We have had quite a day here also extreme winds and a severe storm this morning.p We have stripped out patio of everything that can fly and put all my mum baskets behind bushes.


Zoey said...

Omg, Karen, I was biting my lip through your entire post! I was so glad to hear that all the cows made it!

We have high winds predicted in Michigan, too.

I hope we all make it through. I came home from work and saw that my sweet husband left all my furniture on the deck. I was hoping he would have checked the forecast and moved it all inside.

He won't be home until after 1 pm, so I guess,it is what it is!

Sall's Country Life said...

Karen, What a great story. I'm from South Dakota and was right there with you with my head between my knees kissing my patootie goodbye!LOL! I'm so glad your family and animals were allright. We have raging winds here today also, Hold ON!!

Granny Lyn's Garden said...

So sad to see a barn go down, you have amazing pictures. We had part of another bass tree go down which took out our electricity this morning. WPS was here right away and we were only out for about 45 minutes. I was already at work so missed the big bang it made. Keep safe . Lynda

FlowerLady said...

Wow, Karen, I am feeling your anxiety.

It is five years ago this month that we went through Hurricane Wilma. She was a catagory 3 when she made landfall on the west coast of FL, with winds of 120 mph. She blasted across the state with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph. We lost power the night before she made landfall, and went without for 13 days. I was totally freaked out with this hurricane, living in our little wooden 50's cottage. We even went through the eye, going out during the eye, to check on a shed that had a pine tree in it, when all of a sudden I could sense the backside of the storm coming and hollered to DH for us to get back inside. We did and Wilma's fury continued. Going through the eye is really amazing, as you would never know there was anything going on at all. Blue sky, sun shining, all is calm. It finally vacated the state around 2 p.m.

I am glad your parents and cattle were spared. But what a bummer about the barn. It was a gorgeous old barn.

I hope you and yours are spared any real damages from this nasty weather that is there with you now.

You and others are in my thoughts and prayers.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

FlowerLady said...

P.S. ~ Could you email me through my email on my profile? I see you don't have an email addy here.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

We are getting the wind that you experienced later tonight. Tornados are predicted south of here. I too get nervous with the high winds. I was so spellbound by your story. I was so sad for the Lady cow, then relieved when you wrote she was fine. Wow, to find the barn down. I can not imagine.

Rosey said...

That's quite a story to share. I am glad nobody was seriously injured. I thought that was remarkable about your dad being calm and saying he did not have to worry about the old barn anymore! That's a great attitude to have!

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment.

LC said...

There is a benefit to having a garden with reasonably youthful trees... the damages here are slight although I was also concerned when I heard how powerful these winds were going to be... Larry

Shirley said...

Karen, I sat perched on the edge of my chair reading your story of the night the barn blew down. How incredibly blessed there were no injuries and all the cattle were saved.

Wishing you well and safety during the storm. Take care.


Town Mouse said...

Quite a story, thanks for telling the tale. Glad everyone is all right. I've always felt I'm prepared for earthquake and such disasters, but I'm just glad I don't have to take care of a small herd of cows!

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel