Home Before the Storm


When a storm comes to the Blue Ridge its approach is heralded long before it arrives. The peals of thunder reverberate off of the mountain slopes in a maestoso performance.

If the storm is close and of moderate intensity not only does the ground shake at the first clap, but also with each round off the mountain sides. The rumble and frequency of the vibration dissipates with each slope bounce. It is not unusual for a second thunder roll to begin before the first one ends. The interplay of peal and echo is a performance that demands the opening of doors and windows, at least until the rain comes, to experience the full auditory majesty of mountain weather.

The nature of the Blue geography is such that there are often pockets of weather. It could literally be raining on the neighbor’s house and my roof will still be dry. It’s a tough area for weather forecasters to get a handle on. A local professor of meteorology has taken student volunteers on summer treks to mount small weather stations on a number of mountain peaks in the region. The goal is to try to develop a more accurate computer model for regional forecasting. His project is still too new to measure the results, but he and NOAA are anticipating a more accurate model for us mountain folk.

It may not seem like that big a deal, however, localized downpours can be quite severe. Landslides and bank erosion are particular problems. I have lost a fair amount of my yard as my small creek struggles and ultimately fails to contain the water from a flash flood. That doesn’t bother me too much, less to mow.

It is an issue for the DOT. We have had several instances of slope sides deciding to head to the valley floor and as a result, taken sections of mountain road with them. A hard rain often means road closures, detours and the clank and clamor of determined earth movers.

Although more accurate forecasting won’t help the DOT, it might help keep us mountain folk drier. The best place to be in a hard rain is indoors with a good book or enjoying a good nap, thunder permitting. In a sense, the approaching storm clouds herd us into our houses like cattle into a barn. Priorities are reorganized with the echo of thunder and a few drops of moisture. All of a sudden the main goal is to get home before the rain.

© 2013, Bruce Denton. All rights reserved.

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