Stormy weather comes to Brownspur

Published 10:50 pm Monday, March 5, 2007

Had a heckuva storm line blow through last night, just about dark. Actually, it was after it should have been dark, but it turned back light, seemed like. Weird.

It was the kind of weather that if my son had been home, he’d have dragged me outside with the admonition, “C’mon, Daddy, let’s go watch this’n move in!” There was thunder and lightning a’plenty, and wind, rain, swirly clouds: the works.

I have a low-pressure sensitivity which makes my ears hurt until the front or cell goes by, at which point, they pop, almost audibly, and certainly painfully. As the low gets lower, the hair on the back of my neck begins to stand up, to the point at which it’ll almost lift my head off the pillow, it seems like — though I’m usually out of bed long before that, during a night-time frontal passage. Therefore, I was up pacing when the nasty weather started moving in yesterday: Saturday night, February 24th. I slipped out into the garage to watch as the darkness closed in.

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The clouds weren’t blowing from the southwest, as they usually do before a front comes through. They were streaming over directly from the south, getting lower and lower, darker and darker, faster and faster. Now and then I could glimpse a sort of rotation, but it would blow by quickly. Then I noticed the sky was getting lighter in the northwest. Well, there’s a town over thataway, but its luminescence is not nearly so bright — nor does it move closer! What was this?

The usual frontal systems we have here at Brownspur consist of the storm front coming up from the southwest, then the cold front pushing through from the northwest — and where the two meet is where most of the heavy weather ensues. For some strange reason, the northwest front was approaching quickly and was lighted, during a time when normally we should have been getting darker, even with a clear sky. I ran indoors to get a look at the barometer: 29.35; then hollered at Betsy to come look at the crazy weather. As we stood and watched, the lighter northwestern front collided with the low dark clouds from the south, and suddenly the wind instantly changed to the northwest, and the cold raindrops started reaching into the back of the garage. The temperature must have dropped 10 or 15 degrees in just a few minutes, so we both headed inside, where we stood at the glass front door and watched it get lighter and lighter outside, though raining in sheets. Thunder and lightning boomed around us, shaking the house, but in 15 minutes, it had calmed down, though still unnaturally light, for as late as it was.

I felt my ears pop, worked my jaw to help them adjust, then stepped into the den to glance at the barometer. Sure enough, it had jumped up to 29.6. The front was past Brownspur and headed to points east.

Aviation novelist Ernest Gann, who had flown all over the world, wrote in his book FATE IS THE HUNTER that there is only one other place on earth which has the sudden intensity of the Mississippi River Delta thunderstorms, and that place was somewhere around India, he said. No, Gann was not from here, he just flew through here many times in the earlier days of aviation.

I love to watch the big fronts come in. There’s a hymn which says it well: “In the lightning flash across the sky His mighty power I see!” The chorus goes, “I’ve seen it in the lightning, heard it in the thunder, and felt it in the rain: my Lord is near me all the time.” Amen, and it’s so apparent in the flat Delta. It’s apparent at sea, too, and during my Navy time, my ship four times went through hurricanes. Went through the eye of one, and I’ve seen the barometer dip below 27 once! And lived to tell about it, though the Navigator yelled on one roll, “Okay, Men, we’re going to test the roll limits on this one – pray that we come back up!” Lowering the port elevator quickly may have saved the ship that time!

The sun was brilliant when it rose Sunday morning. One tornado had ripped up Dumas, Arkansas, during the night, and another had come across just a few miles south of us, around Isola. We’d survived again.

Guess what the first hymn was at church that morning?

No, it had been picked on Wednesday, so as to be printed in the program.