Saturday, April 25, 2009

Summer today

Remember spring?
If you're a teenager, a spring is the place you get all your water from (well, you get all your water from a bottle, but the bottled water probably comes from a spring.) A spring is also an old-school toy called a Slinky. Paired with "roll", it's an Asian appetizer. Or if you say "hand" first, it's a gymnastics move I couldn't perform without hurting myself.
What it isn't, at least anymore, is a season.  We go from snow one weekend to blistering heat the next.
Things used to be more gradual, at least insofar as temperature was concerned. Time was the high temperature in mid to late April would be in the low to mid teens Centigrade, the night time low the standard half of the daytime high, and all was right with the world. There would be a good solid month between the time you could dare to put your winter coat away and the day when total nudity wouldn't suffice to keep you cool. Perhaps as long as six weeks. 
I'd like my childhood springs back. Even then, my vernal verve was tempered by the knowledge that summer's sizzle awaited--it's been a good twenty years since I first observed that people who claim to enjoy summer almost invariably live in air-conditioned houses--but at least back then, I could count on a slow build. Like a frog in a pot, I wouldn't realize I was broiling alive until it was well and truly hot
Today felt as if somebody had lit a flamethrower under my ass. The humidex was a totally un-April-like 31 (88F). Just three days ago, the high was 6 (42F), the low 1 (34F)...and I slept like a little baby. Last night, despite four bedroom fans going full bore and exhaustion borne of riding my bike to work for only the second time this year (too cold until now!)...I slept like crap.

And to cap it all off, to really convince me stinky sweaty summer's arrived, we had a sudden torrential thunderstorm. The first blast of 2009 was rather memorable 'round these parts.
No tornado, thank Fujita. I've seen enough of those to last me a lifetime. No fewer than six twisters have passed within cowshot of my house, and I've never even lived in a trailer park, hyuck, hyuck. One of 'em barrelled down the other side of my street while my six-year-old self stood transfixed in front of a huge window (until Mommy grabbed me and hauled me away) damage to our side of the street, but t'other was a shambles. 

No tornado today...but for a minute I thought one was forming right outside my house.
I'd noted the forecast this morning, keying in on (a) that ungodly humidex reading and (b) the word unsettled. The area around the Great Lakes is one of the most difficult to forecast on the planet. Words like unsettled show up in the forecast to let you know, in the words of Russell Peters, somebody's gonna get-a hurt real bad.

Somebody. Probably not us: it's a big area, and K-W's in something of a metereological dead zone...storms routinely rage and bellow just to our north and west, some of them real nasty buggers, but we're very rarely hit with anything more than a few good stomps of thunder and some 400-thread-count sheets of rain. While it's an urban (ha-ha) myth that tornadoes don't like cities, they aren't the sort of things you expect, even on the edge of one of Canada's Tornado Alleys as we are.

I was sitting at the computer when the WeatherEye at the bottom of my screen changed from a black-on-yellow 27 to a white lightning bolt tinged with red. I clicked on to the Weather Network's site to discover a severe thunderstorm watch had been issued.
I got ready to explain to Eva, again, the difference between a watch and a warning, because she always gets them reversed. To her, a watch is worse than a warning. WARNING: severe thunderstorms may occur. Versus hey, honey, there's a severe thunderstorm watch out. WATCH OUT? WATCH OUT!!!
But Eva was buried in her own computer screen, and I decided not to bother her with the weather news until there was some real weather news to report.
Soon after, she went off to read in bed and I got offline to enjoy my Saturday read-through of the Globe and Mail. I got maybe three sections in (with a meaty paper like that, I'm guessing maybe twenty minutes) before I noticed it was suddenly almost too dark to read.

I stood up from my chair and in mid-stretch the squall line hit. The wind went from breezy to strong gale in an eyeblink. No rain as yet, but it couldn't be far off: the thunder was heralding its imminent arrival and demanding we all bow down. My dogs were anxious to comply. 
You're not supposed to comfort dogs in thunderstorms, or at least that's what I've read. Supposedly all they take from your soft, calming words is that there is indeed something to be afraid of. It's a hard thing to keep in mind when Peach wants to burrow herself right through me. 
It occurred to me our recycling bins could be halfway to Montreal by now. I went to the side door and peered out.
The first spatters of rain were just starting, nothing remarkable in that, but the wind...! I'm guessing a sustained 80 km/hr, possibly a gust or two nudging 100. If I hadn't got out of work early today, I thought, I'd be riding home in this. 
I prepared to bolt out and grab the recycling bins--
--where are they???--THERE--
and was vouchsafed a vision.

We keep our blue bins stacked one inside the other. The bottom one holds newspapers, and weights the top one, full of cans and bottles; that top one keeps the newspapers reasonably dry. That's if the wind is normal and the shower setting isn't on jet. The little stack of recycling was skitting across my driveway and on to the neighbour's even as I watched. And rising. By the time the bins hit the house next door, they were at eye level. 

The should-have-been-a-weatherman in the back of my head was reciting updraft, possible vortex, updraft, possible vortex, updraft, possible dead man WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING as I opened the door and damn near got blown off my feet. The blue boxes had both flipped over so they hit the house top-on, and then ever so slowly, or so it seemed, slid down the bricks and came to rest on the ground. By the time the wind blew me next door, most of the cans and bottles were down the street, or in Oz. The newspapers had barely fluttered. I stole a glance straight up.
No vortex, just very fast-scudding clouds. Lightning seared my eyes and a colossal whack of thunder followed. The idea of lots of brick around me suddenly seemed very sensible, very sane. I hauled the blue boxes back to our little shed and high-tailed it back inside.

Eva was watching the storm from the bedroom window. The TV was out--no great shock there, it's the only thing I hate about Bell satellite as compared to Rogers digital cable.  We listened to the wind walk and talk outside and cuddled together on the bed, Tux and Peach on one side of Mommy, me on the other making sure the lightning wouldn't go up her bum.
After a few minutes, the satellite popped back on and we quickly flipped to 505, the Weather Network. Severe thunderstorm warning, I saw. You think? "Issued at 4:08 p.m." I looked at the clock: 4:27. Best guess, we'd had maybe ten minutes warning. A talking head appeared and mentioned with storms such as these there's the possibility of tornadic activity. Some of the markers--
--like updrafts, I thought--
are there.

The all-clear has sounded and the temperature's down 10 degrees. Maybe, just maybe I can sleep tonight.  Until the next storm comes through, I bid you happy summer.

Bah humbug.

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