C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Stormy nights don't delight

I used to relish the excitement of a good summer storm – the roll and crash of thunder, the sudden shafts of lightning lancing down, the thrashing of wind-whipped trees and the splatter of rain against the window.

One time, fishing alone in a boat on a Minnesota lake, I was caught in just such a tempest. Rowing hard against the gale and the churning waves, it took the best part of a half hour to reach the shore, where my wife and daughters were waiting and watching anxiously.

I remember it as a fine adventure.

Many years before that, while I was on military bivouac, a microburst struck the encampment. Tents were blown down and trees toppled. Several men in the unit were injured, but I suffered no harm.

And in the spring of 1966, only days after returning from our wedding trip, my wife and I stood outside the country cottage that was our first home together and watched with fascination as a strange, dark bank of clouds rolled up in the west.

The next day’s news would tell of a powerful tornado that had dropped from that wall cloud and savaged part of the Kansas capital, Topeka. But because it hadn’t threatened us, we gave it little further thought.

On a recent evening, though, I discovered that my fondness for stormy weather has markedly changed.

The day had been sweltering, with the actual temperature near 100 and the heat index well above that. After an afternoon of errands, we’d staggered into the mercy of air conditioning, almost too limp to eat.

Finally, the hateful sun went out. We retired to the bedroom to read a bit before sleeping. The evening darkened. Sheet lightning flickered outside the window.

We turned on the TV for a weather update.

Thunderstorms headed for your area, said the scroll across the bottom of the screen. Possibly severe.

There was a rumble of thunder at what seemed a considerable distance. Then a mighty peal of it close at hand. Our several furred housemates arranged themselves in a solemn line facing us, watching us watch the television.

Damaging winds, as much as 60 miles an hour, said the scroll. Quarter-sized hail.

The rain came in sheets, accompanied by another thunder crash.

Our alarm system gave a terminal squeak.

The lights went out.

And what I experienced in that moment was not the usual fine excitement of a good nighttime storm. What passed through my mind instead were all the stored images from the ordeals of pain and ruin our midlands region has endured through this terrible spring and summer of violent weather.

I’m glad those storm episodes of earlier years are well behind me. The only weather adventures I long for now are a few mornings in the 50s and a nighttime frost or two to start the leaves turning.