Friday, July 21, 2006
I love a good storm. The lightening, thunder and wind bring with them a humbling message; a reminder we are, in the grand scheme of the Universe, small, insignificant and much more vulnerable than we allow ourselves to believe.

A good storm is like a great mystery novel; alive with action, drama and energy building to its conclusion – a grand finale you hope will spare the heroes and punish the villains. Wednesday night our area had all the storm drama one would ever want to pack into one summer.

St. Louis has been under a heat advisory for the last four days, the kind of unrelenting temperatures and humidity that strains air conditioners and inflates electric bills. I looked forward to the predicted thunder storms last Wednesday, as they bring with them a front of cool air in addition to the spectacle of eerily colored skies painted by lightening.

Every Wednesday evening you’ll find me at our local VA hospital, attending The Philosopher’s therapy group for veterans. What I do there can’t be described as volunteer work or a simple interest in the occupation of my other-half. I care about the people who attend and, unlike my experiences with adoption groups, feel a sense of belonging in their company. I get much more than I give, relating to the veterans and learning much about myself through the process of group. It nearly takes an act of congress to get me to miss a Wednesday gathering.

Last Wednesday, group settled into its rhythm before the winds kicked up, but when they did, accompanied by the instant darkness of a massive power-outage, several of us raced out to our cars to roll up windows. The sky turned an eerie blend of red and black and the sound of snapping branches from the forest of old oaks guarding the hospital lead me to quickly abandon my car and head for cover. I braced myself against a gust of wind threatening to knock me from my feet while watching the same gust snap a beautiful maple tree in half just yards ahead.

Group carried on as the storm gained momentum, our little room lit by emergency lighting. That all of us were willing to sit together in the dark, continuing our discussion as Mother Nature unleashed her wrath outside, bears testament to the power of what transpires every Wednesday night. The only threat to group that evening was the rising temperature of a hospital without air conditioning, but we were all determined to remain until things became unbearable.

Upon hearing metal sheering from the roof of the building, my curiosity did lead me to the lobby for a quick peek outside. Greeting me was a gathering crowd of hospital residents, standing in awe of the scene just beyond the lobby doors. On the other side of the glass, debris raced horizontally across the front of the building, backlit by the lights of police cars stationed to prevent anyone from leaving.

New to Midwest storms, I felt like child who’d just witnessed her first snowfall, excitedly offering group a weather report in what must have appeared as overly exaggerated wonderment.

The Philosopher asked if there were cows flying past the window. “Cows and semi-trucks. It’s a mess out there,” I said, visualizing a scene from Twister and realizing the storm was likely a novelty only to me.

The wind and rain passed. When group dispersed into the parking lot still darkened by the storm clouds and power outage, only the occasional belch of lighting from the dwindling storm revealed the damage. Fallen trees, branches and debris appeared and disappeared with each burst of lightening, like watching a movie one frame at a time.

Our home greeted us with lights and, blessedly, air conditioning, but no traces of bad weather. As my excitement from the storm began to fade, I wondered if I hadn’t been a bit of a drama queen over the whole ordeal. Until I read the news reports.

By morning, St. Louis was in an official state of emergency. The National Guard arrived to move people from sweltering homes to air-conditioned buildings and overturned tractor-trailers were among the debris littering the highways. The VA hospital’s patients were being evacuated and newspaper meteorologists reported one tornado spawned from the storm:

"Wednesday's severe storm spawned what officials say
might have been a tornado at Jefferson Barracks
and Telegraph roads in south St. Louis County."

At our hospital. Outside our group room.

I felt a little vindicated about my, now justified, wide-eyed excitement. But I mostly felt proud; proud that the group of people I spend Wednesday evenings with value their time together to such a degree, not even a tornado diverts them from their duties to one another.

(Photo credits to The Philosopher, who captured the storm fall-out the following morning)
Rhonda Ruminated at 1:17 PM | Permalink |

19 Ruminations:

  • At 8:17 PM, Blogger Charlie

    Knowing that all of you are safe, I can mourn the death of the trees.

    I have always had an affinity for trees—the elms and maples and chestnuts that I grew up with—and so it is sad when I see them uprooted in sudden violent death.

    I believe that, in a former life, I was a Druid; or hopefully, I will be in my next life.

  • At 8:23 PM, Blogger Rhonda


    It kills me to see trees destroyed too. The hospital lost about 100, some of them oaks over 100 years old. So we'll be mourning right along with you.

  • At 10:35 AM, Blogger Mia

    During our recent storm I kept thinking of one thing as I watched the wind bend the trees unmercifully....the nests. I just kept thinking there was no way those tiny baby bird nests could withstand that wind.
    The next morning we went out looking but found no nests. Maybe they are stronger than I thought. I think I underestimate strength and endurance a lot.

  • At 11:46 AM, Blogger Rhonda


    The first thing I noticed, when Bob brought home the photos the next day, is that some of the fallen trees were hollow.

    All I could think of was baby raccoons, even though it is late in the season and babies are likely moved from their nests by now.

    I was relieved they did not start cleanup on the tree mess right away so that, if there were babies living in those old, hollow oaks, their mothers had time to move them.

    As exciting as it was to witness the storm, the thought of lost trees and misplaced critters bothers me beyond belief.

  • At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Beki

    It's so sad the trees have succumbed to the storms and the wee beasties that called them home.

    We had amazing fork lightening last night.

  • At 3:01 AM, Blogger St Jude

    I'm glad that you were all safe. I can relate to your excitement. I remember my first 'twister' I was staying with my family in the States. I just stood awestruck in a wonderful way. They had to drag me inside the storm shelter. I've never forgotton it.

  • At 12:23 PM, Blogger kim

    awww theres the kitty face i adore :)

    sorry i got sidetracked there...

    I love a good storm!! Its for lack of a better word ...electrifying :)
    Im glad you guys were all ok

  • At 5:11 AM, Blogger Ruth Dynamite

    Wow - scary and, as you say, humbling. Glad you're OK.

  • At 11:15 AM, Blogger Nikki

    I'm glad you're okay Rhonda. I've been thru 5 of those things.

    They scare the crap out of me.

    Can you say "irrational fear of thunderstorms?"

  • At 6:02 PM, Blogger Kevin Charnas

    I really miss summer thunderstorms and lighting bugs.
    But, I have to agree with you and Charlie, my first thought was the poor trees...they're magnificent beings that don't get enough credit.

    I am glad that you're safe and sound though.

  • At 7:24 AM, Blogger BloggingMone

    Good to know you are all safe. Your story reminded me of a German saying that goes:" Everything is bigger in America!" (America = U.S. in this case). We do have storms, but as we are only a small coutry, we only have small storms. During the last years we had a problem with floods, destroying houses and very old buildings and people were even killed. All that is sad enough, but over here people made a big fuss and acted as if nothing in the world could be worse. But I am always amazed when I see reports on TV about storms (never seen a real twister!), the floods in New Orleans or even snow in the USA. It's just completely beyond imagination for us. And the damage done is unbelievable. Reports about storms and twisters usually end with showing villages or towns completely flattened to the ground. But it seems to be that houses are very fragile, at least in some areas.

  • At 4:08 PM, Blogger Attila The Mom

    Holy cow!

    Glad you're all ok. :-)

  • At 3:53 PM, Blogger Wade

    Rhonda, I think you have a great blog here and I have truly enjoyed reading it today, it has the healing therapy of a good group. Your tribute to Chris brought my inner feels to the surface. I miss see you and The Philosopher at group,by the way, he told me about your blog. I just wish there was an ocean there. My inner self longs to be there... and to be near the sea. One without the other leaves me with an empty space inside. Wade

  • At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Rhonda, I think you have a great blog here and I have truly enjoyed reading it today, it has the healing therapy of a good group. Your tribute to Chris brought my inner feels to the surface. I miss see you and The Philosopher at group,by the way, he told me about your blog. I just wish there was an ocean there. My inner self longs to be there... and to be near the sea. One without the other leaves me with an empty space inside.

  • At 4:14 PM, Blogger Mel

    Rhonda, I am wondering if you fell off the planet! I've seen you comment recently, but no blogging?
    C'mon, now...

  • At 5:52 AM, Blogger pendlerpiken

    where have you gone?
    I am usually more of a lurker, but I have missed your wonderful writing lately...

  • At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Beki

    Rhonda - where are you?? Missing your posts!

  • At 11:02 AM, Blogger Mia

    Just an "I'm OK" would work too lady. Being selfish here but really wanting to know all is well and you haven't been swept up by a tornado or something!!!

  • At 6:34 AM, Blogger Kim Ayres

    Nothing for quite some time, Rhonda. Are you ok?