Bike Rides: Severe Thunderstorm WarningPublished 12:42am Saturday, October 6, 2012
I’ve always said “drought” is just a negative term for a long stretch of beautiful weather. My anecdote is probably not as funny as it was before Iowa lost virtually all of this year’s corn harvest. After all, a
dry spell is one thing and complete desertification of the Corn Belt is quite another.
The only real severe thunderstorm threat this year came after midnight on Sept. 5, mostly in the form of heavy wind and an intense but brief downpour of rain. The nocturnal gale did minor local damage too, downing tree limbs, scattering debris and impressively kicking the knees right out from under the KSMQ- TV tower at Riverland College.
“This is the most wind I’ve seen in a long time,” I heard an officer stationed on the west side of town report to the dispatch center over the emergency
“Yes!” I said out loud to myself while hurriedly sliding my heaviest duty raincoat over my arms “Good time for a bike ride!”
I’ve grown to love thunderstorms and really hadn’t gotten a good fix this year. It hasn’t always been this way; severe weather terrified me as a child.
Just how and when I learned to tolerate and now even embrace the elements I can’t say. I certainly have not successfully overcome other phobias (big open water and flying are still holding atop my list of neurosis).
“The national weather service warns winds could exceed 60mph” replied the dispatcher just as I was opening the garage door.
“60 miles per hour? Wow!” I thought, excitedly slamming the door shut, mounting the Raleigh then rushing directly into the approaching front. The wind at first was noisy, raining drought dried leaves everywhere, but still well below the forecasted extremes. I live on Third Avenue SE near Ellis School (stalkers welcome) and started west, then zigged south before zagging westerly again.
It was on 4th Avenue that I got my first taste of a warning worthy gust. I could barely hold my feet on the pedals and labored to keep the bicycle upright as we wobbly advanced in a side to side fashion. I crawled for four blocks, struggling to breathe through the wind gusts stretching my skin back taught on my face while stinging water droplets pelted me.
The ragging wind was gripping the trees at the trunk and shaking them back and forth violently crashing branches down around me. Garbage cans tipped over scattering milk cartons, pizza boxes and junk mail throughout the neighborhood. How is it that storms automatically seem to know to come on garbage night? I pushed on, dodging trash bombs while at the same time keeping a fluttering eye out for errant power lines.
Finally I turned back east again. No human energy was necessary to advance whatsoever; I simply stood high on my pedals and sailed down the road, letting an extraordinary gust sail me six blocks back again while I slalomed my way around the debris piles in the street. My speed topped 25 mph before I pressed heavily on the saturated disc brakes in order to make the corner. From there, I simply did circles around the area blocks as the storm moved east, determined to ride the bucking bronco out until the conditions outside were tame again.
Once inside I stripped down in the garage, toweled me and the Raleigh off and turned in. Just as I was drifting into sleep came a text from alerts@kaaltv: “Severe thunderstorm warning for Mower County until 1:15 a.m.” I looked warily at the alarm clock: 3:15 a.m. Thanks for the warning.
Traffic Tip: I’ve driven from border to border east to west a thousand times; there is not a more congested section of Interstate 90 than the five miles through Austin.
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