Rain doesn’t necessarily mean drought’s end, but it’s still a welcome change

Published 12:51 pm Friday, October 26, 2012

Thursday morning’s agenda called for a four-mile run around southwestern Austin neighborhoods, but just as my alarm clock buzzed, a peal of thunder echoed around the sky and in through the window I had opened wide the night before.

In years past, I would have done the run regardless of lightning, hail, snow or rain. Now I’m just grateful for a chance to roll over and go back to sleep without feeling terribly guilty.

The novelty of Thursday morning’s rain — how many months had it been since I’d laid in bed listening to a storm? — kept me from drifting off, though. Since some time last fall, the number of days when we’ve had a really hard rain has been few indeed, and it seems like I’ve been at work or in the car or someplace besides home for every one of them.

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So the usual rain noises seemed notably unusual. I had almost forgotten there is some kind of vent structure on the roof above our bedroom, and that when it rains very hard the drops strike metal so loudly that it sounds like hail. I had to sit up, fumble for my glasses and stare out into the dark yard to be sure that it was not hailing.

Once the rain really began to fall, I could also hear the trickling sound of water making its way down the downspout just outside the bedroom window. I smiled when I recognized the sound, because we had installed the rain gutters and downspouts just in time for the year-long drought. Although I knew they worked right, it was comforting to hear confirmation.

Statistically, a couple of rainy days don’t foretell an end to the drought. We could go right back to dry, dry and more dry. But it seems like a hopeful sign.

As much as we enjoyed the dry winter of 2011-12, the morning rains made me think longingly about days when I’ve woken up to see snow falling. I hope we actually get some this year. Not too much … but enough to make it look like winter.

From rainy to cool

The rainy Thursday morning marked the onset of a cold front, which is supposed to put an end to the warm and humid weather of this week. Forecasts call for highs in the 40s and lows in the upper 20s through the weekend and into next week so at least those of us who still have leaves to rake won’t be sweating while we work.

Saturday will be leaf-raking day for me, weather permitting, but not until after lunch because my plan is to drive over to the Holiday Inn conference center in time for breakfast and the 9 a.m. start of a candidate forum that the Austin Chamber of Commerce is hosting.

Minnesota candidate events never seem to bring on the rancor that national debates do, but it is still interesting — and sometimes entertaining — to hear what the candidates have to say.

A peek into the past

Although we don’t use it anymore, I occasionally make a tour of the Herald building’s basement, just checking to be sure no water pipes have broken and that raccoons haven’t invaded.

It’s mostly an empty space, but there are a few forlorn shelves and bits of furniture down there. Some years ago, the Herald transferred its microfilm and hard-copy archives to the Mower County Historical Society, but a few stray copies of the paper from days gone by still sit on scattered shelves.

Way back in a corner I came across the 1976 edition of the Herald’s progress edition. The front page was full of news about violence in the Middle East, which seems familiar — although in 1976 it was Tel Aviv, Israel, and Beirut that were the centers of conflict.

One of the big bits of progress reported in the edition was the previous summer’s opening of Oak Park Mall, and there were stories about some of the anchor stores — familiar names like Younkers and Hy-Vee. Trumped as the first restaurant at the mall was Eat at Joe’s. The specialty: A grilled hot dog smothered in a sauce made of hamburger.