Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Summertime: Another Day, Another Storm...

Duluth and the entire Northland have been hit with unusually severe weather this summer, possibly the worst stretch in our recorded history. But other years have also produced periods of rain and storms here that, if not quite as severe as the storms of 2012, got our attention and caused their share of damage. I wrote this column in July 1995 after one such period in our past that seemed very much like this summer. It’s part of the collection in my book “Cooler Near the Lake.”  It seemed apt to repeat it since we’re going through a similar stormy period. – Jim Heffernan

Summertime: Another Day, Another Storm
By Jim Heffernan

Summertime, when the livin’ is easy…

Ho, hum. It does get a little monotonous in summer. Every day becomes like the one before it in a steady succession of summertime routine.

You wake up to the tune of tornado sirens blaring and the clock radio blasting warnings of impending danger.

You climb out of bed and quickly throw on some clothes so that you won’t be too embarrassed when they find your body.

You hastily close the windows of your house to avoid sheets of rain coming in and shrinking your carpets.

You glance skyward out the window and see dark clouds roiling above as though it were the end of the world.

Lightning flashes in the sky over your house and tumultuous thunder follows immediately, indicating that the center of the storm is exactly where you are.

You tune in your radio to the weather service frequency where personnel are issuing urgent instructions on what to do and what not to do (do not get on a “down” elevator if the basement is full of water, etc.).

You turn on the cable TV weather channel and on-air personalities are concerned about a “tropical low” heading toward Bermuda, although across the bottom of the screen local conditions are written out telling persons in St. Louis, Carlton, Douglas, Bayfield and Washburn counties, and anyone on the open waters of Lake Superior, to get their affairs in order.

You make your way to the southwest corner of your basement and huddle in the fetal position on the cold concrete floor, mumbling prayers imploring the Almighty to spare you.

Your electricity fails and two or three trees blow down in your yard.

Your lawn furniture disappears from your deck and afterward you find it sticking out of the windshield of your neighbor’s car.

Your dog announces he is moving to Canada.

Fifteen minutes later the storm subsides and you emerge from the basement and begin resetting all of your clocks.

You decide to venture outside, and find the temperature and humidity are so high that cattle and turkeys are dropping in their tracks. Overheated radio announcers recite warnings about becoming overheated, recommending the public drink plenty of liquids.

You resolve to stop drinking plenty of solids.

You catch a bus and as you ride through neighborhoods you see trees and branches strewn in yards and on roadways.

You get off at Duluth’s Karpeles Manuscript Museum and offer to sign a last will and testament for them to display, but they turn you down because you are not George Washington.

Later, you go for a walk in a remote clearing where aliens swoop down in a saucer-like space vehicle, take you aboard, give you a complete physical examination, tell you your cholesterol is high, and hand you a bill for $595 and change.

For supper you decide to cook outdoors on your kettle grill, and, upon opening it, you find it contains a dead raccoon with a yellow stripe up its back.

You hit the sack about midnight, noting a near-full moon is brightly shining and stars are twinkling. Not a cloud in the sky.

About seven hours later, the tornado warning goes off and you begin the whole routine all over again.

Summer can be a boring time.

Originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune on Sunday, July 16, 1995

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