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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Community Comment

Put a little spark in your life…


Good afternoon Netizens...


Clatter, bang, sizzle. Clatter, bang, sizzle, rumble.


I have forborne the talking idiots on television weather the last day or so, because they do not know of that which they speak when they describe the events of yesterday morning as “severe thunderstorms”, at least here in Spokane. Having lived in the Midwest, South and other places where truly severe thunderstorms are commonplace rather than the exception to the rule, I can only recall one time in my 20-something year history of living in the Spokane when I actually witnessed a severe thunderstorm, and that was when I was living in Stevens County which, in those days, didn't necessarily appear on the Spokane weather reports, anyhow.


If I wanted to reliably know the weather forecast in those days, I did as I have always done, and watch the skies plus whatever technology that was available at the time. (The state of our NEXRAD weather radar in those days left a lot to be desired, unfortunately). The wildlife always showed when a pretty good thunderstorm was imminent because they would all but disappear into the thickets and woods before things started getting interesting.


One of my clients who lives down in Alabama, once described a severe thunderstorm as rattling the windows in his house in their casements as something that goes on for an hour or more, with each lightning strike hitting about every two minutes or so and lasting for nearly an hour. If you can accept this definition of a severe thunderstorm, by comparison, yesterday we only had one lightning strike that rattled the windows, although there were numerous rumbles and grumbles off in the distance.


I would imagine that others than myself may have even had “close encounters” with lightning. My first took place when the lightning struck our old-time hand crank telephone and then jumped from it to the furnace thermostat. We heard, rather than saw the spark jump, about the same time as the thunder rattled the entire house. We knew we had been hit, and when the batteries in the telephone began smoking, we knew the phone had taken a hit. It wasn't until later we learned about the thermostat and even the furnace itself. I don't care what anyone says, stay off the phone during a lightning storm.


Of course no tale of lightning strikes is complete without the obscure, where lightning did the unpredictable and even frightening. My grandmother, grandfather and I were standing at one end of the kitchen during a truly Midwestern severe thunderstorm, but in the muggy heat, we had left the back door open, with just a screen door between us and the lightning out-of-doors. Once again, all we saw was the simultaneous bright flash of light and the immediate crash of the thunder. My grandmother screamed, because a butcher knife that had been sitting on her new electric stove went flying across the room six feet and stuck in the bathroom door, about two inches deep. All the lights went out, and much to our chagrin, we later learned we had to replace the electric stove, as it was fried, too. Warning!! Don't stand in front of a screen door during a lightning storm.


Perhaps the most-recent event, which took place at a doctor's house on the South Hill, set out to prove that a lightning strike can be devastating. The lightning struck a tree about six feet from the doctor's house, burned a path across his lawn to his telephone box. However the damage to the good doctor didn't end there. Following his telephone lines, it jumped to his computer, frying all its components, then jumped to the microwave and ate it, too. In all it took a FAX machine, a Waring blender/mixer and several other pieces of kitchen electronics. The insurance claims ran into the thousands of dollars, and it took me over an hour to explain it to their disbelieving claims agent.


Of course during one of our trips to the Midwest, lightning hit my brother-in-law's corn silo, jumping from there to his Farmall Tractor, frying all the wiring on it, and then traveling across the yard about 20 feet or so and taking out his well pump controls. The next day a tornado narrowly missed the farm.


So I've had my adventures with lightning storms. What about you?



Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.