Monday, January 26, 2009

Weather in High Def

It could have been a day like many others we've seen lately.

At this time of year, we frequently have high 50's and see storm clouds go sailing overhead to clash with the Sierras to the east.

That's what I thought I was seeing when I opened the garage door to let the afternoon light into my studio. The clouds were varied and gorgeous, and to the south, there were even what looked like a couple tiny showers in the distance.

I was working on a particularly annoying pastel lesson when the first few drops splatted noisily down through the sunlight. I smiled and went back to my work.

Then the splatting came back, louder than before, and there was a flash of lightning to the northwest. A few seconds later a peal of thunder accompanied another wave of drops. I ran to tell the family that the show was on!

In the safety of the garage, we pulled up chairs and sat and watched the hardest rain of the year so far come plummeting down in spite of the sunshine. Thunderstorms are very unusual here, so we found the weather to be very entertaining.

Then Lillian, who was bundled under a blanket on her mother's lap, got the surprise of her life -- ice started falling out of the sky. "Is it real?" she asked, and I retrieved a few tiny hailstones to melt in her hand, the first she'd ever seen.

I've seen it hail a handful of times in the 20 years we've lived in California, passing sprays of little pellets. This time, along with the ongoing roar of the thunder, the hail kept coming down and down. There are more pictures of it here.

And the sun continued to shine, sparkling off the trees, illuminating the waves of hail as they flew through the air, making a rainbow to the east of us (we had to run through the house to see it fro the kitchen door), peeking in and out of the dark clouds.

Then Alex noted, "Look! You can see your breath!" The temperature had dropped rapidly and the wind had kicked up. Bernie had on his good-to-20-degrees faux fur robe, Lil and Alex had blankets, the dogs their fur (though Sebastian was starting to look a little uncomfortable) and I my trusty 20-year old indestructible sweatshirt that's too hot for any time of year except unheated January, so we were all willing to continue to watch the storm.

There was a huge lightning bolt that stretched from cloud to ground in the distance, a loud "boom" of near thunder, and the lights went out! Our lights, from yummy PG&E. Across the street, where they have MID (Modesto Irrigation District) power, windows glowed with light in the growing dark.

I went into the house and opened the woodstove (it's an insert, and uses a fan to put out much of the heat) so that the heat from the firebox would keep the kitchen warm; I put up the spark screen securely, and then Bernie and I returned to the garage with a flashlight kept near, and watched the rain until dark.

While John and Alex and Lil cuddled and played a board game tucked warmly on their bed, Bernie and I lit a couple candles in the kitchen, poured glasses of wine, and played vicious games of dice on the kitchen bar.

And though I grumble about the lesser reliability of PG&E's power, in fact, across the street people were probably watching TV, or surfing the net, or cooking; maybe they were even so virtuous as to be reading books or writing letters. We had the better fortune -- we had each other.

When the lights came back on several hours later, I was ... sort of ... glad.

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