Friday, July 22, 2011

Anticipation and aftermath

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Last weekend we had some wicked thunderstorms, not the biggest storm I have been in out at the ranch but we had a few squalls go right over the top of us, rattling and shaking the house. The dog was a mess and frankly so was I. It is no secret that I don't care for thunderstorms. Of course I always welcome the life-giving rain brought to our parched desert landscape. One thing I have never understood is guests of the ranch from the midwest or even Florida asking if we get big thunderstorms out here and sighing nostalgically as they proclaim how much they miss them.

I liken thunderstorms to children coming to visit for the weekend. The vast majority of storms are like the calm, well mannered child - the thunderstorm is eagerly anticipated, the rains are metered out through a couple days so that no one squall overwhelms the landscape. Their visit is so fresh and renewing and we are sad for their departure.

The rest of the storms are like the hyperactive wildcard of a child. We spend all our time racing around trying to keep the kid out of trouble. There are tantrums, fits and paths of destruction. The adults are edgy and when the car finally drives away, there is no time to breathe a sigh of relief since we must now attend to the disaster left behind.

I suppose I could see the enjoyment of an urban thunderstorm, wrapping myself in a blanket with a cup of tea brooding over life or a good book. Yet out here the storms feel different and one can feel very exposed and singled out when the storm rumbles solely over our acreage.

We need the rain so desperately but it frequently comes with complications. Lightning strikes the house or a tree and starts a fire. Or the ultimate injustice- dry lightning. In a place with no fire department, range fires summon all the locals to help, whether it is on your land or not. Heavy rains wash the fields or the roads, they even nearly washed away Lloyd's house once. Hail can destroy an entire crop in a matter of minutes and one can't help but worry about the livestock spread out across the property. The power gets knocked out and while it usually returns within a few hours, you always wonder if this will be one of the times when the power is out for a week.

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During a thunderstorm one of the first tasks for us is to go shut down the pumps in the wells. Even though there are systems in place to protect the pumps, in the event of a strike to a power pole, the electricity surges through the line seeking a place to ground out. We aren't particularly keen on it grounding down one of our 400 foot wells and frying the submersible pump. So we turn everything off, just in case.

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During our storm last weekend, Nathan was on his way to turn off the pumps when he noticed one of our power poles split right town the middle which explained our lack of power down at the house. The power company was surprisingly prompt to repair our isolated weekend outage and we were back and functioning in a few hours.

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Other than the power outage, we got off pretty light for a storm that dumped almost an inch of rain on us (us of the 9 inch rainfall area, who even last year in our record 22.5" rainfall season only received 0.14 inches in July) - the split power poles, the washed fields, road and barnyard and a narrow miss with a big boulder that dislodged from the hillside and planted itself in the middle of the road.

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All the stress and anticipation has passed, we've tidied and repaired the damage from the storm and now we are left with a refreshed and renewed landscape and are already looking forward to our next encounter with the "Thunder Bumpers".

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