Monday, March 17, 2008

Talking Weather Heads

Saturday afternoon and evening brought a series of storms to the Carolina Low Country and I elect to head north on I-26.

Sheets of rain and mighty fists of wind pummel my SUV somewhere outside of Summerville. Red and amber flashing tail lights come and go with each swift pass of the windshield wipers.

Slowing to 40 mph the wind pushes my suv sideways again and again. Without warning leaves and limbs are suddenly everywhere and all west bound traffic comes to a rapid stop somewhere near Jedburg on I-26.

This is not a gradual work zone slow down to a crawl, this is a complete sudden and dead STOP! After ten minutes I’m bored and punch the FM radio button killing my iPod.

No sound as both my often heard NPR station somewhere at 88.1 and the No. 2 button are dead air. I push the seek button and the numbers rush by until the radio locks on to 103.5 they are carrying the Channel 2 WCBD simulcast weather frenzy show.

Twenty minutes have passed and I am still parked on the rain soaked and debris littered pavement in the eerie post storm quiet, waiting in total darkness for the traffic to start moving again, I decide to shut off the engine and to pass the time listening to the insane play by play on 103 as the storms cris-cross the low country.

Beyond their bumbling and ridiculously repetitive “storm safety facts” I begin to count how many times they feel it necessary to remind us that the picture that I am not seeing is from “Live Storm Team 2 Viper Radar“.

Without the video images I’m forced to focus on every word which makes me realize how helpless I am and how useless these talking weather heads are.

“I’ve never seen so many storm cells at once … errr except during Katrina” one of Storm Team 2 weather guys says.

I punch *HP just as the third SCHP crown victoria rolls by. The cheerful voice on the other end tells me with a light chuckle I’m going to be sitting for a while. She continues that there are several very large trees across the road in both directions. While she is telling me this grim news, I notice that the East bound traffic is only a trickle.

“Let’s go to aaaaaa Jim no Bill ahhhh Bob yes Bob!” the weather heads are still at it and I turn up the volume.

“Bob can you hear me? Bob? Bob?”“It seems we are having some difficultly reaching Bob… can we put up the safety facts again?”

Of course even though I still can’t see the safety facts I have already memorized them.

Stay indoors away from windows. If you don’t have a basement (that’s funny) move to an interior room like a bath room (nope don’t have that) or under a stair case (not that either).

If you are in a car (I listen intently to the information that might save my life) lay down in a ditch or low lying area.

I have many ditches to choose from but laying down in any one of them, would most assuredly result in death by drowning as they filled with rain water measured in feet not inches.

Bob or Bill breaks in:

“We have reports of baseball size hail throughout the low country”. Keep in mind that a baseball has a diameter of 3 inches.

“You’ll notice this cell right here,… wait ok right there see the amazing hook echo, this is a distinguishing feature of a possible tornadic rotation. So if you are in Hollywood, John’s Island, Kiawah Island, Folly Beach you have just minutes before you are under the gun”.

I am of course relived that I’m not under the gun.

Bob who is in the mobile Storm Center 2 Viper Truck is finally reached his voice trembling with fear: “This is most amazing outbreak in the low country since hurricane Hugo!!”

So siting there in my suv waiting for the traffic to get moving again I have placed my life in the hands of a couple of idiots in Charleston some 20 miles away.

I figure I should roll down the windows and have a listen, just in case I need to bail from car should that tell tale “freight train” sound be heading my way.

Two hours and thirty minutes later the traffic begin to move and I wrongly assume that a few mile up ahead I'll find the leftover and some trees and flashing lights of the clean up crew.

But less than two tenths of a mile from where I watched a sideways wind filled with debris, cross the road, I roll across a 100 yards of saw dust, broken pine branches, and needles. The smell of freshly sawed pine and rain fill the air.

A tornado had crossed my path less than 200 yards ahead, there were only two dozen cars between me and certain death. Only pure luck and timing kept me from punching into a tornado in the dark.

The pavement ahead is nearly dry and the sky clears, reveling a Carolina crescent moon high in the sky and I’m thankful that the talking weather heads have called it a night.

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