Welcome to Spring in Cape

Spring day in Cape 03-25-2015I was driving around North Sprigg this afternoon looking for the old Shivelbine house before SEMO preserves it in a landfill. The address I had been given was wrong, so I was turning around in a driveway when I saw these young folks cavorting on a rooftop. I gave them a friendly wave so they’d think I was a little less creepy. I’m not sure it worked.

Shades of the old days

Sunbathing girls c 1966That reminded me of this single frame I must have taken when I was visiting my future best man, Andy McLain, at his apartment off William somewhere near Pacific. The place was pretty rundown, but I think I see why he stayed there.

Better get an umbrella

Hail 03-25-2015The weather report said we were going to have a front blow through that was going to bring a couple days of rain, so I went looking for a large umbrella to replace the one I forgot to put in my new van. Just after I got in the house, the weather alert went off with a severe thunderstorm warning. I wasn’t overly concerned because it sounded like the cell was north and east of us.

Not too long after that, though, the alert sounded about a strong storm near Mable Hill headed our way. This one had high winds, a possible tornado and large hail. When the first few small hailstones started falling, I debated jumping in the van and heading to the funeral home overhang, but all of a sudden the sky opened up. It was too late.

Marble size and bigger

Hail 03-25-2015I’ve been in hailstorms where the stones were bigger, but I’ve never experienced having so much ice fall at one time and propelled so hard. The way the stones were pounding against the kitchen window, I was afraid the glass was going to break.

Here’s just a little of the ice on my windshield about 15 minutes after the main storm quit, and after the rain had melted them smaller than their original pea and marble size.

Yard and street covered

Hail 03-25-2015In a matter of a minute or two, the street and yard were a solid white.

Hail makes me uncomfortable

Hail 03-25-2015I love storm chasing, but hail makes me uncomfortable. When you get large hail, that means there are some serious winds in that storm bouncing the ice around.

These photos don’t do the hail justice: while it was falling, there was too much water on the storm door to shoot through it, and I couldn’t open the door because I was afraid the wind might blow it from my grasp. By the time I could shoot these, quite a bit of rain had fallen and melted the ice.

Rabbit and solar lights OK

Hail 03-25-2015So far as I can tell, Mother’s solar lights and rabbit came through unscathed. I hope I don’t see any dimples on my car in the morning. Click on the photos to make them larger.


Snow on Cyders’ Mountain

TJ Cyders w stuck ATV 03-05-2015Jessica Cyders, curator of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum in Athens, Ohio, and her husband, T.J., live on the top of a tall hill in a rural part of Athens County, a place that practically defines “rural area.”

How tall is the hill?

She texted this photo captioned, “TJ got the ATV stuck in the Ken Steinhoff Memorial Ditch. I just helped him pull it out with the winch. Snowshoes came in handy today.”

Steeper than it looks

Messenger box in snowThe last time she and I took a road trip from Cape to Athens, we rolled into town late to find her driveway covered with wet leaves. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to make it up it,” she warned me.

I gunned the van. I mean, what does SHE know, she just lives there.

Just a little beyond where T.J. is standing, the road kicks up a few degrees. It was there that the traction control kicked in, then the wheels started spinning out. I conceded defeat and stomped on the brakes. The car started sliding back down the hill with all four wheels locked. I might as well have been on ice.

I booted her out to make it up to the house by herself, and started to back down the lane, which, unfortunately, has some curves in it. Every time I had to make a correction or step on the brakes, gravity would take over.

Ken Steinhoff Memorial Ditch

Snow and sky and treesThe next thing I knew, I was in a slow slide into a ditch. It didn’t matter if I gunned the engine or put on the brakes, it was just a slow-motion train wreck. I called Jessica on my cell to tell her about my predicament.

She and T.J. ambled down to see how bad the situation was. She had a smirk on her face.

T.J. teaches engineering at Ohio University, so I counted on him to take one look and say, “No problem. I’ll just go back to the shed and get some duct tape and some binder’s twine and we’ll have you out in less time than it’ll take the Little Woman to heat up some hot chocolate and bake us some cookies.”

Instead, he shook his head and said, “You need a wrecker.”

 “Call me a wrecker”

SnowshoesI remember an exchange on the police scanner one night in the distant past: “Athens 1 to HQ, Call me a wrecker.”

“OK, Athens 1, you’re a wrecker.”

When it’s almost midnight-thirty on a cold, blustery, rainy weekend night, it’s not a good time to call for a wrecker. The first two companies said, “We’ll be there on Monday morning. If we can find you.”

The third guy said, “I’ve got my shoes off and I’m sitting where it’s nice and warm watching my girlfriend do her homework. But, I’ll be there shortly.”

I didn’t even ask how much it was going to cost. It didn’t matter.

The wrecker went sliding down the hill

Creek with snowAbout 40 minutes later, the wrecker showed up. After a little backing and filling, the driver hooked up a tow cable to my van. He told me to stay in the vehicle to “help” him try to move it. I’ve seen what happens when a cable snaps, so I wasn’t crazy about being in direct line of the tow, but I also couldn’t open the driver’s side door because it was up against a bank.

He took up the slack on the cable, the van gave a little lurch, then the wrecker started sliding toward me. He repositioned the wrecker, gave another pull, and got the same result.

It was time to get creative. He rigged a pulley to a tree on the opposite side of the road and said he was going to try to pull me crossways in the road, with the eventual hope that he could get me onto a solid surface pointing downhill.

When he finally got me to a 90-degree angle to the roadway, he said, “Give it the gas. See if you can pull yourself up and out.”

“You can’t see it in the dark, but about four feet in front of me is a steep drop-off that ends up in a creek,” I warned him. “If it grabs hold, you’re going to see a blur and hear a splash.”

“You’ll be OK,” he assured me.

He was right

Snow angel selfieThe tires got some bite, I got pointed downhill, he unhooked the cable and said he’d go to the top of the hill to turn around, then he’d meet me at the bottom to settle up.

The trip down was a little interesting, but I made it down to flat ground where their lane meets what passes for a real road. I waited. And waited. And waited. After about 30 minutes, he pulled alongside me.

“I thought I was going to have to call a wrecker for the wrecker,” he said.

“Are you the owner or a worker bee?” I asked him.

“I own the company, but I’ll entertain an offer right now.”

The job cost me a hundred bucks plus a tip. Worth every penny of it.

I was about as happy as Curator Jessica doing a snow angel selfie.

[Thanks to Jessica for providing the photos.]


New Emergency Sirens

Kingsway Dr tornado warning siren 11-16-2013We saw a bunch of heavy equipment parked around the fire station up the street, plus a big pole on the ground. When I got back from Perry County the other day after dark, Mother said there was some new kind of gizmo sticking up in the air.

It turned out to be one of the new emergency sirens the city was installing to augment the four it already had. When we went under a tornado warning the other night, we could barely hear a siren off in the distance.

Of course, that might be because Mother is Storm Central. She had the TV blaring, a scanner in the living room talking away and she was holding a portable scanner. From time to time, the weather alert radio in the hallway would add to cacophony.

Ain’t no storm going to sneak up on her.

Bad weather has been in the news

Kingsway Dr tornado warning siren 11-16-2013For about a week, the weather folks have been hyperventilating about a cold front predicted to move through here this weekend. Much to their dismay, it looks like it’s just going to be – as they are fond of saying – just a “wind event.”

… Wind Advisory in effect from 8 am to 8 PM CST Sunday…

 The National Weather Service in Paducah has issued a Wind Advisory… which is in effect from 8 am to 8 PM CST Sunday.

 * Winds will increase and become strong and gusty Sunday ahead of an approaching storm front.

 * Timing: south winds will really pick up during the daytime hours Sunday as a weather front approaches. The strongest winds with the highest gusts will be ongoing through the midday and into the afternoon hours.

 * Winds: south winds will average 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 40 to 50 mph at times. These will be the regular gradient winds occurring without the aid of a thunderstorm.

It’s probably good this isn’t going to be a big deal storm, because the new siren hasn’t been hooked up yet.

This is not a good thing

Kingsway Dr tornado warning siren 11-16-2013“This is not a good thing,” I warned her. “I can write the story right now: ‘A house at the corner of Kurre Lane and Kingsway Drive, just a hundred yards from an inoperative emergency siren, was struck by a tornado that picked the structure up and carried it to parts unknown. Observers reported hearing what they thought sounded like a police scanner getting fainter and fainter as the house was sucked up into the clouds. City work crews will have the siren hooked up Monday evening.'”

Kinda makes me think of Guy Clark singing Tornado Time in Texas:

well, the sky was blacker than a funeral suit

hotter than a depot stove;

hide in the cellar

here comes amarillo

blowin down the road

ya got yer hail stones big as hen eggs, boy,

yer clouds as green as can be

old mother nature’s raisin hell

she parked a pickup in a tree.

tornado time in texas

take the paint right off of your barn

tornado time in texas

blow the tattoo right off of your arm


The Rains Came

I-75 Rain storm GA 08-18-2013After all the fits and starts of Day One of my Return to Florida Journey, I was hoping things would go better Sunday. I saw it was raining, so I slept in to give it a chance to pass through.

It was late, so I skipped breakfast so I could stop at Dave’s Modern Tavern atop Monteagle Pass for their incredible lobster bisque and Oink Moo Burger. It was as good as ever.

Traffic was light going through Atlanta. I don’t think we ever came to a creep and crawl full stop through the whole town. Just about the time I hit the Macon bypass, the sky opened up. Southbound traffic was moving OK, but I saw the northbound lanes backing up and emergency vehicles headed that way. I took that as a sign to stop at the next rest area for a 22-minute nap to let the bad weather move on.

Weird storm cloud

Not too far down the road, this strange cloud came up. Fog was swirling out of the trees and the leading edge of this squall was white, not black. A couple of miles down the road, it was monsoon city.

Maybe somebody can explain to me why people drive with their four-way flashers on. I admit to turning mine on if there is a sudden slowdown in traffic, but I turn them back off as soon as I see the vehicles behind me are slowing. Three lanes of idiot drivers kept blinking away for four or five miles, making it impossible to figure out if they were braking or just blinking.

I hit moderate to heavy rain off and on all the way to Florida, but traffic was light and my Rain-X kept the windshield clear.

It’ll be good to get home Monday night. I wonder if the locks have been changed?