Saturday, April 15, 2006

Weathering the Weather

Last July, while we were on our scouting trip, before moving here, we experienced the worst thunderstorm of our lives. We were driving along the freeway. The rain was so heavy that we couldn't see farther than a few feet. The rain was sheeting down. The thunder thundered and lightening lit up the dark clouds. Many cars pulled in on the shoulder and under bridges, but we decided to keep going. There were many accidents that slowed us down even more. It took over three hours to do a forty-five minute journey.

As I write this it is 88oF (about 30oC), with a light breeze coming in through the windows. The severe drought continues, as do the water restrictions. According to Weather Central, there are chances of thunderstorms this afternoon and tonight.

Since moving here, we've realised that extremes in weather are a fact of life. A beautiful hot day can easily turn into thunderstorms. Rainclouds can appear without warning, drop their payload, then disappear again, to reveal a cloudless blue sky, just as suddenly as they appeared. We have experienced several thunderstorms that are worse than anything we've ever experienced in England. Any given part of NC can expect about 40-50 thunderstorms a year, mostly in the summer. These storms cause about $5 million damage per year. Even so, buildings tend to be stick-built and don't tend to have lightening rods. The story of the three little pigs comes to mind. If your house is in danger in being blown down, it may be prudent to build it out of something stronger than sticks.

NC also averages about 2 hurricanes per year. It is the coast that bears the brunt of these.

The other extreme weather is the tornado. Tornadoes are not unheard of in the UK, but are rare and are rarely big. The Birmingham tornado hit while we were on our reconnaissance trip last July. Although we haven't experienced a tornado yet, we have had several tornado warnings. They tend to come hand in hand with the severe storm warnings.

NC is not exactly Tornado Alley, but it turns out that it gets an average of about three tornadoes a year. This is enough for tornado drills to be a part of school life for the girls, as are fire drills. Apparently, in the event of a tornado, one is supposed to find an inside room on the ground floor, where all the walls are not exterior walls. One is supposed to crouch into a ball in this inner room until the tornado is passed. As our house is entirely open plan -- this advice is fairly useless. The advice for storms is to stay at home and keep away from electrical/electronic devices and telephones.

All things considered, however, the weather at this time of year is fantastic. It's like a perfect summer -- hot and sunny, but with a cooling breeze. The windows are open and the fans are on. At the height of summer it will be too hot to open the windows and we will need to turn on the air conditioning, so we plan to enjoy every second of this perfect weather while it lasts.


Ren said...

Nice to hear the pollen dust is not bothering you. I do enjoy the weather down here. I've heard that drought years produce beautiful autumn foliage, which is spectacular in the mountains. Have you been to the beach yet? I also love having both beach and mountains within driving distance. One summer we spent half a week at the beach, then the other half in the mountains. It was a lot of fun.

Viola said...

Ren -- just as you said, the pollen does fall as a yellow dust over everything. So far, it hasn't affected me or Lauren, but Mark and Emily have been getting hayfever. We've been told by neighours that we can expect much more pollen before it eases up.

We went to Asheville, which is just at the start of the mountains for a weekend in January, but haven't done much else. The problem is that Mark's work vacations don't always match up with the school vacations.

We wanted to go to the beach for spring break, but Mark's spring break and the school spring break were different weeks. It's the same at Easter. The girls got Good Friday and Easter Monday off school, but Mark gets no holiday for Easter.

We thought we might try and do something in June, when everyone has broken up for the summer. We'd like to go to the beach. We all love the beach. Our only worry is that it might be too hot for us in June (bear in mind that I'm finding April pretty hot).

We may go to the mountains, as it's likely to be cooler there, and see a bit more of the actual mountains -- perhaps drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway or visit Grandfather Mountain.