I wandered the tundra, my ears to the sky, chasing thunder…
I have always adored thunderstorms.
I live in a high desert valley in the state of Utah. We get some really good thunder, loud crackling, popping stuff, the kind that wakes you in the night. But it doesn’t rain too often or too much here, not like the mid-western portion of the United States, where I once found myself in the most terrify storm I had ever seen.
We were driving home from a trip to visit friends in Wisconsin. It was close to 7 P.M, a cool summer night, and weather reports called for heavy rains. Travelers were advised to pull over and seek shelter. Not wanting to get stuck on the Interstate in those conditions, we found a suitable room in the town of Ogallala, Nebraska to hunker down for the night.
Other travelers were thinking the same thing, and the motel was bustling with people. Dozens of kids swam in the pool, parents laughed, scolded, and looking at the pale evening sky, I thought we may have misjudged the severity of the situation.
We retired to our room to watch some television and relax from the long day of driving. Soon after, I heard the wind. It rose up suddenly, a howling, eerie sound that whipped through the buildings of the motel. The lights flickered. The television lost signal. Curious, my wife and I went outside and stood, gazing out in amazement.
It was just after 8 P.M, but the world was midnight black. Never had I witnessed the sky become so dark, so quickly. Sudden flashes of lighting lit up the landscape with tiny electric explosions, through which I could see the approaching rain. Oh, the rain. Deafening sheets of it started to fall on the aluminum roof of the hotel patio. If I had dared walk out into it, I might be pressed to the ground by the weight of the water.
And the thunder. I had never heard any sky make so much noise. Only an act of will kept me from covering my ears, like a startled child, with each rumble. It was astounding, humbling. Though we were relatively safe and dry under the awning, I felt exposed, thrilled and exhilarated. The storm lasted almost an hour, and we stood watching most of it. I admit, I worried about tornadoes all night and didn’t sleep much.
That night remains a favorite memory.
A favorite image of a Utah storm from last spring.