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Tony Grist

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Lightning [Jun. 29th, 2005|10:37 am]
Tony Grist
The window goes white. I listen and listen and finally the thunder happens- like someone muttering and chewing at the same time. Not close. But the lightning was so bright. They say you should turn your computer off when there's thunder around.

The way I picture it the electicity comes surging up the cables, gathers in the monitor, then leaps out at your face.

I was in a car once sitting on a hill top watching a thunderstorm come up the valley towards us. "We're safe," said my wife. "The tyres will earth us." The lightning came nearer and nearer.

It's odd but I don't remember any climax. Just the storm coming, not its passing over. Maybe we were hit after all and I'm writing this in some sort of an afterlife. No, that's silly.

That wife (the first one) had a cousin whose husband and child were killed by lightning. They were out swimming in the lake and the storm snuck up without them noticing it and...... my wife's cousin wasn't there on the beach; the news had to be delivered to her. (Picture the sherrif driving up. His walk to the door.) Afterwards people were always muttering about her just out of her hearing.

I turn off the computer. It takes so long to close. As it goes through its procedure I feel like we're running ahead of the storm. Only not running- dawdling. Your settings are being saved. Yes, yes- come on!

Blue screen.

Blue screen

Blue screen

Black.
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: dakegra
2005-06-29 03:20 am (UTC)
you're safe in a car, as it's essentially a Faraday Cage

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 03:40 am (UTC)
So it's not just folklore.
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[User Picture]From: dakegra
2005-06-29 03:45 am (UTC)
nope. it's Science.

:-)
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[User Picture]From: strange_complex
2005-06-29 03:28 am (UTC)
A great first opportunity to put my Fan Icon System into play!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 03:43 am (UTC)
Thanks.

Gina is so gorgeous.

I've got to see that movie!
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 04:46 am (UTC)
Most cars now use steel-belted tires. If they are worn, wouldn't the steel cause conduction? Would it stop grounding?

A friend's husband was driving in his car across a bridge when lightning struck both the bridge (knocked out a concrete chunk) and his car, which (according to friends who were following him) had blue light playing over the surface briefly.

The driver, however, only noticed lightning hitting the bridge and the great clap of thunder that followed.

The people behind him were more interested in how he had fared after his car was struck, which bewildered him.

We can have violent lightning storms here, and only last weekend someone was struck out on a lake. How awful to lose two people at once--I can't imagine. And it happens so fast.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-06-29 05:37 am (UTC)
This past winter one of the car dealership owners of this area was killed in Florida. He was on a golf course and was struck by lightning. No thunder. No warning. Just that one bolt of lightning.

There are too many jokes about car salesmen to go any further with that one...

Have to do a little research on your question, Jackie.

We had thunder and lightning here last night. I was awake, and went to my living room. As the wind blew rain and tree branches I wondered how air that weighed so much when I was out in it earlier could move like that.

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 07:57 am (UTC)
Your description sounds exactly like the "bolt from the blue." It can really happen.

My father, when a four-year-old boy in 1919, fell asleep in the back of his parents' car on night as they drove along a prairie road toward their home in Lubbock, Texas during a lightning storm.

His parents told about that night many times over the years: lightning, they said, was hitting the dry earth and rolling along the ground as balls of light all around them on the empty prairie.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 07:18 am (UTC)
"Would it stop grounding?"

Hmm. I don't know- but it could be that dakegra (above) has the answer. It has to do with the enclosed space forming a Faraday cage.

My two lightning stories both have to do with your part of the world. that was a Kentucky hilltop we were sitting on and a Kentucky lake that was hit.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 07:49 am (UTC)
My son and I ventured out after a lightning storm one hot summer day, and just as we walked out onto our sidewalk, we both saw a blinding flash of white light all around us filling our visual field completely, followed instantly by an eardrum shattering boom!

We dashed, of course, into the house.

I wonder--if we had gone outside even seconds earlier, would we have been struck? My understanding is that leaders of positive charge come from the ground--from objects on the ground--and attract opposite charges in the air, which produces a strike. Something else nearby had sent up a charge and it had been answered, but not by us that time.

I have been out on the lake when a sudden storm blows in. It can get as dark as night. There is an ominous humid calm just before the winds come, and at that moment if you are in a boat, you row to shore quickly.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 07:59 am (UTC)
Weather just doesn't seem to move that fast over here.

I treasure my experiences of extreme American weather.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 08:05 am (UTC)
We do have the great storms here. I love them.

It could rain every day and I would be happy. Rain in any form is thrilling and musical to me, but the great storms are best.

When we were kids in Texas and Kansas, we couldn't resist going outside and joining nature as the storms rolled in off the prairies. It is exhiliarating and a little frightening--one stays close to the house!

My brother and I would toss a ball back and forth--something to do, but really it took great restraint to stop myself from running off with exhaltation down the road with the tumbleweeds in the rushing wind!

Once my dad and brother and I were at the park, and the rain swept toward us. We ran as fast as we could, but it was faster. We watched the sheet of rain drenching the pavement and rolling inexorably toward us, and we loved it! And ran like sprinters!

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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-06-29 08:12 am (UTC)
though they might not compare to your prairie storms, we have some good ones here. A few years ago a tornado came through during state fair week and took a corner off the horsebarn. Unfortunately a few years later we got some kind of weird weather event that nearly leveled the city - and two people were killed at the State Fair. There are still places where the treetops are snapped. That seemed to sweep in off Lake Ontario (which is where I was, watching the green lightning!) and take on all comers.

But your story made me think of sitting on the shore, watching the rain come across the lake. One moment you're standing watching the rain as it comes toward you, and the next you are being drenched.

I like to swim in the rain...well, maybe I should say while it's raining - but not during thunderstorms. Of course. NOt that I haven't thought of it...
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 08:15 am (UTC)
Green lightning--yes. It comes in many colors.

And have you seen the Technicolor that sometimes suffuses everything after a storm, while the blue clouds are still in the sky? The grass is golden, the leaves are golden-green, and often you can find a rainbow against the dark clouds.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-06-29 08:16 am (UTC)

the Labor Day Storm

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 08:13 am (UTC)
I wish I had stories like that....

It rains a lot over here, but it's mostly a gentle rain. Heavy downpours are exceptional.

I remember eating in a basement restaurant when I was a kid and looking out through the windows- the pavement was about level with my eyes- and being amazed to see how high the rain bounced.
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From: manfalling
2005-06-29 06:17 am (UTC)
that was a nice post. a little piece of history. wife. people dead. muttering. running from the storm. i like that. metaphor for something...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 07:19 am (UTC)
Yup. That was me and your ma sitting in our car on a hilltop in Kentucky. Those people who were struck by lightning were distant relatives of yours.
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[User Picture]From: dadi
2005-06-29 06:34 am (UTC)
Argh it makes me crazy to read people from all over northern Europe writing about their wonderful thunderstorms right now. I am dying from heatstroke here.. there is not an inch of air moving :(
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 07:20 am (UTC)
Maybe this weather is headed your way.

It's very pleasantly cool and grey in Manchester right now.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 07:51 am (UTC)
I just returned from a walk. It was drippingly humid.

Thunderheads are building up in the south, and the wind is rising.

I'm going out onto the porch and hope for something grand to accompany my vampire book.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 08:00 am (UTC)
And maybe if it gets really intense you'll take some pictures (please?)
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 08:12 am (UTC)
Of course!

Remember this one in April?

black storm

As I recall, this was taken in mid-morning.

How I love these dark moments when everything waits, and then the storm comes!

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 08:15 am (UTC)
Yes, indeed I do.

The world outside looks like age-blackened Victorian wallpaper.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 08:37 am (UTC)
:)

I liked your comment on my April posting of this photograph:

My God! It looks like the end of the world!

And so it does. Bliss!

(In my wonderful book, The Elements Rage, there's an account of "the tremendous tornado which struck Irving, Kansas, on May 30, 1879:

"There appeared in the west a cloud of inky blackness and enormous dimensions. It presented a square front of blackness almost two miles wide, with the front almost perpendicular. Many people actually believed that Judgment Day had come and offered up fervent prayers and loud appeals for preservation.

With a roar 'like that of a thousand cannons,' the cloud coverd the little town. In an instant everything was swept from the earth in ruin, and death was experienced in its most dreadful forms.

Persons who lived through the storm to tell the tale said the air was filled with fumes like sulphorous smoke, the sky had a reddish tinge bordering on purple, and the ground was rocked as if by an earthquake. What seemed to them vast waterspouts reached the ground in several places, swinging to and fro in the gale like elephants' trunks, seizing and taking up into the whirling vortexes everything that stood in their way."

Below is an observation from the US Weather Bureau about lightning playing about a tornado funnel:

"From the sides of the boiling, dust-laden cloud a fiery stream poured out like water through a sieve, breaking into spheres of irregular shape as they descended."

One of the most impressive displays of lightning was seen at the time of the great St. Louis, Missouri, tornado of May 27, 1896. A Weather Bureau official reported:

"The elctrical display during the storm was of exceeding brilliancy. It was first observed at 5:00 PM, an hour before the tornado occurred. This continued with short intermissions until 5:45 PM, when it became almost continuous and extended more into the west and north. At 6:00 PM, when the tornado occurred, the whole west and northwest sky was in a continuous blaze of light. Intensely vivid flashes of forked lightning were frequent, being outlined in green, blue, purple, and bright yellow colors against the dull yellow background of the never ceasing sheet lightning."


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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 09:17 am (UTC)
Hell, but those weather bureau boys could write!

I wonder if their present day counterparts would come with anything as powerful and poetic?
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2005-06-29 09:30 am (UTC)
The Weather Bureau accounts contain the same atmosphere as Blackwood or Stoker. One wonders if their poetic writing was influenced, or if the Bureau only hired literature majors.


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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 10:17 am (UTC)
I guess anyone who went through college in those days would have studied latin (and possibly greek) and so would have had a thorough grounding in the mechanics of literature.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-06-29 09:22 am (UTC)
LOL

Nice to greet you under your new name!

No matter how safe it may be, it surely doesn't feel safe when you're watching the lighting striking the hillside- each time another hundred and fifty yards closer to where you're parked.
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