Tara’s first remembered experience with bad weather occurred when she was a little more than 2 years old in September 1985. We had just recently moved into a 2-story duplex house with a large enclosed yard. The house was behind a business that had a very tall metal light pole between their lot and our fenced-in yard and our house.
A thunderstorm began just before it was time for Tara to go to bed and because she was still getting used to the new house, she didn’t want to sleep by herself. So I gave her permission to go to sleep in my big bed and curl up with our Kitty. I promised her I would be going to bed in just a little bit but only until after she had gone to sleep.
The thunderstorm soon increased in intensity. The rain was coming down in torrents, the thunder was cracking right above us and the lightning bolts were frequently striking the ground all around the house, sometimes making the house shake and jump. Then we lost power and as I lit two candles, I called back to Tara, who was crying with fright, that I was immediately coming upstairs.
We couldn’t sleep at all with that constant noise of thunder and the numerous lightning bolts flashing and hitting the ground all around us. I had not had time yet to put curtains up in either of our bedrooms so we were just using the pull-down blinds that came with the house. But that seemed to make the storm even scarier, watching the lightning blaze up behind the blinds, so I pulled them up while Tara and I cuddled in my bed and watched the thunderstorm.
I kept telling her that the storm would soon move on, because that is what thunderstorms do: they roll in from the west and the worst of it lasts no more than 30 minutes or an hour until it moves on to the east. But this storm was very much different, it didn’t move on at all. The weatherman said the next day that that storm did something very unusual: it just stalled and stayed in place for hours, hovering with all of its might over most of our county. And the worst of the storm was right over our immediate area.
The lightning strikes were scarily impressive. I had a tall window in the corner of my bedroom that looked out over our yard and that business’ parking lot with that very tall light pole. My bed was next to that window so we had a front row seat. While the lightning was hitting the ground all around us, all I kept thinking is that darned tall metal light pole would make a perfect attraction for a lightning bolt. And if the pole fell, it might fall towards our house and hit us. So I kept watching that light pole and the constant lightning strikes with intense dreaded fright all night long.
During those frequent lightning strikes, we were able to see that the main road, that was just a block from our house, fill up and flow with rain like a river. We watched our little dirt street grow a little creek from the constant rain while branches and twigs streamed past our house.
We saw numerous bolts of lightning hit the ground and also hit several businesses and houses all around us. We saw a couple of fires begin and we watched as smoke weaved its way skyward through the rain. We heard many different sirens all night long: police, ambulance, fire truck and business alarm sirens. The thunder would loudly crack above our heads, fade away briefly, and then crack again, for hours and hours.
Sometimes falling rain can be a soothing sound that can lull you to sleep but not on that night. The drumming rain sounded like people were frantically stomping on our roof. So between the constant booms of the thunder, the cracks of the many lightning bolts, the sirens, and the torrential rain, all me and Tara could do was cuddle together and watch this awesomely frightening display of nature all night long. There was no way we could try to get any sleep.
Tara kept asking me when was it going to stop but all I could tell her is, “I don’t know, Honey-Bunny, I just don’t know because I’ve never experienced a thunderstorm that lasted for so many hours before.” I tried very, very hard to not scare Tara more than she already was, but I will admit, that thunderstorm had me spooked! So I told her stories and we played with Kitty while we watched what was going on outside our window. The storm had started before 9pm and it didn’t begin to taper off until almost 5am when the dawn started to peek through.
We exhaustedly were able to finally get some sleep at that time and it was early afternoon before Tara and I awoke. We were still without power so we made a game of pretending to camp out in the living room in sleeping bags while we munched on snacks and treats. We played with Tara’s toys and games and this novelty helped make the previous night less frightful for Tara.
However, there were several businesses and houses around us that had been badly damaged from the fires caused by the many lightning bolts. Most of the roads and streets nearby were either flooded or had so much debris that they were impassable for many days.
Because our little dirt road sloped downward from our house, several of our new neighbors’ homes had flooded basements and yards. There were trees down that had been hit by lightning and there were dangerous live power lines down all across the city. Luckily, there were no injuries or fatalities, but it took several weeks to clean up the mud and debris and get back to normal.
I was very grateful that our house was on a higher bit of ground and that we were not flooded out. I was also grateful that that dreaded light pole did not get hit by lightning and then fall on our house as I had feared all throughout that horrible sleepless night.
I had never been so scared by a thunderstorm before, but I had also never been through one that had lasted 8 long frightening hours before either. I’m just thankful that Tara did not become permanently afraid of thunderstorms after that. But I do not want to ever endure what was the longest, sleepless night again. Once was enough!