Odd Thoughts: Rare weather can heat things up

The weather can get you killed.

We don’t worry too much about tornadoes in this neck of the woods. About all we get around here is the odd dust devil… which admittedly, sometimes can throw up enough dust to irritate the eyes.

I’ve also seen a couple of twisters strong enough to cause ripe apples to drop from their trees.

And once, I saw an ominous finger pointing out of a cloud – the beginnings of what would have been a real, honest-to-goodness tornado – but it just kind of pointed here and there, withdrew back into the cloud, re-emerged tentatively, and then apparently decided not to bother.

We do get hurricanes – very occasionally.

In fact, the only real hurricane on record is Typhoon Freda, which smashed through the area in 1962 with “major hurricane” force.

That’s not to say we don’t get a bit of nasty wind from time to time – Hurricane Roke’s last gasps (no longer officially a hurricane by the time it got to us) blew through in 2011, and the enigmatically named “2006 Central Pacific Cyclone” is believed to have hit our coast at hurricane force, but is not recorded in any hurricane database – not as a hurricane, at least.

So much for windstorms.

But rain… ah, yes! Rain. We got rain. By the bucket. By the barrel. Cats and dogs would be a welcome relief. Flooded basements. Swamped carports. Inundated fields.

Overflowing ditches sometimes make a piece of road here or there impassable.

And washouts. That’s the real issue with rain around here.

We tend not to get the Manitoba-style floods. The Mighty Fraser, except for a rare tantrum, like 1894 and 1948 (and a couple of petulant near-misses since), is an easygoing mistress compared to the Red and her prairie sisters.

But local streams bolstered by water from the sky can wash out roads.

Bridges and culverts can get swept away by one of those pineapple expresses the Americans send over from Hawaii to remind us that they don’t appreciate that we live in a safer, far more beautiful place than they do.

If you’re not careful, you can drive into one of those washouts.

Or if you’re really unlucky, the road could wash out from under you. It’s happened, but the reality is, rain or wind, you have a better chance of winning a major lottery than you have of being dispatched by either of those weather menaces.

But heat. There’s a nasty one – made nastier by the fact that we welcome its rare appearance in our relatively warmish-winter/coolish-summer west coast marine climate.

We’re not used to heat around here. “Blue skies” is a euphemism for easy living, for our happy, comfortable coexistence with the local climate – like the 1926 Irving Berlin song: “Blue skies, smiling at me…”

We don’t actually expect to see blue skies around here – not all the way from horizon to horizon. We’re used to clouds, albeit lots of them have silver linings.

For the most part, it’s not the heat itself that poses a danger hereabouts (although, beware, heat exhaustion is a real risk, and we may have a few deaths of people already on the margins of health before this week is out).

No, the real danger is in the words that accompany the heat.

Angry words seem to fly more easily through hot air. Road rage spikes during heat waves, as do domestic murders.

I once made the mistake of asking a young gas station attendant on a 40-degree Interior day, “So… is it hot enough for ya?”

His answer appeared clearly in his eyes – and I hot-footed it outta there!

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