Through a Glass Darkly: Nature’s show, power come home

Heads rose at the intensity of the thunder, and I wanted the meeting in a windowless room to end so I could see the lightning in the night sky.

I love watching lightning storms, and last week’s was a good one, or so I thought.

Cloud-to-cloud lighting formed an electric spider web, but I’d soon find some strikes also hit the ground.

Thursday night I was able to appreciate nature’s power only because I didn’t know where one of the storm’s tendrils was striking.

As impressive as the billion-volt, light show was, it didn’t make it into my most memorable, at least not from an esthetic standpoint.

The most stunning I ever watched was from 30,000 feet as a pilot skirted an enormous thunderhead.

Electric charges fired in seemingly random directions, combining with the last rays of a sunset to paint the ominous clouds.

As the jet left the show behind, I looked back into the cabin to see sickly faces and a guy next to me gripping his arm rests with white knuckles. I felt a little guilty.

A flight into the eye of a hurricane over the Gulf proved less impressive as a light show, because the heavy clouds we flew through softened the lightning into sudden glows rather than sharp lines.

A thunderstorm that moved across the Grand Canyon combined approaching rain, dramatic clouds and jagged lightning with one of the world’s most beautiful settings. It is etched into my memory.

My scariest experience with lightning came several years later on a night when I was surf fishing on Dauphin Island and didn’t have sense enough to give up a good run of speckled trout because of a little storm moving over the Gulf.

I watched streaks light the sky to the west. I counted the miles between the lightning and the sound of the thunder thinking the storm would pass me by. Suddenly I was in the midst of it.

Spikes of lighting rained about me, forcing me from the water onto the beach. I felt real fear until I abandoned my rod and belt buckle and lay flat in the sand as bolts struck on the flat beach.

Likewise, sailing through a thunderstorm at night in the Gulf had a bit of drama from wind and waves, but I mainly remember the beauty of the steaks of lightning mixed with the bright phosphorescence our sailboat left in its wake.

Thursday night, however, I got not just a light show, but a small taste of the negative side of thunderstorms. As I returned home from the meeting, I found an unnerved dog and cat and a wife who informed me lightning had hit our house and knocked out some of the lights.

They were easy to get back on, but the damage to electronic gear was beyond repair. Like looking at the aftermath of hurricanes and recent tornadoes, it was a reminder of how powerful Mother Nature can be when she grumbles, shouts and casts her winds and darts about.

Advocate Florida Parishes bureau chief Bob Anderson welcomes comments by email to banderson@the
advocate.com
.