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Hail, Spring is Here

April 19th, 2011 at 10:24 am

Today’s Flyover People column can be seen in The Emporia Gazette:


Spring is exactly like that Longfellow poem: “There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very good indeed, but when she was bad she was horrid.”

A good spring day in Kansas – well, you know what that’s like – it’s about as good as it gets. A bad spring day in Kansas, well, you’ve seen that, too.

April is like having new skin – everything is young and fresh and clean. Color has landed everywhere. I even love henbit, that low-lying lavender weed which spreads like a rash across plowed fields.

Sitting on my porch the other day, as I looked across the street toward a red elm, a gust of wind took down a battalion of seeds. Tiny and round, the pale green packets fell to earth, scattering over a healthy lawn.

From my porch, I listened to the sound of a neighbor’s rake, scraping at last autumn’s leaves which were still caught under the bushes. But countless other sounds were lost in the white noise of wind. Wind seems to suspend the law of gravity – things hang in a 40-mph gust that just don’t belong there.

A flock of clouds swooped in, showing off their bright whites against the cobalt blue sky. These are the innocent ones.

Hoodlum clouds, on the other hand, the ones as purple-black as a day-old bruise, spell trouble across the sky. Over the warm curve of earth, this gang of dark clouds gathers in the late afternoon, building and building, until they explode either overhead or somewhere down the road.

These are the scary thunderstorms, the kind that shake houses, the kind that toss angels around in the heavens.

And don’t underestimate the paranoia of that sky. It’s a crazy dictator that makes preemptive strikes against us, shooting everything it has in its quiver: lightning, heavy rain, hail, and tornadoes.

When a storm is miles away, we can watch echoes of light flash in the night. Lightning reveals a brittle sky, one that’s about to break into shards and come crashing down to earth.

Off in the distance, a cold front looks like scar tissue – it’s a weld of clouds that telegraphs danger. Mix up the air, add a little shear, and bad things can happen to us here on the ground.

In early April, we had hailstones in Emporia the size of ping-pong balls. It sounded like rifle fire as it pelted the siding and the roof of my house. I kept trying to decipher the pounding as if it were Morse code, tagging us with a list of grievances.

A tornado, a funnel of wind, is such a peculiar image that it’s hard to believe it actually exists until you see one for yourself. The mess it leaves behind is like an out-of-control barroom brawl that stumbled from one building to the next. Windows are broken, walls are missing, roofs are gone.

When I asked Mark Bogner, meteorologist at KSN-TV in Wichita about the 2011 tornado outlook for Kansas, he said, “I have a feeling this will be an ‘east of the turnpike’ severe weather year. With the terrible drought going on in the western and central part of the state, I think the moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will be repeatedly pushed east. I think it will be a big year for Missouri.”

Sometimes spring gets ugly on us. Sometimes it shines like a brand new penny. It’s good, it’s bad, sometimes it’s in between. Spring is that “little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.”

Copyright 2011 ~ Cheryl Unruh

columns, seasons, sky, weather

  1. April 19th, 2011 at 12:42 | #1

    Great column, Cheryl!

  2. heineken160
    April 19th, 2011 at 17:33 | #2

    You pegged spring, Cheryl.