Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Summer Storms

I can only say it is ironic that the Great Plains have been blighted with a tremendous drought this summer, and I got to see the burnt fields a couple of weeks ago, because from where I live drought is hard to imagine. The National Weather Service reports the normal rainfall for the year-to-date is thirty inches and so far we've had 43 inches. Indeed every morning when I leave work I find the seat of my motorcycle covered in signs of a recent downpour. The road home is always wet, in whole or in part, and when I get up in the middle of the day more rain invariably seems to threaten.

In a land where there are no mountains one can't look out and see much of a horizon and when heavy summer storms roll in from across the water there is a massive sense of claustrophobia, of being pressed down upon by the sort of divine retribution most often seen in the movies. These rolling black cloud fronts represent the wrath of the gods on stage and screen. Around here they just mean you're about to get wet.

I have come to love tropical rains, which is odd to me as I grew up associating cold temperatures with nasty endless rain. Nowadays rains bring cooler temperatures, usually in the mid 70s which is a fifteen degree drop from the normal afternoon highs, and instead of getting hypothermia one gets refreshed.

The breezes associated with these thunder cells bring cooling temperatures too as though one had opened a refrigerator door on a muggy afternoon, and those cold breezes are the harbinger of imminent big fat raindrops.

It is entirely possible to get cold and shivering if caught out in this rain but the beauty of it is that when I'm out with Cheyenne I'm not wearing clothes that will be ruined by getting wet. She shakes her wet fur and I rub her down with a towel I keep in the car for the purpose, while for myself I go home and change my t shirt. So far the heaviest tropical rain hasn't managed to melt me.

There is a reason it's cheaper to visit the Keys this time of year, and mostly it's the weather. Normal vacation periods are over but this is still hurricane season and even lacking tropical cyclones to make life interesting not every sun seeking visitor relishes summer thunderstorms. Gray skies are gray just like at home and a heavy afternoon rain can make even the Keys look like a cold day in February. It confuses the senses of a resident of temperate regions as one would expect freezing temperatures to accompany these storms but after the rain passes temperatures inexorably rise and the steaming heat resumes.

The best of it is that in winter when temperatures do drop and locals feel cold, because we are puny when it gets to be sixty degrees outdoors, the rains magically dry up. Winter is dry season, which is not to say a little rain doesn't fall as cold fronts low through but the rains presage a front, are predictable and brief. Winter is characterized by short cloudy spells, plummeting temperatures are followed by bright sunny days, dry and pleasantly hot on a continent buried under snow drifts, frozen by ice and surrounded by leafless trees.

For Cheyenne summer storms are an opportunity to get out and breathe easy in the middle of her least favorite season. It's not easy to be a furry Labrador on a muggy corner of the planet. I empathize with her predicament but the compromise is that she gets the air conditioning when she needs it and I get to avoid living with snow.

Rain today with the promise of blue skies and sunshine tomorrow. That crops don't grow in the Florida Keys and that our potable water comes from the hard pressed South Florida Aquifer on the mainland just highlights the irony of all this splendid rain falling where it is least needed, except to refresh landscaping. Drought in the food growing latitudes is a serious problem, and getting worse, but down here you wouldn't know how to define the word. A little less rain would be nice but perhaps it's better not to complain and be glad it's not snow.