Friday, February 1, 2008

The Weather Radio

I don't know about YOU, but I would rather ride a killer bike workout on the trainer, rather than get struck by lightning. Just a hunch...

Yesterday was one of those extremely weird weather days. It started off relatively "cool" (remember: I'm in Florida) at 42 degrees, warmed to 55 by mid-afternoon, cooled to 50 at dusk, and then around 7 or 8 pm, the temperature spiked to 60, then 64, then 66 degrees. Can anyone say impending thunderstorm? The sky couldn't decide if it wanted to remain cloudy, partially cloudy, scattered cloudy, or full of sun. And throw in the random thunder claps for good measure, and you've just about got it.

The weather people were predicting severe thudnerstorms during the "afternoon commute", and as this was the time I had scheduled my bike workout, I wasn't in any sort of mood to challenge Thunder God Thor (returning to my Nordic roots).

I've had a few pretty scary experiences with lightning, random storms materializing from (seemingly) out of nowhere. The worst was our final day before leaving North Carolina, where I was stranded outside and biked 1/4 mile across an open field with cloud-to-ground lightning exploding all around. The hair was burned off my right arm, my bike computer was blasted off from its mount after one nasty bolt, and I lost 6 of my 9 lives. Even worse, Nathaniel was in the car waiting for me at the hotel: he saw the lightning dancing, jumping all around behind the trees in the field I was biking through. After 2 of the scariest minutes of my life, I managed to find shelter in an apartment building that wasn't locked (the one I tried to get into before I crossed the field - to my horror and disbelief - was locked). After 30 minutes or so, we finally reconnected.

Nathaniel, it turned out, had about 30 more grey hairs on his head.

It was awful, and I've been scarred ever since. (FYI - we were both in so much shock after this encounter that we delayed our departure by a day, and took some time to decompress and relax. It was too much for us to handle at that time).

Needless to say, whenever I'm working out ouside, I check, double check, even triple check the weather. Last summer was pretty interesting, as Florida experiences thunderstorms nearly every day between the hours of 11am - 4pm. You never know when or where they're going to materialize: they just do. It was challenging trying to plan long rides or workouts - I would often call Nathaniel from somewhere in the middle of Santa Rosa County and have him pull up the satelite map. There were a few times when he advised me to "BIKE BACK TO THE CAR NOW!", and others where he patiently explained that the storm was moving away from me.

Most of the time, after seeing the towering thunderheads - in the distance or nearby - I would head for the relative saftey of the car. Oftentimes, I would ride my 3.2 mile "criterium" route around Pensacola NAS (Naval Air Station) for an hour or two, simply because I had 4 or 5 places I could seek shelter in, should a storm suddenly pop up (my car at the trailhead, the Base Hotel, Naval Aviation Museum, Park and Rec deptartment for Ft. Barrancas, the Fire Station, the Gym...) Okay 6. That averages out to a "safe" spot every 1/2 mile. Doable. I can handle that.

For 2 hours, I can handle that. The 3.2 mile circle may be monotonous, the right hand turns may get a bit annoying - but the comfort of knowing I have a place to dash to should I need it, is in one word: priceless.

Yesterday, the fog, the thudner was just too much. I didn't feel like flirting with Thor, and resolved to knock out my intense session on the trainer. I knew the workout would be a tough challenge, but I had done one similar to it last week, and was interested in pushing my limits a little more.

You know of what I speak.

Last week I held this-and-this gear (remember: I'm not good with naming my rear gears), this week I'm going to try and hold a harder gear, challenge myself a little more...

As I walked into the house with an armful of groceries, I was greeted by Nathaniel, and ornery Tabbitha (she hates bad weather), and the sound of our Weather Radio going crazy.

Ah. The weather radio. (Indeed, I had made the right choice about the trainer. Sweet.)

Last Christmas, Nathaniel gave me the Uber-Ultra-High-Tech-Delux-Bad-Weather-Sensing-Loud-Brignt-Information-Filled-Alerting NOAA Weather Radio that high tech-geeks would drool over. This thing is amazing: we get not only our local forecast, but recieve the Maritme forecast (for all those times I swim in the Gulf with the sharks :), local alerts, and can program any county in the lower 48 states.

Great, in theory, but it's so complicated that I have a hard time figuring out and even programming the flippin' thing. So Nathaniel has happily programmed it, charged it, boosted it up, and has tried to get me to carry it with me when I ride (did I also mention that it's compact and water proof?). Short of lift-off, this thing does it all.

Nathaniel envisioned me carrying it in my jersey when I ride, however I may only keep it in the car. I don't know what I would do if it started beeping when I was somewhere in Lower Alabama or NW Florida, miles upon miles away from my car. I would be SOL, I tell you!

And there you would find me, stranded somewhere on the Florida/Alabama boarder, stradling my bike, yelling at the uber-weather-radio that can't help me because I'm literally in the middle of nowhere, all while peering intently at the sky trying to figure out which way the storm is headed. Fantastic!

No thanks!

In those times, those situations, I'll stick to the trainer. It may be monotonous, I may be bored out of my mind. But hey - no scortch marks and I won't be fried by lightning. And that's a good thing in my book. I've lost my arm hair once, no need to go loosing it again.

Throughout my ride last night, in spite of my fantastic ipod that Nathaniel also got for me (and programmed - yes! In case you're wondering), I could still hear our Weather Radio buzzing away. Warning after warning after warning after warning, this thing was going nuts. Picture the Energizer Bunny weilding a Weather Radio. It just kept sounding off alert after alert.

Oddly enough, it reminded me of my childhood.

My Dad has always been a weather-nut. If he wasn't a History Professor, I'm sure he would be a meteorologist. One of his prized possessions is his very own NOAA Weather Radio. The Uber-Delux version, I think. Even when there isn't the threat of bad weather, he'll turn it on and listen very intently to the mechanical forecast.

Hey - I'm in no place to judge. I look at a bike and I drool. My Dad turns on his Weather Radio and that does it for him.

Growing up, on nights where there were especially bad storms, Dad's radio would sound off. I can't tell you how many times my sister and I were roused sleepily from our beds and ushered into the basement; away from the windows, straight line winds, severe thunderstorms, or tornados. And there the 4 of us would huddle: near the bottom of the stairs while the storm raged on overhead. Dad was always very serious, listening intently to the latest weather warnings. Mom, Karyna and I would try to crack jokes, and part of us would hope that we lost power: ice cream for all!

We knew the storms were really bad and close, when Dad would plug in our little TV (until the power would go out). Even if we weren't seeking shelter in our basement, Dad would faithfully carry his weather radio with him, flipping news channels to get the most up-to-date satelite map. It was pretty funny: the more severe the weather, the more intense my Dad got. But he also got really excited, and to this day it brings a smile to my face.

I can see him even now: TV turned on, weather radio at his ear, listening to the dire forecast and preparing for the worst.

But we were always safe, and I have a very healthy appreciation for the weather as a result.

Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall - Dad was always up-to-date on the weather. To this day, he still warns us of "glare ice", a common occurence on Minnesota's icey streets.

His weather radio was like a 5th member of our family. My Dad wouldn't be my Dad without it.

You can imagine how excited he was to see Nathaniel's gift of the Weather Radio to me. For years Dad has been insistent that Nate and I get our own: and I'm really happy that we finally have. Especially when storms and fronts move through in the middle of the night: for some silly reason, Floridians don't have basements (like every house in the midwest does!), and Nathaneil and I have mapped out a plan in case we need to seek shelter (interior bathroom, no windows...). It's a great feeling knowing that if the shit hits the fan, weather wise, you'll be awoken from deep slumber with the following:

"BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEP: THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS ISSUED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FLORIDA UNTIL 0200 AM CST. THIS SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CONTAINS HIGH WINDS, CLOUD TO GROUND LIGHTNING, AND HAIL. THIS STORM HAS A HISTORY OF PRODUCING TORNADOS...."

Which is exactly what happened time and time again last night, between 7pm and 11 pm (when we turned it off after the final front had passed through - even though the storm had passed our area, the radio was still going nuts).

But you know the really weird thing?

Between 7 and 11pm, I found myself carrying around the Weather Radio, listening very intently to its warnings, and then turning on the TV checking out the local satelite. Every time a new warning was issued, a new threat came through, I dashed to the radio ears perked and ready for the latest word.

It became a Pavlovian Game:

1. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEEP!

2. Marit (if she's not already holding the weather radio) runs to listen to the warning.

3. Marit turns on the TV satelite to check the latest Doppler Radar.

4. If Marit had a basement, she and Nathaniel would consider taking shelter.

Interesting how I spent a large part of my childhood amused by my Dad's antics when it came to his weather radio, and now I find myself doing the same thing. Huh.

Go figure.

You spend a large part of your life waiting to get away from your folks, dreaming of being "out on your own", only to turn into your parents later on. 15 years ago, I never would have believed that I would pull a Winston, listening to my Weather Radio. 15 years ago, I never thought I would be married, living in Florida, or doing triathlons. Just goes to show.

Like Father, like Daughter.

Next time NW Florida gets sever weather, you'll know what I'm doing. My State-of-the-Art NOAA Weather Radio (that I can't program) will be sitting next to me, cheerfully warning of catastrophic storms, while the local TV station is showing the latest satelite images. And if my Dad were with me, he would be doing exactly the same.

Some things never change.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

MARIT!
I am a total weather FREAK too! I love LOVE watching The Weather Channel and I must see Tom Skilling (WGN -Chicago) every night...THe weather dictates alot for us and I am glued to the TV when it is on. Even last night we got hammered by nearly 9-10" of snow and I was trying to determine if the kids would be off school or not....so, I was up at 4am to figure all of it out! PS. It is a snow day here in chicago.
GLAD you were safe yesterday! Jen H.

Katie Weaver-Jongerius said...

This is too funny! My Mom gave my sisters and I those weather radios one year for Christmas (mine is now MIA in a box somewhere) and they DON'T STOP once they get going!!! Thank goodness you stayed inside yeaterday!

FYI - I have learned to check the weather myself before going out riding! Once I depended on my husband to keep me informed and my friend and I got stranded out in the middle of no-where during a tornado! We actually had to be rescued!

Kellye Mills said...

Georgia is tornado happy! We've done the basement thing quite a bit. I always think better safe than sorry. I'm glad you and your radio are close. After that really scary incidence in the field, I'm surprised you go out at all!!

Stay Safe!

Bill said...

Ahhh, the joys of having that radio programmed for both Escambia and Santa Rosa county (I lived right on the county line), only to have it go off at 2am and warn of something that was 50 miles away.

They're worth every nickel though.