Severe weather grips me. As a volunteer severe weather spotter for the National Weather Service office in Cleveland, I pay close attention to the weather forecasts. When the potential for severe weather is a possibility, I go on a personal high alert.
I watch radars. I read online weather maps. And I scan the sky. I also take my camera with me.
When the season’s first strong thunderstorms approached Monday evening, I was ready. An active weather system had produced a tornado in southwestern Ohio. The cold front weakened a bit as it approached eastern Ohio. But that didn’t keep it from producing some impressive clouds, particularly in the front of the storm system.
The western sky turned dark. I went to the back porch to see what was coming, and this is what I saw looking north. The clouds looked fierce and angry. But fortunately, we only received torrential rains and a few strikes of lightning.
Rain or shine, stormy or clear, I love to watch the weather. From foggy sunrises to golden sunsets and any and all weather conditions in between, I’m on it like a tornado to a trailer park.
Yep. I’m stuck on the weather. I’ve always been fascinated by the variety of weather northeast Ohio has to offer spring, summer, fall and winter. I’m cool, however, with never having lived in Lake Erie’s snow belt.
My captivation with the climatological elements goes way back. When I was a kid and a thunderstorm roared I ran to the window, not the closet. The lightning and hail fascinated me the most.
I got a reality check, however, when I thought a 10-year old could outrun a thunderstorm for home. I couldn’t.
From then on, I took better notice of the weather and gave her all the respect she required. I took college classes that taught me much about climate and the weather.
Later, when I became a volunteer firefighter, I trained to be a severe weather observer. I’ve kept my spotter certification current.
One of the first things I do each morning is review the weather forecast. If severe weather is a possibility, I check the radar frequently for rapidly growing storms. For me, safety is a priority.
I remember the first tornado I ever saw. I was a skinny preteen. My father was driving the family car, and I spotted this white, spinning funnel cloud. I warned Dad, but he ignored me and drove right under it. When he heard the whirling noise and saw it pass overhead, Dad sheepishly said, “I guess you were right.”
With that, my amateur weather-watching career was born. When it rains, I record how much. When it snows, I measure the inches that fell. When it hails, I report the size and amount to the weather officials. The same goes for any wind-related damage.
There’s a purpose to my weather mania. I want others to be alerted so they too can be safe.
I’m not alone. Thousands of severe weather spotter volunteers are on call across the country. When the weather turns nasty, our adrenaline gets pumping.
Take the other day for example. As a severe thunderstorm moved over the county, weather radar indicated rotation in the storm.
Just as the National Weather Service issued the tornado warning, the power went out at our house. I scampered to be sure everything was secure, gathered my rain gear and camera, and out into the storm I went.
I hadn’t ventured down the road very far until I encountered flash flooding in several locations. I reported the flooding and kept an eye on the sky as best I could as I drove.
I followed the storm through torrential, swirling rain for 15 miles. I finally reached the back of the storm just as it exited into the next county. I relayed that no funnel was seen to the weather service and headed toward home, only to encounter even more flash flooding.
With muddy, debris-laden, bumper high water running rapidly across roadways, drivers still chose to risk it. Even a horse and buggy slogged through the floodwaters. The horse’s high leg kicks indicated that the horse was none too happy.
I’ve always said that if I believed in reincarnation, which I don’t, I probably would come back as either a chiropractor or a meteorologist. Given my penchant for the weather, you can probably guess which one I’d pick.