Is it just my imagination or are the storms getting to be more severe? Two or three times this summer, one of the television stations reported winds of 85 miles per hour during thunderstorms. They also showed that an EF0 tornado is one with winds between 65 and 85 mph. Who needs tornadoes when straight-line winds are as strong as a tornado?
Just recently, rain fell so quickly and long enough to cause flooding on Indian Creek in Kansas City, Missouri, so that it exceeded the previous flood height records by two feet. You normally break records incrementally, that is, by inches, not feet.
Several times during the year we also broke high temperature records, although that was in the winter and early spring so that no one really felt like it was terribly hot or damaging. Year after year we seem to keep having the hottest year on record for the world’s temperatures, although it seems to be rather normal weather around this part of the country. Apparently, the polar areas are where the major changes are happening.
Of course, you can just call all of this a Chinese hoax or call it fake or alternative news. After all, other than a bunch of high winds once in a while and some heavy rains in somebody else’s back yard, everything seems to be normal here.
It was not so normal for the 140,000 households that lost electricity during that last storm. Some had no electricity to run their air conditioners for four or five days. I’ll bet they hope that does not happen again, but I’ll also bet that they cringe whenever they hear the weather alerts and wake up in the middle of the night to check their iPad to watch the radar for those large, red and purple spots and for the bow echoes that indicate high winds heading their way.
One thing that will likely change is how we build houses. When we rebuilt the cellar under our old house, we used those foam forms to build a strong, monolithic concrete wall. I know that the same company also instructs how to use those forms to build the upper stories from solid concrete, too.
When we lived in Germany back in the early 1970s, we lived in a farm house that was built from concrete. Every house in the tiny village was also built out of concrete. I am pretty sure that was a result of World War II.
Now I have seen the advertisements for houses that also have a poured concrete roof. Afterall, what good is a house with solid concrete walls if the roof is going to get blown off by heavy winds? I am pretty sure that shingles on a regular roof are rated to withstand winds of 60 mph. Geez, a lot of our storms recently have 60 mph and greater wind speeds.
The other changes that are going to be made are the placement of electric lines. What good are they overhead if they blow down during a storm? Dig the trenches in the roadways and streets and not under the beautiful street trees in our neighborhoods. It is easy enough to repair a street compared to the damage done to trees by trenching in electric lines. Once the trees are damaged, they are more likely to topple in high winds. So keep the trenches along the roadways.
Whether the Chinese or the fake news is causing our foul weather, I predict a lot more sleepless nights watching the radar on the iPad and hoping that the strong weather goes someplace else. Not that I wish any harm to anyone else, but I don’t want to have to deal with it at our house. By the way, I do keep a few extra bicycle helmets available just in case I have to go down into the cellar for a really bad storm because I don’t want to suffer too much head damage from flying stuff if the walls get blown away.
Matt Nowak is a retired natural resources specialist and lives in Lansing.