Monday, March 31, 2008

Riding the Storm Out

About 5:30 or so this afternoon, I packed up my laptop and headed home. The sky was dark and overcast as a storm was moving in from the NW. A quick check of the WSDOT site indicated that there was a backup in downtown Bellevueon 405, but most of the trip south from there was OK. It also showed a traffic cam shot of I-5 in downtown Seattle, under a torrent of rain.

I headed home. Now one of the confounding things about Seattle traffic is that one cannot plan for it to be universally horrible or good. I've seen reports like this before, and ended up in hour-long traffic jams. This time, the west side was already jammed up from the rain, and I zipped home in record time. As I headed south, it was black behind me, and to my right, across Lake Washington, there extended a roiling pillar of clouds, coming my way.

It caught up with me as I pulled into the driveway saw the first flash of lightning. Growing up in thunderstorm country, I started to count, automatically. When I heard the long, rolling cast of thunder, I knew it was about a mile away.

I made for the house and two minutes when the hail started. Hail, the size of frozen peas, covering the lawn, the driveway, and the road itself. A pounding hail that reverbed off the skylights and pounded the plants out front. And then the lightning, closer and brighter, with no separation between flash and boom, the thunder striking so loud it set off the alarms in the car.

I kept away from the various machines (we lost a TV to a storm back in Wisconsin years ago), and I sat, curled up with a book, as the hail moved slowly to sleet and the time between lightning and thunder lengthened. After about an hour, it finally subsided, which is long for this type of weather in this area.

And at that point I flipped on the TV to catch the weather. The locals had it right, showing a bright red cell over Renton, moving south and east, and more trailing down the Juan de Fuca straight, beelining in on Seattle. The Weather Channel, safely tucked away in some county back east, stated that it was clear in Seattle, with a small chance of rain.

Moral? Always trust the reports on the ground.

More later,