Thursday, August 28, 2003 2:25 PM PDT
That was sure quite a storm that passed through the Valley this weekend. Parts of Brawley looked like a war zone Sunday morning. The local weather forecaster said the damage was caused by high winds, but I'm not buying it.
Most of the damage seemed to be centered between Second Street to the east side of the plaza.
The roof from Pete's Auto Parts was lying in his parking lot. Down the street, in the old Vons parking lot, one of the tall skinny palm trees had been twisted off at ground level and thrown 100 feet across the pavement. I've never seen palm trees broke off at ground level. There were three or four more at Plaza Park and they, too, had been twisted off at ground level.
Across the street the gigantic Union Bank sign was lying at the bank's front doorsteps and on the east side of the plaza the Foster's Old-Fashioned Freeze sign also was down. All the mesquite trees beside the police station had been uprooted and tree limbs were everywhere in the plaza.
Daughter Kristin woke us up Sunday morning when the storm struck and the power went off. Kristin is the official flashlight finder when we have a power outage and she was armed with not only flashlights but also jars of scented candles. The burglar alarm had been set off by lightning and was blaring and wouldn't shut off when the code was entered. Well, OK, it finally shut off when I woke up enough to enter the correct code. In the meantime the burglar alarm company was calling, wanting to know the secret password. It's a good thing my wife answered the phone because I sure as hell wouldn't have been able to remember what it was much less hear anyone on the phone with the alarm shrieking and constant thunder outside rattling the windows.
I ventured outside to see if the power was out everywhere or if it was just at our house. Off in the distance a lightning bolt flashed down on a haystack and within minutes a small orange glow enveloped the stack and soon flames could be seen licking up in the air.
By the time I came back inside the house Kristin had all the scented candles in the house fired up and burning. The mixture of all the scents was certainly different as a fog bank of mixed smoky odors enveloped the whole house.
Fifteen years ago lightning struck our house. Flashes and cracking noises announced a thunderstorm headed our way early in the evening. Soon, a torrential rain joined the lightning bolts. When I looked out the back door I saw leaves had plugged the drains on the deck around our house and the rising water would soon flood the house. With rubber boots and rain jacket on I headed outside to unplug the drains.
The lightning strikes were coming so rapidly it was bright enough to see. After cleaning the trash from the drains I was standing under the eaves of the house, with the shovel resting over my shoulder, and watching the water recede, as the drains did their job.
My wife, Patti, watching out the back door, said sparks were crackling off the blade of my shovel just before the lightning bolt hit. All I remember was a bright flash and boom that left me temporarily blinded and deaf. Patti pulled me in the house and it was a few moments before I could see and hear again, despite the loud ringing in my ears.
Even without power the lightning was coming so rapidly a flashlight was not necessary. Soon, though, we noticed an orange glow outside the house. The power pole and the area around it were on fire from the burning oil inside the transformer. The transformer had taken the direct hit from the lightning bolt and had been blown apart and ripped off the pole.
The heavy rain soon extinguished the fire as the thunderstorm headed toward Calipatria and we turned in for the night using our flashlights and candles after calling the power and telephone company.
The next morning Imperial Irrigation District repairmen replaced the transformer, but when they snapped in the new fuse it instantly blew. They discovered the two fusible links built into the back of the meter box had blown so violently, deep holes had been burned into the studs where the meter was mounted. They suggested I check the main breaker and, when I did I found it was welded open.
It was the next morning before the electrician could replace the main breaker as well as some of the others that had been vaporized. This time when the IID repairman snapped in the fuse beside the transformer, power flowed to our house.
Every electronic item in our house that was turned on at the time of the lightning strike was fried. The burglar alarm, our new digital clock, the TV, a sound center and even the coffee maker were fried. The damage was so extensive nothing could be fixed.
No trees were harmed in the posting of this nonsense, but a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.
" Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those that matter don't mind." -- Dr. Seuss