Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So, How's The Weather There?

Anyone who hails from Northeast Ohio knows the type of weather that is typical and unique to the area. We know that Oklahoma gets rain sweepin' down the plain. We get Gully Washers whippin' across the Mahoning Valley. Other locations get the publicity, like Tornado Alley. Sure, they get a lot of tornadoes in the Summer. Northeast Ohio gets severe weather year round.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of playing in snow taller than I was. We didn't have to pile up snow to make a structure to play in. All we had to do was start tunneling. Our yard looked like giant hamsters had taken it over with tunnels in the snow going in every direction. There was a good chance that a snowman that was built in December would still be there in March. Kids were booted out of their homes to go play, when the parents had had enough of restless behavior. You quickly learned how to dress warm and stay warm for several hours in below freezing temperatures.

The boys in my neighborhood played football a lot in this weather. How fun it was to be tackled hard and never getting hurt in a foot of fluffy snow. No one could get up much speed while running. It was a game in slow motion. the only downsides were the football itself which would turn into a frozen rock and feel like it when you landed on it and when you would get your coat and shirt pulled up while being tackled and get snow in places where it definitely didn't belong.

You know it gets cold when the HIGH temperature for the day was MINUS 22 degrees f. We had a cold snap like that in the late 70's. Schools were closed for several days and the only happy people were the Tow Truck Drivers and the gas and electric companies. The poor guys that were on the water company repair crew were kept busy by a large number of waterline breaks. I was a Fireman at the time and we had to drag our fire hose back to the station behind the truck. It was too frozen to roll up. Now that's cold!

Spring rains often came in torrents. It wasn't uncommon for it to rain for a solid week. The ground would become totally saturated and sewers and creeks overflowed into many an unfortunate homeowners' basement. Construction methods weren't what they are today. You considered yourself lucky if your basement was completely dry. Little League games were played much later into the Summer than planned. So many Spring games and practices had to be cancelled, that it extended the season.

The first paddling I received in grade school was because of the heavy rains that flooded our school yard. During recess, I ventured off the blacktop into the forbidden section of yard that had a good foot of water in it with three other boys. Naturally, we all got soaked to the bone. Our teacher took us to the Principal's Office for three swats each (on a wet butt, to boot), then off to the Nurse's Office to disrobe and sit under a blanket while our clothes dried on a radiator.

The Summer brought many severe thunderstorms to our area. Fourth of July weekend of 1969 sticks in the minds of many locals. A brutal storm that rolled across the Mid-West, slammed particularly hard in Ohio with several inches of rain, hail, and 70 M.P.H. winds. The storm hit our area shortly after the dinner hour. My sister, brother-in-law, eight month old niece, and myself, being fourteen at the time, found ourselves in a pop-up camping trailer at Berlin Reservoir. The warning systems weren't in place like they are today and we had no clue a storm of this magnitude was upon us. We heard the forecast for rain, but what else was new?

At the height of this powerful storm, the trailer began rocking like a see-saw. It would literally touch the ground on each side, front to back, with us huddled in the middle. We unzipped a door flap to look out, only to see a large tent with a family in it, begin rolling across the campground. My brother-in-law and I ran out and laid on top of the tent until the worst of the storm had passed. I had no idea that rain could sting so bad on bare skin! Fortunately, everyone escaped with no injuries. Every town in the area was devastated with downed power lines and trees that blocked many streets.

In 1980, an F5 tornado, the most powerful, left a path of destruction of over fifty miles long. It was over a mile wide at times and never left the ground as it scoured everything in it's path from Warren, Ohio to Beaver falls, Pennsylvania. The only thing I can relate the images of the aftermath to were of pictures I have seen of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb was dropped. I saw first-hand what the power of Mother Nature can do. Steel corrugated building panels wrapped around the top of 100 foot tall Oak trees and semi trucks rolled into a corner of a huge trucking yard like bowling pins are just a couple of the scenes I observed. To this day, that tornado ranks as the most destructive in terms of it's length, width, and total property damage in U.S. history.


  1. Wow! we have a saying here in the Palouse (Eastern Washington) "If you don't like the weather, wait 5 minutes" We often see single days that exhibit all four seasons. But - we don't have anything like you've described here.

    We do get a pretty good douse of "severe" weather here and there, too - but they're fairly short-lived and more manageable.

    I love the imagery of your descriptions, and I enjoy reading your see some of the situations playing out in a Norman Rockwell painting. Great post, Tom. Always enjoy reading of your accounts! Keep up the great work!

  2. And for a day, the weather in Youngstown is perfect, every year! Hoo boy, you nailed it - you get everything from rain, tornadoes, snow, hail and then in the summer it's too hot.