Archive for April, 2011

The Most Incredible Thunderstorm That I Have Ever Seen

April 24, 2011

Well, I’m finally back with a new blog. It’s great to do another one.

For this blog, I’m going to talk about the night our 350 year-old giant oak tree came crashing down in the most incredible thunderstorm that I have ever seen.

Before I get to that, I’m going to talk a little bit about the tree…It was in the front yard of my grandparents'(whom I always lived with)house in a big neighborhood in North Sewickley, Pennsylvania, in between New Brighton and Ellwood City. As I said, the tree was 350 years old. It was a local landmark, and it was actually going to be designated a historic landmark. It was by far the biggest tree that I have ever seen. The tree was so tall and thick, it blocked out the sky, and it was like a whole other world under the tree. That was the reason why my grandparents bought the house. The oak tree was an awesome sight to see, and everyone that came into our neighborhood was in awe of it.  The tree attracted a lot of attention. It TRULY was a giant among trees.

Anyway, on the night the tree came down, I was very young, about four or five years old, when this happened, but yet I remember that night vividly.

Nobody in my family seems to remember the exact year, but I want to say either the Summer of 1980…1981…or 1982, although ’80 or ’81 is more likely. Someone might have the exact date written down somewhere.

Anyway, during that time, we had a full household. My grandparents, mother, aunt, uncle, and myself all lived together.

A thunderstorm like no other came in late one night around 1 or 2 AM. I was sleeping in my grandparents’ bed, as I often did back then. Their bed faced the window(it’s been changed around several times since then, and now the headrest is right on the window)looking out over the front yard. My grandparents had the bedroom curtains open on that particular night.

Anyway, I woke up in their bed all alone, and what a sight and sound I woke up too!! Outside that window was continuous lightning and nonstop booming loud thunder. The extremely loud thunder and the incredibly intense lightning did not stop, not even for a second!!

To this day, I have NEVER seen a storm like that one, not even the ’85 tornado(see previous blog). For our place, this storm was MUCH worse than ’85.

Getting back to that night…As I said before, I woke up in my grandparents’ bed alone to the incredible storm going on outside. Thankfully, my grandparents had left the bedroom light on for me. I quickly jumped out of bed, scared out of my mind. I ran downstairs and joined everyone huddled together in our living room(it’s the dining room now), which is the room that you come into when coming through our front door. Right after I joined everybody is when the power went out. I got down there just in time. That would have been absolutely terrifying to wake up to that sight and sound in total darkness. It was scary enough as it was. My grandmother saw AT LEAST SIX miniature tornadoes in our backyard. They were spinning all over the place. These little funnels destroyed our next door neighbors’ shed. They built a new shed after that, but it’s been torn down within the last few years.

Anyway, these little funnels must have been gustnadoes, but to have that number of gustnadoes at one time is incredible!!

Getting back to all of us huddled in the living room…My grandfather and uncle got out candles and lanterns to light. They actually had them ready before the power went out. The wind was amazing!! The wind speed had to be AT LEAST 100 MPH. It was by far the strongest wind that we have ever had. No wind speed has even come close to that night since then, and we’ve gotten some major wind!!

The wind was so powerful that the top of the oak tree was touching the ground, and that tree was exceptionally tall!! It was completely bent over. Then the tree whipped right back up, standing tall again.

I will never forget the sound of the wind that night. I have never heard anything like that before or since. The wind sounded like all these demons with shrilling, high-pitched shrieks. It was an otherworldly sound.

I will also never forget the sound of the tree coming down. It was a very eerie creaking noise, which LITERALLY ended with a bang!!

It was the combination of the wind and the lightning, although I think that it was more contributed by the lightning, that brought the tree down. A HUGE bolt of lightning struck the tree, and then the tree started falling towards the house!! Everyone started to panic, because had the tree landed on the house, both the house and us would have been crushed. But then, as if by some miracle, right before the tree made impact with the house, it suddenly changed direction and crashed down onto our front yard. It was as though giant hands took the tree and shoved it in the other direction. The tree came down with an earth-shattering crash. We have a big front yard, and the tree was so immense, it covered our entire yard.

This freakish storm finally let up and moved out. The whole neighborhood knew what happened. Everyone saw and heard the tree come crashing down.

After this amazing storm passed through, I went out with my grandmother as she went around the neighborhood talking to everyone about what happened. It was still in the middle of the night. There was still lightning from the departed storm, but while we were out, the lightning became increasingly more distant until it was gone completely, but it took the better part of the night for the lightning to completely go away, that’s how severe this storm was, but the lightning was distant enough where it was safe to walk around the neighborhood that very late night.

Daylight brought with it a clear sky and a nice sunrise. It was a beautiful day, as though nothing ever happened.

People from everywhere came to look at the great, fallen tree. Our electrical wires that ran from the house to the main wires along the street were knocked down from the tree. Friends, neighbors, relatives, and a crew all came to help cut up the tree and clear up our yard and fix the wires. It took a long time to do so, that’s how huge the tree was, and the tree trunk and branches were incredibly long and thick. It was like going through a big maze in our front yard during the cleanup process.

I believe Jackson Browne’s “Boulevard” was the big hit at that particular time, because it was played on the radio a lot while everyone was at our house working on the front yard. I think back to that time whenever I hear that song.

We have pictures of the fallen tree and the tree stump that was left behind. Even what was left of the stump was big. I’m pretty sure that we have pictures of this proud, magnificent tree when it was still standing. I hope that we can find the pictures one of these days. The pictures have got to be in the house somewhere.

Many years went by before we finally removed the remnants of the tree stump. There is a little garden area out there now where the great tree once stood.

We all miss that tree, especially my grandparents. They miss that tree terribly.

Getting back to the time the tree came down…We had EXCEPTIONALLY severe thunderstorms that particular Summer. Some of the worst storms that I can remember occurred that Summer, with the first storm obviously being the worst.

I can remember later that same Summer, while I was watching Saturday Morning Cartoons, a mighty powerful storm came in. My grandparents were out somewhere. I was there with my mother and her then-boyfriend. The lightning quickly intensified and knocked the power out before the worst of the storm even came in. I was out on our closed-in back porch(it has since been replaced with a much bigger, nicer room)when the wind really picked up. The maple tree, which is still there, in our side yard was completely bent over. The top of the tree was just right up above the ground. That is the only time that I’ve ever seen that tree like that. Sizewise, the maple tree is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING compared to the great oak tree that came down, but it is still a big tree, even bigger now.

Anyway, getting back to that Saturday morning storm…My mother’s then-boyfriend was watching out the back porch window with me at the completely bent-over maple tree. He was very concerned. The wind was very strong, probably in between 70-80 MPH. Amazingly, the wind on this day GREATLY paled in comparison to the wind on the night the oak tree came down. Scary, isn’t it?

As I was saying, talking about the Saturday morning storm later that same Summer…My mother’s then-boyfriend and me were watching the completely bent-over maple tree in our side yard. Fortunately, the wind subsided and the storm moved on out without much further doing.

And then yet again later that same Summer, we had a spectacular electrical storm during the late evening, in between 10 and 11 PM. The lightning was so frequent and vivid that it made the nighttime sky look as though it was in the middle of the day.  It was amazing!!

Stormwise, that was one heck of a Summer!! I haven’t seen anything quite like that particular Summer since then. That might have been an El Nino year, because there was an El Nino pattern going on in the very early Eighties.

So there is the story of the most amazing storm and Summer I have ever seen. Even now, our worst storms are nothing compared to the storms of that Summer.

I will blog again soon. I will be talking about the night I got struck by lightning in my next blog.

Until then.