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Sunday, August 4. 2013
My dad had grown up outside of Marlin, Texas and my mom, a Dr’s daughter, grew up outside of Abilene, but as we looked for a house far outside the city limits of Houston, far at the time was over 5 miles, we finally settled on a 3 bedroom bungalow 6 miles from the western city limits. Moving in to the new house in October of 1939, everything was fine until August of 1941.
We had moved in without any problems, the “new” wasn’t even off the house and we had moved into a brand new, incorporated, subdivision. Being west of Rice Institute (now University), the subdivision was aptly named West University. “West U” as we called it had, and still has, its own fire, police and water departments.
Houston’s urban sprawl now has encircled “West U” and driven prices sky-high! Our 3, bed room, frame, house and lot, had cost $3,900. Today lots are over $200K and homes over $500K. Back then, the streets were paved with oyster shell, drainage ditches lined the streets, but on calm and still days, when new shell was applied to the streets, the smell was overpowering! Now “West U” is a model, pricey, yuppie haven, not the almost country place of my youth.
The radio had alerted us of a storm thrashing around in the Gulf of Mexico and apparently headed for landfall on the upper Texas coast, back then storms weren't named. It hit between Galveston and Freeport and unknown to us, was headed our way. Now, with satellites and radar we can tell within miles of where one of these monsters will hit, but back then it was just an educated guess. To me, not yet 6 years old, it sounded like a lot of fun, but looking back, I just don’t know how we survived without the TV weather folks, with their foul weather gear on, telling us what to do, how to pack our survival items and not to drive our cars into the deep water!
The storm made landfall and bored inland. “West U” is about 60 miles as the “crow flies” from the coast and we received almost the full fury of the storm! The rain was first, beginning in mid morning, then the wind, strengthening and making noises that I had never heard before. By early evening the lights went out, the telephone was dead and we had lost all power. Lightning flashed, thunder roared, the rain came down in sheets, but our new house held together! Then everything stopped!
The hurricane’s eye was passing right over us my mom and dad explained to my sister, H.R., and me, as they took us outside for a quick look around. It was dark but we could tell that there were no clouds above us, the stars were out and there was no storm, wind, rain or lightning. Our parents hurried us back inside and we waited for the onslaught to begin again, and it did with a vengeance! More wind and heavy, rain, not as much thunder and lightning, but the storm pounded us until morning.
The hurricane had moved away and following my dad outside, we both heard a tiny ”Mew” and looked under the edge of our house (it was built on a block foundation and raised about 18” above ground level) and found that the source of the “mew” was a tiny, yellow kitten. Picking it up, I discovered later that it was a male, and as I ran back inside, yelled, “Mother, can we keep it?” She replied, “If your Dad says so.” He was easy on this one and "Tom" lived with us for the next 14 years.
Not knowing it then, but we had a much bigger and deadlier “storm” coming our way on December 7, 1941!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 12:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, February 4. 2013
This past Saturday, February 2, 2013, was Ground Hog Day. This was a huge celebration in Pennsylvania, settled by Germans, home of the day. The German influence goes way back in time to the Romans who had conquered half of the British Isles they took the custom over to the mainland and influenced the Teutons (Germans), them thinking this was a good way to see if winter would drag on, or end.
It was cloudy in Pennsylvania this past Saturday the ground hog didn’t see his shadow so spring is near. But in Texas things were different.
Bee Cave Bob, our local prognosticator, an armadillo, came out of his burrow, saw his shadow and went back in. Six more weeks of winter down here! This picture is of an armadillo that wandered into our yard.
Our weather forecasters need to get their act together, because this sounds like a serious dichotomy to me.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 17:52 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Thursday, September 13. 2012
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 16:44 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Friday, June 15. 2012
A series of stories about Rocky Point, Mexico wouldn’t be complete without the severe thunderstorm we endured, tented out on the beach there. These storms are called chubascos, a chubasco, according to Marquez and Wold’s “Compilation Of Colonial Spanish Terms”, is a violent summer storm common to the Sea of Cortes (El Golfo) and surrounding lands.
These storms are much like our “Purple Thunderers” along the Texas Gulf Coast. Having been caught on the water in 3 of these monsters and until safely reaching shore, I was scared to death each time! During a trip to Rocky Point, Mexico, one caught my family and I and my in-laws on land and it was a doozy!
My family, 3 kids and ex-wife and her parents, "Memaw" and “Papaw” Buck, drove down on a Friday to Rocky Point to camp in our tent for the weekend. Friday night we cooked on the beach and enjoyed a restful, caressed by a light breeze, sleep. Saturday was spent sight seeing, 4 wheeling and, when the tide was out, gathering shellfish from the numerous rocks.
We cooked the mussels and oysters on Saturday night and the gentle lapping of the surf provided a background for the magnificent star show overhead. As we were turning in, we noticed lightning flashes on the horizon, and thought, a nice exclamation point for a fun day.
Crack! Boom! Crack! Boom! The lightning was striking close by. Crack! Boom! Closer still. The wind was picking up as I unzipped the tents front door, and was greeted by a mix of sand and rain and quickly zipping up, Crack Boom right down the beach lightning hit something! Everyone was awake and a collective “What’s the noise? Is it a storm? What can we do?” My reply was, ”Nothing, were stuck here until it blows over.” And, it almost blew us over.
Sleep was impossible, but everyone hunkered down and waited. Lightning flashed, thunder roared, rain and sand slammed into the tent and the wind blew with a frightening velocity, bending all the tent poles. Soon it passed, we went back to sleep, not even bothering to unzip the tent flap and look outside.
Waking up early, we went and surveyed the area. Almost everything, except for our tent and cars, was blown off of the beach. A sign was shattered, probably, by the lightning and our tent, the poles being bent from the wind was tilted at a funny angle. Closer inspection revealed that the tent poles were all bent in the same direction, I’m sure by the wind. Hopefully, the combined weight of 4 adults and 3 kids helped to anchor us to the ground?
How far we would have rolled? I’ve thought about this many times, if our tent pins would have come loose, we probably would have rolled back to Phoenix!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, May 28. 2012
In late May of 1998 tropical storm Allison began as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa, moved west and crossed upper, South America into the Pacific, then moved over Mexico back into the Gulf of Mexico and wandered north, made landfall between Freeport and Galveston Island. The storm had 2 eyes, with both passing over my home in Bayou Vista. It hit Houston and moved not over 100 miles north and because of high pressure to its north, stalled, then moved south back into the Gulf Of Mexico, pounding the entire Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard and finally sputtering out in Massachusetts where it produced a tornado and flooding. It was the costliest tropical storm in history and the only one that has had its name retired! Houston experienced over 7 inches of rain in an hour and over 28 inches in 12 hours and that is where my Allison story begins.
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 07:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, June 26. 2011
At first, moving to Arizona in mid-January, 1971 was a challenging experience, but as we became acclimated, the entire family thoroughly enjoyed the State and its many outdoor activities. Along with our acre lot and diving pool, our house, a four bed room, Spanish colonial period style, with stucco walls and a courtyard, was very comfortable. During mid spring of that year, the family had survived a tornado that had hit our mountain, Mummy Mountain and bounced over our house, tearing into northern Scottsdale and yes, it did sound like a freight train.
Come June 1, into the pool we went. The water was still cool, but wow, our own pool! On a pleasant summer afternoon, only 110 degrees, we were enjoying the water when we noticed, moving rather fast to our southeast, a funny looking cloud and before we knew it the funny looking cloud was within two miles of us, rolling in our direction. So like the flatlanders we were, we kept on swimming and playing and soon it was a block away when we figured out that the cloud was made of sand.
It was a sand storm with epic proportions and it blew over us for the next 15 minutes! No one was hurt, but everything, including us watchers, was a mess and liberally doused with a covering of fine sand. The sand seeped into our house, our cars, and our beautiful pool had almost an inch of sand on the bottom.
If you are a beginner in pool maintenance, try cleaning sand out. After this storm we hired a professional and in their local and national advertising, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce never mentions tornadoes or sand storms.
When I was a little boy, my mother told me a story about her childhood in west Texas, about it raining during a sandstorm. She said it rained mud and that the mud was much harder to remove than dust!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, May 23. 2011
This past Friday, the 20th of May, the folks in Mills County, I was in San Saba and just missed it, had a great hail storm! During the past 3 weeks, hopefully, our serious drought has finally broken, we’ve had over 3.6 inches of rain and yesterday’s was the hardest! Bad thing though, far west Texas, which is still under, according to NOAA a severe drought, hasn’t gotten any significant rain.
Crossing the Colorado River and coming into Mills County I noticed the oak trees had neat piles of leaves under their boughs, I thought Oh-oh, sure looks like hail to me. Driving on the 4 miles to my ranch, the last being almost 2 miles on a County Road, more leaves under the oak trees along with a scattering of good size, hail. The ground in my front and back yards were covered with quarter size hail and it had built up around my gutters too.
Walking around my house and checking for damage, none apparent, and walking out to the rain gauge, ½ inch and thinking, That’s over 3 inches this month. There being no garden this year, like the Bible says, I let it lay fallow this season, nothing was harmed, but remembering back to the hail storm we had on May 5, 2005, it was a doozy!
The constant lightning cast an eerie green glow as the storm hit from the northwest at midnight and waking us up, we went out to the front porch to watch as it closed in on us. Between Goldthwaite and my front porch, a tornado cloud came snaking down and Layla and I went streaking into safer quarters. This was one of several funnel clouds seen in the County, 2 touched down. We climbed under a mattress and lied down in our long hall and it started raining and hailing, and hailing and hailing, our metal roof was clanking with the large pieces of ice!
Finally it stopped hailing, but the rain was pouring down, over 5 inches in total and, because of the rain, we went to bed, but were up with the sun. We thought Bo, our cat, had been safe in the old house, Spike, our dog, was under the mattress with us, but on our inspection, the north facing windows had been knocked out with only jagged pieces remaining. Somehow, Bo had escaped through a window and found shelter somewhere safe.
Our cars, a new Suburban and a year old, Avalanche, left outside of course, were damaged the worst, totaling over $8,000. Then add in $1,200. for 2 new double pane, windows in the old house, plus an almost destroyed garden, gives an idea of the destruction. By far, wildlife was hit the hardest. Doves were nesting and had to start all over, the big hail killed turkeys while they were roosting, smaller birds not killed outright had eggs and nests destroyed, but ground dwellers like quail, could find cover and were spared.
Now, the big storm of 2005 is just a memory, but Friday’s hail could be the answer to a lot of prayers and could be the breaking of our, according to NOAA, severe drought!
Posted by Jon Bryan in Weather at 08:05 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
Tuesday, March 1. 2011
In early March of 2005, several months before I retired, I had planned to get an early start on a Saturday morning and drive to Goldthwaite and arrive before lunch. Living in Bayou Vista, Texas, right on the Gulf Coast, I had a 4 plus, hour drive awaiting me.
Setting my clock for 5:30 AM, I awoke with a start at 6:00 AM. I hadn’t turned “on” the alarm. So much for a real early start! Rushing and getting dressed I looked outside toward my boat dock and noticed that it was foggy, not unusual for this time of the year. Nothing to load up so I climbed into my 4WD, Suburban and headed out, but there was only about 200 yards visibility, not strange for this time of year. Figuring that the farther I went inland, the lighter the fog would be, so I pressed on.
Heading north on I-45 the traffic, yes traffic at 6:20 AM on a Saturday was moving along about 45 MPH and the farther inland I drove, it seemed that the fog was getting thicker. Seventeen miles from downtown Houston, Beltway 8, a toll road, exits east and west. It is a high, elevated, curving, exit to the west and the fog almost, it seemed, enveloped the exit.
Clicking on my blinkers, the traffic report that came on, every 20 minutes on weekends, instead of the 10 minutes on work days, reported heavy fog on Beltway 8 around Texas 288, The Nolan Ryan Expressway, 5 miles ahead. Slow going for a ways!
On the “Raceway”, or Beltway, posted speed is 65 MPH, which is ignored by most of the drivers. Most motorist clip along at 75 or 80, but today, caution prevailed and we were down to 40 and nearing 288, traffic slowed dramatically, red lights glaring, hazard lights blinking and we entered a white world! The radio blared, “There has been a series of major accident on Beltway 8 between Hillcroft and Cullen, and reports from the scene say the Beltway is closed.”
Closed it was and the fog was so thick that I could barely make out the reflections of the taillights to my front. I have never seen, or even imagined, that fog could be so heavy! Behind me I heard a grinding CRASH, and braced for a hit that never came.
The sounds of more crashes echoed behind me, everything was stopped, so there was nothing to do but listen to the radio, that was now getting better reports from the authorities. The Beltway was closed both ways and at least 100 cars had been involved in a chain reaction accident on the inbound side and at least 1,000 cars were stuck and fogged in. Deaths and injuries were reported and the sight of the original crashes was still over a mile away!
Sirens were blaring from every direction as police and sheriff’s officers begin to arrive all along the Beltway. They begin moving cars off of the Beltway and soon I was on the access road, still heading west, but stopped. We crept along enshrouded in fog and in some places it was so thick that it looked to be impenetrable.
After about an hour, the fog was lifting and we began to creep along side the scene of the most deadly accidents. Then, just like that, the fog lifted! Cars were piled into each other and resembled accordions, reminding me of scenes from “The Highway Of Death” in Kuwait; some cars were upside down on the grades leading up the overpasses, with radiator fluid, gasoline and oil pooled on the road surface, people were milling around stunned and law officers were everywhere. We continued our creep for 600 or 700 yards and up ahead, in bright sunshine, I saw a DPS trooper directing us back on to the Beltway!
Since we were being herded along, we couldn’t get out of our vehicles to help. All I could do was say a prayer for those involved and thank the Lord that I was 15 minutes late. If I had been on time, I would have been right in the middle of it!
Final tally was 110, cars and trucks involved, with 7 deaths and a myriad of injured. Skid marks still remain on the road surface and median attesting to the speed and violence of the crashes!
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