When Lightning Strikes

“You kids turn off the television and get away from the windows!” That was the usual response with the first clap of thunder heard at our childhood home.

While we were permitted to play outside during a gentle rain shower, thunderstorms were respected for the power and danger they held.

We stayed away from the windows because they were open with screens in place to bring in the occasional summer breeze. There was no such thought of air conditioning the house. Can you imagine the loss of energy with 12 children, two parents, two dogs and assorted childhood friends going in and out of the front and back doors? There is no electric grid capable of figuring out those statistics.

Window screens also served as the social networking of the 1960s. You could smell if the neighbors were cooking out or having liver and onions for dinner. The open communication allowed for window-to-window conversations with neighbors across the lawn or street. It was the original means of wireless communication.

Our Dad was fascinated by the weather and had many quips about it. He would talk about the corn being “knee high by Fourth of July” and “it’s raining cats and dogs.” He could predict the rain or an impending snowstorm by the pain in his knee, something he earned as an Army infantry soldier during World War II.

Summer storms could be watched from the safety of the concrete front porch if the lightning was still far off. We had to count the seconds between thunderclaps to determine how far away the lightning was. I think we were being tricked into honing our math skills during the summer vacation.

When the lightning bugs reappeared for the summer, the neighborhood kids would be in a frenzy to collect the poor things in an old peanut butter or pickle jar. Someone managed to free the innocent insects when the kids fell asleep, sparing them an early death.

Somehow summer storms of today appear to be much more intense than I remember as a kid. Perhaps I inherited my father’s fascination with the weather. I pay attention to the sky and all its glory. I stand in awe when viewing a gorgeous sunset, such as those seen from Oglebay Park’s hilltops or the parking lot at The Highlands shopping center. Studying massive cloud formations remain a favorite pastime.

The other day, while swimming with one of my sisters on a steamy hot morning, we watched the puffy white clouds grow against the blue sky until, suddenly, a lightning bolt streaked straight down and a monstrous thunderclap soon followed. We probably broke a speed record for leaving the pool and getting inside.

The current heat wave is expected to break today, but I doubt it will be pretty when the cold front washes through the valley. Just remember to turn off the TV computer, cell phone charger, and get away from the hermetically-sealed windows.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.