Storm Of The Century

Mother Nature's always at her worst when I go to a ballgame.

Mother Nature’s always at her worst when I go to a ballgame.

If you happen to be one of those weird people who actually keep track of my weekly picture dayfeatures, then you’re probably looking at your squirrel calendar right now wondering if it’s really Wednesday already.  No… calm down.  It’s still just Tuesday.  If you have a stereotypical job, you’ve got another three and a half days to toil away yet before the next weekend.  I decided to run Picture Day a day early this week because I wanted to commemorate the night I had a front row seat to the most wicked weather event this city’s seen in my lifetime… and that occurred ten years ago today on July 19, 2006.

It was just another Wednesday night at the ballpark for me… it was also the one game each year my Mom tags along to.  Which is good, because at the time she had a camera and I didn’t…

Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones, ladies and gentlemen...

Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones, ladies and gentlemen…

Like the last stormy game I featured, tonight’s affair featured the Atlanta Braves coming in to play the St. Louis Cardinals.  There’s one of a billion pics my Mom took during batting practice above… I included it here to show off the fact that just an hour before gametime, the weather was bright and sunny.  It was the fifth day of an oppressive, hot and muggy stretch that saw temps in the 100’s and heat indices somewhere near infinity.  As always, when it gets that soupy in the Midwest, there’s always the chance a thunderstorm could pop… and about 15 minutes before first pitch, it was obvious the atmosphere had had all it could stand of the sauna-like conditions.

That's awfully dark for an hour and a half before sunset...

That’s awfully dark for an hour and a half before sunset…

My Mom took that picture as the starting lineups were being announced maybe 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start.  I’d ignored the dark clouds forming off to the north and east because weather just doesn’t come from that direction.  Yet the forboding storm front still seemed to be descending upon the stadium with scary speed.  Smartphones were still a techie’s wet dream in 2006, so nobody had any idea what was happening until the scoreboard operator finally put an image of the local radar on the scoreboard.  The sight was unreal… particularly to someone with a weather background like myself.  My Mom neglected in her photographer duties to get a shot of that radar, but here is an awe-inspiring loop of the storm I found on the internet (The stadium is located on the eastern fringe of the small, teardrop shaped territory on that map that is St. Louis City)…

Let me remind you, our weather NEVER comes from an easterly direction...

Let me remind you, our weather NEVER comes from an easterly direction…

That thin, wispy echo on the leading edge of the storm was the gust front… that initial burst of wind that precedes most thunderstorms.  And they usually don’t make fancy radar echoes like that….. unless they’re packed with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour that is….

Well, that got rid of the 100 degree temps.

Well, that got rid of the 100 degree temps.

Note the change in direction that the flags behind the Ford sign are blowing when compared to the previous picture taken maybe 10 minutes before this one.  The initial burst of hurricane force winds was breathtaking enough, but add a little rain…

I use the word "little" ironically.

I use the word “little” ironically.

This was the first season of the current iteration of Busch Stadium, and as luck would have it, the stadium opens up to the northeast to provide a pretty view of the Arch and city skyline.  The old cookie cutter ballpark from the year before would have cut off a good deal of the wind, but due to this unexpected backdoor entry, the wind and rain funneled into the place and swirled ferociously around the seating areas as fans ran for cover.  If you’ve ever heard of that experiment where you can make a tornado inside of an old two liter bottle by filling it with water and swirling it around very fast… this is exactly what this storm looked like as it created a virtual vortex of rain around the inside of the stadium.

Ummm.... a little help here?

Ummm…. a little help here?

Unlike most storms where the wind will usually calm down as the storm passes by, the destructive gusts associated with this monster were determined to stick around for over half an hour.  There’s what it did to the infield tarp, which the grounds crew valiantly fought to wrangle as the wind seemed determine to blow it halfway across downtown.  And here’s what happens when you don’t take cover in events like this….

After about an hour and a half of brutal winds and torrential rain, the freak storm to end all freak storms did finally pass… and just in time for sunset.

Here's your Fixx of red skies at night.

Here’s your Fixx of red skies at night.

I was lucky to be able to find a great place to be able to watch this storm where I was out of harm’s way and also not near any frantic ushers who were pleading for everyone to move out to the closed off part of the concourse.  I have never before, and may never again (short of spotting a tornado) get to witness a more awesome display of the fierce and frightening side of a thunderstorm.  It was worth the price of admission alone… but hey, they actually managed to get the field in good enough shape to even play the game!

Three likely future Hall of Famers (Yadier Molina, Jones and Albert Pujols) in the same shot.  Way to go, Mom!

Three likely future Hall of Famers (Yadier Molina, Jones and Albert Pujols) all in the same shot. Way to go, Mom!

A storm of this magnitude is not going to pass through without leaving its mark, and that mark was catastrophic.  The prolonged, otherworldly winds shredded the St. Louis area’s power grid like no storm had ever done before, or since.  Many places were without power for days, even weeks… and the heat wave just continued to roll on.  Well, except for about 40 hours later on late Friday morning July 21st when it cooled off a bit thanks to the second worst storm of my lifetime moseying on through… adding to the carnage and undoing a lot of what the army of electric company linesmen had been working feverishly to fix since the first storm.

Said power company (Ameren) took a lot of flak after this storm and two major ice storms the following winter left many with more days of outages than with working electricity from July 2006 to January 2007.  But to their credit, they did launch a massive tree cutting program that made it my way in 2012, and has virtually eliminated storm-caused power outages…

At least until my birthday last week….

That used to be a very, very tall tree.

That used to be a very, very tall tree.

I can’t even complain about the six and a half hours I sat in the dark last Wednesday, because the above picture that I took is of my parents’ backyard.  Their power lines are somewhere under that fallen jungle… and due to the mess that had to be worked around, plus the need for a new meter on the house, they went over 48 hours with no lights or air conditioning in this heat.  It’s eerie, because the day before that poor imitation of the Storm of 2006 rolled through, I was scanning my Mom’s pics that I was going to use in this long-planned out post to my computer.  I did not expect to have to add this postscript on to the end of it before the big anniversary arrived, though…

I hope no squirrels called that tree home when this hit...

I hope no squirrels called that tree home when this hit…

I’ll be back to spit in the wind next week, and on the right day this time….

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About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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27 Responses to Storm Of The Century

  1. the photos are stunning… wonder that NG didn’t ask you and your mom if you would sell it. they also would make a great background for the new ghostbusters movie…. but nevertheless it’s scary how mighty mother nature can be when she is really angry :o)

  2. We’ve had some small tornadoes (small compared to “real” ones). One passed close enough to hear it roar … and it was tiny compared to a “real” twister. We sat in our basement wondering if we were remaking “Wizard of Oz” with me as Dorothy — or one of the wicked witches. It passed with only a mess of fallen limbs, a couple of oaks and a catalpa — and a lot of power outages (but oddly, not us). Nothing that I know of ever hit Fenway. Even mother nature wouldn’t dare attack the sacred baseball grounds upon which the Babe played! I’m going to reblog this. This is a GREAT story and being as it’s baseball season … and the GOP convention — time for some other exciting entertainment having nothing to do with politics! Terrific story!

    • I’ve had a few close calls with twisters… including twice in 2011 when I was within a mile of where one touched down. But they both happened late at night. If one ever plows through Mecca, I’ll be with everyone else buried under the pile of rubble and women’s lingerie since that’s where we’re instructed to go in the event of a tornado warning…

  3. Reblogged this on SERENDIPITY and commented:
    This is a GREAT story. It is baseball season and time for some thrills and chills that have absolutely nothing at all to do with politics! From the inimitable Evil Squirrel’s Nest, I give you …

    STORM OF THE CENTURY!

  4. Ally Bean says:

    Amazing photos. We get huge storms that make no sense around here, too. Gives a person pause. Makes for a great blog post, though.

    • A storm like this almost makes me wish it’d happened while I was still taking meteorology classes, because I’d have loved to see some of the expert analysis of it. It’s unique among any other storm I can ever remember, not just in its strength, but in how it formed and moved. Then the oddity to get a more conventional (but still almost as powerful) storm just 2 days later…

  5. Garry Armstrong says:

    Wicked awesome story, Squirrel!! And, kudos to your Mom for those great pics (especially the three TBA HOF players).
    Who won the game??

    • The Cardinals won 8-3. That was the year they won the World Series despite only winning 83 games that year (they had three different stretches of 7 or more losses in a row!), which I think is the record low for a WS winner in a 162 game season…

  6. ody & biskit……a grate storee with sum total lee awesum snapz ….we like red sky at nite 🙂

    sorree bout de storm frum last week; hope all iz well bak at yur parents houz ~~~ ♥♥♥

    • I was so enraptured by the storm itself that I’d forgotten it made the brilliant sunset that night until I went through my Mom’s photo album with these pics in it. Don’t worry, Mom is well enough to have just bitched that I didn’t give her enough credit for the photos… 😛

  7. Trisha says:

    I wondered whether your dramatic events had anything to do with the recent storms. I saw several weather stories on it so I figured it must have been a humdinger. I can’t even imagine being out to witness a storm like the one that hit the baseball stadium. Our weather is so mild (boring). We had a thunderstorm yesterday. It gradually clouded up, there was some distant rumbling and about an hour of light rain. That was our drama for the month, or maybe even the whole summer! I don’t envy your parents having to sweat out the wait for their power to be restored. I hope all is well at their place now.

    • I don’t think I’d want to live somewhere that didn’t occasionally get the humdinger of a storm… they’re fun to watch and it almost (I can’t stress ALMOST enough) make up for the aftereffects. I think this storm got national headlines as well back in the day, but being without power for two days, I’d have never known!

  8. WOW….and I do mean WOW. Some storm……a few years ago we actually had a tornado come through our town – headed right for us – very large tornado – it miraculously hopped right over our house (on a hill) and continued it’s destructive path through the rest of our community, only taking down some of our huge oak trees in the woods……..BUT, honestly, these photos look just as bad as THAT did! Had to be freaky being in a stadium when a storm that bad hit.

    Pam

    • Debra Brown says:

      Maybe ES should pay his Mom for her photography.

    • I wouldn’t have gotten as great a view of it anywhere else… especially since the stadium (thanks to downtown’s electric lines all being underground) was one of the few places that didn’t lose power. Tornadoes are weird in how they can hop around and sometimes switch paths on a dime. I’m pretty sure some kind of microburst (which can be as bad as a tornado) happened to hit my parents’ area… the damage in this past week’s storm was very localized.

  9. 48 hours is a really long time to be without power. That was one hell of a storm! (s) 😀

  10. draliman says:

    Ah, the power of Mother Nature and whatnot.
    In weather news, we’ve just a whole day and a half of sunshine, with temperatures slightly exceeding 25C (77F)! It hardly ever gets that hot! However, our office has air con so I spent the day inside wearing a jacket.

    • 77 degrees! We call that autumn around here….

      There are a lot of summer nights where it doesn’t even cool down to 77 before the sun comes back up to bake us again…

  11. Piglove says:

    Atlanta Braves – my hometown baseball team. They use to be something to be proud of but in years past… shrugs piggy shoulders. And the storms – your’e electrical my evil friend. Thank goodness you don’t live on our street. We live in a gully and daddy tells me every time it storms that we may be reliving the Wizard of Oz. Funny daddy. XOXO – Bacon

    • I wouldn’t worry too much about that… I have it on good authority that the tornado from The Wizard of Oz was totally fake! I wouldn’t worry too much about phony twisters!

      • Piglove says:

        Let’s out a deep breath – thank goodness for that! I was getting worried about my little house flying up in a twister and that sinister crabby lady trying to take Houdini from us. Weird huh? XOXO – Bacon

  12. chattykerry says:

    I thought I was going to die on Interstate 45. The heavens opened and I could not see ANYTHING. Everyone was driving too fast, with NO LIGHTS ON!!!!

    • Since I drive an ancient car, I wonder if all those years of vehicles now having automatic headlights have made people forget how to turn them on manually anymore. Finding the headlight switch is one of the more frustrating parts for me when I rent a car for a trip… dammit, who thought replacing the simple little pull knob was a great idea!?!?

      • chattykerry says:

        Mine isn’t that new and it does have automatic lights but just for safety I always put my lights on, so that I can be more visible. I have a bright red car, for goodness sakes – stop running into me! 🙂

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