Column: Harvey horrific, but mesmerizing

I am mesmerized by the devastation in the Houston area. I can’t stop reading about the rain that already fell and the amounts of rain still possible.

It’s horrific — and fascinating — at the same time.

If I’d been born 20 years later, I’d chosen a different profession. I’d still be doing some kind of news reporting, but for at least for this week, I’d be reporting from Houston.

I was four years out of high school when the Weather Channel launched May 2, 1982.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. I look much too young to have graduated in 1978.

But I digress.

Weather fascinates me. Good weather, bad weather, hot weather, cold weather, but mostly changing weather.

That’s when weather is most interesting.

I have three weather Apps on my phone. The weather channel is a favorite on my TV remote … when I can find it.

Still, I love the “Old Farmer’s Almanac.” And to be honest, I don’t need radars to tell me bad weather is approaching. I know that if it is raining somewhere in Ohio — or any adjoining state — my Direct TV satellite feed is interrupted.

Still, if there are storms in the area, I’m checking my phone, tablet or computer for radar updates. I’m not checking because I’m frightened, but because I’m fascinated.

And I’m certain I’m not the only one waiting anxiously for the next big breakthrough in Doppler radar technology.

I’m intrigued by storm fronts. Derechos are exciting. Bow echos and radar-indicated storm rotation and those little hooks that signify rotation on a radar? That’s pretty cool stuff.

My first vivid weather memory was when I was maybe 8 years old. My dad was working on his master’s degree in education. So the family spent the summer in Bloomington, Indiana, living in one of the residence halls, or dorms. There was another Galion family with us. I’m thinking Barb and Don Barrick. One day, we were sitting on the grass in our lawn chairs, and I swear I saw and felt a lighting bolt hit not more than 10 or 15 yards away.

Or maybe I didn’t. Because no one else remembers it.

When I was about 12, we were camping with the Shifley family — Wilbur and Veda and I think a couple of the daughters were there. A thunderstorm was approaching. And I spent more than an hour staring at the sky from atop a picnic table looking at cloud formations and trying to spot some rotation.

I remember the time it was raining at the Kochheiser residence on Summit Street. But just 30 feet away, the Kent compound was dry as a bone. It wasn’t just sprinkling either, this was a pretty good downpour, and it stayed that way for several minutes.

I remember Heise Park being under water from the little league field to the Galion Babe Ruth field, now the home of the Graders. The water encroached on what is now the high school softball field. I remember two of those floods, and several other lesser events.

I remember some pretty good ice storms that led to downed limbs and trees and power lines. I’ve seen wind fell trees and blow roofs off structures during thunderstorms. I don’t recall tornadoes in Galion.

I remember an astounding cloud formation over Columbus. I was riding with friends to Polaris and I was mesmerized as that thick, huge, dark wall of clouds approached.

Unfortunately, as much as I pride myself on my memory, I have no recollection of the Blizzard of ‘78.

I don’t remember being inconvenienced by that storm. I don’t remember the wind and cold. I don’t remember staying home from school. I don’t remember missing work at Wendy’s in Galion, although I probably did.

I do remember is a snowmobile showing up at the Kent compound. It wasn’t there to deliver milk or a pizza, it was there to pick up my mom, a nurse supervisor at Galion Community Hospital. As I recall, she rode a few blocks on the snowmobile and then hitched a ride on a big, heavy city truck the rest of the way.

Other than that, if it were not for the photographs, I’d have a hard time believing that storm was as significant as everyone says.

My most memorable weather experience was at Lake Erie, in 1997 or ‘98. We had rented a house on the old causeway near Cedar Point. A cold front blew through that week in July. I remember grabbing a chair, a blanket and a cooler of beer, and in 50-degree weather, with the wind blowing maybe 20- to 30-mph, sitting on the Lake Erie side of the causeway watching waterspouts. Over several hours there were way more than a dozen. Some were thin and wispy and lasted only a few moments. Others were huge, and with enough longevity, that I was afraid they would capsize barges on the lake.

I’ve not endured a hurricane, although others in my family were twice moved to inland shelters to ride out a threat at Myrtle Beach.

I was safely in Ohio when Katrina decimated New Orleans in 2005. But a couple days after it hit, I hitched a ride with C-130 pilots from Mansfield who were ferrying supplies and other guard members south to help in rescue and cleanup efforts. I only made it as far as Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Still, about two hours from New Orleans, the damage was amazing. We saw some buildings destroyed, but mostly it was acre after acre of flattened trees. Even the base where we landed was minus electricity.

I don’t wish bad weather on anyone. And I pray for those in the path of record flooding courtesy of Hurricane Harvey. Six feet of rain is possible in some areas. Six feet. That’s at least 2 inches — OK, 4 inches — more rain that I am tall. The impact will be felt for years.

It’s not normal to want to rush into the path of a storm when others are fleeing, but I sometimes wish I could witness Mother Nature’s fury head on. A job with the Weather Channel might have afforded me that chance.

But alas, there’s always Galion City Council.

And with the upcoming election, it’s going to get loud and windy and stormy in this part of Crawford County through Election Day.

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Russ Kent

Galion Inquirer

Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him at [email protected] with comments or story ideas.